Nothing is known of John’s early life. He was married and had four children, although Miriam, Ted and John were the children of his wife’s previous marriage. The couple had had another child together. No details of the earlier marriage have been established but John and Ted were old enough to also serve during the War. The family had previously lived at 14 Windsor Street, Stockport and, at the time of the War, are understood to be living at 39 Gradwell Street, Edgeley. John also worked in Edgeley at the bleachworks of Sykes & Co.
For some reason, John travelled to Chester rather than enlisting in Stockport. This might mean that he wanted to ensure that he joined the Cheshire Regiment by going to its Headquarters, but he still found himself in the artillery. 110th Brigade was part of the Army’s 25th Division, as were several battalions of the Cheshires.
It is probable that a mistake has been made in the date of John’s death and that he was killed on 31st July. The Brigade did have men killed on both the days but those killed on the 30th were from “A” Battery, whilst those killed on the 31st were from ”B”.
The Battle of the Somme had opened on 1 July and there had been little success, except in the south of the battlefield. In the middle of the area, around the village of La Boiselle, the attack had stalled in spite of hard fighting for a month. There was welcome period of few days’ relative quiet. Whilst there might have been no infantry attacks, the artillery on both sides would have still been active and the Brigade’s War Diary for the 30th records “During the night, “A” Battery had a direct hit with 150mm howitzer on a gun putting it out of action, killing three men and wounding one and destroying some ammunition.”
The next day’s entry records a similar story “During the night “B” Battery had a direct hit with a 4 inch gun on one of its (gun) pits, killing three men and wounding four and putting the gun out of action.” It is, of course, possible that the incident had taken place before midnight (making the 30th the correct date of death) but it was not recorded by the Brigade’s “diary officer” until the next day.