It has not been possible to establish John's middle name with certainty. The records of the War Graves Commission show it as Lee, yet his medal entitlement records held at the National Archives has it as Lakeman. This has made identification of his family background all but impossible unless further information comes to light. The family history website, FreeBMD, records a John Lee Percival was born in Stockport in 1895 and, not too far away, in Eccleshall, Staffordshire, a John Lakeman Percival had been born two years earlier. He was, almost certainly, one of these two boys but it cannot be said which.
He was the eldest of three brothers. Eric was born in 1903 and Cyril some ten years later. They were both born in the Stockport area.
John had been a chorister at Manchester Cathedral. Before he enlisted into the army, he had been employed as a shipper's clerk by William Graham Ltd, Sackville Street, Manchester. He enlisted at Cheetham, Manchester, on 31 November 1915, joining the 6th (reserve) Battalion of the Lancashire Fusiliers and was given the service number 4276. After training, he was posted to the Regiment's 20th Battalion (the 4th Salford Pals) and was renumbered as 38113. He will probably have joined the Battalion in midsummer of 1916, seeing action in the Battle of the Somme. On 8 July, he was promoted to Acting Lance Corporal. And on 14 October, he received another temporary promotion, this time to Corporal. The appointment was made permanent on 27 January 1917.
Shortly after this, John was selected to become an officer and, on 7 May 1917, he returned to the UK to start training. He will have joined his unit only a few weeks later. He was reported to have received a fairly minor wound in the hand on Easter Sunday 1918.
On the 27th and 28th September, John led his men into action in important large-scale British attacks, capturing the villages of Marcoing and Masnieres, which were strategic crossing positions on the St Quentin Canal.
The Regimental History records "When the morning of the 28th dawned, the 8th West Yorkshires were but a remnant. They had lost eleven officers and 341 other ranks and, although their captures numbered fifteen field guns, nine machine-guns and many prisoners, the plight of the Battalion was pitiable. During the day, the Battalion was reorganised into two companies. But their smallness in numbers did not prevent the West Yorkshires taking their full share of the fighting, for on the 30th they were again at close grips with the enemy."
The attack on the 30th started at 6.30am and it seems that the West Yorkshires were held in reserve ready to go forward if needed. The neighbouring Division of New Zealanders had not attacked on schedule which meant that the adavnce in this sector stalled. "The West Yorkshires were then thrown into the fight. Some heavy fighting took place but with dogged perseverance the Battalion forced its way forward and presently parties of Germans began to put their hands up in token of surrender, whilst others withdrew as rapidly as possible. About thirty more prisoners were taken by the 8th Battalion, which pushed on until brought to a standstill once more in a sunken road owing to heavy machine gun fire. Eventually, the Battalion took up a position on the Romilly-Crevecoeur Road =, with posts pushed out about 250 yards in front. Here consolidation took place. By this time Second-Lieut. Foster.....was the only officer left."