John's parents, James and Eliza, had both been born in Macclesfield but, at the time of the 1901 Census, were living at Greenway Road, Widnes. James had, presumably, moved to the town in connection with his work as a foreman in the chemical industry. As well as John, the Census also recorded his older sisters, Annie (8) and Mary (14).
Later, the family moved to 5 Acacia Grove, South Reddish where, in 1916, John was working at the local branch of the Stockport Co-operative Society. The local newspaper reported that he enlisted into the army on 30 March 1916. His original service number, 4599, indicates that he originally joined the local Territorial Battalion - the 6th Cheshires - and, after training went overseas with them. This was probably in late July 1916 when a large draft of replacement troops arrived in France intended for the 6th Cheshires. However, due to the number of losses incurred by other units in the early days of July, during the Battle of the Somme, many of these soldiers were diverted to other units, including the 11th Battalion. John would have been allocated the above five-digit number at that time.
The Battalion's War Diary records that, on 17 October 1916, they were relieved from the front line "Hessian Trench", near the village of Aveluy in the heart of the Somme battlefield. It also notes that the party bringing rations lost their way. 9 men were killed and 2 wounded by the explosion of a high explosive shell - although the diary does not make clear if these were in the ration party or amongst the other troops.
Later records, including those of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, records these deaths, apparently wrongly, as occurring on 16 October. Perhaps it was near to midnight or a simple clerical error was made later. John, however, was not killed outright and will have been one of the two soldiers recorded as being wounded. He would have received treatment from the Battalion's medical officer and was in the process of being evacuated down the casualty chain when he died. The Cemetery where he is buried was used by the Field Ambulance (who operated the Main Dressing Station as well as providing transport) and is about 3 kilometres behind the front line from where he was injured.