James Simms and Mary Connelly had married in a civil ceremony registered at Stockport in 1893. A few years later, when the Census was taken in 1901, they were living in three rooms at 1 Hope Street with their four children. Three year old John was the youngest. In later life, he found work as a labourer and, on 25 November 1915, he enlisted into the army. His services were not immediately needed and he was sent home again until 12 May 1916 when he started his training.
His service papers still exist at the National Archives and these show him to have stood at just under 5' 5" and weighed 135 pounds. The examining doctor noted he was in a very good physical condition but that his teeth were poor. On 11 June 1917, he was posted overseas, joining the 11th Battalion of the Borderers on 1 July. In November and early December, he had two short periods being treated at an army field hospital but it is not recorded what was the matter with him.
At the end of February 1918, the 11th was disbanded and, for a while, John was posted to a "holding unit" - the 2nd Entrenching Battalion - before being assigned to the 2nd Battalion of the Borderers on 26 May.
During this period, John had become unwell, feeling pain in his rectum and noticing blood in his stools. On 30 July, he was admitted to hospital where the doctors quickly diagnosed that he had cancer and that it was inoperable. By the following month, the pain and bleeding had stopped but John no longer had control over his motions. He was also steadily losing weight. With nothing further to be done, he was discharged from the army, with a pension, on 16 September. He returned to Stockport where he died some months later.