When the 1901 Census was taken, four year old John Toner was living with his family at 15 Windsor Street, Cale Green, Stockport. His parents were William and Bertha. William Toner worked locally as a cotton spinner. John had a number of brothers and sisters - Emily (then 15), Walter (12), Alixce (10), May (7) and Frederick (1).
When he left full-time education, John continued to attend the Sunday Schools in Heavily and Stockport. He went to work at the Bonbon Confectionary Works of John Horn Ltd in Heavily. In 1913, John looked for a new life and enlisted into the army, joining the elite Coldstream Guards. When War was declared, in August 1914, John and his comrades were on garrison duty at Windsor. They were one of the first to be sent overseas and John will have seen his first action at the Battle of Mons on 23 August.
On 26 October 1914, the 2nd Coldstream Guards were ordered into front line positions in Polygon Wood on the outskirts of Ypres (now Ieper). They remained there until 17 November. The Battalion's War Diary contains no details of the daily activities and it is, therefore, impossible to know how John was killed.
It is almost certain that he was originally buried immediately behind the front line trench. Sanctuary Wood Cemetery was not created until several years after the end of the War. Many isolated burials were reburied here between 1927 and 1932.