John was born in around August 1889 in St Helen's, Lancashire. All we know about his early life is that he was a Roman Catholic.
By the time he was 18 John worked as a labourer for Mr Leah at his Brick Works on Collyhurst Road in Manchester. He lived at 17 Whitehead Street, off Rochdale Road. We believe other members of his family lived there, but we don't know their names.
John must have wanted more from life because on the 8th August 1907 he joined the 5th Battalion of the Manchester Regiment. This was a unit of the Militia, so John will have kept his civilian job and home, training as a soldier during a short period every year.
When he enlisted John was 5 feet 3 1/2 inches tall and weighed 109 1/2 pounds. He had a 'fresh' complexion, hazel eyes and dark brown hair. John also had several tattoos on his forearms: clasped hands with a heart, a dagger, flowers and clasped hands. Despite being slightly flat footed he was accepted into the Militia and given the service number 778.
After his initial training John must have decided that Army life suited him, because he transferred to the Regular Army on the 20th September. He stayed in the Manchester Regiment, but received a new service number on his transfer. This was 1105.
We know virtually nothing about John's Army service. In 1913 he was a member of the 2nd Battalion, based at The Curragh Camp in County Kildare, Ireland. He was already serving as a Regimental Signaller, but on the 13th January he took his annual qualification test and passed with a 1st Class score. At this time John was a member of B Company.
The First World War broke out in August 1914 and John sailed to France with the 2nd Battalion, arriving on the 15th. We don't know anything about John's service during the war. We can be sure, however, that he was involved in the Battle of Le Cateau; fought just 11 days after his arrival this battle cost the 2nd Battalion around 350 men killed, wounded or missing. Many of them will have been John's friends.
John survived the war, but his life afterwards is also a mystery. As well as his 1914 Star, John was awarded the British War Medal and the Allied Victory Medal for his Army service.