India General Service Medal (1854) with clasp 'Samana 1891'
John was born in around September 1866 in St Helens, Lancashire. He had a brother named Joseph and he was a member of the Church of England, but we don't know anything else about his early life or family.
By the time he was 22 John was working as a labourer. He must have wanted more from life though because on the 12th September 1888 he travelled to Ashton-under-Lyne in Lancashire and joined the Manchester Regiment.
When he enlisted John was 5 feet 5 3/4 inches tall and weighed 130 pounds. He had a 'sallow' complexion, grey eyes and black hair. He was given the service number 2341. The doctor who examined him believed John had 'probably served before'. We don't know how he came to believe this. John didn't declare any previous military service. If he was lying, and had been a soldier or sailor, then this meant he was breaking the law.
After training at the Regimental Depot in Ashton, John was posted to the 1st Battalion of the Manchester Regiment in Tipperary, Ireland on the 1st November.
On the 18th April 1889 John was tried by Court Martial and sentenced to 4 months imprisonment with hard labour. We don't know what he had done to receive this punishment.
John left Ireland in September 1890 and was posted to the 2nd Battalion in India. They were stationed in Sialkot in modern Pakistan at the time.
Soon afterwards John went to war. The 2nd Battalion of the Manchester Regiment was one of the units ordered to put down a rebellion in the Miranzai Valley on the North West Frontier with Afghanistan. John was one of the 300 Manchester Regiment soldiers who took part in this campaign, called the Miranzai Expedition. It lasted from the 3rd to the 25th May 1891. Samana is the name of the mountain range that rises out of the Miranzai Valley. The British fought hard to capture it.
The 2nd Battalion left Sialkot for Meerut in the modern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh during November 1892. They spent time in Chakrata in the foothills of the Himalayas, and arrived in Dinapore, now Danapur in Bihar State, in late 1893. John would be based here until he returned to the UK on the 17th February 1896.
During 1893 John struggled with Ague, or fever. At Chakrata he was admitted to hospital on 4 separate occasions, twice during May 1893 and once each in August and September. In each case his fever was classed as 'mild'. He spent between 6 and 10 days in hospital each time.
Moving to Dinapore seems to have improved John's health a little. He was admitted to hospital in July 1894 and March 1895 suffering from mild Ague. In September 1894 he needed 10 days of treatment for a boil. On the 2nd October he fell ill with ringworm. Curing this required 20 days in hospital, using gunpowder as a treatment.
John had originally joined the Army for 7 years Regular service, to be followed by 5 in the Army Reserve. He could not count the 4 months he had spent in prison towards his time in the Army. Even so, his service was due to end in January 1896. As he was abroad the Army could keep him as a Regular for up to one more year. This time would be deducted from his Reserve service.
John returned to the UK on the 17th February 1896 and was transferred to the Army Reserve on the 28th. This meant he was free to find a home and a job, but could be called back to the Army in an emergency. We don't know anything about his life as a Reservist.
On the 26th December 1899 an emergency arose and the Manchester Regiment's Reservists were recalled. The emergency was the British defeats and casualties in the opening weeks of the Boer War, which had begun in October 1899.
John did not report when he was called up. As a result of this he was struck off the register of Reservists on the 12th January 1900. He eventually reported on the 4th March, but he was unable to serve and was medically discharged 10 days later.
The rest of John's life is a mystery. His medal came to the Museum of the Manchester Regiment during the Second World War.