John was born in around 1844 in Shifnal in Shropshire. His father was called Joseph and his mother was Sarah. He had 2 older sisters: Ann and Sarah, and one younger; Mary.
Joseph worked as a farm labourer. In 1851 the family lived on Park Lane in Shifnal. Ten years later they had moved to Hatton Cottages on the outskirts of the town. By 1865 John was also working as a labourer. He must have wanted more from life though because on the 20th February he travelled to Wolverhampton and joined the Army.
John enlisted in the 96th Regiment of Foot. He was 5 feet 6 inches tall with a 'dark' complexion, dark grey eyes and dark brown hair. He had a 'large burn scar' on his chest. He could not write, so at 3pm he made 'his mark' (an 'x') on the enlistment papers. John was given the service number 832.
The 96th Regiment was based in the Cape of Good Hope, in modern South Africa, when John enlisted. They left within months though, and sailed to India. John joined them there in July.
The Regiment spent the next 4 years serving in the Bombay Presidency in western and central India. They then moved north east to the Bengal Presidency area. John earned two pay increases during this time. He began to receive an extra 1 penny (1d) per day Good Conduct Pay on the 21st February 1868. This was increased to 2d per day on the 21st February 1871.
In October 1869 the 96th Regiment were at the town of Dum Dum near Calcutta (now Kolkata). Two years later they had moved north to Dinapore, now Danapur in Bihar State.
Here, on the 31st October 1871, John extended his service. He had originally enlisted for 10 years, but he was now willing to serve for 21.
The 96th Regiment returned to the UK in December 1873. It would be based in a number of different places in the UK until March 1881, including Warley and Colchester in Essex, and Aldershot in Hampshire.
In April 1876 John fell ill with tonsillitis. He spent 5 days in hospital in Colchester between the 24th and the 28th.
John was in Aldershot in mid 1877. We know this for two reasons. Firstly, between the 21st and 27th March he had to be hospitalised again with tonsillitis. Secondly, he passed a certificate in cooking there on the 12th May. John also obtained the 3rd Class Army Certificate of Education during his time in the Army.
On the 6th December 1877 John married a woman named Agnes in Castletown on the Isle of Wight. She died on the 4th February 1881. We don't know whether they had any children.
John was promoted to Corporal on the 9th November 1875. His Good Conduct Pay was increased to 3d per day on the 21st February 1877. Between the 15th August and the 5th September John held the rank of Lance Sergeant. After this he continued as a Corporal until the 7th August 1880.
On this day John was promoted to Sergeant. His Good Conduct Pay was increased to 4d per day on the 21st February 1881, but on the 7th April he was found to be drunk and placed in confinement. His court martial took place on the 13th. He was found guilty and reduced to the rank of Private. He also forfeited 1d of his Good Conduct Pay. This was restored 1 year later.
The 96th Regiment left the UK on the 11th March 1881. They were sent to the island of Malta. Just 8 days after the Regiment arrived, on the 28th March, John fell ill with dyspepsia, or indigestion. He needed a week in hospital.
On the 1st July the 96th Regiment was renamed the 2nd Battalion of the Manchester Regiment. John was promoted to Lance Corporal on the 14th August 1882, the same day he went to war in Egypt.
The Anglo-Egyptian War had broken out in June after the pro-British Khedive was deposed. Britain wanted to protect its commercial investments in Egypt, as well as the Suez Canal, which gave access to India.
The 2nd Battalion sailed to Alexandria aboard HMS Euphrates, and arrived on the 17th August. The war ended in September with the British restoring the Khedive to power, but having much more control over the country. The battalion left Egypt on the 13th October for Multan in what is now Pakistan, again aboard HMS Euphrates.
John did not go with them. He transferred to the 1st Battalion. This had also fought in Egypt, but then returned to the UK. The battalion was stationed at Warley, and then at the Tower of London for a time. He spent Christmas of 1882 in hospital in Warley suffering from conjunctivitis.
On the 9th January 1883 John was reduced to the rank of Private. He was found drunk on duty on the 22nd March, and confined. John's court martial was held on the 27th. He was found guilty and sentenced to 28 days imprisonment. He also forfeited 1d of his Good Conduct Pay until April 1884.
After John was released he was assigned to the Regimental Depot in Ashton-under-Lyne. We don't know whether he rejoined the 1st Battalion before he left the Army on the 6th April 1886. His character was assessed as 'fair' when he was discharged.
In Ashton on the 29th October 1883 John married Sarah Campbell. She already had 2 children, Elizabeth and Anne. In 1891 the family lived at 11 Egerton Street in Ashton. John worked as a school caretaker.
John's life after this remains a mystery. His medal was donated to the Museum of the Manchester Regiment in around 1960. As well as his Egypt Medal, John was also eligible for the Khedive's Star for his service in Egypt, although a note on the medal roll suggests that John may never have been awarded this medal.