A plumber by trade, John was born in Wolverhampton on 5 December 1890, the son of Joseph and Ann Badger (nee Stuart). According to the 1901 and 1911 censuses, he lived at 14 Riches Street with his parents and four sisters.
He enlisted on 11 November 1915 with the Royal Engineers, Service numbers 27176 and B.1512. He was transferred to the 15th Heavy Tank Battalion in January 1918. Although his military records and medal card have survived, there is little further information about his service during the First World War. He was demobilised on 12 February 1919, marrying Elsie Armstrong in 1922, with whom he had five children. He died in 1969 in Wolverhampton.