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John was born in Wolverhampton in 1891, the son of William Ratcliffe and Emma Jane Norris. In 1901, they were living at 7B Lower Villiers Street, together with his older brother, William Newland Norris. At some point, he worked for Mander Brothers.

On 5 October 1914, John enlisted with the 3rd North Midland Field Ambulance (service number 21332, also 2356, and 421191). At this point, his address was given as 180 Waterloo Road, Wolverhampton, and his trade was “warehouseman”. He was killed in action in France on 25 September 1917, but his service records indicate that they were unable to find a will. He is commemorated at the Bridge House Cemetery in Belgium, as well as on the Mander Brothers memorial, on the memorial in St Luke’s Church, Blakenhall, and the memorial in the Lady Chapel of St Peter’s Church.