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John was born in Wednesfield in 1881, the son of Thomas William and Martha Banks. In 1901 and again in 1911, he was living with his parents at 43 Lichfield Road, Wednesfield, and he was a coal miner.

On 8 January 1914, he enlisted with the 1st Battalion of the South Staffordshire Regiment (number 9407). He was killed in action on 23 October 1914, which was announced in the Midland Counties Express on 9 January 1915. He is commemorated on the Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial.