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John was born in Bromstead Heath, Staffordshire, in about 1868. By the age of 3, he was living with his mother Ann and siblings Elizabeth, Ann, Arthur and George in the home of Elijah Blower at No 4 Court, Temple Street, Wolverhampton, where his mother was the housekeeper. John married Selina Whittaker in Wolverhampton in 1896. They were living at 19 Art Street with their children Ann and John in 1901. John was listed as a Navvy. By 1911 they were at 22 Art Street, with a further four children – Selina Elizabeth, William, Samuel George and James Henry. John was now a Navvy for the Corporation Sewerage Department.

John enlisted with the 2nd/6th South Staffordshire Regiment (number 4276). He died on 29 April 1916, and is buried at Grangegorman Military Cemetery in Ireland.  His death was reported in the Express & Star on 12 May 1916, although his surname was spelled “Barrett”.