John was born in Wolverhampton in about 1890, the son of John and Eliza Hughes. In 1901, he was living with his now-widowed mother on Lower Horseley Fields, Wolverhampton, together with his sister Mary and brother Thomas. His mother remarried in Wolverhampton in 1907 to Addison Cocking. The same year, John enlisted with the 1st Battalion of the South Staffordshire Regiment (number 7731), and was serving in Arabia, Cyprus and Gibraltar in 1911.
When war was declared in 1914, he was serving in South Africa. He transferred to France and Flanders, disembarking on 4 October 1914. But he was killed in action on 7 November 1914. On 7 August 1915, the Midland Counties Express, stated that his mother, now living at 72 Matthew Street, Lower Horseley Fields, had received official notification of his death. He is buried at the Railway Dugouts Burial Ground (Transport Farm) in Belgium.