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The son of Arthur and Elizabeth Humphries, Ralph was born in Bilston in 1879. By 1891, Ralph was at the Standon Boys’ Farm Home near Eccleshall, Staffordshire, run by the Waifs and Strays Society, so presumably one or both of his parents had died.

When he reached the age of 18, on 22 February 1895, he enlisted in the South Staffordshire Regiment (service number 4571). His trade by this age was given as farm labourer. In 1901, he was permitted to extend his period of Army Service to complete 12 years with the colours, and in 1906 he was again permitted to re-engage to complete a total of 21 years. During the course of this period he served in India and South Africa.

He married Elspeth Harper Gray on 31 October 1910 in Pretoria, South Africa, and the couple had three children – Mary Elspeth (1912 in Lichfield), Jeannie Elizabeth (1913 in Lichfield) and Ralph Arthur James (1914 in Aldershot).

When the First World War broke out he was sent to serve in France with the 2nd Battalion. In 1915 he was promoted to Sergeant and continued in service under the Military Service Act in 1917. He elected to draw his pension on 8 February 1918 while still in service. He was eventually discharged on 26 March 1919, at the age of 40, by which date his home address was 10 Henwood Road, Compton, Wolverhampton.