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John was born in on 26 January 1884 in Wolverhampton, the son of William and Elizabeth Cook of 48 Chapel Street, Blakenhall, Wolverhampton. On 2 March 1900, John enlisted in the South Staffordshire Regiment (number 5872), when his trade was given as tube maker. Before the outbreak of war, he served mainly in South Africa and India, and was promoted to Lance Corporal in September 1905. He was transferred to the Army Reserve in March 1908. In 1911, he was listed as a labourer and living with his parents at 9 Crescent Row, Wolverhampton. John married Annie Rudge at St Mary’s Church, Wolverhampton, on 16 April 1911, and they had a daughter, Phyllis, in 1913.

John was mobilised at Lichfield on 5 August 1914. He must have voluntarily joined Section D of the Reserve as his normal reserve commitment would have ended in 1912. On 25 May 1915, the Express & Star printed details of a letter he had sent to his wife, now living at 87 Woden Road, Wolverhampton:

I am quite safe after a big battle with the Germans. I was never in such a fight in all my life. We shot the Germans down as fast as we could load our rifles, and captured about 550 of them, but we have dropped back at last for a bit of a rest, and it is like being in heaven, for the last day’s fighting was hell on earth.

He was promoted to Corporal in May 1915, and Sergeant in November 1916. In September 1917, he was transferred to the Royal Defence Corps (number 66812). On 14 November 1917, he was discharged as being no longer physically fit for war service due to sickness. He was awarded the Silver War Badge (number 269449) on 10 November 1917.

John died in Wolverhampton in 1963.