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John was born in Wolverhampton in 1876, the son of John and Mary Giles. In 1901, he was living at 103 Rookery Street, Wednesfield, Wolverhampton, along with his parents, sister Jennie, and brothers Harry, Charles and James. John was working as a brass turner. On 15 May 1910, he married Maud Marrion Pugh at All Saints Church, Wolverhampton. The couple had two children – Stanley Horace Oswald (1911) and George Henry (1914). Maud also had a son from a previous relationship, William Leonard, born 1906. They had a daughter, Ethel E. (1916), but she died in December 1917.

On 2 May 1915, John enlisted in the 2nd/6th Battalion of the South Staffordshire Regiment (number 4204). His trade was given as labourer and they were living at 96 Dartmouth Street, Wolverhampton, by this date. However, he was discharged on 7 January 1916 with chronic bronchitis. Although this was not the result of active service, it was clearly exacerbated by it. He re-enlisted on 9 May 1917 in the 5th Reserve Battalion (now number 203685), but was discharged a second time on 23 October 1917.

The couple had another daughter, Olive D. M., in 1919, but John himself died later that year, presumably as a result of his bronchitis.