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John was born in Wolverhampton in 1892, the son of John George and Harriett Smith. John’s mother had died by 1901, and he was living with his widowed father and siblings George E., William O. and James H. at 2 Temple Street, Wolverhampton.

John enlisted in the 10th Battalion of the King’s Royal Rifle Corps (number R/3159), and first served in France from 21 July 1915. He was later promoted to Sergeant. He was killed in action in France on 30 November 1917, during the Battle of Cambrai. He is remembered at the Cambrai Memorial in Louverval.