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John was born on 31 August 1877 in Wolverhampton, the son of John and Elizabeth Coley. John married Emily Augusta Thornley in Wolverhampton in 1900, and they were living at 94 Wednesfield Road, Wolverhampton, in 1901. John was working as a butcher. The couple were at Oakley Farm, Wood Hays, Wednesfield, Wolverhampton, by 1911, when John was working as a butcher and farmer. They had a daughter, Marjory Mary.

Perhaps because of his age, John does not appear to have served in the armed forces during the First World War. However, he did serve as a special constable for Wolverhampton Council.

John died on 25 January 1962, by which date he was living at Congreve House, Congreve Farm, Penkridge. The value of his effects was £16,771 15s.