John was born in Ruthin on 27th March, 1892. By the time of the 1901 census he was living with his grandparents in 54, Water Street, Caerwys, Flintshire. His grandfather worked as a chandler in a local candle factory. The family were Welsh speaking. It is not clear where John’s parents were at this time.
By the time John was 16 years old in 1908 it seems that he had left home and joined the Royal Navy as a boy sailor. He became an Able Seaman in 1916 with his last operational vessel being HMS Lion which was a battle cruiser. It was about this time that John became ill with tuberculosis and he became shore based in the training depot known as HMS Vivid presumably to aid his recovery. However by the spring of 1916 he was invalided out of the Royal Navy and it seems came back home to Wales and lived with his mother Elizabeth Birchall at Bryn Ifan, Babell. He received a war gratuity. He died on 28th January, 1919, presumably from his lung disease and his probate record indicates that he left the sum of £82-19s-3d to his mother.
His grave is located in the church yard at Caerwys church.