John was the second son of Albert and Jane Holder. The family lived in the Inverell district where he was born in 1886. They later moved to Taroom, Queensland. At the age of twenty nine John enlisted at Miles, Queensland, and joined the 52 Battalion, 6th Reinforcement. He sailed from Australia on HMAT A40 Ceramic in October 1916.
John spent a month in England before being sent to France at the end of December 1916. The following month he became ill with meningitis and subsequently died on 23 February 1917 at Wimereux. John is buried at Wimereux Communal Cemetery, France. His personal possessions, including his identity disc, a pocket book and photos were returned to his Mother who was granted a pension of one pound five shillings per fortnight.