John was born at Largs NSW and was working as a Labourer at Moree when he enlisted in January 1916. He was a single man, aged thirty seven. He joined with other district men to become part of the snowball recruiting drive known as The Kurrajongs.
After a short time at the Narrabri Depot Camp, these men went to Armidale where the 33rd Battalion was formed. John was a member of D Company of this Battalion which trained at Armidale and Rutherford before sailing from Australia in May 1916 on HMAT A74 Marathon. After nine weeks at sea, the Battalion arrived in England where further training took place. In August John was sent to Codford Cookery School before embarking with the Battalion for France in November.
John was wounded in action in June 1917 during the Battle of Messines and transferred back to England where he was admitted to 1st London General Hospital with a gunshot wound to the thigh. He returned to Australia and was medically discharged in February 1918.