John saw action in battles on the Somme Front from 1916 onwards.
By 1918 John had been awarded the rank of Corporal with the 11th Battalion.
In March that year the Germans launched their Spring offensive attack and John’s company found themselves outflanked and ordered to withdraw. He knew that the only line to withdraw was through a deep stream lined with barbed wire. To hold the enemy up as long as possible John mounted a parapet, under fire and continued to use his Lewis gun, causing many enemy casualties and enabling his men to cross the stream.
John was awarded the Victoria Cross on 23rd May 1918 for saving the lives of many of his comrades. He was just 22 years old.
As John was last seen firing his gun surrounded by the enemy it was thought that he had been killed. His parents were notified of his death in action, and his Victoria Cross was gazetted posthumously. However, John was not killed, but was captured and sent to a Prisoner of War camp in Poland. Some 2 months later he wrote home to his parents.
John is believed to be the only person ever to have been awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross while still alive.