John was born in Sheffield and spent his early years in the city. When the 1901 Census was taken, he was living with his parents, John and Mary, and younger sister Helen at 2 Old Silver Mills. Aged, 14, he was working as an apprentice implement maker. At the time of the War, he was living in Heaton Chapel but, for reasons unknown, enlisted into the army at Lancaster, joining one of the battalions of the Royal Fusiliers (service number PS/10990). His medal entitlement records at the National Archives show he served abroad with the Fusiliers before being transferred to the West Kents.
The Battle of the Somme had started on 1 July 1916 and fighting would continue well, into the late autumn as British troops undertook a series of advances. On 28 September, other units had attacked a German stronghold known as the Schwaben Redoubt and had captured some of its southern portions. At 3.30am, the West Kents moved forward to relieve these troops from the front line. As they went up, "C" Company came under heavy enemy shellfire. No. 9 Platoon was not even properly in position when they were attacked by German infantry. They put up a stubborn fight beating off the Germans and allowing the rest of the men of "B" and "C" Companies to get into the defences. There was no time for the men to settle in as another German attack was launched. The Regimental History records "A savage and determined struggle followed. The Lewis guns did good service but early in the fight they were all put out of action by German bombs [grenades] and the fight resolved itself into a regular "soldiers battle" in which all depended on the courage and tenacity of individual NCOs and men."
The Germans finally withdrew but they continued with grenade attacks. In the intervals between the attacks, the West Kents were steadily shelled but the position became more secure as the day wore on.
After the War, when the War Graves Commission collated its casualty information, Mr & Mrs Ellis had moved to 32 Cleveland Road, Lytham.