John was born c1891 in Newton-by-Daresbury. He was the fifth of eight children born to John and Ellen Taylor. His father was born in Preston Brook c1858 and worked as a signalman on the railway. In order to help make ends meet, his mother took in laundry at the family home.
In 1911, the family were living at Delph Cottage and John worked as a domestic gardener for Mr Ziba Armitage of Newton Bank. He was a cotton manufacturer who owned property in Cheshire. John was also a bell ringer at Daresbury Church.
John joined the army in February 1916 and served in the Cheshire Regiment. As a lance corporal, he went to France in July, but was wounded on 22 October 1916, suffering severe gunshot wounds. He was transferred to the King George Hospital in London, where he was visited by his mother and one of his five sisters.