John was born on 17th February 1885 in Sunderland. He was the fourth son of John Laing Browne and Elizabeth Browne, who lived in Sunderland. He had three sisters, Lucy, Jessie, and Lindsay, and three brothers, Harold, Arthur, and Leonard.
He studied mathematics, engineering and electrical engineering, at Armstrong College 1904-1908 and was awarded a BSc. in June 1908.
By 1911, he was employed as an Estimating Engineer in Manchester, boarding with the Elliot family in Stretford.
Before he enlisted he lived in London and was enplyed by the British Westinghouse Electric Company.
John joined the Honourable Artillery Company, Number 1 Company, and served in France 18th September 1914 - 2nd June 1915.attaining the rank of Acting Company Sergeant Major. He was killed in action, while serving near Ypres, on 2nd June 1915 aged 30. His Army Service Record describes him as being 6 foot 1.5 inches tall