John was born on 17th February 1885 in Newcastle upon Tyne. 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.
John joined the Honourable Artillery Company, Number 1 Company, attaining the rank of Sergeant. He was killed in action, while serving near Ypres, on 2nd June 1915 aged 30.