John Ellis was born in Welwyn on 2 July 1892 to George and Lucy Ellis and baptised on 8 July 1892 at Welwyn.
On the 1901 Census the family were living at Mill Lane, Welwyn where his father was working as a agricultural labourer. His mother died in 1905 and the family had moved to Hobbs Hill, Welwyn by the 1911 Census. John was living with his widowed father and family and was working as a shepherd on a farm. His father later lived at Ayot St Peter.