John Merritt was born on 8 Jul 1858 born at Seaham, Durham. (Some sources show 1859.) On 17 Aug 1877 enlisted in the Royal Navy as a Stoker 2nd Class aboard HMS Asia and was issued Official Number 101439. 27 Sep 1877 assigned to the Troopship HMS Crocodile where he was advanced to Stoker on 14 Jan 1878. After completing his time aboard “Crocodile” he was transferred to HMS Asia 16 Apr 1878 and 2 days later appointed as Stoker to HMS Boadicea which was preparing to sail to South Africa to take over as Flagship of the Squadron.
On 18 Mar 1879 he was part of the Naval Brigade contingent from “Boadicea” landed ashore at Durban under Lieutenant F. Carr. He served at the Battle of Gingindlovu, and later with Crealock’s column that advanced up the coast to Port Durnford where he remained until the men of “Boadicea” were sent back to their ship at the end of July. For his service with the Naval Brigade John was entitled to the South Africa Medal with “1879” clasp.
In Dec 1879 he was lent to HMS Flora at Simon’s Bay. This was the first of 4 times that he was sent to “Flora.” On 1 Dec 1881 he returned to “Boadicea” for the last time and remained aboard until the ship’s crew was relieved and transferred to HMS Thalia for transportation back to England.
He remained in the navy for the next 15 years, serving on several ships and rising through the ranks as Leading Stoker, 11 Dec 1883, Acting Chief Stoker, 12 Jan 1893, and Chief Stoker on 12 Jan 1894. He retired from the Royal Navy and was discharged ashore 4 Oct 1897. John lived in the Portsmouth area until his death on 8 Mar 1848.