John was the second of the three sons of Harold Slaney Kershaw who was a solicitor and a director of Joseph Holts Brewery which was founded in 1849, by a forbear of his wife, Pleasance Holt. The Holt family were long-time philanthropists in the Manchester area.

John was born at Prestwich. The Kershaws lived at Endon Hall, Macclesfield.

He was educated at Rugby, like his father and two brothers. They were all exceptional games players. He matriculated in 1936 and graduated in 1939 with a 4th in Jurisprudence.

He was a member of the University Air Squadron and joined the Royal Air Force at the outbreak of the war. He was posted to 4 Squadron, initially at Linton-on-Ouse and, later, at Heslington Hall. He was promoted Flying Officer on 25 April 1940.

He was killed flying a Lysander, on 16 July 1940 off Kettleness near Whitby, in a heavy sea mist. The notice of his death in The Times said, “During air operations Pilot [sic] Officer John Kershaw the very dear second son of Harold and Pleasance Kershaw of Endon Hall, Macclesfield aged 22. Funeral Prestbury Church 12.15 on Saturday 20 July 1940. No mourning. No flowers”

He left £2,876-12-4. Administration was granted to his father.

He is commemorated at Manchester Crematorium Panel 16, as is his younger brother, Anthony born in 1919 and killed on 19 March 1941.

Their names are on the War Memorial at Bollington, Cheshire.