John was born in Broussa near Constantinople in 1886, one of 11 children in a wealthy Armenian family. After his father’s death, he relocated to England with his brothers. After completing his studies and working as an engineer for a few years, he joined the military. In 1908 John was sent to India to serve and immediately stood out because of his skills and ability to speak 6 languages.
After being discharged from the army he went back to Constantinople (where he was arrested by the Turkish authorities), and then travelled to Egypt where he joined the British Intelligence in the Middle East (his military number was 22007). John recalls that he ‘collected about 380 Armenian boys and girls at Baghdad, where an orphanage had been founded by the Americans for their welfare. Again in Baghdad I collected about 40 Turkish officers and Turkish government employees, who by proclamation should have surrendered’.
After many obstacles, he was naturalised in 1926, and after his last trip to the Middle East in 1959, no further trace of his activities could be found. John Haig Arakelian passed away in 1960.