John Subak-Sharpe (née Herbert Subak) was born in Vienna in 1924. His father was a civil engineer. His education was interrupted at 14 when he came with his younger brother Gerhard (Gerald) on the Kindertransport to a wealthy Jewish family in London, who left him to work under very poor conditions as an agricultural labourer.
In 1944 John volunteered for the Parachute Regiment and served in Palestine. He experienced some anti-Jewish resentment after the unit had been in Palestine. He was demobbed in 1947, and later studied and started a sucessful career as a geneticist and virologist. He was married and had three children