John Edmonds was born 23 June 1921, son of Captain A. C. M. Edmonds, OBE, RN. He was educated at Kelly College; he married (1st), in 1948, Elena Tornow, having two sons (marriage dissolved, 1965); then (2nd) in 1966, Armine Williams (she died in 2005).
Edmonds entered the Royal Navy in 1939, becoming a Commander in 1957. He served on the staff of the NATO Defence College, Paris [France], 1953-55, then on the staff of the Commander-in-Chief Home Fleet, 1956-57, and the Chief of Defence Staff, 1958-59. He entered the Diplomatic Service in 1959 and his diplomatic career included the following: Foreign Office, Arabian Department, 1959-60; 1st Secretary (Commercial), Tokyo [Japan], 1960-62; Foreign Office, Information Research Department, 1963-67; 1st Secretary and Head of Chancery, Ankara [Turkey], 1967-68; Counsellor: Ankara, 1968-71; Paris (Aviation and Defence), 1972-74; Head of Arms Control and Disarmament Department, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, 1974-77; Leader, UK Delegation to Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Negotiations, Geneva, with personal rank of Ambassador, 1978-81. Chairman, Joint SDP-Liberal Alliance Commission on Defence and Disarmament, 1984-86.