JOSEPH KELLAWAY RN – Victoria Cross Recipient


Joseph Kellaway VC A Victoria CrossJoseph Kellaway Grave
Joseph Kellaway VC A Victoria Cross Joseph Kellaway grave
Joseph Kellaway RNThis is like the medal Joseph
Maidstone Rd Cemetery, Chatham

In most biographies Joseph Kellaway is said to have been born in Kingston, Dorset on 1st September 1824, however he was baptised in Stinsford near Dorchester on 13 August 1826 (his elder sister Anne also baptised there in July 1824). He was the sixth of the ten children of John Kellaway and Phoebe Fever married on 26 January 1814 in Abbotsbury, Dorset. John was a Carpenter and Dairyman and moved frequently around the villages of south Dorset.

Joseph is listed in the 1841 census as aged 14 when the family were living in Buckland Newton but he must have given his age as more when he enlisted in the Royal Navy later that year. He is not listed in the 1851 census but in 1861 he is aboard HMS Clio in Guaymas Harbour on the West Coast of Mexico and is a Boatswain 1st Class, his place of birth is Kingston and age suggests born 1826. By 1871 Joseph is Chief Boatswain at Chatham Dockyard, Kent (appointed 01 Sept 1870). His place of birth is given as Stinsford and his age suggests born 1827. It is only his age as given on his grave which suggests an earlier birthdate. Joseph died 02 October 1880 in Chatham, Kent and is buried in Maidstone Road Cemetery, Chatham, Kent. His headstone gives his age as 56, however, his death certificate has his age as 54. Deaths Dec 1880 Kellaway Joseph, 54 Medway 2a 280.

Joseph Kellaway is best remembered as one of the first recipients of the Victoria Cross which he received for actions during the Crimea War. The Victoria Cross was instituted on the 29 January 1856 by Royal Warrant. It was to be presented as the highest award a country could give for conspicuous gallantry and acts of courage to Officers and Men, of Her Majesty′s Forces alike, with no distinction. Later Warrants extended the honour to be awarded to Civilians and Colonial Troops acting in the service of the Sovereign.

On 28 December 1853 Joseph married Hannah Cleverly at Portsea and not long after he joined the ship HMS Wrangler which was launched 19 June 1854. She was a 477ton wooden gunvessel with 2 guns. On 09 December 1854 Joseph sailed for the Crimea aboard the HMS Wrangler. He was 28 years old, and a Boatswain Third Class. Lieutenant Commander Hugh Talbot Burgoyne took command on 15 June 1855 and the ship was then serving in the Black Sea during the Crimea War.

On 31 August 1855 along with the Mate and three Seamen, he was sent ashore to burn enemy boats, fishing stations and haystacks. What happened is described in despatches from Admiral Lord Lyons, of 08 September 1855, No. 746; and of 22 September 1855, No. 796.

“Whilst boatswain of Wrangler, in the sea of Azoff, was taken prisoner after a stout resistance, whilst endeavouring to rescue Mr Odevaine, mate.” This gallant service was performed on shore near Marioupol. A detachment, consisting of Mr Odevaine, mate, Mr Kellaway, boatswain, and three seamen, had been despatched from the Wrangler to endeavour to burn some boats, fishing stations, and hay-stacks, on the opposite side of a small lake. They had nearly reached the spot when they were fired upon by a party of fifty Russian soldiers, who suddenly rushed from their ambush, and endeavoured to cut off their retreat. One man fell into the enemy′s hands, but Mr Kellaway, and the two other seamen, had contrived to make good their escape, when Mr Odevaine accidentally fell. Mr Kellaway, apparently imagining him to be wounded, without a moment′s hesitation returned to his rescue, risking his own life to succour his Commanding Officer. Unfortunately, while lifting up Mr Odevaine, they were surrounded by the enemy, and notwithstanding a gallant but hopeless resistance by Mr Kellaway, they were both made prisoners. Commander Burgoyne, who has furnished these particulars, observes, “I was myself an observer of the zeal, gallantry, and self–devotion that characterised Mr Kellaway′s conduct”.

Despite his capture Joseph Kellaway was back in England to receive his medal in 1857. No details of prisoner exchanges have been found but presumably some system was in place at the end of the conflict in February 1856

The first presentation of the Victoria Cross was made at an Investiture held on Hyde Park on Friday 26 June 1857. The Ribbon on the Naval VC being Blue, and the Army′s being Crimson. (Later, all VC Ribbons would be Crimson.)

The first presentation was to 62 men and they were presented in order of the Services. The Senior Service, the Royal Navy, including the Naval Brigade, Royal Marines, followed by the various Regiments of the Army. Joseph was the seventh recipient during this ceremony.

Joseph and Hannah Kellaway had two daughters. The first was Hannah Phoebe born 29 May 1857 and baptised 02 April 1859 Portsea. The second was Ada Emma baptised also 02 April 1859 Portsea. Sadly Ada died in her first year and Hannah Phoebe died unmarried in Chatham 1890. So there are no direct descendents of Joseph Kellaway VC. Joseph himself died 02 October 1880 at Chatham. His wife, Hannah, is listed there on the 1891 and 1901 census and died in Chatham in 1909.

It is not known who inherited Joseph′s medals of the Victoria Cross and Légion d′honneur but the Victoria cross was advertised for sale at £2100 in August 1971. Presumably it was a desirable addition to a collection in the fact that it was one of the first medals and would have the blue ribbon of the Navy. It is believed to be in a private collection


back to Notes and Stories Index

back to Kellaway Research index

Joseph Kellaway VC
Last updated February 2013
Web Page by Les Haigh. Email: (les.haigh at

Valid HTML 4.01 Transitional