JOSEPH KELLAWAY VC was born on 1st September 1824 (or 24th August 1826) in Kingston, Purbeck, Dorset, England.
The sixth of 10 children of John and Phoebe Kellaway, he joined the Royal Navy in 1841.
The night of 31st August 1855, as a Boatswain Third Class during the Crimean War, the following happened:
While serving on HMS Wrangler in the Sea of Azov he, Mr Odevaine (the mate) and three seamen were sent ashore to burn enemy boats, fishing stations and haystacks on the opposite side of a small lake. But just before they reached their targets their party was ambushed by 50 Russians and one of the seamen was captured. Kellaway and the other seamen escaped, but Odevaine had fallen. Thinking Odevaine was injured, Kellaway without hesitation returned to rescue him, risking his own life to aid his Commanding Officer. They were quickly surrounded and, despite Kellaway’s best efforts, were taken prisoner too.
Said then Lieutenant (later Captain) Hugh Burgoyne VC: “I was myself an observer of the zeal, gallantry, and self–devotion that characterised Mr Kellaway′s conduct.”
For his selfless valour in the face of the enemy Kellaway was awarded the Victoria Cross, the highest, most prestigious gallantry award in the Commonwealth. He was presented with his medal by Queen Victoria herself during the first ever VC investiture in Hyde Park on 26th June 1857. He was the 17th recipient during this ceremony.
Joseph and Hannah Kellaway (nee Cleverley) had two daughters, Hannah Phoebe (born 29th May 1857) and Ada Emma (born 2nd April 1859). Sadly Hannah would out-live her children. Ada Emma died in her first year, while Hannah Phoebe died unmarried in Chatham in 1890, ten years after her father, who passed away on 2nd October 1880. He had gone on to become Chief Boatswain at Chatham Dockyard. Hannah died in Chatham in 1909.
Kellaway’s VC is believed to be in a private collection, having been advertsied for sale in August 1971 at £2,100. That’s over £28,000 in today’s money.