Joseph Kellaway was reportedly born on September 1, 1824 at Kingston, Dorset, England the son of John Kellaway and Phoebe Fever,although census data suggest he was born in 1826, possibly at Stinsford.
Shortly after marrying Hannah Cleverly at Portsea, Hampshire on December 9,1854 Joseph sailed for the Crimea aboard the HMS Wrangler. He was 30 years old, and a Boatswain Third Class when on 31st August, 1855 along with the Mate and three Seamen, he was set ashore to burn enemy boats, fishing stations and haystacks. What happened is described in despatches from Admiral Lord Lyons, of September 8, 1855, No. 746; and of September 22, 1855, No. 796.
Whilst boatswain of Wrangler, in the sea of Azoff, was taken prisoner after & 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”.
He remained in the Navy after the war, and a daughter, Hannah was born at Portsea in 1857. On September 1,1870 Joseph Kellaway VC was appointed Chief Boatswain of the Chatham Dockyard.
He passed away at Chatham, Kent on October 2, 1880, at the age of 56 and was buried at Maidstone.. His medals, including the French Légion d’Honneur, were sold at auction in 1971 and are now in private hands.