Davies, Joseph Edward

According to the British armed forces and overseas deaths and burials, Joseph Edward Davies was born on the 20th May 1906, third son of Joseph Edward & Margaret Davies (nee WALKER), who had been married in a Civil Ceremony in Chester in the March quarter of 1897 (Cheshire West ROC/36/141).

Joseph Edward (Jnr) is first seen on the 1911 census living at 11, Saltney Cottages, Golftyn, Connah’s Quay, Flintshire (2 Rooms).   Head of the household was Joseph Edward Davies, 37, Iron Worker (Cutter Iron Down), his wife of 14 years was Margaret,  age 33 years and they tell us that 9 children had been born to them and were still living.   Their children, like themselves, had all been born in Connah’s Quay.   Sarah A. was the eldest at 12, William C.,11, John A., 9, Margaret H., 8, Frances, 6, Joseph Ed., 4, James, 3 and baby Elizabeth, 3 months old.

The 1921 census gives us another look at the family, now living at 79, Dee Road, Connah’s Quay.    Head of the household was Joseph Edward Davies, now 47 years and 4 months old, born in Northop, Flintshire, he was a “Cutter Down” in John Summers & Sons, Hawarden Bridge Steelworks but was “Out of Work.”   The miners were on strike around this time.    His wife, Margaret Davies, was now 45 years 3 months old.   William Charles Davies was 21 years and 6 months old, Single and was Packing Sheets at the Ironworks, but also was “Out of Work.”  Joseph Edward Davies was 15 years, 1 month old and single.   James Davies was 13 years and 2 months old, and Barbara Davies was 10 years and 6 months old, both were in school.

I believe that young Elizabeth Barbara (sometimes referred to as Barbara and sometimes Elizabeth) was to marry in 1935 to William J. Ellis (Flintshire (Mold) C104/05/E66) at St.. Mark’s Church, Connah’s Quay and it’s her that Joseph Edward Snr. is living on the 1939 National Register at 79, Dee Road, Connah’s Quay.  This source gives us the dates of birth.   Joseph Edward Davies had been born on the 1st February 1874, he was widowed and a Shearer at the Steel Works.    Barbara E. Ellis, had been born on the 6th January 1911, was married and doing “Unpaid Domestic Duties.”   The next Record had been redacted or closed.

Coincidentally, I found Charles Forrester’s parents, John Halliday & Amelia Forrester, were living at 79, Dee View Road, on the 1911 census (Charles died in the war as well and is named on the War Memorial – please click on the link.).

According Service Records of Joseph Edward he joined the Royal Navy on the 1st January 1929 when he joined “HMS Repulse” as a Stoker for 3 years.   His service record is below, but sadly it doesn’t go as far as 1942.

However we know he was in the Royal Navy and a Petty Officer Stoker on H.M.S. Electra and became involved in the war:-

Battle of the Java Sea and loss

On 26 February 1942, Electra arrived at Surabaya from Tanjong Priok, along with HMS Exeter, HMAS Perth, the Dutch light cruiser Java, and the destroyers Jupiter and Encounter. HMS Dauntless, HMS Danae, and HMAS Hobart remained at Tanjong Priok. On 27 February, the striking force left Surabaya, the three British destroyers in the lead, with Electra in the center, Jupiter to port, and Encounter to starboard; followed by the Dutch cruiser De Ruyter, HMS Exeter, USS Houston, HMAS Perth, and HNLMS Java; followed by two Dutch and four American destroyers. (See Battle of the Java Sea.)

That afternoon, they made contact with the enemy. Electra managed to evade the shells and torpedoes in the first round. At 1715, Exeter received a hit which destroyed a 4-inch (102 mm) gun mount and then exploded in a boiler room, causing her to lose speed. At 1725, seeing that Exeter was in trouble, Electra headed toward the enemy ships, followed by the other two British destroyers, to cover Exeter’s escape. After several near misses from gunfire from the Japanese light cruiser Jintsū, Electra fired back, scoring several hits on Jintsū and the destroyer Asagumo. During this slugging match, Electra sustained several hits, which knocked out A and X gun mounts, wrecked the electrical system forward, cut off all communications, destroyed a searchlight platform, damaged the after boiler room, and ruptured the main steam line. Electra came to a stop, fired off her torpedoes, and started to list to port. After a fire started under ‘B’ gun mount and ‘Y’ mount ran out of ammunition, abandon ship was ordered. One surviving whaleboat got away after being loaded with wounded, but it was destroyed by a shell shortly after. She sank shortly afterwards on the afternoon of 27 February 1942, bow first, with the White Ensign still flying.


That night, about 0235hrs. in the morning of 28 February, 54 survivors of the 173 men on board were picked up by the United States submarine S-38, and were taken to Surabaya. When the submarine surfaced in the middle of the survivors, they were not sure if it was friendly or enemy. One of the survivors recognised the submarine as being friendly, because it had an ‘Admiralty’ type anchor; and at that time, only United States submarines still had this type of anchor. One of the survivors died on the submarine on the way. After treatment in a Dutch hospital, 42 survivors were taken to Australia by the inter-island steamer Verspeck, where they arrived on 10 March. One more survivor died at the hospital, and 10 others in critical condition were left at the hospital.

After spending some time there recovering, many of the survivors were put on the liner Nankin, bound for Ceylon, and ultimately, home to Britain. On the way, Nankin was attacked and sunk by the German raider Thor. The survivors, after spending seven weeks on the raider’s supply ship Regensburg, were handed over to the Japanese, where they spent the rest of the war in a Japanese prison camp.

On 29 March 1947, a stained glass window at St. George’s Chapel at the Royal Naval Barracks, Chatham, was dedicated to the crew of Electra.

The wreck

On 19 August 2003, the wreck of Electra was found. It is lying on its port side in approximately 160 feet (49 m) of water, almost completely covered with fishing nets. Her wreck had been badly damaged by illegal salvagers when an expedition surveyed the site in 2016.[6][7][8]

Also from


On 24 January, the Japanese reached Balikpapan. On 25 January, S-38, hurriedly repaired, departed Soerabaja to patrol in Makassar Strait off Balikpapan.

During the next two weeks, S-38 underwent two severe depth charge attacks. On 7 February, she penetrated close to Balikpapan to examine shipping in the harbor, activity along the coast road, and new defenses in the area. On 8 February, she resumed offensive operations, but poor weather hindered success. On 9 February, the Japanese moved on Makassar City, and S-38 was ordered to patrol off Cape William on the Celebes side of the strait, where she remained until 12 February.

Then ordered back to Soerabaja the submarine arrived at her Javanese base on 16 February. Six days later, she again put to sea. Moving east, she patrolled initially off Meinderts Reef, off the northeast coast of Java; then headed north to round the eastern end of Madoera Island en route to Bawean Island. On 26 February, she shelled Japanese facilities at Sangkapura; then patrolled between Bawean and the western approach to Soerabaja. On 28 February, she picked up 58[13] survivors from destroyer HMS Electra, sunk the day before at the Battle of the Java Sea; and, on 1 March, transferred the British sailors to a surface ship in Madoera Strait. She then resumed her hunt for Japanese shipping which had put the enemy ashore at Batavia, Indramajoe, and Rembang, the latter the last large oil center in the Netherlands East Indies and only 110 mi (180 km) from Soerabaja.

Blair, Clay (1975). Silent Victory: The U.S. Submarine War against Japan. Philadelphia: Lippincott. p. 889. ISBN 9780397010899.

[13] Blair, p.186.

The fact that Joseph Edward’s CWGC Citation states that he died 29th September 1944 and H.M.S. Electra  was in a battle of Java and sunk on the 27th February 1942, Joseph must have been one of the survivors and perhaps picked up by the American Submarine S-38, but as the  British armed forces and overseas deaths and burials Document (Below) states that he died at sea (2) – Missing – Death on War Service presumed, it is a mystery as he didn’t die until the 29th September 1944, over two years later.    There must be a clerical error.   The conclusion I came to was that he was among the captured on the Nankin and handed to the Japanese as stated above in the Wikipedia article and sadly died later.   This is confirmed by the card from the collection of UK, World War II Allied Prisoners of War, 1939-1945 for Joseph Edward, see below.


DAVIES, Joseph Edward of 79, Dee View Road, Connah’s Quay, Flintshire died 29th September 1944 on War Service.   Administration Bangor 16th December to Joseph Edward DAVIES, Retired Steel Worker.

I have since been contacted by Louise Ellis, who wrote to

“To whom it may Concern: – Joseph Edward Davies was my Nan’s brother and my great Uncle who died in a Japanese prison during WW2. My Dad (Joe was his uncle) has conducted some considerable research on this and a few years ago spoke to a survivor from the same Japanese prisoner of war camp and knew Joe well. Please can you contact me and we can update you on this. We have pictures of him on the Electra and the plaque from the King who honoured Joe in his sad passing. You are correct in saying that he survived the bombing of the Electra, but he was picked up by the Japanese after they spent 4 days and nights on a raft.
Many thanks

Below is a written account by Joe’s nephew, Barry Ellis, about what happened to the Electra and Joe : –

“Joseph Edward Davies, C/K65720 was a Stoker Petty Officer and a deep-sea diver. He ship was the HMS Electra. Joe Davies had two brothers in the Royal Navy, one was a chief Petty Officer and a stoker. I also had a cousin W C Williams (C/Quay) who was in the royal marines but he sadly died in the battle of Crete on H.M.S. Gloucester.

In 1928 Joe took part in the Royal Tournament  in front of the King George, representing Nore Command Chatham Barracks in the 110 stroke? Tug of War. I still have the medal.

30 years ago, I conducted research on my Uncle, Joe Davies and contacted 4 survivors of the H.M.S Electra. One of the survivors, Eddie Skerrit (crew list – ) was most helpful in providing some facts about what happened after the Electra was sank. I sent Eddie Skerrit a picture of my Uncle (Joe Davies) and he recognised him straight away and called to tell me about him.  Unfortunately, history has incorrectly reported what happened after the Electra sank and most of the websites have reported this incorrectly too. Your report on the Flintshire Website astutely acknowledges that there seems to be a clerical error with regard to what happened to Joe after the initial sinking. To clarify, he was not one of the survivors picked up  by the USA. Here is some information I obtained:

  • Joe Davies was on the Electra when she picked up 800 survivors off the Prince of Wales and Repulse after sinking.
  • On his last leave in 1941, Joe Edward Davies told another nephew in the family about the rescue of the only 3 survivors of H.M.S. Hood. One of the survivors was a midshipman who was rescued and carried onto the quarter deck. He stood to attention, then saluted, then collapsed.
  • The Electra was also the named ship that followed the Bismark.

Battle of the Java Sea, 27 Febraruy 1942.

My Uncle (Joe Edward Davies) managed to get off the Electra before she went down. She was sunk by the Japanese Light Cruiser Jintsu. Joe, Eddie Skerrit and 12 others managed to get into a Carley Float which was also hit by pompom shots by the Japanese. The Carley boat was boarded and drifted in a different direction to other survivors who fled the sinking Electra.  The 54 other survivors were picked up by the US Submarine S38 (see attached PDF of the survivor list reported by the US). As you can see Joe and Eddie’s names are not on that list. None of the separate boat with 14 men is reported in history.

Meanwhile, Joe and the other 13 men spent the first night repairing the Carley Float and spent a total of 4 days and nights in the Carley float. Apparently, Eddie recalls that Joe was very brave and kept diving into shark infested water to get another floating raft after they initially abandoned ship. He kept getting called back by a superior officer at the time as it was too dangerous. Joe was an excellent swimmer and deep-sea diver.

After the 4th day, they were picked up by a Japanese destroyer and sent to aJapanese Army Camp where they were not allowed to wash for 8 weeks.  Eventually, they were taken to Haruka POW camp, Ambon. Sadly, Joe died on 29th Sept 1944 on passage back to Java. On board with Joe was another survivor called Stewart HunterCruden Lieut. He wrote to my Grandad (Joe’s Dad) to tell him he was buried in the Java sea, his Position Latitude 06.20.S, Longitude 120.25E. Apparently, Joe’s last words were “oh Ma” – we think he had a vision of his Mum before he passed.

I kept in touch with Eddie Skerrit and occasionally spoke to him and sent him Christmas card. Sadly, I have not been able to get in touch with him for a while and not know if he has died. He lived in Norfolk. I am not sure if you are able to find? We last heard from him over 5 years ago. I suspect he may have passed over.


Barry Ellis”

Many thanks to Louise, her grandfather William, grandmother Barbara and of course her father Barry for their account and also the photographs which  have added below.

I received news about the Electra and Joe from Ronnie MacLean on Sunday the 8th of October 2023 regarding more details of the Electra which are in much more detail of what actually happened to Joe and the others on board, plus what happened on the S-38.

I am attaching a newspaper report of the S-38, rescuing the crew of Electra, the list of those rescued from the Electra by S-38, a newspaper report from 1991 of a Veterans Day 50 year Memorial Ceremony of the saving of 54 British sailors and another one from 2002 – “Homage to a Hero”.

Ronnie also sent “HMS Electra survivors picked up by a Japanese destroyer followed by crew members for whom uncertainties remain”.     Of which I pasted and copied the extract below, regarding Joe.: –

Not on Electra for Athenia rescue Petty Officer Stoker Joseph “Joe” Edward Davies, Petty Officer Stoker Joseph Edward Davies, C/K. 65720, died [as a Japanese POW after HMS Electra sunk] 29/09/1944 age 38, son of Joseph Edward Davies, of Connah’s Key, Flintshire.  Chatham Naval Memorial (Commonwealth War Graves Commission).  POW F (Phil Gunyon’s download from Force Z survivors association 2019 – now unavailable online), (wartime memories project online  1942 PO Joseph Edward Davies, C/K. 65720 POW Java, residence 79 Deeview, Connah’s Quay, North Wales, mother Margaret, contact Mrs. J E Davies 79 Connah’s Quay, Chester, England [sic].  POW 1944 J E Davies, C/K. 65720, notification J E Davies 79 Connah’s Quay, Chester, England [sic] (  Deceased Japanese POW Petty Officer Joseph Edward Davies, C/K. 65720, born 1906 notification J E Davies, 79 Connah’s Quay, Chester, England [sic].  J E Davies listed with several other Electra crew under POW Admiralty (Far East receipt of death certificates and Japanese POW cards).  Petty Officer J E Davies (35), photo, of 79 Dee View Rd., Connah’s Quay, reported missing after serving on HMS Electra in the Battle of Java, is now reported prisoner of war in Japanese hands (Liverpool Evening Express 20 Feb 1943 p4).  Picked up by a Japanese destroyer after four days, in a group led by Sub.-Lt. Cruden.  Joseph Edward Davies born 20 May 1906 Flint, Flintshire, K. 65720, shop assistant before enlisting 27 Feb 1925 for 12 years, Sto. II, Sto. I, to 31 Dec 1928, record transferred to card 1 Jan 1929, RN record continued 1 Jan 1929 Sto. 1, 3 years, Sto. 1, 6 years, Acting Ldg. Sto., Ldg. Sto., Acting Sto. PO, Pembroke 2 (Electra) 5 Nov 1940, SPO Pembroke 2 (Electra) 22 Jan 1941, Tyne (Electra) 1 April 1941, died 29 Sep 1944 whilst a POW in Java, ex HMS ElectraPetty officer Stoker Joseph Edward Davies, C/K. 65720, died 29 Sep 1944, HMS Electra, Chatham Naval Memorial, Connah’s Quay and Shotton War Memorial, born 20 May 1906, third son of Joseph Edward and Margaret Davies (née Walker), who were married quarter 1 1897 Chester.  He joined the Royal Navy on 1 Jan 1929 (?).  Louise Ellis (great niece) and her father Barry Ellis (nephew) were in touch.  Barry contacted survivor Eddie Skerritt who was in the same POW camp and provided details to the story.  Joseph Edward Davies, C/K. 65720, was a Stoker Petty Officer and a deep-sea diver.  His ship was the HMS Electra.  Joe Davies had two brothers in the Royal Navy.  30 years ago I [Barry Ellis] was in touch with 4 survivors of HMS Electra.  Eddie Skerritt provided some information.  HMS Electra was sunk by the Japanese Light Cruiser Jintsu.  Joe, Eddie and 12 others got on a Carley Float (which drifted in a different direction to the other survivors who were picked up by the submarine USS S-38).  The first night was spent repairing the Carley Float.  After the fourth day they were picked up by a Japanese destroyer and taken to a POW camp.  Eventually they were taken to Haruka POW Camp, Ambon.  Joe died on 29 Sep 1944 on passage back to Java according to a letter from Lieut. Stewart Hunter Cruden.  I eventually lost touch with Eddie Skerritt who lived in Norfolk.  (Researcher Mavis Williams, Flintshire War Memorials –  Joseph Edward Davies born quarter 2 1906 Holywell, Flintshire, mother’s maiden name Walker.  1906 school admission Joseph Edward Davies born 20 May 1906 of 11 Saltney Cottages, parent Joseph Davies, Golftyn Infant’s School, Connah’s Quay, Flintshire.  1911 UK census Joseph Edward Davies (37), iron worker, Margaret Davies (33), married 14 years, 9 of 9 children living, Sarah A (12), William C (11), John A (9), Margaret H (8), Frances (?) (6), Joseph Ed. (4), James (3), Elizabeth [Barbara Elizabeth?] (2 months), at 11 Saltney Cottages, Golftyn, Connah’s Quay, Flintshire.  1921 census Joseph Edward Davies (47), iron works out of work, Margaret Davies (45), William Charles (21), iron works out of work, Joseph Ed. (15 and 1 month), James (13), Barbara [Barbara Elizabeth?] (10), at 79 Dee View Rd., Connah’s Quay, Flintshire, Wales.  Father – 1939 register Joseph E Davies born 1 Feb 1874, widower, shearer steel works, Barbara E Ellis born 9 Jan 1911, daughter, and a closed record, at 79 Dee View Rd., Connah’s Quay, Flintshire.

Ronnie also sent some cameos of other Electra crew picked up by a Japanese Destroyer, some had uncertain fates.    They are too long to add, but if anyone wants to read his report, then please contact the website.

I am truly indebted to Ronnie MacLean for all this information and pages of Newspaper cuttings, he has certainly filled in many gaps.  Many thanks to him.

Learn more about the other soldiers on the Connahs Quay and Shotton War Memorial

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