The son of John and Ann Embery, Joseph was born in Wolverhampton on 14 August 1889. By 1901, he was living with his widowed mother at 50 Hall Street, Wolverhampton. He became a brass worker. He married Winifred J. Chapman in 1915, and they had five children – Josephine, Ronald C., Derrick, Winifred C. and Roger – between 1916 and 1926.
On 27 March 1907, he joined the Royal Navy (service number SS104650), serving on a number of ships including the HMS Nelson, Victory II and Hermes. He was “Transferred to C. S. [Continuous Service] as Stoker I” on 12 February 1912 (service number K13863). He continued serving on various ships, including the HMS Ariadne, Dolphin and Maidstone up to and throughout the War. In 1915, a note on his service record states “Unofficially reported Prisoner of War in Turkey”, and there are further details about this period of his life on this forum discussion. He was released after the Armistice and left he Navy in 1919. Joseph died in Birmingham at the age of 53 in 1943.