Asiatic Petroleum Company, China – family connections
New information, posted 19th November 2020. Brian Hughes has been in touch about his father: My father William Elias Hughes from the Conway Valley in North Wales was employed by APC (North) up to the War in Shanghai following his sailing from London on the ‘Nyanza’ on 28/06/1913. I believe he first worked in Customs.
My mother followed, having met him when he was home on leave, in October 1932 and they married 26/11/1932 in Tientsin, North China. My sister and brother were born in Shanghai with myself and my younger sister being born in Sydney NSW. My sister is vague about how and when they got out of China but I believe they left for Chongquing (Chungking) following the capture of Shanghai by the Japanese in 1937. Clearly, Shell must have helped with this and the subsequent escape to Brisbane. I have some photographs and 16 mm film of them in China but no detail of his career with APC.
HF: To see images of William Hughes and his family, in China, please see our article: Asiatic Petroleum Company employees, a compilation – information needed, linked below
Ian Brown has been in touch. His father’s cousin Joe MacDonald worked for the Asiatic Petroleum Company pre WW2. Ian writes,” the Shanghai base [of APC] seems to ring a bell for me when I recall my father talking about Joe MacDonald’s time in China which I feel was not necessarily that long, curtailed by the war. I have a record of him sailing on the Corfu for Hong Kong in November 1937, he married Lizzie Smith in September 1937, he married late at the age of 43.” I’ll post what Ian knows about Mr MacDonald in a separate article.
And Hong Kong based Nicholas Kitto also has a family connection to APC. On his website he writes, “my Grandfather, John ‘Jack’ Kitto, was recruited directly from school by Royal Dutch Shell in 1910. After training in their London office he travelled to Shanghai on the Trans-Siberian Railway and commenced work with The Asiatic Petroleum Company (North China) Limited on 16 September 1912. He remained with APC in various locations in China until his retirement in 1939.”
It seems highly likely that Joe and Jack will have known each other.
Nicholas has a superb collection of photographs of APC buildings in about nine cities in China. They are linked below.
Let’s start with some background information about the company.
Asiatic Petroleum Company was a joint venture between the Shell and Royal Dutch oil companies and was founded in 1903. It operated in Asia in the early 20th century with its corporate headquarters on The Bund, in Shanghai.
Before the formation of the Royal Dutch Shell Group in 1907, Shell Transport Trading Company Limited and Royal Dutch Petroleum Company, originally competitors, established a presence in the South China region. The Shell Company is recorded as exporting to China by 1891 and Royal Dutch by 1894.
The benefits of working together to develop Far Eastern markets for oil products had already become apparent by the early part of the new century and a joint venture, the Asiatic Petroleum Company Limited (APC), was set up for this purpose in 1903.
Before and after the merger of interests in 1907, much of the companies’ business was conducted through agents, but by 1913 demand for oil products had outgrown this arrangement and APC’s northern and southern branches were formed to manage operations in the region. APC (South China) set up its office in Hong Kong’s Central district as a regional head office for South China and the Philippines. These are the direct antecedents of the present Shell Companies in China and Hong Kong.
In 1941, APC (South China) was the second largest corporation in Hong Kong, with an issued capital of over HK$150 million – just less than the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank.
However, business activities ceased during WWII when Japan requisitioned APC’s possessions in Shanghai and Hong Kong.
This article was first posted on 27th November 2014.
- Shell history in China the company website
- Shell history in Hong Kong the company website
Related Indhhk articles:
- Asiatic Petroleum Company employees, a compilation – information needed
- Asiatic Petroleum Company staff photo, Shanghai 1930s
- Asiatic Petroleum Company Ltd – links to Arnhold & Company
- Walter George Babb, Employee of the Asiatic Petroleum Co, UK, 1911 – information wanted
- BAAG records of shipping in HK during 1944-45 – the Fukuan Maru, ex-Shu Kwang operated by Asiatic Petroleum Company
- Yung Hao tanker – requisitioned by HK Government 1951 leading to China’s requisitioning of Asiatic Petroleum Co
- Asiatic Petroleum Company, China – requisitioned by Chou En Lai 1951
- Joe MacDonald – Asiatic Petroleum employee, China/HK late 1930s
- Asiatic Petroleum Company – contemporary photographs of its Shanghai building
- Asiatic Petroleum Company – Shanghai building , further information