Asiatic Petroleum Company employees, a compilation – information needed
For latest updates please see items highlighted in blue. On 12th September 2021 information about Louis Auguste Cossart was added.
HF: We have been sent information about a couple of employees of the Asiatic Petroleum Company in China and one in the UK. We have also received requests for information about two more employees.
I thought it might be more useful if I gathered this information in one article, not least because it would hopefully be easier for anyone seeking information about APC employees to find online and for me to add employees as and when they pop up.
Not quite sure of the best format but will start with that below and adapt this if neccessary. All links are to Indhhk articles unless indicated otherwise.
If you wish to add a name to the list or provide details of those here please contact me, Hugh Farmer indhhk at gmail dot com
Alston, Douglas Rowland, Contributor: Marie Doughty – Between 26 September 1923 and 8 October 1927, my Grandfather, Douglas Rowland Alston, was working for APC in Nanking and Tsingtao.
Marie recently spent some time in Hong Kong researching her grandfather and then noted: As 1923-27 was a fairly turbulent time in China I suspect that many of the records were destroyed. In any event I am finding it difficult to find any contemporary information. A number of married couples and families appear to have taken him under their wing while he was in China. In Nanking he shared a house with R.E.M Paterson and was also with APC.
Marie has kindly sent a couple of photographs of her grandfather. Marie: The one in uniform is taken just before he left for China in 1923 but is the best I have of how he looked at that time, the other is at Tsingtao beach, China. I don’t know who the lady is who is with him. He was twenty five when he arrived in China and didn’t marry until he returned to England.
Babb, Walter George, Contributor: Carol Webster has been in touch asking if we have any information about her great grandfather, Walter George Babb.
Carol knows that at the time of the 1911 UK census he was working for the Asiatic Petroleum Company as a watchman and living at 42 Victoria Square, Portishead, Somerset, England. She asks if we have any records of the APC’s employees in the UK. I am afraid we don’t nor do we of those who worked for the company in China, Hong Kong or elsewhere. Asiatic Petroleum Company was a joint venture between the Shell and Royal Dutch oil companies founded in 1903, and again I don’t know if these companies maintained and kept records of APC employees.
Carol sent this update on 19th August 2019:
My knowledge of Walter George Babb is still rather minimal I’m afraid.
He was my Gt. Grandfather born c1863 in Taunton St. Mary, I believe.
He married Emily Anstice in August 1886 in St. Peters church Clifton Bristol.
He was also in the Merchant [Navy] Service on a ship called the Port Morant in 1901.
Information about the Port Morant
I am not sure when he was hired by the Asiatic Petroleum Company but he was there in the 1911 census.
He and his family lived at 42 Victoria Square in Portishead.
He was buried there in Portishead on December 20, 1928 at the cemetery, Grave # E93.Walter George Babb, Employee of the Asiatic Petroleum Co, UK, 1911 – information wanted
Bousfield, J.K., Contributor: IDJ was in touch on 2nd September 2019 – Came across this photocopy from SCMP microfilm yesterday. No idea of his job description, but as he travelling to the UK with his wife by air in 1936 he must have been high up in APC’s hierarchy.
Imperial Airways – including first scheduled flight into Hong Kong 1936 – information about the airliner, Dorado
Cossart, Louis Auguste, Contributor: Mike Adair, My grandfather Louis Cossart worked for the APC in Hong Kong and in fact died there of typhoid in 1929. He was quite an avid photographer and took a number of pictures of Hong Kong during the years that he lived there from perhaps 1915 until his death. My mother was born there in 1916 and I have done a reasonably thorough family history that includes some details of Louis. He lived in a very fancy house and I think he was probably APC’s chief accountant, but I’m not sure of his exact title.
Gammell, Edward, Contributor: Ian Brown who sent this newspaper article which mentions Edward Gammell, son of Sir Sydney Gammell. Edward it says was office manager of the Asiatic Petroleum Company in Canton around the time the article was published i.e. mid-1942.
This image of Edward Gammell accompanied the article above.
Hughes, William Elias Brian Hughes left the following information in a comment sent in October 2020: 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: Here are three photographs that Brian has kindly sent.
Hutcheon, Robert Rae Robin Hutcheon sent the following information in May 2020: My father, Robert Rae Hutcheon from Aberdeen, Scotland, was employed by APC from the early 1920s until his retirement to Sydney, Australia, in 1940. Earlier he served as a ship’s engineer for Butterfield and Swire during WW1 years. He was employed by APC in Chingkiang, Hankow (where he married in 1924), Shanghai and Tientsin. He had three children, two of whom, with his wife, Ethel, were pirated when the Swire ship, ss Shuntien, on which they were travelling to Shanghai, was pirated off the Yellow River in 1934. During the Japanese invasion, the family were later evacuated from Hankow in 1937 on board HMS Capetown with other British residents.
HF: Robin has kindly sent these photographs, the captions are his.
Kitto, John ‘Jack’, Contributor: Hong Kong based Nicholas Kitto 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.”
Asiatic Petroleum Company, China – family connections
Nick sent this update on 19th August 2019:
Re Grandpa Jack … I have his various postings with APC (North China) but these amount to little more than a list of five or so locations. I’ll forward your recent post on APC to a handful of others with family connections to APC.
MacDonald, Joe, Contributor: 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.”
HF: From the dates provided, it seems highly likely that Joe and Jack would have known each other.
Asiatic Petroleum Company, China – family connections
This undated photo, sent by Ian, shows Joe on the right and a colleague at a work site, location and date unknown.
Ian sent the following on 20th August 2019:
I’ve got an interesting article re the Macdonalds exit from China to Australia, they got quite a bit of assistance from the office manager Edward Gammell of Asiatic Petroleum.
This article appeared in the Aberdeen Weekly Journal.
Many thanks to IDJ for extracting and magnifying the individual article.
The article says that Joseph MacDonald was part of the APC’s “bunkering staff.”
Bunkering is the supplying of fuel for use by ships, and includes the shipboard logistics of loading fuel and distributing it among available bunker tanks.
The term originated in the days of steamships, when the fuel, coal, was stored in bunkers. Nowadays the term bunker is generally applied to the storage of petroleum products in tanks, and the practice and business of refueling ships. Bunkering operations are located at seaports, and they include the storage of “bunker” (ship) fuels and the provision of the fuel to vessels. (1)
Paterson R.E.M. There is this brief mention of Paterson in the section about Douglas Rowland Alston. In Nanking he, [Alston], shared a house with R.E.M Paterson and was also with APC.
Pratt, Gerald Spencer, Contributor: Gerard Molyneux: Looking for information about Gerald Spencer Pratt, who worked for this company from circa 1923, returning to England on the Empress of Scotland, arriving at Liverpool 12th February 1947 from Kure Japan.
Turner, Henry Edward Claude, Contributor: Mike Scudder of Mission, British Columbia, Canada: I believe my grandmother’s brother Henry Edward Claude TURNER (b. Ilminster Somerset) was an employee of APC c1930. His family’s passage was paid for by the “Asiatic Petroleum Company London” when he transited from England to Shanghai in March of 1930. They stopped in Canada and visited my grandparents en route. (This information is captured on a Canadian Passenger Lists, 1865-1935 for Robert H Turner – Halifax, Nova Scotia 1930 March). His occupation is listed as “Seafarer”. Claude Turner met and married his wife Ethel in Shanghai and their son Robert was born in China about 1926.
Mike kindly also sent some images with these comments: I’ve attached a crop of Claude taken in 1930 in Canada so a period pic of his presumed time of employment with APC. Also attached a picture of his wedding in Shanghai some 8 years earlier to Ethel WALKER, the wedding also in Shanghai. I don’t know if Claude was an employee of APC at the time of his wedding, but I don’t believe the wedding party are members of Claude’s family. Possibly family of the bride but perhaps some connected to APC in some way (note the nautical uniforms). Also adding the passenger document showing Asiatic Petroleum Company London. All of this fresh in our minds sadly as we recently learned that Claude and Ethel’s son Robert TURNER passed away due to complications from Covid19 in May of this year.
Wilkinson, Edward Edelson, Contributor: Audrey Gregg The photograph below comes courtesy of the Historical Photographs of China collection, University of Bristol, UK and shows Asiatic Petroleum Company staff, at the A.P.C. depot in Shanghai in the 1930s. The image is indicated as being copyright of Audrey Gregg. Information attached to the image suggests the man marked with an x in ink is “Pop i.e. Edward Edelson Wilkinson).” The “Pop” suggests either a friendly nickname or possibly that Wilkinson was Audrey’s father.
The collection provides the following information regarding use of the images, “Our aim is to help make this virtual photographic archive of modern China publicly available, without cost, and with limited restriction on use for non-commercial purposes.” However, I will try to contact the Collection and/or Audrey Gregg.
Asiatic Petroleum Company staff photo, Shanghai 1930s
The above image was kindly sent by Jamie Carstairs, Project Manager, Historical Photographs of China, Special Collections, University of Bristol, UK, A second version identifies two of the people shown. Fourth from right is Ethal Wilkinson and on the right, marked with an x in ink is “Pop” Edward Edelson Wilkinson, who worked for the Asiatic Petroleum Company in the 1930s. The man looking at the camera in the above photograph looks like Mr Wilkinson.
- Bunkering definition – wikipedia
This article was first posted on 18th August 2019.
Related Indhhk articles:
- Asiatic Petroleum Company, China – family connections
- 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