George Ernest Marden & John Louis Marden

HF: The following article has been extracted from the Dictionary of Hong Kong Biography.

The article about George Ernest Marden and John Louis Marden was written by Robert Nield and first published in the Dictionary of Hong Kong Biography, edited by May Holdsworth and Christopher Munn. The publisher, HK University Press, has kindly granted permission for it to be posted here, but retains copyright over this material from 2012.

The images of the two gentlemen shown below and the lengthy lists of companies and organisations they were associated with have been sent by IDJ and came from a 1950s brochure for the Far East Flying Training School, which both of the Mardens were directors of.

Thanks to PMC for proof reading the retyped article.

The image shown on the Home Page of this article comes from our article, Unsung Kingmakers – the low-key Song Brothers who conquered the Shanghai Bund and Victoria Harbor and backed the development of several key industries in post-War Hong Kong, and shows VK Song and George Marden in Shanghai in the 1930s and comes courtesy of Wendy Song.

Marden, George Ernest, MC (1915) b.3 July 1892, England; d. 23 February 1966, London. Entrepreneur.

Marden, John Louis, CBE (1976), JP b. 12 February 1919, England; d. 18 March 1999, Hong Kong, Entrepreneur, philanthropist.

Marden G.E. Undated, Source Unknown From IDJ

George Ernest Marden

Born into a naturalised British family of German extraction, George Ernest Gumprecht (who later adopted his mother’s maiden name, Marden) joined the army on leaving school and was posted to Hong Kong, arriving in 1912. Shortly afterwards he bought himself out of the army and took a position in the Chinese Maritimes Customs (CMC) in Canton. Following the outbreak of war, he returned to England in 1915, re-enlisted, and was commissioned as a second lieutenant. He was awarded the MC later that year. He married Dorothy Scales in 1916 during a period of home leave, and returned to the war as a pilot in the Royal Flying Corps.

In 1919 he returned once more to China with his wife and one-year-old son John. He became headmaster of the CMC training school. Using his experience of business, gained through the CMC and earlier as a junior in a London trading company, he formed in 1925 G.E. Marden & Co. Ltd, providers of lighterage and customs brokerage services. The firm was floated on the Shanghai Stock Exchange in 1930 as Marden & Co., merging with Wheelock & Co. in 1932. Wheelocks had been in a similar line of business since 1861, and so the merged firm continued as Wheelock & Co., but with Marden as chairman. Over the next 12 years the company grew steadily, principally in the fields of shipping, lighterage, storage, ship brokerage and ship breaking.

Along with many of the foreign residents of Shanghai, Marden was evacuated to England in 1942, but he was able to continue managing his Shanghai shipping business, which he renamed Wheelock Marden & Co. Ltd. He returned to Shanghai in 1946, only to leave again two years later, establishing himself, his family, his cash and his companies in Hong Kong. Very soon the various Marden interests were more active and influential in the market than were Jardines or Swire. Variously considered as a controversial corporate raider or a dynamic entrepreneur, Marden retired to London in 1959, leaving his huge corporate empire in the capable hands of his son John.

Marden, John Louis Image From IDJ

John Louis Marden

John Marden attended schools in Shanghai and England before going up to Cambridge, where he studied law at Trinity College from 1937 to 1940. Upon graduation he was commissioned into the Royal Horse Artillery, seeing action in North Africa and the D-Day landings. His commercial training started with a spell with the Blue Funnel Line in Liverpool, then with his father’s London office. In 1947 he and his new bride Anne Harris came to Hong Kong by Sunderland flying boat to begin learning the ropes in his father’s business.  Their three daughters and one son were all born in Hong Kong. Having inherited his father’s commercial instincts, John Marden expanded property investment into an even more important activity for the group than the ongoing shipping interests. He was also one of the driving forces behind the creation of the Cross-Harbour Tunnel, which opened in 1972.

John Marden retired from business in 1985, as the last of the great British taipans, when he sold his stake in Wheelock Marden. After a complicated and at times bitter battle for control, the new owner emerged as Hong Kong shipping magnate Sir Y.K. Pao. During his latter years in business, and increasingly following his retirement, John Marden undertook a programme of philanthropy, principally through the Marden Foundation, which is continued by his wife Anne. Among the most visible results of this programme in Hong Kong are a dozen pre-vocational schools, construction of which the Mardens funded. They also financed the building of the swimming pool at Hong Kong Island School; John declared it open on 15 June 1973 by jumping in, fully clothed.(1)

List of companies and organisations with which G.E. Marden was associated

Chairman of Directors, Wheelock Marden & Co Ltd, International Investment Corp Ltd, The Hongkong & China Gas Company Ltd, Harriman Realty Co Ltd, Conres & Co Ltd, Allied Investors Corporation Ltd, Eastern Asia Navigation Co Ltd, Far Eastern Aviation Co Ltd, Far East Flying & Training School Ltd, Far Eastern Prospecting & Development Corp Ltd, Hongkong Realty & Trust Co Ltd, The Loan & Investment Co Ltd, Oriental Mortgage & Finance Corp Ltd, Shewan, Tomes & Co Ltd, The Textile  Corporation of Hongkong Ltd, Wheelock Marden & Stewart Ltd, Lane Crawford Ltd, Director, China Underwriters Ltd, The China Engineers Ltd, The Dairy Farm, Ice & Cold Storage Co Ltd, L. Dunbar Co (1950) Ltd, The Hongkong & Shanghai Hotels Ltd, Hongkong Tramways Ltd, John D Hutchison & Co Ltd, Fagan (H.K.) Ltd, Hongkong Rolling Mills Ltd, Mountain Lead Mines Ltd, The Pressure Pilling [sic] Co (Hong Kong) Ltd, Reiss Bradley & Co Ltd, President, The Boy Scout Association.

G E Marden Directorships From IDJ

List of companies and organisations with which J.L.Marden was associated

Chairman and Director, The Hongkong Rope Manufacturing Co Ltd., Austrian & Continental Engineers Ltd, Director, John D. Hutchinson & Co., Ltd, International Investment Corp, The Hongkong & China Gas Co Ltd, Harriman Realty Co Ltd, Wheelock Marden & Co., Ltd, Hongkong Rolling Mills Ltd, Hongkong Realty & Trust Co Ltd, Far Eastern Prospecting & Development Corp Ltd, Far East Flying Training School Ltd, Far East Aviation Co Ltd, Fagan (HK) Ltd, Eastern Asia Navigation Co Ltd, Aircraft (China) Ltd, Allied Investors Corporation Ltd,

Marden, John Louis Directorships From IDJ


  1. Dictionary of Hong Kong Biography, ed M Holdsworth & C Munn, HKU Press, 2012 This wonderful book collects in one volume more than 500 specially commissioned entries on men and women from Hong Kong history.


  1. Anne Marden SCMP 21st July 2003.
  2. Wheelock Marden epic in final round SCMP date unknown
  3. John Marden, ‘taipan of taipans’, dies at 80 SCMP 19th March 1999
  4. John Louis Marden Wikipedia
  5. Chinese Maritime Customs Service Wikipedia
  6. Wheelock and Company Limited Wikipedia

This article was first posted on 11th July 2019.

Related Indhhk articles:

  1. Unsung Kingmakers – the low-key Song Brothers who conquered the Shanghai Bund and Victoria Harbor and backed the development of several key industries in post-War Hong Kong


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