John KEMPTON [1886-1947] | Gwulo: Old Hong Kong

John KEMPTON [1886-1947]

c.1886-02-01 (Day is approximate)
Birthplace (town, state): 
Birthplace (country): 

My great grandfather, John Kempton, was the head electrical engineer at The Hong Kong & Whampoa Docking Co. Ltd. when he died in 1947. He married Florence Ann Nicol McAlpine on the 7th of August 1914 in Dumbarton, Scotland. They had four children; Anne Sinclair (known as Nancy in some records), John Ian (it looks like he went by Ian), Jean and Malcolm. According to passenger lists, It looks like the family move to Hong Kong around 1924, although we have pictures of The Royal Engineers in Hong Kong dating back to 1915 that could mean John Kempton (1886?) had arrived earlier. During the war John Kempton was interned at Stanley camp # 702 block A1 room 3. HIs son John Ian joined the HKVDC and was a member the #2 Scottish "Coy" Company. He was a POW held by the Japanese at Innoshima Camp #5B. Florence passed away in Australia during the war. Both Kemptons (along with Malcolm) returned to Hong Kong after the war, my grandfather John Ian married my grandmother Joan Catherine Millard in Hong Kong in 1949, see below for the link.

I'm looking for advice or tips (online resources, as I am not in Hong Kong) on finding details such as a cause of death for John Kempton Sr., any addresses they may have lived at (even if the streets no longer exist), photos or just general information about their lives in Hong Kong. No detail is too small and any assistance is really appreciated.


Quick glance at the newspapers and juryreports on-line. Mr. John Kempton had joined the HWDC since 1924 and stayed on premises. He passed on 26 June 1947 and survived by his daughters, Mrs Nancy White, Miss Jeam Kempton and sons Ian ans Malcomn. Looks like Iain (with an i) was married in Hong Kong in 1949 with Jean Kempton as one of the bridesmaids. See here

John Kempton's obituary appeared on page 2 of the China Mail, 27th June 1947:


J. Kempton

The death occurred yesterday after a brief illness of Mr. J. Kempton, Chief Electrician with the Hong Kong and Whampoa Dock Co. Ltd.

Mr. Kempton was born in Glasgow in February, 1886, and during his early years in Dumbarton he was employed with the noted shipbuilding company of Denny Brothers. He left Glasgow to Join the Hong Kong and Whampoa Dock Co. Ltd., in 1924.

Actively interested in sport generally in his younger days, Mr. Kempton was a particularly keen lawn bowler.

During the hostilities in December, 1941, Mr. Kempton rendered valuable services as an electrician at the Queen Mary Hospital and was responsible for running an emergency power supply to the Dairy Farm at Pokfulam. Later, interned at Stanley, he took over as electrician at Tweed Bay Hospital and rendered further valuable service, to internees and the nursing staff, with whom he was extremely popular.

Mr. Kempton had been in poor health recently as a result of his internment. He was held in high esteem at Kowloon Dock and was respected and loved by his many friends by whom his loss will be keenly felt.

Mr. Kempton leaves a family of four:—Mrs. Nancy White; Miss Jean Kempton, who recently returned to the Colony after service with the A.T.S. in Britain; and two sons, Ian and Malcolm. Mrs. Kempton died in Sydney during the war years.

The funeral will be held today, the service being held in the Colonial Cemetary chapel at 5 p.m.

Thanks moddsey, how do I search jury reports online? I have found the newspaper articles but would love some addresses of where they lived in HK.

You can find how to search for Jurors Lists at:

Henry Ching wrote to remind us that "on premises" in a jurors list sometimes meant you lived on the company's premises, and sometimes it meant "use the company's address as a mailing address". You can read more about that in the comments starting from:

I found there was also a mention of a J Kempton on the prisoner-of-war lists. Could that have been your Grandfather, John Ian?

Regards, David

I remembered that Barbara Anslow had also worked in the Tweed Bay Hospital during internment, and asked if she had any memories of John Kempton. She replied:

Yes I remember him very well as I saw him working in the hospital every day.  As you say, his services there were invaluable, and he was very popular.

I seem remember once (prewar) meeting young Nancy Kempton though I can't recall the occasion.

If you want to know your grandfather's precise cause and place of death, the HK govt. Births, Deaths and Marriages Registry provide online instructions for applying for a search of a death certificate. You can download the search application form. You then have to send it with a bankers draft for HK$140 to the Registry. If the search is successful they will notify you and offer you a copy of the death certificate for a further HK$140 by bankers draft. As you already know the date of your grandfather's death, it shouldn't take too long, but the introduction of a £25 fee per bankers draft in the UK makes the process quite pricey from the UK. I don't know about other countries.

I've recently had another crack at searching for a couple of family deaths. Government departments seem to be in the process of introducing payment by credit card, which is a huge step forward, but I haven't tried it out yet. I've put in several search applications over the past few years and found that it's worth querying results that come back negative. Three of my negative search results have now been reversed after a bit of pushing. I've just been invited to reapply for a birth registration search that failed first time round. As I had already paid for it once, I thought that payment would be waived, but no - my first application had been "closed." New application, new payment.