Kenneth Kingsley STAPLE [1889-1931] | Gwulo: Old Hong Kong

Kenneth Kingsley STAPLE [1889-1931]

Kenneth Kingsley
Birthplace (town, state): 
Stoke sub Hamden, Somerset
Cause of death: 
motor accident

Does anyone have information about this person - my grandfather?  Specifically regarding a son named Jimmy.  


Photos that show this person



July 1926 - Inscription on gravestone (

12A--/03/11- Sacred to the memory / of / MAY / the beloved wife / of / K.K. STAPLE / who passed away / 5th July 1926 / aged 38 year / Lo some we loved the lovliest [sic] and the best / that time and fate of all their vintage prest / have drunk their cup a round or two before / and one by one crept silently to rest.B.J. & Co.#8885

14 Nov 1927 - Marriage to Martha Jane Warbrick (

29 Dec 1929 - Baptism of Sheila Isobel Mary Staple ( Was she Kenneth's daughter?

Nov 1931 - Inscription on gravestone (

07---/03/12- In / loving memory/of / KENNETH KINGSLEY STAPLE / Who / departed this life / November 15th 1931 / age 42 years.Rest in Peace.J.S. Lee & Co.

many thanks for the information posted - unfortunately I do have most of this, save for the inscription on my grandfather's grave. I also have reports from the Hong Kong Telegraph and China Mail re Ken's first wife (marriage and death), his marriage to my grandmother, the crash that killed him and his funeral. But one of these mentions he had two children - I have a picture of him with a boy:

Image (30).jpg

on the back grandmother has written 'Ken and Jimmy', and someone has been cut off the photograph. If Jimmy is the child other than his daughter Sheila, I would dearly welcome information - but do realise we're talking 85 years! so a very long shot ...

So is Sheila your mother, but she didn't mention anything about a brother or sister?

I guess the person cut out of the photo could be Ken's first wife, suggesting Jimmy was her son?

The MMIS website is down now, but I think Ken's first wife died soon after they got married. Please can you confirm the dates. Perhaps Jimmy was her son from a previous marriage? Does the write-up of her funeral mention any children?

Of course there is also the possibilty that Jimmy was the son of a family friend. Do you have any other clues suggesting he was Ken's son?

A mystery!

Regards, David

A mystery indeed.  Yes, Sheila is my mum and as you know baptised in Hong Kong Cathedral.  Ken was killed when she was two - he was teaching my grandmother's sister, Isa, to drive, the car hit a tree ' on the Deep WaterBay side of the Island Road's junction with the Repulse Bay road (Hongkong Telegraph 16 Non, 1931). The windscreen glass shattered and family story was that a shard went into his neck (the report said he had a deep wound to the throat. When my great-aunt asked if he was okay, he opened his mouth and air entered - he died at the scene. The same report said he was a married woman and lived with his two children at Braemar Road.  My mother always said that Ken had two brothers, Hugh and Jimmy, but this does not tally with census reports of his family in Somerset. He had three brothers, named John. Arthur (whose middle name was Hugh) and Robert.  (A Hugh and Bert sent wreaths to his funeral).  Mum also said Jimmy visited my Grandma after the liberation, he married a French woman and had two daughters, one of whom Dora, I think she met once.  As you know Ken was married to May for only four years - she had been married before I think as again a newspaper report calls her Mrs May Jack Millar. As she died the year before he married my Grandma, I don't know why she would cut May off the picture. She never mentioned Jimmy but also never talked to me of Ken. In the pic (did it upload to this site?) Jimmy looks too young to be Ken's brother. I have a remaining cousin once removed - my grandmother's neice - who has much useful family recall but she doesn't know about Jimmy either. I have one other pic of Ken with Jimmy looking a bit older and my mother about 18 months ish. Ken was a freemason belonging to Zetland Lodge so I wonder if anyone there might have information?  My Gran and Auntie (as I called her) lived together for the rest of their lives after release from Stanley (apart from when Isa had to return to HK to qualify for her pension).  Grandma never married again and Auntie never married.


A bit of a long shot, but I wonder if the Jimmy was Jimmy Logan?

In the report of the funeral for May, Ken's first wife, it says her brother R S Logan was the other chief mourner (see That gives us her maiden name.

At R S Logan's wedding in 1923, his page boy was a Jimmy Logan (see That suggests a date of birth of around 1920, which would fit the age of the boy in the photo. (Your photo made it to the website ok. I added it in to the text above - scroll up to see.)

It's not impossible that Jimmy was a brother of May, and so a brother-in-law to Ken. But the roughly 33-year gap in ages makes it very unlikely. so maybe he was May's nephew?

I wonder if your cousin remembers a Jimmy Logan at all?

Regards, David

food for thought and will do my best to follow up - thank you for this. Haven't followed the other links yet (as started writing the book today!) but the info you have given me re May, I didn't have. The picture looks better on the website than it does in reality. Bizarrely, when I was aged five approximately and living with my Grandma (Ken's widow) and  'Auntie' Isa in Carlisle, the entertainer Jimmy Logan called in on the doctor who lived next door ( a Scottish doctor). No connection I think. Still not sure why that report said Ken lived with his wife and two children but of course the missing 'his' (two children) may hold a clue. I'll try my cousin re Jimmy Logan but she's out of contact at the moment - having a break in Cumbria and hopefully visiting the Warbrick birthplace at some stage.  thanks again, will pursue,

kind regards, Debbie. 

I've been digging around a bit more and think I've got the answer.

May's maiden name Jack, not Logan. The mention of RS Logan as brother was wrong, he was her brother in law, see:

She had been married before she married your grandfather, and that marriage produced two sons. One died young, and the other was Jimmy Milln. According to his page on Geni (

James was born in Oregon, and at the age of 2, was kidnapped by his mother and taken to Hong Kong, (where she was born). He spent his childhood there, thinking that the man married to his mother was his father. He found out after his step-father died, that he was actually the son of Ralph Milln, and he worked his way back to the states working on a ship. 

Which certainly explains why your family lost touch with him. If you look at his photo on the Geni page, it is very similar to the Jimmy in your photo. So an interesting story for your book!

Good luck with the book, and if you can add any other family stories or photos to Gwulo, especially about Stanley Camp, they will be very welcome.

Regards, David

A very loud wow this end! - thank you so much for that David - you're a genius. I didn't know about as new to the family detection game - my memoir seems to be turning into something quite racy! I got your last email late last night, went to bed musing that I thought May's maiden name Jack not Logan and had gone down that blind alley. I hadn't noticed that the HK Telegraph actually put Millan not Millar as photcopied type a bit blurry.  Think you have cracked it! Shame Jimmy died in 2008. I still have some memories of my mum's that don't tie up (she said Jimmy married a French lady and had two daughters, one of whom visited her in UK - perhaps I can find them now though not as pertinent to book - think my mum may have got the Jimmy's confused). I can't add much re Stanley Camp or any pics there which is why I've been researching but have assorted snaps and snippets eg that may be of interest to someone ... where do I add these?  thanks again!! Debbie x


For any photos, please upload like them you did the last one:

Then for any snippets, if they're about a person it's good to add them as comments to the page for that person, eg Martha ( or Isa (

If you've got any story that doesn't quite fit with an existing page, just pop it up in the forum:

Regards, David

Tragically Kenneth Staple died in a motor car accident on Sunday 15th November 1931 (barely four years after marriage). He died aged 42.  He had served in WW1 in the Canadian Army. He was a prominent Mason. His funeral on 16th November 1931 was very well attended. He served with Canadian Army in France during WW1.  He joined HK Govt. before WW1 and resumed after war ended. In 1922 he was appointed to Architects Office of HK Govt. Later he joined Palmer & Turner (local Architect firm). He supervised the building of the War Memorial Hospital.  He left a wife (Martha Jane Staple (known as Joan) nee Warbrick ) and two children. (SCMP 1931) The accident occurred on Island Road close to the junction with Repulse Bay Road . It was a Sunday morning and Kenneth was teaching his sister-in-law Isa  a nurse to drive in his Armstrong Siddley Reg No 193 when the vehicle lost control and ht a tree on the right hand side of the road just before the junction.  The tree prevented the vehicle going over the steep cliffside at that point. Isa did her best to stop Kenneth's bleeding but he died before an ambulance arrived. Isa Warbrick was also injured in the accident. Both sisters (Isa Warbrick and Martha Staples) were interned in Stanley Camp ten years later when war started in Hong Kong.  They worked as Nurses living in the Nurses Accomodation at Tweed Bay Hosital. The car crash occurred near Mr GP Lammert's home "Overbays" (the name still exists on a building on this plot) and is a well known location for military history enthuiasts interested in the battle for Hong Kong. Those at Lammert's house provided help as did a number of motorists who stopped to try and povide what help they could.  HKT 16th Nov. 1931.  Kenneth Staple had first married Miss May Millan  in April 1922. She was daughter of the late Mr W.C. Jack and the bride was attended by her sister Jessie Jack.

Philip Cracknell

Many thanks for your trouble Philip - unfortunately information has crossed as I already have above info in the newspaper report which someone kindly sent a copy of to distant relative of mine who I think has been in correspondence with you - Robert Warbrick. David also helped with the mystery of Jimmy - see above comments.  Though my grandfather was a prominent mason, he remains elusive - even his marriage to my grandmother made a smaller report than another in HK Cathedral a couple of days before. I am grateful for one nuggett in there - each one helps! - that the name Overbays still exists. So far I've not found any report as to whether the cause of the accident was established (there was speculation a wheel came off). My Grandma and her sister lived out the rest of their lives together.     

Hi Philip,

Please do you remember where you found the mention of KK Staple joining the HK Govt. before WW1?

The first mention I've found of him in HKGRO is on page J116 of the 1919 Blue Book, saying that he was an "Overseer, 2nd Class", with a "$360 Conveyance Allowance and Free Quarters", and that his Date of First Appointment was 19th August, 1919.

Regards, David

again, this is more than I have. I tried loading a blue book but no luck yet - so far I've found that my grandfather apparently left UK (he was born in Stoke sub Hamden, Somerset - father and brothers stone merchants and cutters - went to Canada in 1912 where he enlisted. He was in the 1st Canadian Mounted Rifles and was interned in Giessen, Germany, He seems to have come to HK from UK so perhaps briefly returned after war but for some reason then came to HK. So don't think he could have been in HK before the war ??

Hi David, I noticed you said you looked at blue book in National Archive,Kew. Don't think I'm going to be able to load them as failed so far and my searches tend to yield no result - would you NA is easier? 

If you go to the NA, you'll need to get a reader's ticket - it's not difficult but just be sure to bring the correct ID with you:

Then when you order the Blue Books you'll be given the actual books to look at. You can take a digital camera to take copies of any relevant pages.

So it's definitely possible if the online method doesn't work - but online is quicker when it works. Where are you having trouble with the online access? eg if you go to HKGRO (, type in warbrick and click Search, do you see a page with 10 results? If you click the link for "Civil Establishments of Hongkong, for the Year 1926" ( it's a slow download but it should eventually open the document. That is one chapter from the Blue Book for 1926. M.J. Warbrick appears in the index at page J36, which shows that her full details are on page J101.

once again thanks, have managed to dowload the link (very slowly) so productive morning finding out more - though it still doesn't seem to say whether Civiil or Kowloon place of Grandma's 1st appointment - however interesting that Meg Wilson's 1st ppointment 1919 so that may have given me the reason my Grandma came to HK (I think they qualified as nurses in England together). More research on Meg to do. I have some records already dowloaded and saved - but it's variable as I'm in middle of rural France at end of line for interent connection - lucky to get anything. Mostly when I put names in search I get no result but sure enough your guidance has worked. Very grateful.   I don't quite understand the ''Authority' column which shows authority for MJ Warbrick's appointment as 1919 but she didn't arrive in HK until 1925 ... I've been trying to find out more re her becoming a nurse in UK as during the 1st war she was a munitionette in Woolwich Arsenal.  The RCN records are also at Kew and being digitised but delayed.    

Glad to hear you got the files ok. One other tip, if you click a link to a file on HKGRO, eg:

I often find that the first time I click it I just see the HKGRO search screen. But if I go back and click the link again I then see the document. Not sure why this is!

The "Authority" is going to refer to a government document. I guess it may be referring to the file of correspondence between Hong Kong and the UK Government, available under NA reference CO 129. Can anyone confirm?

Birth Index Kenneth Kingsley Staple registered  Yeovil Quarter 4 1889

1911 Census 

Kenneth Kingsley Staple 21 builder's assistant single born in Stoke -under-Ham Somerset Living at Summerlands Yeovil in a thirteen roomed house  with brother housekeeper and live in servant (currently up fror sale and described as With an overwhelming sense of grandeur and space, this beautifully presented part Georgian/part Victorian property is a pleasure to behold.

November 1912 US Border Crossing Record

Kenneth Kingley Staple age 23 single address in UK 5 Manor Road Yeovil Somerset

Attestation for Service in WWI  made 2 January 1915 at Saskatoon Canada Kenneth Kingsley Staple age 25 height 5 feet nine and a half inches fair hair and complexion blue eyes scars on neck and forhead Church of England

James Allan Short, OBE, FRSAMD (4 April 1928 – 13 April 2001), known professionally as Jimmy Logan, was a Scottish performer, theatrical producer, impresario and director.

Carl Smith Card: Will of  William Charles Jack of Portsoy Scotland. One of his daughters  was recently married in Shanghai and another in Portland Oregon. His wife Jane Mc William Jack.

Was his daughter May Jack who married Kenneth Kingsley Staple in 1922?

Was their son James Staple? He was born about 1919 as he is 11 when he travelled with Jane McWilliam Jack in 1930 to Hong Kong.

Passenger List August 1930 London to Hong Kong

Jane McW JACK age 64 and James STAPLE age 11 UK address 29 Portland Avenue Hove country of permanent future residence South China

Was Jane McW Jack the mother of  May Staple nee Jack? who married Kenneth Kingsley Staple?


Passenger List April 1935 Hong Kong to London

Martha Jane Staple Nurse age 41 travelled to London with Sheila Isobel Staple age 5

Sheila Isobel Mary Staple baptised 29 December 1929 St Johns 

Parents Kenneth Kinglsey Staple and Martha Jane Warbrick who married 1927

Passenger List 4 May 1951 London to Mombassa

Miss  S I M Staple 21 student  UK address Haslemere Infirmary Workington Country of  future permanent residence Kenya

Sorry I have only just seen these posts. JaneMcWilliam Jack was mother of May Jack Miln who married Kenneth Staple (my grandfather). James aka Jimmy was the second son of Ralph Miln, an engineer for the Pacific Telephone & Telegraph Company, in Oregon.  May was accused of drowning their first son in a bathtub while intoxicated with witch hazel, In the middle of divorce proceedings she snatched Jimmy, fled across the border to Vancouver, from there back to Hong Kong in 1919. When she married Kenneth Staple, he took Jimmy on as his own son and continued to do so after she died, aged 38. Jimmy did not know he was not his real father until Ken died tragically in a motor smash, teaching my great-aunt to drive. Later, he worked his passage back to America to find his real father and joined the American navy.  I think he died in 2008 and according to an email I had from a grand-daughter (I think) bore no ill will to the Staples. At one stage Jimmy travelled back to stay with Kenneth's brother John in Somerset and now it makes sense that he travelled with his grandmother Jane? Can I ask what your interest is annpake? are we connected in some way or is it a general archiving interest. You also in another post said you had been in touch with Andrew Weir. I remember visiting the Weirs in Cumberland when I was young and would be obliged if I cdould have his email address as I'm currently trying to write the story of my grandmother and great-aunt in Hong Kong (I am Sheila Staples's daughter.)  Apologies for long reply!  Deb Coxon


I contacted him or he contacted me, can't remember which, via Ancestry.

Found the message

Briefly, my father was an officer with Blue Funnel shipping line until the depression of the early 30’s. He managed to “hitch” a voyage to Hong Kong, where he joined the Royal HK Marine Police, commanding an anti-piracy patrol vessel. He met my mother , Grace (or Diane, whichever incarnation she chose at the time!) there. She was a nursing sister at Queen Mary’s Hospital. They were interned at Stanley Internment Camp for 4+ years. It was my brother, Alan, who was born there in 1944. My father was evacuated to Australia on being liberated, where he spent a year convalescing from a number of privation-induced ailments. My mother and brother returned home to England and my parents were reunited in 1946. I was born in 1947. My recollections, growing up in N Cumbria (I think deliberatedly chosen to be “away from the madding crowd”), were that my parents had endured terrible conditions but the bonds they had were unbreakable, both between them and co-survivors, many of whom visited our home regularly subsequently. Looking back, I now realise that my father suffered extreme PTSD which cast a shadow over our lives for a long time, exacerbated, no doubt, by trying to quit smoking his beloved players navy cut! But he was a wonderful man, and father. My mother was a tower of strength through it all. I count myself very fortunate in having them! Do let me know if you need any further details.Kind regards, Andrew

thank you Annpake - our family were among the co-survivors he talks of. I remember visiting their home at Gilsland and probably met Andrew - recall seeing red squirrels and a bullfinch (the only one I have ever seen) in woods behind their beautiful house