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Photo of Henry Japp KBE

Henry Japp, KBE

Director of Productions
Birthplace Angus Montrose ScotlandPlace of Death Middlesex Brentford England Date of Birth: June 6, 1869 Date of Death: April 5, 1939


Full name of worker at H.M. Factory Gretna (and any other names they are known by): Henry Japp. (Henry Japp KBE).

Gender: Male.

Date and Place of Birth: 6th June 1869, Montrose, Angus, Scotland.

Date and Place of Death: April 5th, 1939, Brentford, Middlesex, England.

Nationality: British.



Childhood: He had seven siblings: Edith Japp (1856), Isabella Jane Japp (1859-1958), James Japp (1861-1931), Edward William Japp (1863-1931), Florence Japp (1865-1961), Philip Middleton Japp (1867-1912), and Frederick John Japp Rev (1871-1963).

Parents: James William Japp (1824-1910) and Isabella Middleton (1831-1903).

Parent’s occupations: His father was an upholsterer and a timber merchant. In the 1881 Scotland Census it actually states that he employed 36 men, 11 boys and 3 women.

Going back to the 1861 Scotland Census it records him as being a Cabinet Maker and Upholsters Master.

Some articles however refer to his father as a provost.

In the 1881 Scotland Census his mother is recorded as being an upholster’s wife.

Schools / universities attended and years of attendance: Educated at Montrose Academy, Dundee University College and the Finsbury Technical Institute. Hull Daily Mail – Monday 10 April 1939. 

Occupation: Numerous sources state that he is a civil engineer. (Chief engineer and works director of John Mowlem and Co., Ltd). Altl~ough best known as a civil engineer, he served his 5 years’ apprenticeship with Messrs. Caledon Engine Works, Dundee, builders of land and marine engines, and mill machinery. The next 3 years were spent in the drawing offices of Messrs. The Thames Iron Works, Millwall, and Messrs. Humphreys and Tennant, Deptford.

Place of residence at Gretna: N/A.

Job title at Gretna: Director of Productions.


Marital status: He married Elizabeth Hodge (1874-1911) and later Kathie Sutherland (1881-?). He married Elizabeth at Queen’s Hotel, Dundee, Angus, Scotland on September 26th 1899.

After her death in 1911 he later married Kathie in New York, New York around 1912.

Children: He had four children, all with his first wife: Nellie Middleton Japp (1901-), Ernest Moir Japp (1903-1953), Henry Hodge Japp (1904-1931) and Elizabeth Nicoll Japp (1908-2003).

Travels: It appears that he moved to New York with his family in 1911 and his Naturalization Declaration was on July 19th 1909.

He seems to have moved between New York and the UK during the First World War.

Awards/recognitions: Knighted for work as Director of Productions during the First World War.

After the Great War, Sir Henry was associated with many great constructional enterprises, including the completion of the Prince of Wales 

Dock, Workington ; the King George V Graving Dock, Southampton ; 

the Dover Train Ferry Dock ; and the jetty and power-house foundations 

for the Ford Motor Works, Dagenham. His most recent outstanding work 

was the preparation of a report, in conjunction with Dr. David Anderson 

and Mr. B. L. Hurst and under the auspices of the Lord Privy Seal, on 

the problem of air-raid shelters. This report was published in the form 

of a White Paper, in February, 1939. 

Sir Henry was elected an Associate Member of The Institution in 1895 

and was transferred to the Class of Member in 1899. He delivered the 

Institution Lecture to Students in the Session 193435*. He was also a 

Member of the Engineering Institute of Canada and of the American 

Society of Civil Engineers, befort: which he read several Papers. The 

Whitworth Society elected him President for the year 1936-37.

Trivia / any other information: 

Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer – Tuesday 26 May 1931 refers to an S.O.S broadcast by the BBC to inform Henry and his wife, who were on a motoring tour of Devonshire, to go at once to the Brentford Hospital, where their son, Henry Hodge Japp, was dangerously ill due to a motor accident. It also states that Henry (not his son) was a well-known civil engineer who, during World War One, accompanied the British War Mission to the states, and for a period was director-in-charge of production. He has two sons and two daughters.

Montrose Standard – Friday 21 December 1917: Details an address he gave before the Convention of the National Machine Tool Builders’ Association at New York on October 31st. It heavily refers to munitions work.

Nottingham Evening Post – Monday 10 April 1939: Announced his death. Referred to him as: ‘one of the three distinguished engineers appointed by Sir John Anderson, Minister for Civil Defence, to report on the government’s air raid shelter policy’.

Died after a short illness at his home at Bedford Park, London, aged 70.

It also states that: ‘From 1895 to 1915 he was engineer in charge of the construction work at the Surrey Commercial Docks, London, and the Great Northern and City Railway, London. He was knighted for his work as Director of Productions during the War. He accompanied the British War Mission to the United States’.

Birmingham Daily Post – Tuesday 11 April 1939: Refers to many of the over jobs he undertook, including ‘the Pennsylvania East River Tunnels, New York… and was Director in Charge of Production until 1919. He completed the Prince of Wales Dock, Workington, and others of his best-known works are the King George V Graving Dock, Southampton, and the Dover Train Ferry Dock’.

Many of the British Newspaper Archive articles are about his son’s accident and death, as well as about the death of Henry Japp himself, though there are some others.

The fact that the articles about him come from across such a wide geographical cross-section of Britain indicate how well-known he was.

The Washington Herald  October 02, 1917 refers to how he was in charge of making the East River tunnels for the British firm of Pearson. For some time he was second in command on the building and running of HM Factory Gretna.

In 1929 he apparently gave a lecture on Christian Science in New York, according to The New York Sun, Tuesday, January 15, 1929.

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