John Theophilus Bagram - Short Biography


John Theophilus Bagram: born in Calcutta in 1886 died Hong Kong 1947. Nephew and business confidante in the latter years of Sir Paul Chater, Theo's education was split between Calcutta and England. Qualifying as an engineer in February 1909, his life from an early age was influenced by the military.

At 11 years of age, he was in the 3rd Cadet Battalion Calcutta Volunteer Rifles and at 16 he moved to Machine Gun Coy of the Northern Bengal Mounted Rifles.

He moved to the UK in 1905 to attend university in Manchester where he also began his officers training. Completing his university education in 1908 he moved to London and enlisted at the Royal School of Mines qualifying as an engineer in 1909, he continued to study at the RSoM until 1911. By 1914 he was in Hong Kong employed by his uncle Sir Paul Chater in his construction projects.

WW1 commenced and Theo did not hesitate to join up in May 1917 his preference was to join the Royal Engineers Tunnelling Company, his application was successful.

Theo’s military career is remarkable on its own, fighting on the front line in France in the Tunnelling Corp; at one point he was underground for no less than 90 consecutive days, and played a crucial role in the “underground” war. Injured in France in March 1918, he returned to active service in May 1919 only to be injured again and sent to Ireland to recuperate. He was eventually released from military service in November 1919 and once recovered he went back to Hong Kong and became a stockbroker, learning at the knee of his uncle Sir Paul. Theo had a flair for finance and became a successful dealer in his own right.

He married Gladys Lillian Stone in 1924 in London and stayed briefly with Sophie Gunn nee Chater, another sister of Sir Paul. Eventually though, Theo and Lilian (She preferred to use the name Lilian rather than Gladys) settled in Hong Kong living with Sir Paul and Lady Christine at Marble Hall. Lady Chater adored Lilian and all four of them spent a great deal of time together at the behest of Sir Paul. After the death of Sir Paul, Theo and Lilian moved into the newly built luxury flats at Branksome Towers, May Road. Sir Paul had been Consul General to Siam in Hong Kong for most of his life, upon his death that honour was bestowed to Theo Bagram who had impressed the Siam government as a trusted individual and who showed he had loyalty and integrity to match that of Sir Paul. Theo held the position until war broke out in 1942. On the invasion of Hong Kong by the Japanese, Theo and Gladys were captured and interned in the Prisoner of War camp at Stanley he made his will in camp not expecting to come out alive. Theo was also very active in Freemasonry, as can be seen from the certificates in the photo gallery.

After the war, he struggled to recover from that traumatic time. They came back to the UK when hostilities had ended to try and help speed up his recovery, but they loved Hong Kong so much they returned and he died there in April 1947. They never had children.

As someone who looked up to and admired Sir Paul, and who was constantly striving to meet the standards that Sir Paul set, Theo who respected and admired Sir Paul and who in turn, loved Theo so very dearly, was fittingly laid to rest in the shadow of Sir Paul's grave at Happy Valley, Hong Kong.