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Chadwick, Sir Albert Edward (Bert) (1897–1983)

by Charles Fahey

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 17, (MUP), 2007

Sir Albert Edward (Bert) Chadwick (1897-1983), sportsman, businessman and sports administrator, was born on 15 November 1897 at Beechworth, Victoria, son of Andrew Chadwick, a London-born chemist, and his second wife Georgina, née Prater, who was born locally. Bert was educated at Tungamah State School. Following the family’s move to Melbourne, he gained a scholarship to University High School but, his father having died, he was forced to enter an apprenticeship in electrical engineering to help support his mother and three sisters. On 12 February 1916 he added a year to his age and enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force, as an air mechanic. He served in the Middle East with No.67 Squadron, Royal Flying Corps (No.1 Squadron, Australian Flying Corps). In 1918 he was promoted to sergeant and next year mentioned in despatches and awarded the Meritorious Service Medal.

Discharged from the AIF on 20 March 1919 in Melbourne, Chadwick briefly worked as an electrical draftsman at the Cockatoo Island naval dockyard, Sydney. In 1920 he joined Robert Bryce & Co. Pty Ltd in Melbourne. Although he had played little sport as a child, he had taken up Australian Rules football and cricket while in Egypt. Starting to play in the ruck for the Prahran Victorian Football Association team, he wrote seeking a place with the Melbourne Football Club in the Victorian Football League. In the 1920 season he represented Victoria in an interstate side playing in Sydney, and by 1924 was Melbourne’s captain. That year he was runner-up for the Brownlow medal, awarded to the VFL’s best and fairest player. From 1925 to 1927 he captained and coached Melbourne in 58 games with a record of 42 wins and the club’s first premiership (1926) since 1900. Playing at centre half-back, he was a `rugged tear through player’ with big hands, a great judge of a high mark and a brilliant strategist. In all, he played 142 games with Melbourne. He joined Hawthorn for 1929 as honorary captain and coach, but retained an enduring association with his old club. From 1950 to 1962 he was chairman of the MFC—a period in which they won five premierships.

On 24 January 1924 Chadwick had married Thelma Marea Crawley (d.1979) at St George’s Church of England, Royal Park, Melbourne. He began to develop a career in business management. In 1926 he moved to an engineering position with the Shell Co. of Australia Ltd but soon transferred to the commercial division. In 1935 he was appointed to the new post of controller of sales in the Metropolitan Gas Co. World War II broke out while he was on a study tour in the United States of America. In 1940-45 he served as an administrative officer in the Royal Australian Air Force, rising to acting group captain. Appointed director of recruiting in 1942, he was a vigorous advocate of mental and physical fitness, the `national importance’ of football in maintaining morale, and the urgency of increasing the enlistment of women.

Chadwick returned to the MGC in August 1945. When the government-owned Gas and Fuel Corporation of Victoria was formed in 1951, he was appointed its assistant general manager. Next year he was promoted to associate director and was general manager by 1962. As chairman following his retirement in 1963, he was involved in difficult and prolonged negotiations with the Broken Hill Proprietary Co. Ltd-Esso Australia Ltd partnership over the price consumers would pay for natural gas. He was responsible for the conversion of Melbourne’s some four hundred thousand households to gas piped from fields off the Gippsland coast. Also chairman (1963-68) of the Overseas Telecommunications Commission, he oversaw Australia’s investment in INTELSAT, a global satellite communications system.

As president of the Melbourne Cricket Club (1965-78), Chadwick approved the building of a new stand for the Melbourne Cricket Ground at a cost of $2.5 million, endorsed proposals to instal lighting for night cricket, and handled fraught negotiations with the VFL to ensure that the MCG was used throughout the football season. His last year as president was marked by deep dissension among members, who were asked to pay $5 to attend finals.

Six feet 1 in. (185 cm) tall and athletic, `Big Bert’ named `all sports’ as his recreations. He had been captain of the Riversdale Golf Club, a trustee and treasurer of the RAAF Women’s Educational Fund and chairman of the RAAF Veterans Residence Trust. Appointed CMG in 1967, he was knighted in 1974. Sir Albert died on 27 October 1983 at his home in Toorak, Melbourne, and was cremated. He was survived by his son and daughter. The MCC holds portraits of Chadwick by Paul Fitzgerald and Louis Kahan.

Select Bibliography

  • E. C. H. Taylor, One Hundred Years of Football (1958)
  • Age (Melbourne), 19 July 1958, p 3, 10 Nov 1966, p 3, 23 Aug 1978, p 27
  • Herald (Melbourne), 4 Oct 1966, p 17, 12 Nov 1966, p 12, 29 May 1969, p 7, 23 Mar 1973, p 23, 23 June 1973, p 36
  • Sun (Melbourne), 26 Oct 1968, p 11, 25 Feb 1969, p 33, 13 Feb 1973, p 2
  • series B2455, item Chadwick, Albert and series A9300, item Chadwick, Albert (National Archives of Australia).

Citation details

Charles Fahey, 'Chadwick, Sir Albert Edward (Bert) (1897–1983)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/chadwick-sir-albert-edward-bert-12301/text22091, published in hardcopy 2007, accessed online 25 October 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 17, (MUP), 2007

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