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Thomas Fergus Buchanan MacAdie (1919–1973)

by G. D. Solomon

This article was published:

Thomas Fergus Buchanan MacAdie (1919-1973), by unknown photographer

Thomas Fergus Buchanan MacAdie (1919-1973), by unknown photographer

Australian War Memorial, 145741

Thomas Fergus Buchanan MacAdie (1919-1973), soldier and atomic-energy administrator, was born on 22 September 1919 at Williamstown, Melbourne, third child of Thomas Fergus MacAdie, a superintendent stevedore from Scotland, and his Queensland-born wife Amelia Mary, née Buchanan. Educated at Williamstown High School, young Fergus entered the Royal Military College, Duntroon, Federal (Australian) Capital Territory, in February 1938. He graduated as lieutenant, Australian Staff Corps, in August 1940. Although he hoped for an early transfer to the Australian Imperial Force, he was posted to a succession of training establishments.

In February 1942 MacAdie joined the Guerrilla Warfare School, Wilsons Promontory, Victoria, as an instructor. By July he was a temporary major, commanding the 2nd/7th Independent Company, A.I.F. It had been a dramatic change of fortune. With his unit, he reached Wau, New Guinea, in October. MacAdie was then 6 ft 2½ ins (189 cm) tall, 'thin and strangely hawk-like, with curiously flecked eyes set deep above a high-bridged nose'. Behind those features were characteristics which had been apparent at Duntroon and would continue to develop: an unruffled self-assurance, the ability to work with and to influence others, an engaging sophistication, a ready wit, a sense of occasion and a will to win.

The 2nd/7th was attached to Kanga Force and operated with conspicuous success around Mubo in January-March 1943. MacAdie led a daring raid on the main Japanese defences at Garrison Hill and Mat Mat in January. His men drove off a strong enemy attack in February, inflicting heavy casualties. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Order for his leadership and skill in handling the unit. The company flew to Bena Bena in May to augment Bena Force. Under MacAdie's command (as temporary lieutenant colonel from June), this formation eventually numbered more than 1100 men. They garrisoned the surrounding region, produced maps, built roads and an airfield, and engaged in skirmishes against the enemy. MacAdie was mentioned in dispatches.

Returning to Australia in November, he performed staff duties as a major. In 1945-46 he was back in the Territory as a substantive lieutenant colonel, commanding the 3rd New Guinea Infantry Battalion. Following a short posting to Army Headquarters, Melbourne, he flew to Japan in March 1947 to command the 67th Battalion. On 12 June 1948 in Tokyo he married Colleen May, daughter of Colonel Jeff Clay, United States Army; the bride and groom were driven from the ceremony in the Imperial coach. In Melbourne again, he was at the 3rd Division's headquarters from December. A review of the Staff Corps list in 1949 revised his seniority and enhanced his prospects.

MacAdie served on the Australian Joint Services Staff, Washington, in 1950-53. An appointment in the directorate of personnel administration, Army Headquarters, followed his return to Australia. In 1954 he was once more posted abroad, as services attaché, Saigon. Promoted colonel, he was appointed director of military intelligence at Army Headquarters in April 1957. Three years later he was promoted temporary brigadier (substantive in April 1963), and made director of military operations and plans. He spent 1963 as a student at the Imperial Defence College, London, and was appointed chief of staff at headquarters, Eastern Command, Sydney, in 1964. MacAdie seemed destined for higher positions in the army, but ill health forced him to retire on 11 October 1967. He was appointed C.B.E. in 1968.

On 7 November 1967 MacAdie had joined the Australian Atomic Energy Commission. He worked as a clerk in the technical policy section until 1970 when he was promoted head of international relations. In April 1972 he became counsellor (atomic energy) at the Australian Embassy in Paris, responsible for liaising with French and international nuclear organizations. Survived by his wife and daughter, he died suddenly on 21 January 1973 in Paris.

Select Bibliography

  • D. McCarthy, South-West Pacific Area—First Year (Canb, 1959)
  • D. Dexter, The New Guinea Offensives (Canb, 1961)
  • G. D. Solomon, A Poor Sort of Memory (Canb, 1978)
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 23 Jan 1973.

Citation details

G. D. Solomon, 'MacAdie, Thomas Fergus Buchanan (1919–1973)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2000, accessed online 24 May 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 15, (Melbourne University Press), 2000

View the front pages for Volume 15

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Thomas Fergus Buchanan MacAdie (1919-1973), by unknown photographer

Thomas Fergus Buchanan MacAdie (1919-1973), by unknown photographer

Australian War Memorial, 145741

Life Summary [details]


22 September, 1919
Williamstown, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia


21 January, 1973 (aged 53)
Paris, France

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