Australian Dictionary of Biography

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William Charles Thomas (1890–1957)

by D. I. McDonald

This article was published:

William Charles Thomas (1890-1957), public servant, was born on 27 June 1890 at Sebastopol, near Ballarat, Victoria, son of native-born parents William Charles Thomas, farmer, and his wife Rosina, née Stevens. He was educated at state schools, the Working Men's College, Melbourne, and the University of Melbourne (B.Com., 1934). In July 1903 he joined the Victorian branch of the Postmaster-General's Department as a telegraph messenger, becoming a telegraphist at St Arnaud, Clifton Hill (1908) and the Melbourne General Post Office (1909). He was promoted to the note issue branch of the Treasury in March 1913. A private in the Victorian Rangers and two years a signaller in the Signal Corps, Thomas enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force in June 1915. On 2 October he married Mary Isidore Lowther Graves. After training he was commissioned lieutenant in the 14th Battalion. He fought in the French-Belgian war zone where he was twice wounded and badly gassed.

Discharged in September 1919, Thomas returned to the Treasury, transferring in March 1920 to the accounts branch. From 1925 he was temporarily employed on duties relating to the Expropriation Board of the Mandated Territory of New Guinea; in 1927 he was appointed its chairman and executive member. For a short time he also acted as New Guinea trade agent, an office of Treasury based in Sydney which was responsible for buying stores and selling products for the Mandated Territories. In 1929-46 Thomas was custodian of expropriated property, serving a board which was instituted to liquidate German commercial interests under the reparations provisions of the Treaty of Versailles.

Thomas moved to Canberra in 1931 while a sub-accountant in the Treasury. He was subsequently loans officer (1936), accountant (1943) and assistant secretary (1946). From being secretary to the Loan Council and the National Debt Commission, in May 1952 he was appointed first assistant secretary, budget and accounting branch. He retired in June 1955. His subordinates regarded him as a hard taskmaster, but never doubted his professional abilities.

Unlike a number of his colleagues, Thomas was not deeply involved in the developing Canberra community. Treasurer (1936-37) of the Royal Canberra Golf Club, he was an indifferent player. A member of the parish of St John the Baptist, he was involved in the church community in which he had a wide circle of friends.

Thomas died of heart disease on 14 September 1957 after a long illness and was buried in Canberra cemetery with Anglican rites. His wife and one son of their six children survived him.

Select Bibliography

  • Argus (Melbourne), 19 Jan 1927, 24 July 1929
  • Canberra Times, 26-28 Aug 1935, 18 Aug, 14 Sept 1936, 12 Aug 1937, 16 Sept 1957
  • war diary of the 14th Battalion, AIF (Australian War Memorial)
  • private information.

Citation details

D. I. McDonald, 'Thomas, William Charles (1890–1957)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1990, accessed online 23 May 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 12, (Melbourne University Press), 1990

View the front pages for Volume 12

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


27 June, 1890
Sebastopol, Victoria, Australia


14 September, 1957 (aged 67)
Canberra, Australian Capital Territory, Australia

Religious Influence

Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.