Alfred Martin Treacy (1869 – 1938): Father of the RAN Supply Branch – Part II

In Part I of the Treacy story, the author traced Treacy’s career in the Victorian Navy between 1894 to 1901, the Commonwealth Naval Forces between 1901 and 1911 and his years in the RAN until 1914.  Part II continues the story of Treacy’s career to his retirement in 1922, and beyond.
Part I can be found by clicking here…

…Despite the successful riposte to the Minister for Defence, Treacy was not selected to become the Finance and Civil Member for the Naval Board and instead, in May 1914, George Lionel Macandie, who had joined the Queensland Marine Defence Force, in 1895, as a Clerk was selected to become the Secretary of the Naval Board and given the rank of Honourary Paymaster (Lieutenant).   The Finance and Civil Member position was initially gapped and the filled by the Assistant Minister for Defence the Honorable Jens Jensen who, in 1915, became the Minister for the Navy when Defence and Navy became separate Ministries.   The Finance and Civil Member position was then gapped again but effectively Macandie filled this role as the Naval Secretary to the Board.

Macandie was to remain Naval Secretary from 1914 until his retirement in 1946 except for a brief period in 1920-21 when Treacy actually did fulfill this role.  Macandie was, at that time, on loan to the Admiralty for 12 months to gain an insight into higher level naval administration and Treacy became the Acting Naval Secretary for 12 months.  In 1914, however, it would appear that the Naval Board had concerns regarding a serving naval officer filling what was supposed to be a civil position on the board.   It is not known now what the relationship between Treacy and Macandie actually was but one commentator later wrote ‘he (Macandie) was belatedly accorded the benefit of a years experience at the British Admiralty from June 1920 – while surviving attempts by lesser men to oust him from office’.  While some of these lesser men were the senior naval officers on the Naval Board of 1920 some of this comment was directed at Treacy.

A group of Victorian Navy officers circa 1900 Paymaster Alfred Treacy at 6 feet and 1 inch tall is noticeable due to his height compared with his peers.

When World War I (WWI) commenced, in August 1914, Treacy was 45 years old and deemed too old to serve at sea.  His repeated requests for active service were denied and he remained in the position of Director of Naval Stores, Victualling and Contracts for the duration of the war.   He was also vice chairman of the Commonwealth Coal Board which controlled all supplies of coal and electric power for Australia during the war.   The Argus newspaper reported that ‘the tactful manner in which he carried out the difficult duties of the position soon gained for him the confidence of merchants and others with whom he had to deal, and enabled the board to carry out its work with the minimum amount of friction’.

On 1 April 1916 Treacy was promoted to the rank of Paymaster in Chief (Captain) and thus became the senior Accountant Branch officer in the RAN (this title was change to Paymaster Captain in late 1918).   In 1917-18 a Royal Commission was conducted into irregularities in Navy and Defence Administration, particularly the Lieutenant Davis Howell-Price scandal where this military officer had defrauded the Department of Defence of £67,374 over the period 1914-1916.  Howell-Price was convicted in 1917 and sentenced to four years imprisonment.  This however was the catalyst to conduct more rigorous checks on the administration of the Army and Navy.

The Argus claimed that the Royal Commission stated that Treacy had carried out his duties as the Director of Naval Stores, Victualling and Contracts in an efficient manner and recommended that he be appointed to the Naval Board as the Finance Member.  On 4 October 1918, Treacy was made an Officer in the Order of the British Empire (OBE) ‘For distinguished services as Director of Naval Stores, Victualling and Contracts’.  He was also subsequently awarded the British War Medal 1914-18 which was the standard award for all RAN personnel who had mobilised for service in the RAN during the war.  Treacy’s OBE, and that of another naval officer, Captain F.H.C. Brownlow, were originally issued in the Civil Division but in the London Gazette of 15 July 1921 they were both transferred to the Military Division.

Following the end of WWI, Treacy continued on in his role of Director of Naval Stores, Victualling and Contracts until early June 1920 when he assumed the position of Acting Naval Secretary to the Naval Board for 16 months while Lionel Macandie was in Britain on secondment.  Macandie was on loan to the Admiralty for a period of 12 months but the  allocated two months traveling time by sea to and from England  gave 16 months to Treacy as Acting Naval Secretary. Macandie returned to Australia, in September 1921.

During Macandie’s absence overseas there was an attempt made by the Naval Board to have Treacy relieve Macandie permanently and have Macandie take up the role of Director of Naval Stores upon his return to Australia.  Macandie was advised of this plan after he had left Australia and wrote immediately, and quite bluntly, to the 1st Naval Member (Rear Admiral Grant) and the Minister for Navy (William Laird-Smith) that he had no intention of allowing this to occur.  The matter festered on for some weeks until Laird-Smith cabled Macandie, on 19 February 1921, advising him ‘Well aware you are Secretary, Navy Department. No change will be made in your absence’.

The relationship between the civil and the military officers within the Department of the Navy was often strained and, after handing back the duties of the Naval Secretary to Macandie,  Treacy then took some well earned leave and then retired from the RAN in early 1922 after 28 years full time service.

In his retirement Treacy was the Secretary of the Melbourne Club which was, and still is, an exclusive private men’s club, established in 1839, and located at 36 Collins Street, Melbourne.  Admission to the club is by invitation only. The club’s members are among those that have traditionally been perceived by critics as wielding a disproportionate influence on Melbourne life, with a third of its members being listed in any issue of Who’s Who Australia. Treacy was also a patron of Ex Naval Men’s Association in Victoria and a member of the Naval and Military Club of Melbourne.

Alfred Martin Tracey died, suddenly at his home, on 9 August 1938 from heart failure and was cremated at Springvale Crematorium on 10 August 1938. The Argus published the following on 11 August 1938:

A large representative gathering attended the funeral at the Springvale Crematorium yesterday (10 August 1938) of Paymaster Captain Alfred Martin Treacy (RAN Retired), Secretary of the Melbourne Club, who died at his home in Clendon Road, Toorak on Tuesday.  The service was conducted by the Moderator-General of the Presbyterian Church of Australia (the Right Rev. Dr. John MacKenzie).  Members of the Ex-Naval Men’s Association of which Captain Treacy was a patron, formed a guard of honour from the crematorium gates to the Chapel.

The pall bearers were Major-General Sir Brudenell White, General Sir Harry Chauvel, the President of the Legislative Assembly (Sir Frank Clarke), Brigadier General J.P. McGlinn, representing the Naval and Military Club, Messrs. Richard Turnbull (President of the Melbourne Club). E.H. Richardson, and J. Staughton and Paymaster Commander H.M. Ramsay.

Vice Admiral Sir Ragnar Colvin (1st Naval Member) was represented by Paymaster Captain J.B. Foley and the Navy Office was represented by the Secretary of the Naval Board (Mr G.L. Macandie), Paymaster Commander C.A. Parker and Paymaster Commander H.M. Ramsay.

The Melbourne Rowing Club was represented by the senior vice president (Mr P. Matthews) and the secretary (Mr F. Watts).  Others who attended the funeral included the secretary of the Victorian Racing Club (Mr A.V. Kewney) the starter for the Victorian Racing Club and the Victorian Amateur Turf Club (Mr Rupert Greene) and Mr A. Bonville-Were, Chairman of the Colonial Mutual Assurance Co. Ltd.

When his wife Alice died, on 30 July 1945, she left £10,000 pounds in her will to the HMAS Cerberus Chapel Fund. This money was used partly for the construction of the Memorial Chapel of St Mark which was opened in May 1954.

Contact Greg Swinden about this article.

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