Biography

Birth date: 1932
Birth place: Australia: Victoria, Preston
Death date: 17 March 1998
Conflict: Vietnam, 1962-1975

Ken McFadyen was born in Preston, Victoria in 1932. He studied at the National Gallery School from 1954 to 1960.

While working as a set designer at the Australian Broadcasting Commission in 1967, McFadyen was appointed an official war artist to cover the Australian involvement in the Vietnam War. Like Bruce Fletcher, the first official war artist in Vietnam, McFadyen did jungle warfare training at Canungra, Queensland, before travelling to Vietnam. McFadyen and Fletcher were expected to perform as combat soldiers if required, not just wield their paintbrushes.

McFadyen arrived in Vietnam in mid-August 1967 and served there for seven months. During that time he was posted at the 1st Australian Task Force base at Nui Dat, but he made frequent visits to the 1st Australian Logistical Support Group base at Vung Tau on the coast. He also briefly joined the RAN destroyer HMAS Hobart while it patrolled off the North Vietnamese coast.

Despite the uncomfortable physical and climactic conditions, McFadyen was able to produce finely detailed drawings of activities on the bases, as well as some large, technically accurate drawings of helicopters and Caribou transport aircraft.

Painting and drawing while on patrol was even more trying. In one statement to the Memorial McFadyen recalled "feeling very tired, wet and muddy, covered in small black leeches competing with thousands of amber coloured ants for a place on my body".

In addition to putting up with stifling heat, humidity and torrential rain, McFadyen had to carry full combat equipment on top of his art materials. He also shared the tension felt by the patrols, working in the shadowy presence of enemy that was rarely seen. The paintings McFadyen did on these patrols depict the terrain of Phuoc Tuy province, images of helicopter "insertions" and "extractions" and scenes from search and destroy missions.

After his return to Australia McFadyen continued to work on his Vietnam paintings for the Memorial. Later he received a further commission to produce a large commemorative painting of an action involving HMAS Murchison on the Han River during the Korean War.

Although he resumed his job with the ABC, McFadyen later resigned to devote himself to painting. During the 1970s he experimented with abstraction but remained firmly a realist painter.

Rolls and Awards

Collection Items

Art

Landscape, Vietnam

A landscape with a hill and green tress, surrounded by brown mountains.

ART90940

Australian soldiers on armoured personnel carriers (APCs) about to go on patrol from forward base, Thua Tich, Phuoc Tuy province, Vietnam

Australian soldiers on an armoured personnel carriers (APCs) about to go on patrol from forward base, Thua Thic, Phuoc Tuy Province, Vietnam.

ART90941

Foliage, Vietnam

Green and yellow shrubs, Vietnam.

ART90942

Patrolling infantryman

Figure of an Australian infantryman on patrol, walking through the grass carrying a machine gun.

ART90943

Australian soldier, 2nd Battalion Royal Australian Regiment

Portrait in right profile of a smiling Australian soldier from 2nd Battalion Royal Australian Regeiment (RAR) wearing a canvas hat.

ART90944

Medical orderly treating a digger, Operation Santa Fe, Phuoc Tuy Province, Vietnam

A medical orderly from the Australian Forces in Phuoc Tuy Province, Vietnam, treating a soldier during Operation Santa Fe. This operation ran between October and November 1967.

ART40624

No. 9 Iroquois Squadron

A group of Australian soldiers loading an Iroquois helicopter of No 9 Squadron RAAF to resupply a forward company patrol.

ART40625

RAAF Caribou, Vung Tau, Vietnam

An RAAF Caribou aircraft standing in the hangar on the airfield at Vung Tau, Vietnam.

ART40627

Back from patrol, 2 Battalion Royal Australian Regiment, Nui Dat, Vietnam

Two soldiers from 2nd Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment, returning from patrol, carrying Colt M16 A1 rifles.

ART40629

Two RAEME diggers servicing a truck, 1 ALSG, Vung Tau, Vietnam

Two soldiers from Royal Corps of Australian Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (RAEME) servicing a truck, 1st Australian Logistic Support Group (ALSG), in Vung Tau, Vietnam.

ART40630

Digger on patrol, sitting on an armoured personnel carrier, 2 Battalion Royal Australian Regiment, Vietnam

Head and shoulders portrait of an Australian soldier on patrol from the 2nd Battallion, Royal Australian Regiment, near Thua Tich, Phuoc Tuy Province, Vietnam. He is seated on armoured personnel carrier and looking up at US jets flying past during Operations Santa Fe.

ART40631

Digger, 2 Battalion Royal Australian Regiment

Portrait of an Australian soldier, 2nd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (2RAR).

ART40632

Study of South Vietnamese boy in Vung Tau, Vietnam

Portrait of a South Vietnamese boy in Vung Tau, Vietnam.

ART40633

Study of a digger, 2 Battalion Royal Australian Regiment, Phuoc Tuy Province, Vietnam.

Portrait of a soldier in right profile, 2 Battalion Royal Australian Regiment, Phuoc Tuy Province, Vietnam.

ART40634

Vietnamese children, Phuoc Tuy

Portrait of two Vietnamese children; the girl holding a younger male sibling on her lap.

ART40635

Digger on patrol, sitting on an armoured personnel carrier, 7 Battalion Royal Australian Regiment, Phuoc Tuy Province,Vietnam

Soldier on patrol, 7th Battalion Royal Australian Regiment (RAR), sitting on an armoured personnel carrier, looking up at aircraft during Operation Santa Fe, Phuoc Tuy Province, Vietnam. This operation ran between October and November 1967.

ART40636

'Digging in' on fire support base, Operation Santa Fe, Thua Tich, Phuoc Tuy Province, Vietnam

Soldier from the Australian Forces Vietnam 'digging in' on a fire support base during Operation Santa Fe at Thua Tich, Tuy Province, Vietnam. This operation ran between October and November 1967.

ART40637

Study of a digger, 2 Battalion Royal Australian Regiment, Phuoc Tuy Province, Vietnam

Portrait of a soldier from 2nd Battalion Royal Australian Regiment (RAR), a cigarette hanging form his lips, during Operation Santa Fe, Phuoc Tuy Province, Vietnam. This operation ran between October and November 1967.

ART40638

Vietnamese awaiting interrogation during a village cordon-and-search operation

Portraits of two Vietnamese soldiers in left profile awaiting interrogation during a village cordon-and-search operation, Phuoc Tuy Province, Vietnam.

ART40639

Crew member, HMAS 'Hobart', stowing shells after resupply off the coast of the demilitarized zone(DMZ), North Vietnam

A crew member from HMAS 'Hobart' (1956-) stowing shells after resupply off the coast of the demilitarized zone (DMZ), North Vietnam.

ART40640

Digger, ' C' Company, 7 RAR

Head and shoulders portrait of an Australian soldier of 'C' Company, 7th Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment (7RAR), with a towel hanging over his shoulder. This soldier was involved in Operation Santa Fe, a multi-brigade search and destroy mission directed against the National Liberation...

ART40641

Vietnamese girl taking English lessons (Royal Australian Army Education Corps), Nam Bien, South Vietnam

Portrait of a Vietnamese girl in right profile, wearing a head band. The girl is taking English lessons in Nam Bien, Royal Australian Army Education Corps (RAAEC) in South Vietnam.

ART40642

Forward scout, B Company, 2 RAR

Head and shoulders portrait of a forward scout of 'B' Company, 2nd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (2 RAR). The soldier shows signs of fatigue due to the heat and constant patrolling near the 1st Australian task force (1ATF) base at Nui Dat, Phuoc Tuy Province.

ART40643

Crew member, HMAS 'Hobart', off the North Vietnam coast

Left-profile portrait of a crew member on HMAS 'Hobart', off the North Vietnam coast.

ART40644

A digger, 'B' Company, 2 Battalion Royal Australian Regiment, Phuoc Tuy Province, Vietnam

Portrait of a digger from 'B' Company, 2nd Battalion Royal Australian Regiment, Phuoc Tuy Province, Vietnam.

ART40645

Civilian worker, 1ALSG, Vung Tau

Portrait of a young Vietnamese girl who works as a civilian at the 1st Australian Logistic Support Group (1ALSG) in Vung Tau, Vietnam.

ART40646

RAAF No. 9 Squadron, Iroquois helicopter resupply to forward company on patrol

Two Australians from RAAF No 9 Squadron loading an Iroquois helicopter to resupply forward company on patrol.

ART40647

Crew member, HMAS 'Hobart'

Head study, left profile, of a crewman from HMAS 'Hobart'.

ART40648

Australian soldier asleep, 7 Battalion Royal Australian Regiment, Operation Forrest, Phuoc Tuy Province

Soldier from 7th Battalion Royal Australian Regiment sleeping after patrol during Operation Forrest , Phuoc Tuy Province, Vietnam. Operation Forrest ran from November 1967 to January 1968.

ART40649

Two Australian soldiers sitting on an armoured personnel carrier on patrol, Phuoc Tuy Province, Vietnam

Two Australian soldiers sitting on an armoured personnel carrier (APC) immediately before going on patrol, Phuoc Tuy Province, Vietnam .

ART40650

Digger cleaning M60 rounds, B Company, 2 Battalion Royal Australian Regiment

An Australian soldier from 'B' Company, 2 Battalion Royal Australian Regiment, is shown cleaning M60 rounds after blowing up a large Viet Cong complex during Operation Kenmore, Xuyen Moc district, Phuoc Tuy Province, Vietnam. This operation took place between September and October 1967.

ART40651

Australian soldier taking brief spell, B Company, 2 Battalion Royal Australiani Regiment (RAR)

An Australian soldier of 'B' Company, 2nd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (2RAR), sitting on his heels as he opens a ration can for a brief meal break during Operation Kenmore, a twelve day search and destroy mission. This operation took place between September and October 1967.

ART40652

Digger on patrol, Phuoc Tuy Province

Australian soldier looks over his shoulder whilst on patrol.

ART40653

Engineer at work on face drilling operations, 1st Australian Logistic Support Group (ALSG), Vung Tau, Vietnam

An engineer using a rock drill at work on face drilling operations, 1st Australian Logistic Support Group (ALSG), Vung Tau, Vietnam.

ART40654

Bombardier, Operation Santa Fe

Head and soldiers portrait of a bombardier during Operation Santa Fe, Vietnam. This operation ran between October and November 1967.

ART40655

Crew member HMAS 'Hobart' about to load forward gun, off de-militarized zone, Vietnam

Crew member from HMAS 'Hobart' (1965-) wearing flash hood and gauntlets, loading a shell into the forward gun during rapid fire near the de-militarized zone (DMZ), Vietnam.

ART40656

'Digger' Caesar, tracking team dog, 2 RAR

Portrait of Caesar, a tracking dog with the 2nd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (2RAR), a support company to the first Australian task force. He served in Vietnam from June 1967 until April 1970, when he was 'disposed' of and given to the British Air Attache in Saigon. His handler was Private...

ART40657

Digger on patrol, 7 Battalion Royal Australian Regiment, Operation Forrest

Australian soldier setting out on patrol during Operation Forrest, Phouc Tuy Province, Vietenam. Operation Forrest ran from November 1967 to January 1968. His kit includes four water bottles and two basic pouches for ammunition, cleaning gear and hand grenades.

ART40658

Digger from 'C' Company, 7 Battalion Royal Australian Regiment, Operation Santa Fe, Phuoc Tuy Province

Portrait of an Australian soldier from 'C' Company, 7th Battlaion Royal Australian Regiment, Operation Santa Fe, Phuoc Tuy Province, Vietnam. This operation ran between October and November 1967.

ART40660

Crew members, HMAS 'Hobart', resupply at sea in the vicinity of de-militarized zone (DMZ)

Crew members on HMAS 'Hobart'(1965-); resupply at sea in the vicinity of the de-militarized zone (DMZ).

ART40661

Bamboo, Phuoc Tuy Province, Vietnam

Bamboo trees in Phuoc Tuy Province, Vietnam.

ART40662

Australian soldiers on armoured personnel carriers (APC) on patrol

A group of Australian soldiers sitting on top of an armoured personnel carrier (APC) as they patrol an area of Phuoc Tuy Province, Vietnam. The two soldiers in the foreground silently observe their surroundings while loosely holding their machine guns.

ART40663

Caribous, 35 Squadron, RAAF base, Vung Tau, Vietnam

Three Caribou aircraft at 35 Squadron Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) base, Vung Tau, Phuoc Tuy Province, Vietnam.

ART40664

Diggers on armoured personnel carriers about to go on patrol from forward base, Thua Tich, Phuoc Tuy Province

Australian soldiers on armoured personnel carriers about to go on patrol from forward base, Thua Thic, Phuoc Tuy Province, Vietnam.

ART40665

Task Force, Nui Dat

A landscape showing the banana trees and jungle in the area around Nui Dat. Ken McFadyen was a printmaker and painter using oil, watercolour and acrylic and was a member of several art societies in Australia and New Zealand. Ken McFadyen was granted six months leave from his position as a Senior...

ART40666

Landscape, Task Force area

Green landscape with a small hill and tree; storm clouds gathering in the distance.

ART40668

Diggers sitting on armoured personnel carrier on patrol, Phuoc Tuy Province

Two Australian soldiers with machine guns sitting on an armoured personnel carrier (APC), setting out on patrol in Phuoc Tuy Province, Vietnam.

ART40670

Disembarking from Chinook helicopter

Four Australian soldiers jumping to the ground from the rear of a hovering Chinook in Bien Hoa Province, Vietnam.

ART40671

Embarking into Chinook Helicopter; joining a Chinook in Bien Hoa Province

A group of Australian soldiers boarding a Chinook helicopter in Bien Hoa Province, Vietnam.

ART40672

Landscape from 2 RAR Headquarters, Operation 'Kenmore', looking towards fire support base

Green hills and trees with clouds in a blue sky painted from 2nd Battalion Royal Australian Regiment (RAR) Headquarters during Operation 'Kenmore', Vietnam.

ART40673

Crew members, HMAS 'Hobart'; resupply at sea in demilitarised zone off the coast of Vietnam

Crew members working on the deck of HMAS 'Hobart'. HMAS 'Hobart' was one of several Australian destroyers that operated on the gunline in the South China Sea with the US 7th Fleet. The crew are shown toiling with heavy equipment while entombed in the metallic grey confines of the ship.

ART40675

Leaping from an Iroquois helicopter, Tet offensive

Australian Forces Vietnam; an Australian soldier carring a gun and wearing a pack leaping from an Iroquois helicopter during the Tet Offensive.

ART40676

Bombardier, Thua Tich, Vietnam

Portrait of a smiling bombardier, depicted shirtless, during operation Santa Fe in Thua Tich, Vietnam. This operation ran between October and November 1967.

ART40678

No. 9 Squadron helicopters coming in to pick up forward patrol, Phuoc Tuy Province, Vietnam

Two helicopters from Squadron No. 9 landing to pick up foward patrol units in the Phuoc Tuy Province, Vietnam.

ART40679

Resting digger, B Company, 2nd Battalion Royal Australian Regiment, Operation Kenmore

Australian soldier from B Company, 2nd Battalion Royal Australian Regiment, asleep under an open tent during Operation Kenmore, Vietnam, 1967. This operation took place between September and October 1967.

ART40680

Fire support base, Operation Santa Fe

Lush green landscape with low, tree-lined hills and gathering storm clouds above.

ART40682

Landsape, task force area

Landscape with tropical plants and storm clouds gathering.

ART40683

Landscape, Special Air Services Regiment, Nui Dat

Landscape with a small hill and green trees; clouds in a blue sky in the distance.

ART40684

Fire support base, 108 Battery, Phuoc Tuy Province, Vietnam, 1967

Fire support base, 108 Battery, Phuoc Tuy Province, Vietnam, 1967.

ART40685

Bushes, vegetation, landscape, Vietnam

Landscape with dense tropical vegetation.

ART40686

Landscape from 2nd Battalion Royal Australian Regiment Headquarters, Vietnam 1968

Landscape with tree-covered hills, with white storm clouds gathering overhead.

ART40687

Landscape, Pine Tree and Hoochie, Phuoc Tuy Province, Vietnam

This painting depicts a hoochie supported by a pine tree which was constructed during Operation Kenmore in the Phuoc Tuy Province, Vietnam. This operation took place between September and October 1967.

ART40688

Tree study, sand dunes

Landscape with dense trees bordering sand dunes.

ART40690

Landscape, Task Force area

Lush landscape in South Vietnam with two large trees at centre and mountains in distance.

ART40692

Fire support base, Phuoc Tuy Province

Landscape at fire support base, Phuoc Tuy Province, Vietnam; trees and clouds predominate.

ART40693

SAS hill

Landscape with storm clouds gathering above tree-lined hills used by the Australian Special Air Services (SAS) Regiment in Vietnam.

ART40694

Phuoc Tuy Province

View of a lush landscape in Phuoc Tuy Province, Vietnam.

ART40695

Vietnam Landscape

A Vietnamese landscape with trees and hills; clouds and blue sky.

ART40696

Landscape: sand dunes, 1 ALSG, Vung Tau

Landscape of sand dunes, 1st Australian Logistic Support Group (ALSG), Vung Tau, Vietnam.

ART40697

National serviceman awaiting airlift, Operation Kenmore, Phuoc Tuy Province, Vietnam

Full-length portrait of a soldier in the Australian Forces, standing with his machine gun whilst awaiting an airlift during Operation Kenmore in Phuoc Tuy Province, Vietnam. This operation took place between September and October 1967.

ART40699

Landscape, Bien Hoa Province

Landscape with hills and trees, Bien Hoa Province, Vietnam.

ART40700

M60 gunner, Support Company, 2RAR, Tet Offensive

An Australian machine-gunner of the 2nd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (2 RAR), sitting beside a temporary shelter of logs and rocks during the Tet Offensive. An M60 machine gun is beside him at left.

ART40702

Bombed out railway bridges

Bomb damaged steel railway bridge over river.

ART40704

Hoochies in the jungle, 2 RAR headquarters, Operation Santa Fe, Phuoc Tuy Province, Vietnam

A makeshift 'hoochie' in a jungle clearing near 2nd Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment (2RAR) Headquarters, Phuoc Tuy Province, Vietnam.

ART40710

Two diggers repairing a 5-tonne tipper

Two diggers from the Royal Corps of Australian Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (RAEME) are depicted repairing a 5-tonne tipper, 1 Australian Logistic Support Group (ALSG) in Vietnam.

ART40723

Group of civilians and diggers repairing crates for transport to Task Force

A group of civilians and Australian soldiers repairing crates for transport to the Task Force in Vietnam.

ART40724

Diggers inspecting a truck amongst the sand dunes

Three soldiers from the Royal Australian Army Service Corps (RAACS), 1st Australian Logistic Suport Group (ALSG), inspecting a truck amongst the sand dunes, Vung Tau, Vietnam.

ART40726

On patrol in an armoured personnel carrier (APC)

Five Australian soldiers seated on top of an armoured personnel carrier (APC), holding rifles.

ART40727

Bringing in captured Viet Cong

Australian soldiers bringing in a captured Viet Cong.

ART40731

Helicopter re-supply

Australian Forces, South Vietnam. UX helicopter landing; one soldier on a radio; three crouching in the grass behind.

ART40732

Helicopter re-supply, Bien Hoa province

Landed helicopter being 're-supplied' by five soldiers; another helicopter coming in to land at the Bien Hoa air base in Vietnam. The artist has noted that this was not painted on the spot. The dust would have made it impractical to do this. Instead it was a composite picture created from his...

ART40733

Blindfolding a Viet Cong

An Australian soldier wearing backpack and carrying equiptment, blindfolding a seated Viet Cong.

ART40734

'Digging in', Thua Tich, Vietnam

Soldier wihtout a shirt 'digging in' on fire support base during Operation Santa Fe, Thua Tich, Vietnam. This operation ran between October and November 1967.

ART40736

Air lift

Australian troops entering a Chinook helicopter in the Bien Hoa Province in Vietnam. In this work Ken McFadyen is exploring the relationship between the men and machinery of a modern war. As almost faceless, frantic figures, the men are dwarfed by the hulking machinery that surrounds them. The...

ART40738

Viet Cong hut

A thatched-roof Viet Cong hut set in the jungle in Vietnam.

ART40739

Contact

A lone soldier makes contact on his portable radio equiptment.

ART40742

Brew up

Two Australian soldiers, Australian Forces Vietnam, preparing a meal while on patrol, in a Viet Cong shelter built over a bunker (shelter made from log framework and thatch of leaves).

ART40743

Landscape, Bien Hoa Province, Tet offensive

Landscape with tropical vegetation and trees.

ART40745

Chopper lift-out

Australian Forces in Vietnam, No 9 Squadron; Iroquois UH-1H helicopter at a landing zone, men running to embark.

ART40746

Warming up

Two Helicopters getting ready to take-off from a field in Vietnam.

ART40747

Viet Cong casualties,1967; the aftermath, assault insertion

A group of dead Viet Cong lying on the ground; a bamboo hut nearby.

ART40748

Bringing in 'Charlie"

Two Australian soldiers escorting a Viet Cong prisoner. The Viet Cong were frequently referred to as 'Charlie'.

ART40749

F1 gunner

Australian machine gunner carrying an F1 sub-machine gun, lying on the ground ready to fire.

ART40750

Helicopter extraction, Vietnam

An Iroquis Helicopter landing in Vietnam to extract troops from the battlefield. The sheer power of man made machinery is illustrates through the helicopter, which dwarfs the men standing to its right and wreaks havoc with the landscape.

ART40751

HMAS 'Murchison' bombarding enemy positions on the Han River Estuary, Korea 1951

Royal Australian Navy HMAS 'Murchison' shelling North Korean positions on the Han River Estuary, near the mouth of the Yesong River, Korea,1951.

ART40820

Study for HMAS 'Murchison' bombarding enemy positions on the River Han, Korea 1951

RAN frigate HMAS 'Murchison' shelling North Korean positions on the Han Estuary, near the mouth of the Yesong River.

ART40821

Back from patrol

A group of Australian soldiers are depicted striding through the long grass in Bien Hoa Province, Vietnam. The soldiers are on their way back to their encampment after being on patrol.

ART40740

'Digging in', Thua Tich, Phuoc Tuy Province

Australian soldier digging a trench during Operation Santa Fe in Thua Tich, Phuoc Tuy Province, Veitnam. This operation ran between October and November 1967.

ART40628

Australian soldiers embarking on a US Army Chinook helicopter (American Hill Climbers), Bien Hoa Province, Vietnam

Soldiers from Australian Force Vietnam embarking on a US Army Chinook helicopter during the Tet Offensive, Bien Hoa Province, Vietnam, February 1968.

ART40626

Charlie (Viet Cong)

A Viet Cong soldier of the Southern Liberation Force, People's Liberation Army, wearing a Viet Cong main force style uniform in black, and carrying a 7.62mm AK47 assault rifle. The Viet Cong were nicknamed 'Charlie' from the radio phonetic alphabet for the letters V and C, 'Victor Charlie'.

ART40744

Insertion

Depicts several Australian soldiers leaving an Iroquois UH-1H helicopter flown by members of 9 Squadron RAAF in Vietnam. The soldiers are carrying F1 sub machine guns while the door gunner is holding a GP M60 machine gun. McFadyen served as an official war artist in Vietnam from July 1967 to May ...

ART40741

Re-supply chopper, Nui Dat, Vietnam

A helicopter landing in a field in Vietnam; soldiers boarding; resupplying troops.

ART40735

Landscdape, Nui Dat (SAS Hill)

Landscape, encampment; view looking towards SAS Hill from airstrip at hill named after the Special Air Services who had their main base camp at the task force base, Nui Dat, Vietnam.

ART40667

Up and away, Operation Coburg, Bien Hoa Province, Vietnam 1968

A helicopter leaving the helipad during Operation Coburg, Bien Hoa Province, Vietnam.

ART40737

Photograph

P00948.001

OFFICIAL WAR ARTIST, LIEUTENANT KEN MCFADYEN, IN COMBAT DRESS, AT WORK OUTDOORS AT HIS EASEL, AT THE SAME TIME HOLDING A SELF LOADING RIFLE.

P00948.001

Timeline

Date of birth 1932
Date of death 1998-03-17