Adam (Adams), William Augustus (1865–1940), soldier, was born 27 May 1865 in Dublin, elder son among three children of the Rev. B. W. Adams, MRIA, author and rector of Santry, Co. Dublin, and his second wife Louisa Jane, daughter of William O'Brien Adams. In 1907 he resumed the earlier family surname, Adam. He was educated at Harrow (1879) and entered TCD (1883), where he was awarded a gold medal in modern languages and literature; he later qualified as a barrister from the Inner Temple. He entered Sandhurst (1885), the King's (Liverpool) Regiment (1887), and staff college (1898), where he qualified as an interpreter in French, Russian, and Hindustani. Serving in the 5th Royal Irish Lancers in South Africa (1899–1902), he was awarded the King's and Queen's medals with six clasps after the defence of Ladysmith. At this time he wrote his first long poem, Rus divinum (1900), under the pseudonym ‘Augusto Smado’. After special service in Japan (1903–5) he was promoted major (1905). In 1906, and again in 1907 together with four fellow officers, he was the subject of unfavourable annual reports by his commanding officer, indicating that he was unfit for promotion, and was placed (1907) on half pay. Adam claimed that submitting adverse reports to the war office, without prior disclosure to the officer involved, was a violation of the King's regulations of the army (1904). These events led to statements in the house of commons (1908, 1910) and litigation against the war office, which was widely known as ‘the army libel action’. He won his case (1914) in the high court and was awarded damages, but lost it (1915) in the court of appeal on the grounds that the letter was privileged, a judgement that was subsequently confirmed (1917) by the house of lords. He was appointed (1907–10) general staff officer at the war office on full pay. In 1906 he had contested the Woolwich constituency, and became its unionist MP (January–December 1910) but was not reelected. Unsuccessful in finding employment in his former regiment or in the staff office, and rejected when he applied for service overseas during the first world war, he was retired (1917). Believing that injustice done to him by the war office had blighted his political and military career, he stated his case against the army authorities in Whither? or, the British Dreyfus case: a human fragment of contemporary history (1906–1919) (1920). He published several books of poetry and prose, including Horae fugaces (1902), The lonely way (1903), and Japanese conversation in six months (1905). His brother, Herbert Algernon Adam (1872–1920), assumed the original family name, served as a captain in the Royal Navy, and was awarded a CBE (1919). Adam died 18 October 1940 in Brabourne, Kent. He married first (1912) Lady Antonia Lillian Maude, youngest daughter of the earl de Montalt; on her death, he married (1928) Queenie Penfold. There were no children.
B. W. Adams, A genealogical history of the family of Adams (1903); W. A. Adam, Rus divinum and other poems (1910) (portr.); O'Donoghue; IBL, xi, no. 5 (Dec. 1919), 47; W. A. Adam, Whither? or, the British Dreyfus case: a human fragment of contemporary history (1906–1919) (1920);Thom IWW; Times, 1 Nov. 1940; WWW; Burke, IFR