Monday 9 November 2009 by robvan. 1 comment
News, Collection, First World War, Digitisation

The notebooks, diaries and folders created by Charles Bean during and after the First World War have immense historic value and are considered to be one of the most significant records created by a single Australian. The collection includes 286 volumes of diaries and historical notebooks recorded by Bean at the time and often at the front line. The diaries are firsthand accounts of the war and offer a unique perspective due to Bean’s status as official correspondent.

At the outbreak of the First World War Charles Bean was appointed by the Australian Government to be the official correspondent who would send back in depth news stories from the Front.  Bean was an experienced journalist from the Sydney Morning Herald and was selected for the position via a ballot run by members of the Australian Journalists Association.

As the official correspondent Bean was employed to observe and report on events but also with the view of eventually writing the Official History of the First World War. He kept detailed diaries and notebooks throughout the war which he always planned to use in the production of the Official History. He embarked with the first contingent on 22 October 1914 and his first dispatch on Australians in battle was from Gallipoli where he had landed on the 25 April 1915. Bean took up the position of Official Historian in July, 1919.

Bean was very proud that every one of his diaries made it back to Australia; despite him carrying them regularly into the front line. He does write of one incident where one of his diaries was caught in an explosion and buried at Bapaume in 1917. The diary miraculously survived the explosion and was found by a Digger who recognised it and returned to him.

This large and valuable collection of personal diaries, notebooks and folders by Australia’s official war correspondent is now more readily available to the public following a major digitisation project undertaken by the Australian War Memorial. The collection represents over 23,000 pages and has been published on the Memorial’s website in their entirety.


Joe Crumlin

Splendid news! A much appreciated effort. Congratulations to all concerned. For all historians, particularly amateur historians like myself who find that regular travel to the ACT to access the Bean papers archived at the AWM is impractical, it will be a great boon. Those photo copies of the Bean diaries which are available from the NSW Public Library stacks are unfortunately in the negative form (white on black) and very time consuming and tiring to try and decipher. Thanks for an early Christmas present. Joe Crumlin