Second World War, 1939-1945
Brass bowl with Middle Eastern design : C E W Bean
Brass bowl with an incised Middle Eastern design.
This object was collected from Charles Bean's study at his home 'Clifton' in Collaroy, NSW. Bean is perhaps best remembered for the official histories of Australia in the First World War, of which he wrote six volumes and edited the remainder. Before this, however, he was Australia's official correspondent to the war. He was also the driving force behind the establishment of the Australian War Memorial.
Charles Edwin Woodrow Bean was born on 18 November 1879 at Bathurst, New South Wales. His family moved to England when he was ten. He completed his education there, eventually studying classics and law at Oxford. Bean returned to Australia in 1904 and was admitted to the New South Wales Bar.
Having dabbled in journalism, Bean joined the Sydney Morning Herald as a junior reporter in January 1908. He published several books before being posted to London in 1910. In 1913 he returned to Sydney as the Herald's leader writer. When the First World War began, Bean won an Australian Journalists Association ballot and became official correspondent to the AIF. He accompanied the first convoy to Egypt, landed at Gallipoli on 25 April 1915 and began to make his name as a tireless, thorough and brave correspondent. He was wounded in August but remained on Gallipoli for most of the campaign, leaving just a few days before the last troops.
He then reported on the Australians on the Western Front where his admiration of the AIF crystallised into a desire to create a permanent memorial to their sacrifice and achievements. In addition to his journalism, Bean filled hundreds of diaries and notebooks, all with a view to writing a history of the AIF when the war ended. In addition he organised the collection of battlefield relics from AIF soldiers on the Western Front through the formation of the Australian War Records Section. In early 1919 he led a historical mission to Gallipoli to collect relics for the Memorial, obtain Turkish accounts of the campaign and report on the condition of war graves.
On his return to Australia Bean and his staff moved into Tuggeranong homestead, south of Canberra, to work on the official history. In 1921 he married Ethel (Effie) Young, a nursing sister at the Queanbeyan hospital whom he first met when she visited Tuggeranong to play tennis. They later moved to Sydney, where he continued to write at Victoria Barracks. When he began, Bean imagined that the history would take five years to write; in the event it took 23 years, and the final volume did not appear until 1942.
Besides his written work, Bean worked tirelessly on creating the Australian War Memorial in Canberra. He was present when the building opened on 11 November 1941 and became Chairman of the Memorial's board in 1952. He maintained a close association with the institution for the rest of his life.
During the Second World War, Bean liaised between the Chiefs of Staff and the press for the Department of Information. He became Chairman of the Commonwealth Archives Committee and was instrumental in creating the Commonwealth Archives. Between 1947 and 1958 he was Chairman of the Promotion Appeals Board of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. He also continued to write, producing a history of Australia's independent schools and finally a book on two senior AIF figures, Sir William Throsby Bridges and Sir Cyril Brudnell Bingham White. Bean received a number of honorary degrees and declined a knighthood. Bean, one of the most admired Australians of his generation, died after a long illness in Concord Repatriation Hospital in 1968.
Much of the material from Bean's study was originally housed in his Tuggeranong Homestead office where he began writing the official histories. When the family moved it was transferred to his homes in Sydney. Effie continued to use the study after her husband's death. The study was dismantled after her death in July 1991 and transferred to the Australian War Memorial.