Captain Charles Edwin Woodrow (C E W) Bean

Birth Date 18 November 1879
Birth Place Australia: New South Wales, Bathurst
Death Date 30 August 1968
Death Place Australia: New South Wales, Sydney, Concord
Final Rank Captain
Units
Commonwealth of Australia Gazette 30 November 1916 on page 3233 at position 4
London Gazette 13 July 1916 on page 6941 at position 4

Charles 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. Bean was born on 18 November 1879 at Bathurst, New South Wales and 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. He travelled widely in New South Wales as a barrister's assistant and, struck by the outback way of life, wrote and illustrated a book, The impressions of a new chum. The book was never published but in mid-1907 much of its content appeared in a series of Sydney Morning Herald articles under the by-line 'CW'. In these articles Bean introduced a view of Australia, particularly its men, which foreshadowed much of what he would write about the AIF.

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 memorialise 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 early 1919 he led a historical mission to Gallipoli before returning to Australia and beginning work on the official history series that would consume the next two decades of his life.

Along with 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 and continued to write - a history of Australia's independent schools and finally a book on two senior AIF figures, Two men I knew.

Bean received a number of honorary degrees and declined a knighthood. He had married Ethel Young in 1921 and the couple adopted a daughter. Bean, one of the most admired Australians of his generation, died after a long illness in Concord Repatriation Hospital in 1968.

Rolls

  • First World War Embarkation Roll

    Rank
    Press Representative
    Place of Embarkation
    Melbourne
    Embarkation Ship
    HMAT Orvieto A3
    Date of Embarkation
    21 October 1914
    Conflict
    First World War, 1914-1918

Honours & Awards

Timeline

Date of birth 1879-11-18 Bathurst, NSW.
Date of birth 1879-11-18
Other 1889 Bean moved with his family to England.
Date returned to Australia 1904 Bean returned to Australia and was admitted to the New South Wales Bar.
Other 1908-01 Joined the Sydney Morning Herald as a junior reporter.
Other 1910 Was posted to London.
Other 1913 Returned to Sydney as the Herald's lead writer.
Other 1914-09 Won an Australian Journalists Association ballot and became official correspondent to the AIF, narrowly defeating Keith Murdoch. Bean remained a civilian but held the honorary rank of captain.
Date of embarkation 1914-10-21
Other 1915-04-25 Landed at Gallipoli.
Date of recommendation honour or award 1915-06-27
Date of recommendation honour or award 1915-06-27
Date of recommendation honour or award 1915-08-02
Date of recommendation honour or award 1915-08-02
Date of recommendation honour or award 1915-08-05
Date of recommendation honour or award 1915-08-05
Date of recommendation honour or award 1915-08-06
Date of recommendation honour or award 1915-08-07
Date of honour or award 1916-07-13 Mention in Despatches.
Other 1916-11 Bean suggested to the Australian Minister for Defence, Senator Pearce, that photographs and relics of the fighting around Pozieres should be put on display in a national museum.
Other 1919 Returned to Gallipoli as the head of the Australian Historical Mission to collect relics for the Memorial, obtain Turkish accounts of the campaign and report on the condition of war graves.
Other 1919 - 1942 Worked on the official history of the First World War.
Other 1941-11-11 Attended the opening of the Australian War Memorial.
Other 1942 Chairman of the new Commonwealth Archives Committee.
Other 1947 - 1958 He chaired the Promotion Appeals Board of the Australian Broadcasting Commission.
Other 1950 He wrote a history of Australia's non-government schools.
Other 1952 Became Chairman of the Australian War Memorial's board.
Other 1952 He became chairman of the Board of Management of the War Memorial (an unpaid position) and accepted a commission to examine First World War relics to determine what should be kept and what discarded.
Date of death 1968-08-30 Concord, NSW.
Date of death 1968-08-30

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