Forging The Nation - Charles Bean

  • Exhibition time
  • Exhibition location
    Located on the Ground Level

Revisiting the battlefield.
Several months after the savage fighting of July - August 1916 at Pozières, C.E.W. Bean, then an Australian war correspondent, returned to retrace the battle. He was accompanied by the artist Will Dyson and the English poet John Masefield. On this occasion Bean collected the first relics for what eventually became the Australian War Memorial.

Charles Bean

ART 07545George Lambert
Charles E W Bean

Historian with a mission

Born in Australia but raised in Britain, Charles Bean returned south in 1904, aged 25, and became a reporter for the Sydney Morning Herald. One of his first tasks was to cover the visit of the Great White Fleet. In 1909 he was sent to western New South Wales to write about the wool industry. Rural Australia inspired Bean: he believed that the distinctive virtues and values and the true national type were being generated there.

In 1914 Bean was nominated by the Australian Journalists' Association to accompany the AIF as official war correspondent, and he joined the troops on Gallipoli and the Western Front. After the war he was appointed to write the official history of Australia's participation. He set up the Australian War Records Section and conceived the idea of the Australian War Memorial, to be built in Canberra.

Tall, thin, and steeped in Victorian values, Bean was an admirer of the Australian rural worker and ordinary soldiers. His writing was remarkable for its coverage of individuals and small groups, sometimes from the lowest military level; many of them were what he sometimes called "plain Australians".

Charles Bean cannot be credited with creating the Anzac legend on his own, but he made an immense contribution to it through his despatches, in The Anzac book, and in the 12 volumes of the Official history of Australia in the war of 1914-18.

ART02225Will Dyson First World War official war artist
Going over the old ground with B … , Pozières
charcoal, brush and ink and ink wash
drawn in France 1917.