Amongst an arrangement of historic verandah posts commemorating Bathurst’s prominent citizens is a memorial to CEW Bean, Australia’s official First World War historian and founder of the Australian War Memorial. It stands in a cultural garden along with memorials which include the Wiradjuri leader and warrior Windradyne, Blair Anderson Wark VC and the Federation activist William Astley.
Charles Edwin Woodrow Bean was born at Bathurst on 18 November 1879, where his father was headmaster at All Saints’ College. Charles began his education at the college before his father took the family to England in 1889. In England he completed his schooling and studied law at Oxford. He was called to the Bar in 1903 but returned to Sydney and took up full-time journalism with The Sydney Morning Herald.
In August 1914 he won a ballot to accompany the AIF as a war correspondent when it sailed for Egypt. He was a civilian but accorded the honorary rank of captain.
He landed at Gallipoli on 25 April 1915 and was the only war correspondent to remain until the December evacuation. Under heavy fire at Cape Helles he assisted the wounded and was recommended for the Military Cross, but being a civilian he was ineligible. At Lone Pine in August 1915 he was wounded but refused to leave the peninsula.
From 1916 to 1918 he witnessed almost every major battle that the AIF engaged in on the Western Front. After visiting the battlefield at Pozières in August 1916, Bean first mentioned his thoughts on establishing an Australian war memorial museum, to his batman Staff Sergeant Arthur Bazley. In 1919 he returned to Gallipoli to study the battlefield and report on how the Australian graves should be maintained.
Fellow journalist Keith Murdoch wrote of Bean:
No accounts of actions could be more accurate than his – no description of the men’s suffering and gallantry could be more sympathetic. He is always in the place where he can see and help most, however dangerous it may be.
During the war Bean filled more than two hundred notebooks that he later used to write his Official History of Australia in the War 1914–1918 between 1921 and 1943. He wrote numerous military and historical works and was awarded several honorary degrees, but he refused a knighthood.
He died on 30 August 1968 at Concord Repatriation General Hospital in Sydney, aged 84. He was survived by his wife Ethel ‘Effie’ and an adopted daughter, Joyce.
Australian dictionary of biography, Charles Edwin Woodrow Bean,KS Inglis,
Service file of Captain Charles Edwin Woodrow Bean:
Charles Bean, Ross Coulthart, Sydney, 2014
Gallipoli correspondent: the frontline diary of CEW Bean, Kevin Fewster, Sydney 1983
War correspondent Charles Bean, Gallipoli and the Anzacs
Australians on the Western Front 1914–1918
Bathurst Regional Council
158 Russell Street
Bathurst NSW 2795
Phone: 02 6333 6111
Mail: PMB 17, Bathurst NSW 2795