Charles Edwin Woodrow Bean

Charles Bean on the deck of the Orvieto

Rank

Honorary Captain

Roll title

Attached to 1st Division Headquarters

Convoy ship

HMAT Orvieto

Childhood portrait of Charles Bean.

Courtesy of the Australian War Memorial A05400

Charles Edward Woodrow Bean was born on 18 November 1879 in Bathurst, New South Wales. In 1889, his family moved to England where he attended the Brentwood School in Essex, then Clifton College in Bristol. 

While at Clifton, Bean developed an interest in literature and in 1898 won a scholarship to Hertford College, Oxford, to read classics. He graduated with second-class honours in 1902 and went on to study law, being called to the Bar of the Inner Temple in 1903. For a short time he taught at his old school, Brentwood, before becoming a tutor in Tenerife.

Bean returned to Australia in 1904.  He was admitted to the New South Wales Bar and retained his parallel passions for teaching and writing.  He was an assistant master at Sydney Grammar School and wrote some articles for the Evening News, then edited by Andrew ‘Banjo’ Paterson.  

Between 1905 and 1907, he travelled extensively around New South Wales as a barrister’s assistant and wrote a book entitled The Impressions of a New Chum.  Though he failed to find a publisher, the Sydney Morning Herald printed a series of articles from his book in mid-1907. Likely as a result of this success, Bean resolved to focus on his writing career and spent four months learning shorthand before joining the Sydney Morning Herald as a junior reporter. In 1908, his major assignment was as a special correspondent on HMS Powerful, the flagship of the Royal Navy squadron in Australia, on a voyage to Norfolk Island, Fiji and finally Auckland to meet the American Fleet.  He compiled his articles into an expanded volume entitled With the Flagship in the South, which he published the following year at his own expense.  Within the book, he argued for ‘Australia and New Zealand … to have navies and flagships of their own’.

After a series of articles on the wool industry, he transferred to London in 1910 to report on the construction of what would become HMAS Australia, the powerful flagship of the new Royal Australian Navy, and two other warships, HMAS Sydney and HMAS Melbourne. In 1913 he turned these reports into another book, Flagships Three.

By mid-1914, Bean was writing articles about the war crisis unfolding in Europe. A month after war broke out in August 1914, the British government invited each dominion to attach an official war correspondent to their force. George Pearce, the Australian Minister for Defence, asked the Australian Journalists’ Association to nominate their preferred candidate. Bean won the ballot and became Australia’s official war correspondent. He was appointed to the AIF on 28 September 1914.

Charles and one of his younger brothers, John (known as Jack or Jock), who also went to Gallipoli.

Courtesy of the Australian War Memorial A05393

HMAT Orvieto.

Courtesy of the Western Australian Museum MHK D1 765

Bean embarked at Port Melbourne on 21 October 1914 on board HMAT Orvieto. His mother and father had travelled from Tasmania to see both he and his brother John depart. After a five-day passage, Orvieto arrived in King George Sound, Albany, on 26 October 1914. The ship set sail with the First Convoy on 1 November, destined for Egypt. 

As the Australian official war correspondent, Bean was regarded as a captain. As such, he received a batman (Arthur Bazley), an officer’s salary, a horse and rations. He wore a copy of an officer’s uniform but no badges.

Aboard ship, Bean dined with Captain Arthur Gordon Smith and AIF officers, but spent much of his time keeping up his diaries and writing articles for the morning and evening papers.  He wrote an article on the encounter between HMAS Sydney and the German raider SMS Emden which was printed in Australian papers on 4 December. He also found time to take part in an Australia vs England cricket match – which Australia lost.

The Orvieto reached Suez on 1 December 1914 and passed through the canal. It docked at Alexandria on the morning of 3 December and disembarked troops. 

After landing in Egypt, Bean prepared a small pamphlet for the troops titled What to Know in Egypt: A Guide for Australasian Soldiers. All proceeds from the sale of the pamphlet went to the Red Cross Society.

He was based at Mena Camp, just outside Cairo, with the 1st Australian Division. On New Year’s Day 1915, Bean and fellow journalist Phillip Schuler climbed one of the pyramids. 

Before Christmas Bean had penned an article, at the request of Major General Sir William Bridges, which highlighted the risk that Australian troops could lose their good reputation through their rowdy behaviour in Egypt. This was very unpopular with the men, many of whom subsequently gave him a hard time. 

HMAT Orvieto leaving Port Melbourne. The crowd watching the ship depart had rushed the pier. The photograph was taken by Charles Bean.

Courtesy of the Australian War Memorial G01539

Soldiers receiving instruction on the deck of HMAT Orvieto

Courtesy of the Australian War Memorial PS0012

Australian troops disembarking from HMAT Orvieto at Alexandria, Egypt.

Courtesy of the Australian War Memorial H02030

Bean outside his tent at Mena Camp, Egypt.

Courtesy of the Australian War Memorial A05381

Charles outside his tent at Mena Camp, Egypt

Courtesy of the Australian War Memorial PS1390

Charles atop one of the pyramids on New Year's Day 1915, photographed by fellow journalist Phillip Schuler.

Courtesy of the Australian War Memorial PS1399

Bean and Schuler (both behind the stand) take notes on Sir George Reid’s speech to the troops at Mena Camp in December 1914. Reid, a former Australian prime minister, was the High Commissioner for Australia in England.

Courtesy of the Australian War Memorial G01603

A group portrait of staff and officers at Mena Camp, Egypt. Charles Bean is at the far left of the back row, and Bridges is sixth from the left in the front row (beside Lieutenant Colonel Neville Howse VC, fifth from left).

Courtesy of the Australian War Memorial A00712A

Bean riding a donkey on the island of Imbros, 1915. Behind him is the famous British war correspondent Ellis Ashmead-Bartlett.

Courtesy of the Australian War Memorial A05382

On 10 April, Bean boarded the Minnewaska, bound for the Dardanelles. He landed on Gallipoli around 10 am on 25 April 1915, about five and a half hours after the first troops had gone ashore. His account of the landing appeared in Australian newspapers on 15 May; however British correspondent Ellis Ashmead-Bartlett beat him into print, his story running on 8 May. Bean’s report, which had been held up in Alexandria, was a more sober and precise account.  He had been much closer to the action and was ashore almost 12 hours ahead of Ashmead-Bartlett, who watched the landing from the deck of a ship. Both accounts were energetically circulated, and also distributed in a pamphlet to Australian schools. 

In early May, Bean was with two ANZAC brigades at Krithia, Cape Helles, and witnessed their unsuccessful attack there. 

While he was in and around Tommy’s Trench on the night of 8 May, Bean tended to the wounded. The area was then under heavy fire. He rescued one man who had been shot in the leg and helped him back into the relative safety of the trench; later, he dragged another man, wounded in both legs, to ‘the nearest thing to a dimple in the ground’ he could find, and used packs to protect him. He thought the man was too badly injured to survive. (It is not known whether he did.) Bean was recommended for a Military Cross, but as a civilian was not eligible to receive a military decoration. However, he was Mentioned in Despatches. 

Bean remained on the peninsula for the duration of the campaign, leaving only a couple of days before the main body of troops. His diaries of the fighting on Gallipoli make reference to Albert Jacka’s Victoria Cross won at Courtney’s Post, the battles at Chunuk Bair, Lone Pine, The Nek and Hill 60, and give a detailed account of the successful evacuation in December.

The only correspondent to stay on the peninsula for the whole campaign, Bean was often near the front line.  On one occasion, just before the fateful charge at The Nek at the start of the August offensive, he was wounded. He was known as a brave, conscientious and accurate reporter. 

Bean at the front line at Helles in May 1915.

Courtesy of the Australian War Memorial G00967B

Bean’s dug-out on Gallipoli.

Courtesy of the Australian War Memorial G01284

Bean watches an Australian advance near Martinpuich in France, 26 February 1917

Courtesy of the Australian War Memorial E00246

After leaving Gallipoli, Bean travelled with the AIF to France, where he continued to cover the Australians’ efforts. His extensive diaries refer to the terrible fighting at Pozières, Fromelles, Bullecourt, Passchendaele and Messines. Unlike at Gallipoli, he did not live in the trenches in France but instead went up to the lines each day from a billet behind the line. 

Bean looks out over a devastated area of the old Somme battlefield, 1916

Courtesy of the Australian War Memorial E00586

Bean with a group of Australian officers, Flêtre, France, in late December 1917.

Courtesy of the Australian War Memorial E04495

Bean working on the official history in his study at Victoria Barracks, Sydney, c. 1935.

Courtesy of the Australian War Memorial A05389

Early in 1919, Bean led the Australian Historical Mission back to Gallipoli in order to answer some unsolved puzzles about the campaign, collect relics of the fighting, and create an artistic and photographic record. While on the peninsula, Bean was also expected to report on the state of Australian graves and determine what work needed to be done to identify and maintain them. Bean’s account of the Historical Mission’s work, Gallipoli Mission (1948) is one of his finest works.

On his way back to Australia, Bean drafted a proposal for both an official Australian history of the war and a national memorial to honour the Australian dead. He had originally conceived the idea of an Australian war memorial while in France in 1917.

In 1921 Bean married Ethel Young, known as ‘Effie’, and with the help of Arthur Bazley, who had served as his batman throughout the war, wrote six of 12 volumes of the Official History of Australia in the War of 1914–1918. In later years, he also composed a condensed version of the official history, Anzac to Amiens, which was published in 1946, and Two Men I Knew about William Bridges and Brudenell White, published in 1957. 

Along with John Treloar, who had led the Australian War Records Section set up during the war to collect relics, photographs, and official and private records, Bean was responsible for the creation of the Australian War Memorial which opened on Remembrance Day 1941.

In 1964 Bean was admitted to Sydney’s Concord Repatriation General Hospital, he died on 30 August 1968. 

References

Australian Dictionary of Biography, Bean, Charles Edwin (1879–1968)

Australian War Memorial: Bean, C. E. W., War Diaries, AWM38, 3DRL 606

Bean, CEW c. 1909, With the Flagship in the South, T. Werner Laurie, London

Fewster, Kevin ed., 2009, Bean’s Gallipoli: The Diaries of Australia’s Official War Correspondent, Allen & Unwin, New South Wales

McCarthy, Dudley, 1983, Gallipoli to the Somme: The Story of C.E.W. Bean, John Ferguson, Sydnen

National Archives of Australia: Australian Imperial Force, Base Records Office; B2455, Charles Edwin Woodrow Bean’s First Australian Imperial Force personnel dossier, 1914-1920; BEAN C E W, 1914-1920

Winter, Denis, 1992 Making the Legend: The Writings of C.E.W. Bean, University of Queensland Press, Queensland

Bean and Effie at Tuggeranong homestead, near Canberra.

Courtesy of the Australian War Memorial A05398

Charles and Effie with their adopted daughter, Joyce, and Violet Gibbins, headmistress of Osborne Ladies College, Blackheath, New South Wales, where Joyce was a pupil.

Courtesy of the Australian War Memorial P03788.002

Bean escorts Her Majesty the Queen on a visit to the Australian War Memorial in 1954.

Courtesy of the Australian War Memorial 04241

joy

Thank you.

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Anonymous

I understand what you've been through. I have had my own family members go to war and had a tough time too. We all have those days.

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BOB

GOOD WORK UNDER TOUGH CONDIITIONS.

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Anonymous

Thank you for your service. I am honoured to have read your story.

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Anonymous

You did a great job.

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Anonymous

Thank you for your service to this country.

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Anonymous

Thank you to all who fought so we may live freely. I hope we are thankful!

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meareg

Thank you for making Australia what it is today.

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chaplain Dave

THANK YOU.

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Anonymous

Thank you for creating the war memorial and recording history.

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Anonymous

Well done old chap.

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Anonymous

Thank you for helping us remember the war through the Sydney Herald.

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Anonymous

Thank you for being a hero.

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Anonymous

Thank you for your bravery and history about World War 1.

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Ian Moyle

Charles, you were a credit to your profession, as you reported on various conflicts in WW1. It took great courage to do what you did.

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Anonymous

THANK YOU!

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Anonymous

Thank you for your recording of this horrific time and work to get the Australian War Memorial up and running.

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Anonymous

Thanks mate, you are a hero.

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doreen

Thank you.

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Anonymous

LEST WE FORGET.

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Aboo

Good job, you survived.

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vegeman

Hi.

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Anonymous

Thank you for your service. You helped all of us see what actually happened. Thanks.

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Matthew

Thank you for being so brave and continuing to fight at the battle front. Thank you also for fighting for our country.

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jules

Pretty impressive becoming the first war correspondent!

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Kira

It is due to your efforts that we can remember the brave souls who laid down their lives for their country. Sleep soundly knowing you brought many men home.

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sophie

Lest we forget. Thinking of all the Anzacs that fought with you.

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ophie

We will remember you and all the things that you have done for Australia and the world.

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toby

I am sorry for what you have lost.

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Anonymous

I am sorry.

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ANONYMOUS

RESPECT.

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juliet

You did an amazing job in the war. You were tough and strong and saved a lot of people. You are a hero.

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Anonymous

You are a great man and will be remembered forever.

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Anonymous

Your personality was amazing, because you loved to write, just like me. Thank you heaps.

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Anonymous

Thank you for risking your life for this country.

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nicholas

Thank you.

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ELLA

THANK YOU FOR RISKING YOUR LIFE FOR AUSTRALIA AND ALL THE PEOPLE THERE.

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ELLA

THANK YOU FOR RISKING YOUR LIFE TO PROTECT AUSTRALIA.

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Anonymous

You're really brave.

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Anonymous

I love you, thank you.

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Anonymous

What a fantastic memory to learn about.

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Anonymous

I think you are a good person.

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Noah

Thank you for fighting in the war.

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Anonymous

You must have been so lucky to be able to suvive all of the war and survive till 101.

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Anonymous

So glad you were brave enough to record the history. LEST WE FORGET.

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Anonymous

Thanks for keeping a record of that terrible war. Lest we forget.

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pierce

Amazing job Bean. I salute you!

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Anonymous

G'day mate.

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Lucas

You were a great captain and you are remembered by all, Sincerly Lucas Oliver.

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Anonymous

So sad, such a terrible waste of beautiful lives.

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