BEAN, CHARLES EDWIN WOODROW (1879–1968)
C.E.W. Bean is best known as Australia’s official World War I war correspondent, general editor of the Official History of Australia in the War of 1914–18 and a founder of the Australian War Memorial. He is regarded as a formative influence on the establishment of the Anzac legend.
Born in Bathurst, New South Wales, Bean moved to England at age of 10 with his family, and studied classics and law at the University of Oxford. He returned to Australia in 1904, was admitted to the NSW Bar and then travelled widely in New South Wales as a judge’s associate. This resulted in an unpublished illustrated book, ‘The Impressions of a New Chum’, which reflected his fascination with outback life and became the basis for a series of Sydney Morning Herald articles in mid-1907.
Bean joined the Herald as a junior reporter in 1908 and, between 1909 and 1911, published three books derived from Herald articles. He was posted to London in 1910, returning to Sydney in 1913 and becoming a Herald leader writer. Following the outbreak of war in 1914, Bean narrowly won a ballot held by the Australian Journalists’ Association for appointment as official correspondent to the AIF, ahead of (Sir) Keith Murdoch. Bean sailed with the first AIF convoy to Egypt, where he began filing his reports before landing at Gallipoli on 25 April 1915. He became a dedicated and brave war correspondent, receiving a wound at Gallipoli in August but remaining until a few days before the evacuation.
Bean continued his reporting on the Western Front and began to record events in diaries and notebooks, with a history of the war in mind. In 1919 he led a historical mission to Gallipoli. He then returned to Australia and began two decades of work on the official history of Australian involvement in the war.
Bean worked hard to create the Australian War Memorial in Canberra, opened on 11 November 1941. He was chairman of the memorial’s board from 1952 to 1959, maintaining close connections with the institution for the rest of his life. He was involved in creating the Commonwealth Archives (now the National Archives of Australia) and also served as chairman of the Promotion Appeals Board of the ABC (1947–58).
REFs: M. Piggott, A Guide to the Personal, Family and Official Papers of C.E.W. Bean (1983); http://www. anzacsite.gov.au/1landing/beanbio.html.