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C. E. W. Bean — A FORTUNATE CHOICE;

 
 

Charles Edwin Woodrow Bean (1879-1968) has a unique place among military historians and is owed a debt of gratitude by all Australians for the recording and preservation of Australia's experiences in the Great War (World War 1 to later generations).

Bean was horn in Bathurst, NSW, and educated in England at Clifton College and at Oxford where he obtained a Master of Arts degree in 1903 and a Bachelor of Civil Law degree in 1904_ After returning to Australia shortly afterwards he worked briefly as a teacher, then worked as a legal assistant to traveling judges and wrote of his experiences, which ere published in the Sydney Morning    Herald. He joined the same newspaper as a journalist in 1908 and wrote extensively on western NSW and the wool industry.

From 1910 to 1912 Bean was in London reporting on the ships being built for the RAN. In WW1 he was appointed official war correspondent to Australian forces overseas. Bean landed at Gallipoli on 25th April 1915 and began writing dispatches as well as further risking his life by helping the wounded. In August. he was wounded but refused evacuation.

Bean went to France with the Australian forces and continued to operate there as he had done on Gallipoli by being in the battle area, writing extensive diaries and recording the activities of the Australians in the context of the overall campaign. When units were replaced for rest, Bean remained in the line and it has been said that he spent more time in the front line than any other member of the A.I.F.

Bean was active in the production of two wartime commemorative volumes. The Anzac Book and The Rising Sun In 1919 the Australian Government accepted Bean's proposal for an official war history and a national war museum. As the official government war historian, Bean himself wrote six of the twelve volumes of the Official History of Australia in the Great War 1914-1918 and edited the other six. The last volume of' the Official History was published in 1942, the Australian War Memorial meanwhile being opened in 1941 in the middle of WW2. In 1946 Bean's own one volume abridgement of the series was published as Anzacs to Amiens.

He declined a knighthood several times but accepted other honours. He died in 1968. aged 88, at the height of Australia's involvement in Vietnam. Bean's enduring reputation as an historian is such that all of his books are valuable collector and reference items, an original 12 volume Official History being worth a considerable amount. Good luck finding any.

 

 
 


 

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