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

Anonymous

Not many people returned from war. Not only did you survive and return, you tried to live a normal life.

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Anonymous

Honest and brave reporter, who also valued life and remembrance.

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Pam Holden

An inspiring story. His history is well documented. Lest we forget.

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Anonymous

Well written, man, and well served.

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Anonymous

You will be remembered...

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Michelle

Thank you for your service. Thank you for our freedom.

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Annabelle Cunningham

Thank you for saving us from war.

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Anonymous

Thank you. May we never forget.

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Anonymous

Thank you for recording our history.

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Peter

Thank you for the history lesson. We must never forget this sad period of our history. May it never be repeated.

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Ebony

I'm glad you didn't die.

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Anonymous

To Bean, Thank you for giving your life and great work.

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Anonymous

Dear Bean, Your sacrifice for our country is beyond words. Thank you for giving us freedom today.

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Anonymous

To Bean, Thank you for giving your life up for us.

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Anonymous

Great job on telling the stories of the men and women away at war. Well done on making it and for your bravery.

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Anonymous

You did a great job and I thank you for this.

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Josephine Alley

THANK YOU FOR SERVING OUR COUNTRY.

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Anonymous

Thanks for everything.

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Dechlan

Well done mate!

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Anonymous

Sincere thanks for your efforts.

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jarreau

Hello Charles. Thank you for risking your life at war and to be at war is for a brave heart. I wish I could read all your letters. Australia thanks you.

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Anonymous

Thank you for what you did.

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Anonymous

So glad you survived and came home. Wish I had known you better, been able to talk to you today about France and Belgium. R.I.P.

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Anonymous

It was an honour to follow your journey. Thank you for all that you have done.

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aaron

To Mr Bean. I don't know if you died or not mate, but I hope you fought bravely and survived.

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Luke Smith

Impressive man. Thanks for the great insight into Gallipoli and the Western Front. Rest in peace friend.

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Anonymous

Thank you for keeping records and photos of the war so I can read about history and thanks for the war memorial in Canberra.

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Eileen Crosdale

To the men and women who fought I thank you for my freedom and the country we have become because of your strength and courage.

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Anonymous

Thank you for your endless courage in pursuit to make history and fight for our nation. RIP.

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Anonymous

Thank you for our freedom and peace. We shall never forget our soldiers of the past and present. God bless you all.

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Shantel

Thank you for defending our country.

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Anonymous

Dear Bean, Thank you for what you did. Thanks a lot.

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Zac

You did all the stuff that helped our country. Thank you.

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Zac

Well, here I am, sending a message to a man with the guts big enough to stand up to the enemy. Now, I just want to thank you for all you have done for our country. Zac.

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Anonymous

Thank you for all your deeds in this war.

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casey

Thank you for serving our country. Legend.

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Anonymous

This is a very interesting guy.

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Anonymous

You were very brave. I am glad you survived.

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Anonymous

I WANT TO BE A BRAVE JOURNALIST LIKE YOU.

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Anonymous

Charles, you were a very courageous man. You served your country well.

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Anonymous

I thank you Captain Charles Bean, because without you we would not know most of the history we have today. We also wouldn't have the war memorial in Canberra, so thank you.

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Anonymous

Although we know you were killed in Belgium at age 22 yrs, we do not know where, but your family has not forgotten you and your ultimate sacrifice for us.

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thomas

Lest we forget all the hard work these people went through for us. They're the ones to thank.

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Anonymous

Bean had a tough job.

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Anonymous

Very important role.

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jorge

Many thanks for your love and dedication to your country.

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Anonymous

Thank you Captain Bean for your war efforts. Reporting from the front line helped those back home in AUSTRALIA and NZ to know some of what was happening overseas.

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Anonymous

Thank you Mr Bean. x

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Anonymous

Thanks for setting the standard. David Dare Parker.

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Anonymous

Thanks for leaving us a remarkable legacy. DDP.

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