Bean’s Gallipoli by Charles Bean, edited by Kevin Fewster

2016 Limelight Reviews
Australiana, Non-Fiction

Much has been written about, and by, Bean’s Gallipoli author, Charles Edwin Woodrow Bean. C.E.W. Bean was instrumental in creating, editing and writing much of the 12 volume series Official History of Australia in the War of 1914–1918, and in co-founding the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.  He was Australia’s official WWI correspondent, and the only journalist to land with the ANZAC troops at Gallipoli on that first day and stay with them for the duration of the campaign.  For him,  the saying “the first casualty of war is the truth” particularly applied as the Allied Forces military did not agree to journalists filing true stories from the front-lines. The brass wanted highly sanitised versions of the action for public consumption.

The SMSA Library was fortunate to have acquired this (now out-of-print) book some time ago.  Over the four years of WWI, Bean wrote down everything he witnessed and experienced in his notebooks, and kept a personal diary.  By the end of the War, these amounted to some 300 volumes, all of which formed original source material for Bean to write the first six volumes of the Official History upon his return to Australia. Bean also took some 800 photos while living with the ANZAC troops. They are black and white, and often grainy, but they are included in Bean’s Gallipoli and show the stark reality of Gallipoli (as compared to the romanticized Hollywood films).

Bean’s Gallipoli is an edited script of Bean’s notebooks and personal diaries, completed by Kevin Fewster. Bean aimed to write every night, between filing war correspondence with Australian newspapers (when allowed), talking to officers and enlisted soldiers in the trenches, on the beaches and in dugouts.  The Allied Forces did assign 12 official war correspondents (from other countries) but only Bean stayed glued to the AIF – the other correspondents stayed offshore on ships.  Evidence of Bean’s devotion to his duty is that he was the only journalist shot by a sniper in Gallipoli (his notes and diaries ceased for a short while whilst he was recovering).  Until his death in 1968, he carried the sniper’s bullet lodged in his right calf.

A fascinating first hand source book of Gallipoli, as told by Australia’s official historian.

Find Bean’s Gallipoli by Charles Bean (edited by Kevin Fewster) in the SMSA Library Catalogue


Belinda Coombs
SMSA Mystery and Crime Reading Group Member