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The Rock-itt : September 2011
The Australian War Museum, Canberra and other Memorials to the Diggers of the Great War When the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) Fleet left the W estern Australian shores in 1914 en route to the Western Front (or so they thought as they sailed) on board was a journalist who was to become one of Australia’s favourite and famous reporters. Charles Edwin W oodrow Bean was Australian born but his family chose to return to the Mother Country which was where he was given an upper class education at a famous Public school called Clifton College near Bristol. Charles Bean returned to Sydney in 1904 and took a job with the Sydney Morning Herald in 1908 where his first reporting role was to write about the NSW Wool Industry in the far west of the state. At the outbreak of the War Bean was then nominated ahead of Keith Murdoch (father of Newspaper magnate Rupert Murdoch) to represent Australia as the appointed foreign war correspondent in September 1914 and he duly sailed with the fleet on the way to their training grounds in Egypt. Once the British had decided to open up the Second (Eastern) Front in Turkey by choosing to attack at the Dardanelles, the Australian troops were chosen to launch an assault at what was to become known as ANZAC Cove, but was in fact known to the Turks as Gaba Tepe. On the 25th April 1915, Charles Bean was finally allowed ashore 6 hours after the Landing to record in his numerous diaries first hand accounts of how the battle was developing from those who had been involved. He was the only correspondent who stayed the entire course of the war at Gallipoli and although he was restricted in what he could release to the Press his determination to be as accurate as possible set him apart as a more reliable source. Initially the soldiers were not that sure of this rather aloof and English sounding non combatant, but as the war waged on, his constant desire to interview troops in the front line where he was always under threat of death from snipers and bom bs, they recognised him as one of their own. Bean followed the Diggers to the Western Front in France and although he arrived at Fromelles after the fateful evening attack he recorded stories from those survivors who made it back to Allied trenches. He also covered the Australian Infantry’s efforts at Pozieres and Mouquet Farm and all the way until the end of the war in November 1918. During the war Bean was focusing on collecting relics from the battlefields to display later after the war was over in a museum and along with his diaries these would form a central role in his Official History of Australia in the War of 1914-1918. In 1919 he was to lead the Australian Historical Mission back By Simon Lyon Australian War Memorial in C anberra Charles Bean aboard the Orvieto en route to Egypt 1914