For one Anzac, it was just another day at the office. Describing the Australian counterattack at Lone Pine on Gallipoli in the second volume of his colossal Official History of the First World War, C.E.W. Bean ushers onto narrative centre-stage a certain Captain A.H. Scott, ‘who in private life was a clerk in Dalgety and Company’s Sydney office’:
Scott … was a cheerful and dashing soldier. He at once called to the men: ‘Who’ll come with me?’, and leaping over the new barrier without the least knowledge of what was in front of him, ran straight past the junction of the Traversed Trench to Lloyd’s own barricade. There he came upon a party of Turks busily throwing bombs over the barrier … He shot three or four, causing the rest to draw back round the bend of the trench.
The episode is characteristic of Bean’s accounting of the Australians in action—the revelation of the innate daring of ordinary men, thrust out of their unheralded civilian existences, with the implication that the nation’s manhood finds its most complete and peerless expression in battle; the consequent hint of disdain for the hapless enemy; the dramatic spicing of documentary detail with speculative subjectivity. And the Edwardian diction, old-fashioned even by 1924, when the second volume of the Official History appeared. After the gruesome debacle on the Western Front, few writers would dare call soldiers ‘cheerful’ and ‘dashing’ without bitter irony.
More than any other work, The Official History of Australia in the War of 1914–1918, of which Bean was general editor and author of six of the 12 volumes, secured for the ‘Digger’ a permanent place atop the hierarchy of Australian heroes, establishing a nationalistic rendering of the First World War that has stood the test of time and become magnified over the decades, giving inspiration and example to generations of academic and popular historians—and also to contemporary politicians, for whom shamelessly spruiking Anzac is good politics.
I first looked into Bean’s Official History about 30 years ago, researching my doctoral thesis on Australian war literature, which would become the book Big-noting. The project entailed reading not merely those six weighty volumes but also a mass of other military narratives stemming from the First World War. At the time, one couldn’t help comparing the Official History with the host of flagrantly fictional battle narratives that proliferated during the conflict and for much of the next two decades. Many of these wildly patriotic texts assumed the guise of ‘nonfiction’. As the official war correspon-dent, Bean went ashore a few hours after the first wave of Gallipoli invaders, and the Official History is famously infused with his firsthand knowledge of what transpired in the Anzac theatre. But Bean had an eye for narrative colour, too, and the Official History has both the intimacy of a military memoir and the dynamism of a good war novel. One of the most revealing contemporary compliments of the Official History came from the New Statesman, which described the work as ‘Probably the most readable official history of the war published in any country’. Another British source, the London Observer, tagged the opening volume, The Story of Anzac (1921), ‘Australia’s Iliad and Odyssey’.2
Impressed by both the heft and the narrative push and power of the six volumes of Bean’s history, I also took the liberty of calling the work an ‘Australian Iliad’ in my PhD thesis. Perhaps I had had my head turned by reading too much Keats as an undergraduate. In his sonnet ‘On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer’ (1816), the poet celebrates the almost ecstatic pleasure he received from first reading George Chapman’s translation of the Iliad and the Odyssey. Keats registers this epiphany by imagining it as akin to the overwhelming excitement that must be felt by an astronomer (‘some watcher of the skies’) who discovers a new planet, or by the Spanish conquistador Cortés when he first set eyes on the Pacific from a summit in Central America. It was a fanciful comparison, likening an Australian war history to the seminal Western narrative and the prototypical heroic text. Yet it didn’t seem too far-fetched. Bean’s narrative impulse is directed towards revealing how ordinary men can exceed themselves when faced with war’s immense challenges, becoming larger than life. Bean helped insure the men of the AIF against obscurity; he made them mythic, Homeric.
But does anyone read the Official History today? While hardly a household name, Bean has become the focus of scholarly and also popular interest over the past 30 years, joining the pantheon of Australian military heroes he spent his entire professional life constructing. Yet much of this recent work, like Ross Coulthart’s recent biography Charles Bean: If People Really Knew (2014), has concentrated on Bean the war correspondent, not the historian.3 There are exceptions, notably the incisive critical reappraisal provided by Martin Ball, much of it sadly unpublished. However, one suspects that Bean’s opus remains more a resource for researchers than for readers.4 I decided, after 30 years, to take a second look at this pre-eminent literary repository of the nation’s military past and a canonical text of the Australian tradition.5 I wanted to read and reconsider it as an Australian Iliad.
The temptation for Bean to exploit the geographic and mythic ties potentially binding the stories of Troy and Anzac must have been great. Having studied the Homeric classics at Oxford, he was alert to the classical significance of the Dardanelles theatre. As his biographer Dudley McCarthy wrote in describing Bean’s first voyage to Gallipoli from Egypt, he ‘knew these seas, though he had never sailed them before, for the Iliad and the Odyssey were open books to him as Homer had written them’.6 And by the time Bean came to write The Story of Anzac, the first two volumes of the Official History, the Anzac–Troy parallel was already a commonplace in military potboilers and poems.
Yet scouring the Official History in search of Trojan references is a futile exercise. While the work is infused with a sense of the rich historical and heroic associations of the Dardanelles, it virtually ignores the close proximity to Gallipoli of the most legendary battlefield of all. Until Martin Ball’s forensic investigation into the composition of the Official History picked up the careless error, the suggestion persisted for decades that Bean’s only direct Homeric allusion was inadvertent, a reference to an Australian soldier at Gallipoli who happens to be (sur)named Troy, ‘knocked senseless by a bomb’ before being captured by the Turks.7 Ball points out that almost total neglect is not quite the case, although it does take almost a couple of hundred pages of the opening volume before ‘Ancient Troy’ is directly mentioned (OH, I, 180). It is not until late in the third volume, when the narrative focus has shifted to the Western Front, that Homer is directly cited, and then in the context of titanic hand-to-hand trench warfare, a struggle described ‘as dependent as the Homeric Greeks and Trojans on their sheer strength and endurance’ (OH, III, 609).
Nonetheless, the influence of the Iliad and other ancient texts is pervasive and not especially subtle, as for example in Bean’s appropriation of Homeric epithets such as ‘rosy-fingered dawn’ and ‘great-hearted’—the latter ascribed the men of the AIF at the conclusion of the sixth volume, in the summing up of the force’s achievements and contribution to the nation.8 But where Bean most clearly resembles Homer is in his narrative structuring of the battlefield experience. I made much of this in Big-noting; re-reading the Official History makes the resemblance all the more apparent. Without losing sight of the need to provide the strategic and tactical context, Bean structures a succession of small-scale engagements to showcase the battle virtuosity of the Australians. The monolithic conflict is broken down battle by battle, skirmish by skirmish. Bean ultimately reduces it to the degree of intimate detail indicated by the observation of the soldier E.J. Rule (the author of the lively 1933 war memoir Jacka’s Mob), quoted in the third volume, who proclaimed that ‘Each Aussie seemed as if he was having a war all on his own’ (OH, III, 720).
Thus the reputation of the Official History rests in large part on its emphasis on the travails of the men at the cutting edge of battle, and not on the machinations of politicians, or the generals who directed things from behind the lines. Bean wanted to give the Australians their due. As the principal advocate of the disastrous Dardanelles campaign, Winston Churchill was perhaps averse to playing up Gallipoli in his historical account The World Crisis, 1915 (1923), and he finds just one page for the Australians at Anzac Cove.9 Bean well and truly makes amends, giving hundreds of them to that most fabled Australian day, 25 April, and its immediate aftermath, as the Anzacs struggled to secure their tenuous hold on Turkish soil. This exhaustively detailed description ends with a paean of praise of soldiers motivated above all by staying true to ‘their idea of Australian manhood’ (OH, I, 607).
Whether Bean is one-eyed or merely extremely focused is a matter for debate. Bean’s reliance on the viewpoint of the ordinary soldier stemmed from a scepticism about the value of the despatches of generals and statesmen, and from a cynicism about the concept of the omniscient military genius. The ‘colonial historian’, Bean writes, is ‘convinced that the true credit for famous achievements in war … lies often with unknown subordinates’ (OH, III, vi–vii). Among the first quoted words spoken by a member of the Anzac landing party on the legendary morning of 25 April are those of a ‘Private Smith’, a stockman hailing from Bendigo. In terms of rank and nomenclature, you cannot get much more basic than that (OH, I, 254).
Bean’s reverence for the common Australian soldier pervades his narrative from first to last. There are heroes literally by the thousand; as Alistair Thomson has noted, some 8000 soldiers are named in the Official History.10 In the Homeric manner, Bean individualises them by either integrating their (albeit usually very brief) biographical details into the main text or providing footnotes containing the relevant information.
Yet according to Martin Ball, Bean’s much vaunted democratic sensibility may be exaggerated. In ‘The A.I.F.’, the third chapter of the opening volume, Bean describes the composition of the force and catalogues the men who constituted it, providing biographical portraits of the officers and staff. But the Other Ranks, Ball notes, are known only from their provenance and occupation.11 It might be argued that space might have precluded such comprehensiveness—an already plump volume may have become grossly obese. Ball also points out that in the list of the dead in the footnote to the tragic calamity at the Nek on the morning of 7 August 1915, when waves of the 8th and 10th Light Horse were ordered to charge suicidally at the Turkish machine-gunners, only those of the rank of lieutenant and above are named; in this long roll of honour the Other Ranks remain nameless (OH, II, 623, n. 57).12
Bean’s determination to apportion praise to the AIF as a collective enterprise without deference to rank does not preclude the commanders of the AIF being given their full measure of prominence. Some of his character sketches appear overdrawn, brazenly illustrating what his biographer called a ‘capacity for hero-worship’.13 The intrepidity epitomised by Brigadier-General H.E. (‘Pompey’) Elliott, whose infantry brigade played a vital role in the crucial counterattack at Villers-Bretonneux in April 1918, provided the gold standard by which Bean assesses soldierly accomplishment. Tempestuous, independent and contemptuous of less-than-extraordinary battle skill, Elliott is the quintessential happy warrior, revelling in his temporary military incarnation.
Bean’s appraisal of the most renowned Australian martial figure produced by the First World War, General John Monash, is tepid by comparison. Praise is lavished on Monash for his incisive administrative and organisational skills. But on Bean’s scale of soldierly virtues these talents rate below raw courage. Damningly, Monash’s leadership as a divisional commander is perceived to suffer from his ‘insufficient experience of the firing line’. War correspondents, Bean cuttingly remarks, observed that Monash was ‘the best leader from whom to seek information before a fight but the worst to go to afterwards’; he ‘took no delight in running bodily risk’ (OH, VI, 206, 208). Monash had a prodigious intellect and possessed ‘an almost Napoleonic skill in transmitting the impression of his capacity’, while his ego and ambition were gigantic. But he was a battlefield pygmy, lacking ‘the physical audacity that Australian troops were thought to require in their leaders’ (OH, VI, 195, 209).
There is another reason for Bean’s churlish appraisal of Monash: the General’s Jewish heritage and loyalties seemed to render him incompatible with the ethos of the AIF.14 When introduced to the reader in the opening volume, Monash is said to have been born in Melbourne but ‘Jewish by race and religion’ (OH, I, 137). Bean continues to label him as such throughout the series. Label him and define him: to Monash’s ‘Jewish blood’ is ascribed his ‘outstanding capacity for tirelessly careful organization’ (OH, IV, 562). Later, in the sixth volume, he is said to be ‘loyal to his clan’, in particular his Jewish personal staff (OH, VI, 208). It might be noted that this volume was first published during the Second World War. One might have thought that the horror of Hitler and a decade and more of patently violent and escalating Nazi anti-Semitism might have acted as a brake on this kind of racial profiling.
Bean conceptualised and wrote racially. The theme of race is flagged almost immediately in the Official History, on the third page of the first volume, and it pervades the narrative to the very end of the sixth. In his introductory paragraphs of The Story of Anzac Bean asserts that at the beginning of the war ‘the population of this vast unfilled land’ was ‘purely British’ (Aboriginals are invisible). But Australians had evolved into a reinvigorated colonial version of Anglo-Saxon stock: enterprising and independent, individualistic but dedicated to the creed of mateship (OH, I, 3–7). Six volumes and thousands of pages later, the emerging national character had not merely survived the crucible of war, but been forged by it. By 1918, in Bean’s assessment, the Digger, egalitarian to a fault, ‘knew only one social horizon, that of race’ (OH, VI, 6).
The young Australia of 1914, Bean wrote early in the opening volume, was still essentially a confederation of former colonies; the only thing that ‘palpably united’ them was a ‘determination to keep its continent a white man’s land’ (OH, I, 7). Keeping Australia white had been an abiding preoccupation of Bean’s. In one of a series of eight articles titled ‘Australia’, penned for the Sydney Morning Herald in 1907, Bean sounded a shrill warning about the threat of the teeming ‘hordes’ to the near north of vulnerable Australia. Lamenting how the new nation had ‘fallen into disrepute’ because of the ‘White Australia question’, he sought to explain its objections to being ‘flooded with Orientals’ and to justify the ‘absolute right’ of ‘Anglo-Saxon Australia to live ‘more or less according to the ideals of a clean white British people’.15
Unedifying to read now, with their distant echoes of today’s One Nation xenophobia, these views were typical of the time. Bean eventually came to modify his implacable opposition to migration from Asia, and during the Second World War publicly opposed the vehemently anti-Japanese propaganda campaign waged by the Department of Information, calling it ‘unAustralian’.16 Nonetheless the invasion scare provided by Japan’s rampaging army perhaps informs a curious passage located towards the end of the sixth volume of the Official History, published in the edgy year of 1942. Bean looks towards the uncertain national future as well as nostalgically surveying the resplendent military achievements of the recent past. In doing so, he makes a suggestive remark. Pondering the possible perversion of the spirit that characterised the First AIF and the potential dissolution of the national virtues it embodied, Bean raises the grim spectre of Australia’s ‘“racial” suicide’. The national character can be maintained, Bean opines, but only through ‘special planning and vigorous determination’ (OH, VI, 1093). The italicisation is slightly sinister; clearly some kind of racial protectionism is being advocated.
A racial pecking order influences both the tone and the substance of the Official History. At the top of the tree is the Australian, the updated and upgraded Briton: bigger, braver, better than the rest. Beneath him, the British ‘Tommy’, admirably doughty but enfeebled by the depredations of industrial civilisation and a stultifying class system exacerbated by the rigid military caste system of the British Army. Then, somewhere beneath the British, come the Continental Europeans, the Germans and the French. ‘In a ship-wreck or bush-fire,’ Bean had noted of prewar Australia in the opening volume, ‘one man of British stock could compass the work of several Germans; and this capacity the Australian possessed in an extreme degree’ (OH, I, 5). This foretells what was to play out on the battlefield. It is not that the Germans are incompetent or lacking courage, but that they are up against such an indomitable opponent. The description of the elated Australian response to the order to stem the German advance through routed British opposition before Amiens in the Somme in March 1918 is instructive. ‘What! Let a bloody Fritz lick me!’ a Digger sneers. Bean is quoting directly from H.R. Williams’ The Gallant Company, published in 1933 and a notably jaunty AIF memoir (OH, V, 175). Bean acknowledges the ‘element of vanity’ in Williams’ account, but justifies it by noting the gratitude of the French at the comforting presence of the Australians (‘Nos Australiens!’), comparing this enthusiasm with their ‘surly’ attitude towards the British (‘No bon! No bon!’). Amid cries of ‘Vive l’Australie!’ a soldier assures a French woman: ‘Fini retreat, Madame … Fini retreat—beaucoup Australiens ici’ (OH, V, 176–7).
Finally, beneath the Europeans, come the Oriental Turks. In the Official History Bean praises ‘the Turk’ for exhibiting ‘admirable manliness’ under fire (OH, II, 162). But Bean does relatively little to characterise the common Turkish soldier in the Official History, and when he does so he tends to be dismissive, carelessly belittling them (for example) as ‘slow of thought and movement and generally very ignorant’ (OH, I, 152). Bean’s downgrading of the enemy (and indeed the ally) is counterproductive, for great soldiers need strong opponents to reveal their true worth. The Official History lacks a Hector to counterbalance the Australian Achilles. The great Turkish commander at Gallipoli and eventual national hero, Mustafa Kemal, is afforded a full-page photograph in the first volume and is fleetingly praised for his ‘swift determination’ in repelling the Australian invasion, being called the ‘formidable leader’ of a ‘formidable force’. Yet even in this quite rare acknowledgement of the Turkish military—they did triumph at Gallipoli, after all—Bean manages to overshadow its successful endeavours by describing the effort of the Australian invaders as one ‘almost passing human endurance’ (OH, I, 452).
Equally, Bean’s attribution of Australian superiority to the experience and influence of ‘the Bush’ is debatable. Having grown up in constant battle with a hostile natural environment, the Australian Digger was already ‘half a soldier’ before he had even arrived at Gallipoli (OH, I, 47). The battle-field provided the finishing school: in his rhetorical set-pieces Bean would have his readers believe that the AIF was composed of all-round military virtuosi hailing from beyond the cities. Yet the facts Bean himself provides (often discreetly contained in footnotes) tell a different story. For example, the 6th Brigade, lauded by Bean for its sterling efforts in the ‘extreme test’ of the Second Battle of Bullecourt in early May 1917, was mostly ‘town-bred’ (OH, III, 601; IV, 482). While Bean largely attributes the 6th’s effectiveness to its exceptional leader, the Tasmanian apple-grower John Gellibrand, it might be pointed out that the two then relatively junior officers whom he describes performing so brilliantly at Bullecourt, Roydhouse and Savige, were (respectively) a Perth schoolteacher and a draper from the Melbourne middle-class suburb of Hawthorn. Even the most legendary Anzac of them all, John Simpson Kirkpatrick, of the ‘Simpson and his donkey’ combination, was a ship’s fireman from Melbourne. Furthermore, Simpson was English. Bean’s helpful footnote informs us that he hailed from Tyne Dock in England’s grimy industrial north (OH, I, 553, fn 11). One in four Australian soldiers was British born, a reflection of the demographic reality of early twentieth-century Australia.
To mention just a few of the more acclaimed Australian warriors: ‘Pompey’ Elliot was a Melbourne solicitor; Iven Mackay, the hero of the vicious hand-to-hand fighting of Lone Pine and later battalion commander at Pozières and Bullecourt, was a lecturer in physics at Sydney University; and the much wounded ‘man of force’ Charles Rosenthal (OH, I, 507), the distinguished divisional commander, was a Sydney architect. By the end of the sixth volume Bean acknowledges that ‘the percentage of Australian soldiers who had acquired their powers of determination, endurance and improvisation from country occupations was probably not much more than a quarter’ (OH, VI, 1078–9). Factuality aside, Bean’s romanticisation of the bushman looks antiquated today, and this inevitably impacts on the work’s contemporary plausibility. ‘The bushman is the hero of the Australian boy,’ Bean proclaims early in the first volume (OH, I, 46). Possibly back then, but not now.
What, then, of Bean’s attitude to that most fundamental element of battlefield representation—war itself? Bean is ambivalent about war. He sometimes seems seduced by its vestigial glamour, and he is repelled by its effects. Many heroes are born in the Official History, but as many men die ingloriously and unnecessarily. The pathos of his depiction of random death provides a melancholic vision of human destruction that counterpoints the celebratory vigour of the general battle narrative. A good example is his treatment of the slaughter of Light Horsemen at the Nek, which I originally thought somewhat equivocal. In Big-noting I suggested that Bean opted for sentimentality, citing the reference to the affecting sight of ‘mate … saying good-bye to mate’ before going over the top to be machine-gunned to death.17 I wanted him to expose more categorically the episode for the lamentable and even criminal military calamity it was, and I felt that the scene of battlefield carnage melodramatically implied rather than coolly presented:
During the long hours of that day the summit of The Nek could be seen crowded with their bodies. At first here and there a man raised his arm to the sky, or tried to drink from his water-bottle. But as the sun of that burning day climbed higher, such movement ceased. Over the whole summit the figures lay still in the quivering heat. (OH, II, 633)
Reading this passage now, I see it as a much more eloquent register of what tragically transpired at the Nek than some polemical post-mortem. It is as evocative as that arresting freeze-fame of the bullet-riddled Light Horseman that so dramatically concludes Peter Weir’s movie Gallipoli (1980). Moreover, Bean’s picture of the mechanised carnage on the Western Front in 1916 in the third volume, published in 1929, essentially corresponds with three of the great postwar fictional exposures of that nightmare, Richard Aldington’s Death of a Hero, Robert Graves’ Goodbye to All That and Erich Maria Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front, all of which also appeared in 1929. Bean writes that under such conditions as existed, for example, at Pozières, ‘the will to persist’ of even the finest soldiers could be undermined, and their self-control become ‘deranged’. He refers to the vivid narrative of a junior officer of the 6th Brigade, the former Melbourne journalist (born in Manchester, England) J.A. Raws: ‘… courage does not count here. It is all nerve—once that goes one becomes a gibbering maniac’ (OH, III, 660).
But there is one essential difference between Bean and the likes of Remarque, who strove to disabuse readers of the delusion that battlefield virtuosity was still possible in the new age of long-range artillery, gas and the machine-gun. In the Official History modern impersonal warfare and traditional soldierly self-assertion are far from incompatible. Certainly, mechanisation makes it more difficult for the potential hero, but it also forces him to draw on his deep reserves of courage. Assessing ‘the measure of Australian mettle’ exhibited during the dreadful French winter of 1916, Bean remarks that the Diggers were ‘sustained’ by a ‘determination that no one should hold them inferior to those around them’ (OH, III, 957–8). Bean’s narrative is often at pains to prove the battlefield efficacy of such self-belief.
Bean’s use of outmoded sporting similes betrays an intractable imperial sensibility. The equation between war and sport established by Sir Henry Newbolt’s 1892 poem ‘Vitai Lampada’, with its battlefield application of the schoolboy cricketer’s rally of ‘play up and play the game!’ was discredited by the time Bean began the Official History, seen as signalling the absurd innocence with which a generation went to war.18 But the new notoriety of Victorian public school imagery somehow passed the Australian historian by. Bean’s use of sporting imagery to convey the battlefield contest is especially evident in the two volumes on Gallipoli. As ‘a sign’ of their ‘native mettle’, the despondently entrenched Anzacs during the stalemate of July 1915 are said to ‘chafe’ for the impending offensive ‘like racehorses approaching the starting-gate’ (OH, II, 429). When battle comes, at Lone Pine on 6 August, Bean serially turns to the sporting arena to define the disposition of troops. As the men of the 1st Brigade excitedly congregated in the bays just prior to the attack, they are said to have ‘chaffed each other drily, after the manner of spectators waiting to see a football match’ (OH, II, 502). During the countdown prior to going over the parapet, the officers gave final words of advice to their men, while keeping an eye on their watches ‘as though they were starting a boat-race’ (OH, II, 502). Then, when the successful first wave of attackers stands alongside the edge of the enemy’s trench upon reaching it, they appear to observers as ‘a crowd not unlike that lining the rope round a cricket field’ (OH, II, 504).19
In the early volumes the sporting similes may be passed off as mere whimsy, ‘romantic fag-ends’ as the eminent literary historian H.M. Green called them.20 Yet they continue into the representation of the trench warfare on the Western Front, jarring in their wilful obsolescence. At the disastrous Battle of Fromelles—in which the AIF lost well over 5000 men in one day—the Australians are pictured ‘up on the parapet’, flinging their missiles ‘like cricketers throwing at a wicket’ (OH, III, 419). As the Official History moved from Gallipoli to France, and the body count grew and grew and the horror deepened, Bean refused to deviate from his view of war as the making of a man and the making of Australia.
The Official History, then, is not so much an organic narrative, but one written rather like a thesis. This is confirmed by Martin Ball’s startling revelation that the rousing coda to the sixth volume, with its thunderous rhetorical applause of the ‘great-hearted’ men of the AIF—passing into history but ‘for their nation, a possession for ever’—was written not in 1942 but in 1919, and intended for the opening passage of the first chapter of the very first volume.21
Certainly, the Official History is a work of epic dimension and ambition. But is it an Australian Iliad? One defers again to Ezra Pound’s pithy definition of what makes for epic poetry: ‘An epic is a poem including history.’22 Retracing one’s steps through the vast expanses of Bean’s work reveals that, visionary as it is in the intensity of its patriotic purpose, it contains too little ‘poetry’ and too much ‘history’. And an oppressively biased history at that. The Iliad’s poetry captures and radiates a universal human intensity that transcends communal preoccupations and sympathies. Instead of the revelation of a dazzling new world, in the sense implied by Keats’s response to first encountering Chapman’s Homer, re-reading Bean exposes the work—so grand in scope and spirit—as a sepia-toned kaleidoscope of narrow parochialism.
Perhaps the most conclusive criticism of the Official History comes from a possibly predictable but nevertheless authoritative source, the British official historian of the First World War, General Sir James Edmonds. Writing to Bean in 1928 concerning the description of the bloody fighting at Pozières in the third volume, Edmonds complained that his antipodean counterpart ‘left the impression that there was nothing going on elsewhere and only the Australians were doing anything’.23 It is a telling insight into the central flaw of Bean’s Official History, and one that can be reapplied to the problematically partisan way the national war experience continues to be represented and understood in Australia more generally. •
- All references from the Official History refer to the digitised editions on the Australian War Memorial website. See <https://awm.gov.au/histories/>.
- The New Statesman praise is quoted in Reveille, 1 April 1935, p. 33. Observer review quoted in Melbourne Herald, 13 February 1922.
- See also, for example, Phillip Bradley (ed.), Charles Bean’s Gallipoli Illustrated (2014) and Kevin Fewster (ed.), Bean’s Gallipoli, a new edition (2009) of the work Frontline Gallipoli, first published in 1983. A fictional Bean appears in the television mini-series Deadline Gallipoli, scheduled to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the Anzac Landings. Bean was also the subject of a television documentary, Charles Bean’s Great War, which appeared in late 2010. The military historian, the late Jeffrey Grey, in a review of the Bradley and Coulthart works, writes that it is ‘little short of bizarre that at the centenary we still have no serious examination’ of Bean’s work as official historian. See Sydney Morning Herald, 21 November 2014.
- See Martin Ball, ‘The Story of the Story of Anzac’, PhD thesis, University of Tasmania 22708 (2001). The Official History was never a big seller despite being written with a general rather than specialist readership in mind. Sales ranged from 17,000 to 22,000. See David Walker and Peter Spearritt (eds), Australian Popular Culture, George Allen & Unwin, Sydney, 1979, p. 143.
- H.M. Green observed that ‘no literary product of the Australian nineties and early nineteen-hundreds, not even Furphy’s or Lawson’s, is more imbued with the fundamental principle of democratic nationalism’. See A History of Australian Literature, vol. 1, 1789–1923, Angus & Robertson, Sydney, 1961, p. 738.
- Dudley McCarthy, Gallipoli to the Somme: The Story of C.E.W. Bean, John Ferguson, Sydney, 1983, p. 106.
- I have to include myself among the ranks of error-makers: Robin Gerster, Big-noting: The Heroic Theme in Australian War Writing, Melbourne University Press, Melbourne, 1987, p. 67. See Ball, ‘The Story of the Story of Anzac’, pp. 217, 220.
- Ball, ‘The Story of the Story of Anzac’, pp. 199–200, 221.
- Winston Churchill, The World Crisis, 1915, vol. 2, Australasian Publishing Co., Sydney, 1923, p. 316.
- Alistair Thomson, Anzac Memories: Living with the Legend, Oxford University Press, Melbourne, 1994, p. 144.
- Ball, ‘The Story of the Story of Anzac’, p. 226; Bean, chapter 3, ‘The A.I.F.’, pp. 37–63.
- Ball, ‘The Story of the Story of Anzac’, p. 228.
- McCarthy, Gallipoli to the Somme, pp. 95, 154 (twice), 249.
- See Gerster, Big-noting, p. 70.
- C.E.W. Bean, ‘AUSTRALIA. VII—the Australian Ideal’, Sydney Morning Herald, 13 July 1907, p. 5.
- See C.E.W. Bean, ‘Hate Campaign’, letter to the editor, Sydney Morning Herald, 31 March 1942.
- Gerster, Big-noting, pp. 79–80.
- See Paul Fussell, The Great War and Modern Memory, Oxford University Press, London, pp. 25–6.
- Describing the mutual respect between the antagonists at Gallipoli, Bean says that the attitude of the Anzac troops towards individual Turks was ‘that of opponents in a friendly game’. See OH, II, 162.
- Green, A History of Australian Literature, vol. 1, p. 751.
- See Martin Ball, ‘Re-reading Bean’s Last Paragraph’, Australian Historical Studies, vol. 34, no. 122 (2003), pp. 231–47.
- Ezra Pound quoted in Paul Merchant, The Epic, Methuen, London, 1971, p. 1.
- Edmonds to Bean, 24 January 1928, Australian War Memorial 38, 3 DRL 7953, item 34; original research by Martin Ball: see ‘The Story of the Story of Anzac’, p. 206.