Review note: Australian war correspondents and war historians

‘Review note: Australian war correspondents and war historians’, Honest History, 20 June 2014 and updated

CEW Bean, the eminent war historian, began as a war correspondent. His work is represented by selections from his diary, the Official History, and the shorter Anzac to Amiens. His Gallipoli colleague, Phillip Schuler, wrote Australia in Arms. The ABC did a program on Schuler and the National Library has some background on the Great War correspondents. Mark Baker writes.

After Gallipoli, Bean showed his skill at what we would now call ‘spin doctoring’, assiduously cultivating a particular view of the Australian soldier. Today, the CEW Bean Foundation helps cultivate a particular view of Australian war correspondents and it plans a memorial to them.

Until that memorial is built, a long article by Alan Ramsey stands as a bitter sweet memoir of not only Bean but also Gavin Long, Dudley McCarthy and other correspondents and authors of our war histories. Ramsey concludes with a long extract from the final volume of Bean’s Official History which, Ramsey notes, ‘trowels on the rich rhetoric of death and glory that would feed the Bronzed Anzac legend, and still does so 65 years later’.

That famous army of generous men marches still [Ramsey quotes Bean], down the long lane of its country’s history, with bands playing and rifles slung, with packs on shoulders, white dust on boots, and bayonet scabbards and entrenching tools flapping on countless thighs. What these men did, nothing can alter now. The good and the bad, the greatness and smallness of their story, will stand. Whatever of glory it contains, nothing can now lessen. It rises, as it will always rise, above the mists of ages, a monument to great-hearted men. And, for their nation, a possession forever.

‘Remember Charley Bean this Anzac Day’, Ramsey urges. ‘He has much to answer for.’ Gerster and Broadbent comment on the booster role played by Australian war correspondents. Annabelle Lukin writes in 2014 about how journalists go AWOL when governments go to war.

Apart from Bean and the other men, there was Lorraine Stumm, the first Australian female war correspondent, who escaped from Singapore as it fell, went on to report parts of the war in the Pacific, lost her air force husband in the final days of the war and wrote her autobiography, titled I Saw Too Much.

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