Shortlist year: 2015

Shortlist category: Australian history

Published by: HarperCollins Publishers

CEW Bean's wartime reports and photographs mythologised the Australian soldier and helped spawn the notion that the Anzacs achieved something nation-defining on the shores of Gallipoli and the battlefields of western Europe.

In his quest to get the truth, Bean often faced death beside the Diggers in the trenches of Gallipoli and the Western Front—and saw more combat than many. But did Bean tell Australia the whole story of what he knew?

In this fresh new biography Coulthart explores the man behind the legend.

About the author

Ross Coulthart

Ross Coulthart is one of Australia's leading investigative journalists. He has won a Logie and five Walkley journalism awards including the Gold Walkley.

Ross is the author of Lost Diggers. Like CEW Bean, Ross Coulthart studied law, became a journalist and has covered conflicts in hostile war zones such as East Timor, Iraq and Afghanistan.

He has always admired Bean's courage and scrupulous honesty, and now he brings his journalist's eye to the real story of the man who was one of Australia's earliest embedded war reporters.

Judges’ comments

The book offers a highly readable re-evaluation of Charles Bean as official war correspondent with Australian Imperial Force troops during World War One, as major post-war historian, and the dedicated founder of the Australian War Memorial.

Truthful reports from the front should have included the suicidal commands and subsequent carnage of Australian troops, for example at The Nek. However, such accounts were in conflict with support for the Australian war effort and morale back home.

Bean's predicament, his regrets concerning self-censorship, and his later sweeping revisions are central to this biography, as are his time-bound bigotries. CEW Bean's moral journey challenged the mythology that helped forge national identity. His wartime dilemmas hold lessons for embedded journalists toda