C. E. W. Bean (1879-1968)

“And if ships must fight and men must dare,
The old red wall will send its share.”

[The Brentwoodian, December 1912, p. 2]

These are the words of the school song ‘The Old Red Wall’, written by Charles Edwin Woodrow Bean in 1912. C. E. W. Bean was the son of Headmaster Edwin Bean (1891-1913) and a pupil at the School 1891-94. At the time he wrote ‘The Old Red Wall’, he was working in London as a reporter for the Sidney Morning Herald and living with his parents at Brentwood School.

When war broke out the next year, C. E. W. Bean was appointed the official press representative for the Australian government at the front [December 1914, p. 1.]. He is well known as the editor of the 12-volume Official History of Australia in the War of 1914-1918 (and author of the first 6 volumes). He is also renowned as a founder of the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.

There are many references to, and contributions by, C. E. W. Bean in the Brentwoodian, which reflect not only C. E. W.’s affection for the School he attended for four years and that his father governed, but also the School’s fondness for this Old Brentwood.

C. E. W. contributed a story about a robbery by bushrangers in Goulbourn, New South Wales, in 1867 to the Brentwoodian [December 1905, p. 6].

In April 1911, while he was staying at the School, C. E. W. gave a lantern lecture on Australia and also devised the garden scene for the School’s production of The Merchant of Venice. [April 1911, p. 2 and p. 7]

In July 1912, he acted as Superintendent of the Oxford Local Examinations, and was also credited with having invented an ‘ingenious bowling machine’ [July 1912 p. 2].

C. E. W.’s concern to improve the School’s performance in cricket is also revealed in an article he wrote about the back stroke and forward stroke [June 1913, p. 4]. In the same issue of the Brentwoodian, he is reported to have given an “illuminating lecture, with clever diagrams, on the Making of the Navy” [June 1913, p. 12].

Even after his father retired as Headmaster and went to live in Tasmania, C. E. W. kept in regular contact with Brentwood School. In a letter to the School dated 15 February 1915, C. E. W. reported on his new appointment as the official correspondent for the Commonwealth of Australia [March 1915, p. 3]. When news of the death of Arthur Beresford Jebb reached him, he wrote of his grief in a letter, with many memories of the pluck and courage “little Jebb” had shown at school [July 1916, p. 2].

Want to find out more?

There is an entry for C. E. W. Bean in the Australian Dictionary of Biography:


The Australian War Memorial website has a biography, photographs, and a catalogue of the archives relating to C. E. W. Bean which are held there:


Charles Bean