I went to meet Bob Fulton whose family moved there when he was nine. Bob’s father Walter had served in WWII and had run a fruit shop in Ashfield, while the family lived in Concord on Majors Bay Road. Bob remembers that all the fruit prices were fixed and it was very hard for his father to make a living.
In Darkes Forest they lived on 15 acres and grew vegetables and fruit. Bob played in the bush, with its local creek and waterfall. His parents have since died and now he visits their home each weekday to look after the grounds.
After WWII Bob’s father purchased a full set of Charles Bean’s Official War Histories of Australia in the War of 1914 – 1918 and several of them have never even been opened. They are tenth editions printed in 1940 and hard bound and purchased circa 1944. In the garage Bob discovered the original hard cardboard post boxes his father had kept that each volume came in, so he placed each one back in its own box.
Six of the volumes were written by Charles Bean. They cover the Story of Anzac (Vol I & II), AIF in France 1916 (Vol III), AIF in France 1917 (Vol IV), AIF in France 1918 (Vol V) and the last, Vol VI has no label, so without opening it I’m not sure of its subject matter.
Five other volumes were written variously by Gullett, Cutlack, Jose, Mackenzie, and Scott, and edited by Bean. They cover conflicts in Sinai, Palestine and Rabaul and the Australian Flying Corps and the Royal Australian Navy. There is also a 12th volume, a photographic record of WWI, annoted by Bean and Gullett.
I met Bob through his old childhood friend Ian who moved to Darkes Forest with his family when Ian was ten. Ian’s son Craig has been a friend of ours since 1995. Ian and his wife Fay are in Sydney from South West Rocks while Fay undergoes surgery, and Ian is staying at the old Darkes Forest property for a few weeks. It was while I was visiting Fay in hospital that Ian told me of the Charles Bean books that Bob had.
Charles Edwin Woodrow Bean was born on 18 November 1879 in Bathurst. His family moved to England when he was ten but he returned to Australia in 1904. He was the SMH’s lead writer when WWI began and he won the Australian Journalists Association ballot and became Australia’s official war historian.
Bean was at the landing on Gallipoli on 25 April 1917. While there he was wounded but remained on, only leaving days before the last troops. Afterwards he followed the Australians onto the Western Front. After witnessing those horrific battles he formed the desire to memorialise their sacrifice and achievements.
Bean wrote of the Diggers in Pozieres: “They have to stay there while shell after huge shell descends with a shriek close beside them. Each one, an acute mental torture — each shrieking tearing crash bringing a promise to each man — instantaneous — I will tear you into ghastly wounds — I will rend your flesh and pulp your arm or a leg — fling you, half a gaping, quivering man and like these that you see smashed around you one by one to lie there rotting and blackening.’’
Throughout the war, Bean filled hundreds of diaries and notebooks, with the idea of writing a history of the AIF when the war ended, for which he is best remembered. After the war he began the work on the official history series that would consume the next two decades of his life. The books pictured are the fruits of his labours.
Charles Bean was also the driving force behind the creation of the Australian War Memorial in Canberra and was present when it opened on 11 November 1941. He became Chairman of the Memorial's board in 1952 and maintained a close association with it for the rest of his life.
Charles Edwin Woodrow Bean died in Concord Repatriation Hospital on 30 August 1968. This is the very same hospital where my partner Stelios has worked as a theatre nurse since 2004.