C.E.W. Bean Prize

Entries will open for the 2020 CEW Bean Prize for Military History in June, 2020

Australian Engineers watch a Matilda tank crossing one of their rapidly constructed bridges on the Toko-Darara Road, Bougainville.  Image courtesy Army Museum of North Queensland, AMNQ 4489_51
Australian Engineers watch a Matilda tank crossing one of their rapidly constructed bridges on the Toko-Darara Road, Bougainville. Image courtesy Army Museum of North Queensland, AMNQ 4489_51
Australian Engineers watch a Matilda tank crossing one of their rapidly constructed bridges on the Toko-Darara Road, Bougainville. Image courtesy Army Museum of North Queensland, AMNQ 4489_51

The CEW Bean Prize invites applications from Honours and Postgraduate students who have completed their theses in the 2018, 2019 and 2020 calendar years in any Australian university, focusing on the history of the Australian Army.  Theses entered in previous years are ineligible to apply.

For details of the prize and eligibility conditions, please read the brochure (PDF, 1.4MB).

For enquiries or further information, please email ahu.enquiries@defence.gov.au


2019 Competition Winners

The winning theses for the 2019 CEW Bean Prize for Military History have been selected.  The independent assessment panel were extremely pleased with the quality of applications received for 2019.

The Australian Army would like to congratulate the two winners:

Robert Wyse  (Honours Division)

Suspicious Minds: Official Australian Attitudes Towards Korean War POWs

Honours Thesis - University of Newcastle

This highly original and thoroughly researched thesis explores the fascinating, historically important and under-researched topic of official Australian attitudes to Korean POWs. Using a combination of published diaries, Army personnel files, secondary sources and newly available source material, this thesis argues that the experiences of Korean War POWs was uniquely shaped by official Australian responses to Chinese methods of indoctrination and strong anti-Communist sentiment of the time. This thesis provides a detailed overview of the political background to the period of the Korean War before embarking on a structured analysis around the main themes: the circumstances of capture, captivity itself and repatriation.

It examines the circumstances of capture and imprisonment of each of the sixteen Australian servicemen held in captivity, examining North Korean mechanisms to control captive soldiers: segregation in different camps, many near the Chinese border, the use of violence and torture or even mass executions (applied to ROK and American soldiers), starvation, withholding of medical treatment, denied entry by the International Committee of the Red Cross to POW camps in North Korea and mail censorship. This thesis then goes on to explore the repatriation experience of POWs and the suspicion and scrutiny they were subjected to by their own authorities. Linking these experiences to global attitudes towards communism, anti-communist sentiment in Australia in the 1950s and Australian Army attitudes effectively contextualises the experiences of Korean War POWs and provides a fresh perspective on a little-known element of Australian military history.

The thesis is well organised and well referenced, and produces a structured analysis leading to a logical conclusion. It is extremely well written and argued at a highly scholarly level.

Gregory Blake (Postgraduate Division)

The Australian Army’s Independent Companies and Commandos 1940-1945

PhD - University of New South Wales, Canberra

Gregory Blake’s dissertation represents an interesting and informative account of an important development in the history of the Australian Army.  By examining the Independent Companies more broadly (rather than via a case study approach), and situating their genesis and evolution against the military and political context of the war years, this thesis presents a comprehensive study that fills a gap in the historiography of the Australian Army. In particular, it adds much to our understanding of how these units were managed by the Australian Army during the Second World War. This dissertation is outstanding for its excellent use of a multitude of original sources including photographs, quotations and anecdotes - from Australia, the UK and the USA - which are managed to present intelligent and mature arguments as well as humanise the men of the Independent Companies and Commandos.

The Introduction sets out the scope and limitations of the thesis, with each section within this chapter proving informative.  The literature review is well written and comprehensive. The subject matter is sliced different ways to show and discuss models of commando warfare, assess the Companies/Commandos’ resources (human, capital and financial), and environmental and cultural aspects that have a bearing on the discussion. Importantly, this thesis does not hesitate to be critical where it counts. Conclusions drawn in this thesis demonstrate a strong engagement with a range of scholarly sources, and identify many interesting areas for further study. It is a highly professional and engaging thesis worthy of future publication or research.

The two winners each receive an inscribed medallion, a $500 cash prize, and personally receive their awards at the 2020 Chief of Army Land Forces Seminar

Visit the Australian War Memorial for further information on C.E.W. Bean.

The CEW Bean Prize is open to any honours or postgraduate thesis submitted in any Australian University in the previous three calendar years (2017, 2018, 2019) that focuses on the history of the Australian Army and has not been entered for the CEW Bean Prize in a previous year.

For queries or more information, please email: ahu.enquiries@defence.gov.au.

Applications for the 2020 CEW Bean Prize will open in June 2020.


2018 Competition Winners

The two winning theses for the 2018 CEW Bean Prize for Military History have been determined.  The independent assessment panel were extremely pleased with the quality of applications received for 2018. The two winners each receive an inscribed medallion, a $500 cash prize, and personally receive their awards at the 2019 Chief of Army History Conference Dinner, Royal Military College Officers' Mess, Duntroon, Canberra. Details and citations of the two winners are listed below.

Jordan Beavis (Honours Division)

Studying with Very Great Interest: Information Linkages between the Australian and British Armies in the Interwar Period (1919-1939)
Honours Thesis, University of Newcastle

Citation

Jordan Beavis’ well-constructed thesis addresses the ways in which the Australian Army drew on the British Army in the context of imperial defence during the interwar period. The thesis shines a light on an as-yet-undiscovered aspect of the Australian Army, and therefore provides new insights into the Army’s history and the broader topic of information exchange between and within militaries.  Beavis’ thesis stands out above the other entries for its sophisticated analysis, depth of research and engagement with an important subject matter.

Beavis examines three modes of information exchange within the British Empire: official, individual and informal. These three themes, dealt with in successive chapters, build on each other, making the argument well-balanced and clear. As a result, the final chapter, which examines informal networks such as military clubs and military literature, is particularly strong, and represents an original contribution to discussion of the interwar Australian Army.

The analysis in this thesis supports Beavis' conclusion that the Australian Army was not as isolated from military developments elsewhere in the Empire as is popularly supposed. The thesis is one of a lamentably few scholarly works that addresses the Australian Army in the interwar period. Most importantly, it demonstrates the efforts made in keeping channels of information sharing and learning active after 1919.

Beavis has a good command of the secondary literature and makes excellent use of the archival material. This thesis is an exceptional piece of historical research, and fulfils the requirements of the undergraduate category of the CEW Bean Prize for Military History

Aaron Pegram (Postgraduate Division)

Surviving the Great War: Australian Prisoners of War on the Western Front, 1916-1918
PhD, Australian National University

Citation

Aaron Pegram’s thesis provides the first comprehensive study of the well over 3,000 Australian prisoners of war of the Germans on the Western Front during the First World War. The thesis is based on deep empirical research, and he has been careful in his selection of sources, focusing on new or relatively unexamined material rather than relying on the oral histories created in the post-WWII period which are, necessarily, influenced by later ideas and tropes of captivity. In this way, Pegram provides fresh insights into the burgeoning field of captivity studies and takes a nuanced and innovative approach to it, adding significantly to this field of research.

The thesis is structured around the different phases of capture; this format, and Pegram’s strong writing style, make for an engaging and detailed examination of the experience of capture and imprisonment. As well as being well-crafted and drawing on extensive source material, this thesis represents a clear and important intervention in the literature, touching on a broad sweep of Australian First World War history, including the process of capture, wartime prisoner agreements, the Red Cross, prisoner escape and treatment in German captivity. In particular, Pegram explicitly places the process and experience of capture and imprisonment alongside the conduct of the war, stating that ‘capture was also a function of the dynamics of the battlefield’.

Additionally, and importantly, the thesis challenges the overused narrative of victimhood and trauma in military history, shedding light on the agency of these men and how they coped with their captivity. Pegram’s thesis is a worthy recipient of the CEW Bean Prize for Military History in the postgraduate category.

Further information is available on previous CEW Bean Prize recipients.