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C.E.W. Bean Prize

The annual C.E.W. Bean Prize for Military History is awarded to the best honours or postgraduate thesis submitted in any Australian university focusing the history of the Australian Army and has not been entered for the CEW Bean Prize in a previous year. Entries for the 2019 CEW Bean Prize for Military History are now closed. Applications for the 2020 CEW Bean Prize will open in June 2020.

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

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.

Caption: 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

For details of the prize and eligibility conditions, please read the brochure.

For enquiries or further information, please email ahu.enquiries [at]


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 [at]

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

For more information regarding previous CEW Bean Prize recipients click here. 

Last updated
12 February 2020
Army: Courage. Initiative. Respect. Teamwork.
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