Bean sailed with the First Australian Imperial Force (AIF) troops to Egypt and went with them to Gallipoli where he was wounded in action but refused to be evacuated. He acted as a messenger and brought in wounded under fire. He was recommended for the Military Cross, but as a civilian he was ineligible to receive it. After the evacuation of Gallipoli in December 1915 Bean was with the AIF in France for the remainder of the war.
After the war Bean produced The Official History of Australia in the War of 1914-1918, in twelve volumes.. He wrote six of volumes himself, as well as the single volume summary Anzac to Amiens.
These works were described by literary historian H.M.Green as being unique in Australia. Green considered it to be '. . . Indispensable to the student of what was, along with federation, one of the two great shaping movements in the Australia of the period . . . What . . . Matters most about The Official History of Australia in the War of 1914-18 is its narrative account of a particular body or bodies of men, of their life, their experiences, their behaviour under the stress of a great war. As a social history it is indeed of the first rank; but its scope extends beyond that of the social historian into that of the general sociologist, for few such analyses of human life and behaviour in particular circumstances had been hitherto attempted;there is here a mine of material concerning not only the Australian character . . . But also the characteristics of Australian life during the period....'
Bean was also instrumental in the establishment to the Australian War Memorial in Canberra, Australia. As well as a memorial to all Australians who have served their country, the AWM is a museum and record repository.
The Official History of Australia in the War of 1914-1918. C.E.W.Bean. University of Queensland Press (ISBN 0 7022 1586 4)
The Greats. The fifty Men & Women Who Shaped Australia. Angus & Robertson. (ISBN 020715337X)