The official Australian war correspondent, Charles Bean is idealistic, honest, and whiter than white. And that's exactly why he's disliked by most of the very soldiers he's covering. They like to get drunk, get merry and get into the occasional violent scrape, while Bean... well, Bean likes to peer at them through his spectacles with all the sharp disapproval of a classroom monitor. And even when he isn't complaining about the "idiot" troops, he's often found hovering awkwardly at parties, like he's waiting for a bus. Not exactly the life and soul, really.
Charles Bean's style of journalism is as straight-laced as his appearance. Passionate, gutsy writing isn't his thing. Instead he types out bland, textbook copy about various battles. This is why he's regarded as an asset by the top military brass, who see him as a sort of puppet to distribute the official propaganda line on the war. They want him to write that it's a glorious campaign being fought by unflinchingly brave soldiers. But there's more to Bean than meets the eye. Despite coming across like an overgrown teacher's pet, he soon begins to question his orders, and devote himself to writing the truth. Whatever the cost.
Phillip Schuler is a glutton for punishment. Or perhaps just an artist dedicated to his craft. A talented photographer, back in the days when photography was in its infancy, he has no official business heading to the bloody brutality of the Ottoman campaign, but he deliberately makes it his business. He's used all his ingenuity to get there under his own steam, determined to follow the fellows right to the front.
Handsome and cocky, Schuler has an eye for a good landscape - and an eye for pretty girls too. His wry, no-nonsense charm is well deployed whenever he mingles with the army nurses, even if he does sometimes get accused of being a mere "tourist". It's an unfair accusation, because Schuler is serious about covering the ugliest aspects of the war. It's a devotion that will cost him dearly.
He may have been beaten to the post of official Australian war reporter by Charles Bean, but that little detail doesn't stop journalist Keith Murdoch from working his way to where the action is. As dedicated and driven as the other three men, Murdoch also shares their absolute, 100% desire to report the facts as they are, rather than the facts as the military leaders want it to be. Always a dangerous business when the powers-that-be are desperate to make Gallipoli sound like a noble endeavor rather than the mess it actually becomes.
It's here that Murdoch will meet his destiny, as he befriends Ashmead-Bartlett and becomes involved in a daring attempt to alter the course of the whole conflict. You won't see Murdoch for a while - he doesn't appear in Deadline Gallipoli until the second part - but in some ways he is the most fascinating character of all. And not just because he would go on to be the father of a certain media baron: Rupert Murdoch.
He may be a fellow journalist, but Ellis Ashmead-Bartlett is the polar opposite of Charles Bean in every possible way. His writing is thrilling and creative, for one thing. And, as his almost comically posh-sounding name implies, Ashmead-Bartlett is a dashing aristocratic chap, just as comfortable in exclusive hotel suites and members' clubs as he is on the front lines. In fact, the first time we see him, he's lolling about in a haze of hedonism, with a Champagne hangover and a beautiful woman next to him. A beautiful married woman, in fact. Yes, Ellis Ashmead-Bartlett is a true cad in the classic fashion. He even has the moustache to prove it.
Ashmead-Bartlett thinks of war as a big jolly adventure, like something from a boy's own novel. He's used his shrapnel wounds as a pulling gimmick, boasting that "women melt like warm honey" when they set eyes on his scars. But he's about to get a rude awakening in Gallipoli, where the sheer carnage will bring out his sense of justice. Much to the anger of the war leaders who'd much rather he was silenced.