Brigadier General Henry Gordon Bennett

Service Numbers NX70343,N76069
Birth Date 16 April 1887
Birth Place Australia: Victoria, Melbourne, Balwyn
Death Date 01 August 1962
Death Place Australia: New South Wales, Dural
Final Rank Brigadier General
Units
Commonwealth of Australia Gazette 21 August 1917 on page 1781 at position 2
London Gazette 9 March 1917 on page 2448 at position 2

Gordon Bennett, born on 16 April 1887 at Balwyn, Melbourne, was Australia's most controversial Second World War commander. As a youth he attended Balwyn State School and Hawthorn College before becoming an actuarial clerk at the Australian Mutual Provident Society. He was commissioned into the Citizen Military Forces in 1908 at the age of 21 and posted to the 5th Infantry Regiment. In 1912 he was promoted to major.

Shortly after the First World War began Bennett transferred into the AIF; he embarked for Egypt in October 1914 as Second-in-Command of the 6th Battalion. He landed at Gallipoli early on the morning of 25 April 1915 and was wounded that afternoon. Having been evacuated to a hospital ship, Bennett took it upon himself to return to the line and quickly acquired a reputation for courage and leadership. He was involved in the 2nd Brigade's disastrous charge against Turkish positions at Krithia on 8 May and the next day was promoted to temporary lieutenant colonel, taking command of the 6th Battalion.

During the battalion's early operations on the Western Front Bennett alternated as battalion and acting brigade commander. He married Bessie Buchanan in November 1916 and in December was promoted again, to temporary brigadier, taking command of the 3rd Brigade. His reputation as an excellent front-line commander grew throughout 1917 and 1918 with his performances at Bullecourt, Passchendaele, and the Hindenburg Line. Alongside his reputation as a fine commander, however, Bennett also acquired among some of his fellow officers a very different reputation; as a jealous, prickly, and querulous individual.

After the war Bennett worked in Sydney as a clothing manufacturer and accountant. He sat on the State Repatriation Board and in October 1928 became one of three commissioners administering Sydney City. Between 1931-33 he presided over the New South Wales Chamber of Manufacturers. Bennett continued also in the military, taking command of the 2nd Division in 1926. But when the Second World War began he was furious at not being given command of the AIF; his difficult temperament made such an appointment impossible. Only in September 1940 was he given a divisional command, the 8th Division, which he led to Malaya in 1941.

Following the Japanese invasion of Malaya on 8 December 1941, Bennett had as little success preventing their southward advance as had his British counterparts. In February the Japanese reached Singapore and on the 15th of that month, as surrender negotiations took place, Bennett handed over command of his division and left the island. Some supporters applauded his escape but his claim that he left to pass on his knowledge about how to fight the Japanese - given his lack of success - failed to convince many. He was never given another field command and an enquiry after the war found he was not justified in leaving Singapore. Bennett's dreams of leading the Australian Army were ruined.

After the war Bennett took up farming near Sydney. He died at Dural, Sydney, on 1 August 1962.

Rolls

  • First World War Embarkation Roll

    Rank
    Major
    Place of Embarkation
    Melbourne
    Embarkation Ship
    HMAT Hororata A20
    Date of Embarkation
    19 October 1914
    Conflict
    First World War, 1914-1918

Honours & Awards

  • Honours and Awards:

    Award/Honour
    Distinguished Service Order
    Classification
    British/Australian gallantry awards
    Unit
    3rd Australian Infantry Brigade
    Conflict
    First World War, 1914-1918
    Rank
    Temporary Brigadier General
    London Gazette
    3 June 1919 on page 6821 at position 4
    Commonwealth Gazette
    15 September 1919 on page 1371 at position 21
  • Honours and Awards:

    Award/Honour
    Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George
    Classification
    Order of St Michael and St George
    Unit
    3rd Australian Infantry Brigade
    Conflict
    First World War, 1914-1918
    Rank
    Lieutenant Colonel
    London Gazette
    8 November 1915 on page 11026 at position 8
    Commonwealth Gazette
    27 January 1916 on page 157 at position 39
  • Honours and Awards:

    Award/Honour
    Companion of the Order of the Bath
    Classification
    Order of the Bath
    Unit
    3rd Australian Infantry Brigade
    Conflict
    First World War, 1914-1918
    Rank
    Temporary Brigadier General
    London Gazette
    1 January 1918 on page 2 at position 1
    Commonwealth Gazette
    18 April 1918 on page 845 at position 136
  • Honours and Awards:

    Award/Honour
    Mention in despatches
    Classification
    British/Australian gallantry awards
    Unit
    3rd Australian Infantry Brigade
    Conflict
    First World War, 1914-1918
    Rank
    Temporary Brigadier General
    London Gazette
    1 June 1917 on page 5419 at position 2
    Commonwealth Gazette
    4 October 1917 on page 2622 at position 24
  • Honours and Awards:

    Award/Honour
    Mention in despatches
    Classification
    British/Australian gallantry awards
    Unit
    6th Australian Infantry Battalion
    Conflict
    First World War, 1914-1918
    Rank
    Major
    London Gazette
    5 August 1915 on page 7668 at position 40
    Commonwealth Gazette
    28 October 1915 on page 2737 at position 2
  • Honours and Awards:

    Award/Honour
    Mention in despatches
    Classification
    British/Australian gallantry awards
    Unit
    6th Australian Infantry Battalion
    Conflict
    First World War, 1914-1918
    Rank
    Lieutenant Colonel
    London Gazette
    5 November 1915 on page 11002 at position 67
    Commonwealth Gazette
    27 January 1916 on page 156 at position 99
  • Honours and Awards:

    Award/Honour
    Mention in despatches
    Classification
    British/Australian gallantry awards
    Unit
    6th Australian Infantry Battalion
    Conflict
    First World War, 1914-1918
    Rank
    Lieutenant Colonel
    London Gazette
    4 January 1917 on page 254 at position 133
    Commonwealth Gazette
    29 June 1917 on page 1392 at position 66
  • Honours and Awards:

    Award/Honour
    Mention in despatches
    Classification
    British/Australian gallantry awards
    Unit
    3rd Australian Infantry Brigade
    Conflict
    First World War, 1914-1918
    Rank
    Temporary Brigadier General
    London Gazette
    28 December 1917 on page 13563 at position 3
    Commonwealth Gazette
    18 April 1918 on page 841 at position 7
  • Honours and Awards:

    Award/Honour
    Mention in despatches
    Classification
    British/Australian gallantry awards
    Unit
    3rd Australian Infantry Brigade
    Conflict
    First World War, 1914-1918
    Rank
    Temporary Brigadier General
    London Gazette
    28 May 1918 on page 6200 at position 3
    Commonwealth Gazette
    24 October 1918 on page 2055 at position 19
  • Honours and Awards:

    Award/Honour
    Mention in despatches
    Classification
    British/Australian gallantry awards
    Unit
    3rd Australian Infantry Brigade
    Conflict
    First World War, 1914-1918
    Rank
    Temporary Brigadier General
    London Gazette
    31 December 1918 on page 15225 at position 8
    Commonwealth Gazette
    23 May 1919 on page 878 at position 44
  • Honours and Awards:

    Award/Honour
    Mention in despatches
    Classification
    British/Australian gallantry awards
    Unit
    3rd Australian Infantry Brigade
    Conflict
    First World War, 1914-1918
    Rank
    Temporary Brigadier General
    London Gazette
    11 July 1919 on page 8826 at position 5
    Commonwealth Gazette
    30 October 1919 on page 1656 at position 114
  • Honours and Awards:

    Award/Honour
    Montenegrin Order of Danilo, Third Class
    Classification
    Montenegrin orders/awards/medals
    Unit
    3rd Australian Infantry Brigade
    Conflict
    First World War, 1914-1918
    Rank
    Temporary Brigadier General
    London Gazette
    9 March 1917 on page 2448 at position 2
    Commonwealth Gazette
    21 August 1917 on page 1781 at position 2
  • Honours and Awards (Recommendation):

    Unit
    6th Australian Infantry Battalion
    Conflict
    First World War, 1914-1918
    Rank
    Major
  • Honours and Awards (Recommendation):

    Unit
    6th Australian Infantry Battalion
    Conflict
    First World War, 1914-1918
    Rank
    Major
  • Honours and Awards (Recommendation):

    Unit
    6th Australian Infantry Battalion
    Conflict
    First World War, 1914-1918
    Rank
    Major
  • Honours and Awards (Recommendation):

    Award/Honour
    Mention in despatches
    Classification
    British/Australian gallantry awards
    Unit
    6th Australian Infantry Battalion
    Conflict
    First World War, 1914-1918
    Rank
    Major
  • Honours and Awards (Recommendation):

    Award/Honour
    Distinguished Service Order
    Classification
    British/Australian gallantry awards
    Date of Recommendation
    06 January 1919
    Unit
    3rd Australian Infantry Brigade
    Conflict
    First World War, 1914-1918
    Rank
    Colonel
  • Honours and Awards (Recommendation):

    Award/Honour
    Companion of the Order of the Bath
    Classification
    Order of the Bath
    Date of Recommendation
    26 September 1917
    Unit
    3rd Australian Infantry Brigade
    Conflict
    First World War, 1914-1918
    Rank
    Colonel
  • Honours and Awards (Recommendation):

    Award/Honour
    Brevet Lieutenant Colonel
    Classification
    Brevet/temporary/honorary/promotions in rank
    Date of Recommendation
    07 June 2017
    Unit
    3rd Australian Infantry Brigade
    Conflict
    First World War, 1914-1918
    Rank
    Major
  • Honours and Awards (Recommendation):

    Award/Honour
    Mention in despatches
    Classification
    British/Australian gallantry awards
    Date of Recommendation
    08 March 1918
    Unit
    3rd Australian Infantry Brigade
    Conflict
    First World War, 1914-1918
    Rank
    Colonel
  • Honours and Awards (Recommendation):

    Award/Honour
    Mention in despatches
    Classification
    British/Australian gallantry awards
    Date of Recommendation
    07 March 1917
    Unit
    3rd Australian Infantry Brigade
    Conflict
    First World War, 1914-1918
    Rank
    Brigadier General
  • Honours and Awards (Recommendation):

    Award/Honour
    Mention in despatches
    Classification
    British/Australian gallantry awards
    Date of Recommendation
    06 October 1916
    Unit
    6th Australian Infantry Battalion
    Conflict
    First World War, 1914-1918
    Rank
    Lieutenant Colonel
  • Honours and Awards (Recommendation):

    Award/Honour
    Brevet Colonel
    Classification
    Brevet/temporary/honorary/promotions in rank
    Unit
    City of Melbourne Regiment
    Conflict
    First World War, 1914-1918
    Rank
    Major
  • Honours and Awards (Recommendation):

    Award/Honour
    Distinguished Service Order
    Classification
    British/Australian gallantry awards
    Unit
    3rd Australian Infantry Brigade
    Conflict
    First World War, 1914-1918
    Rank
    Colonel
  • Honours and Awards (Recommendation):

    Unit
    6th Australian Infantry Battalion
    Conflict
    First World War, 1914-1918
    Rank
    Major
  • Honours and Awards (Recommendation):

    Unit
    1st Australian Division
    Conflict
    First World War, 1914-1918
    Rank
    Colonel
  • Honours and Awards (Recommendation):

    Unit
    6th Australian Infantry Battalion
    Conflict
    First World War, 1914-1918
    Rank
    Major
  • Honours and Awards (Recommendation):

    Unit
    1st Australian Division
    Conflict
    First World War, 1914-1918
    Rank
    Colonel
  • Honours and Awards (Recommendation):

    Award/Honour
    Mention in despatches
    Classification
    British/Australian gallantry awards
    Date of Recommendation
    28 September 1918
    Unit
    3rd Australian Infantry Brigade
    Conflict
    First World War, 1914-1918
    Rank
    Colonel
  • Honours and Awards (Recommendation):

    Unit
    6th Australian Infantry Battalion
    Conflict
    First World War, 1914-1918
    Rank
    Major

Timeline

Date of birth 1887-04-16 Balwyn, VIC.
Date commissioned 1908-08-14 Commissioned as a second lieutenant, 5th Australian Regiment.
Date promoted 1912-07-01 Promoted to major.
Other units 1914 Served as a major in the 64th Infantry.
Other 1914-08-14 Joined the Australian Imperial Force as second in command of the 6th Battalion.
Other 1914-10 6th Battalion embarked for Eygpt.
Date of embarkation 1914-10-19
Other 1915-04-25 Landed at Gallipoli. Bennett was wounded on Pine Ridge, while directing fire on the Turkish positions. He was evacuated to a hospital ship but rejoined his battalion on the front line the next day.
Other 1915-05-08 Involved in Second Battle of Krithia. The 6th Battalion suffered heavy loses. Bennett was the only original officer of the 6th who survived the battle.
Date promoted 1915-05-09 Bennett became commander of the 6th Battalion and was promoted to temporary lieutenant colonel.
Date of recommendation honour or award 1915-06-21
Date of honour or award 1915-08-05 Mention in Despatches, for services at Gallipoli.
Date of honour or award 1915-11-05 Mention in Despatches, for services at Gallipoli.
Date of honour or award 1915-11-08 Companion of the Order of Saint Michael and Saint George, for services at Gallipoli.
Date of recommendation honour or award 1916-10-06
Date promoted 1916-12-03 Temporary brigadier general in command of the 3rd Infantry Brigade. At 29 he became the youngest general ever in the Australian army.
Date of recommendation honour or award 1917
Date of honour or award 1917-01-04 Mention in Despatches, for services in France.
Date of recommendation honour or award 1917-03-07
Date of honour or award 1917-03-09 Montenegrin Order of Danilo - 3rd Class.
Date of honour or award 1917-06-01 Mention in Despatches, for services in France.
Date of recommendation honour or award 1917-09-26
Date of honour or award 1917-12-28 Mention in Despatches, for services in France.
Date of honour or award 1918-01-01 Companion of the Bath, for services in France.
Date of recommendation honour or award 1918-03-08
Date of honour or award 1918-05-28 Mention in Despatches.
Date of recommendation honour or award 1918-09-28
Date of honour or award 1918-12-31 Mention in Despatches, for services in France.
Date of recommendation honour or award 1919-01-06
Date returned to Australia 1919-05-15
Date of honour or award 1919-06-03 Distinguished Service Order.
Date of honour or award 1919-07-11 Mention in Despatches.
Other units 1921 - 1926 Bennett commanded the 9th Infantry Brigade.
Other units 1926 - 1932 Bennett commanded the 2nd Division.
Date promoted 1930-08-01 Promoted to major general.
Other units 1940-09-30 Bennett became General Officer Commanding 8th Division, Australian Imperial Force.
Other 1941 Bennett was posted to Malaya with the 8th Division.
Other 1941-02-15 Singapore was surrended to the Japanese. Bennett and several others managed to escape from Singapore and return to Australia.
Date promoted 1942-04-07 Lieutenant general in command of III Corps in Perth.
Date of discharge 1944-05-09 Transferred to the Reserve of Officers.
Date of death 1962-08-01 Dural, NSW.

Find out more about Brigadier General Henry Gordon Bennett