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Henry Gordon Bennett

From Academic Kids

Henry Gordon Bennett (April 16, 1887August 1, 1962) was an Australian soldier who served in both World War I and World War II. Despite highly decorated achievements during World War I, including at Gallipoli, Bennett is best remembered for his role in the Fall of Singapore in the Pacific War when, as commander of the 8th Division, he escaped while his men became POWs of the Japanese.

Bennett was born in Melbourne in 1887 and worked as a clerk with an insurance company. At the outbreak of World War I in 1914, Bennett was a major in a Melbourne militia battalion. He volunteered to serve with the First Australian Imperial Force and was appointed second-in-command of the 6th Battalion, which was part of the 2nd (Victorian) Infantry Brigade.

Contents

Gallipoli

During the landing at Anzac Cove on April 25, 1915, Bennett fought on the southern flank of the Anzac beachhead. He led 300 men of his battalion to an advanced position on Pine Ridge, south of Lone Pine. While directing the defence of this position, Bennett was wounded in the wrist and forced to retire to the beach for treatment. When the Turkish forces counter-attacked in the evening, the 6th Battalion force on Pine Ridge was isolated and wiped out to the last man.

Instead of accepting evacuation on a hospital ship, Bennett returned to his battalion. In early May, the 2nd Brigade was selected to move to Cape Helles to reinforce the British forces for the Second Battle of Krithia. On May 8, Bennett advanced with his battalion in impossible conditions. Bennett was the only officer of the 6th, and one of few in the 2nd Brigade, to survive the advance unscathed and with a handful of men, he achieved the furthest advance of the attack. He became commander of the 6th Battalion the next day.

Back at Anzac on August 7, the 6th Battalion was involved in one of the supporting attacks at the start of the Battle of Sari Bair. While the best known attack was made by the Australian 3rd Light Horse Brigade at the Nek, the 6th was required to make a similar attack against a neighbouring Turkish position known as German Officers' Trench from which machine guns enfiladed the Australian positions as far north as the Nek. Two failed attempts were made to capture the trench. A third attempt was organised and Bennett resolved to lead it himself but fortunately the commander of the 1st Division, Major General H.B. Walker, agreed to abandon the attack.

Western Front

When the 1st Division moved to France in 1916, Bennett led the 6th Battalion through the Battle of Pozières. After the 1st and 3rd Brigades had captured the town on July 24, 1916, the 6th and 8th Battalions of the 2nd Brigade moved in to occupy the ruins where they had to endure a prolonged artillery bombardment. Bennett's battalion HQ was in a log hut. The hut received six direct hits from shells but survived due to the debris that had accumulated around it. Shortly after Bennett relocated his HQ the hut was finally demolished. On July 26 Bennett protested at the conditions his men had to endure, reporting:

My men are being unmercifully shelled. They cannot hold out if an attack is launched. The firing line and my headquarters are being plastered with heavy guns and the town is being swept by shrapnel. I myself am O.K. but the front line is being buried.

In the capture of Poziéres, Bennett's 6th Battalion suffered 190 casualties, the least by a considerable margin of the 12 battalions in the 1st Division.

On December 3, 1916, he was given command of the 3rd Infantry Brigade and promoted to brigadier general, becoming at 29, the youngest general in the Australian army. He led the brigade for the remainder of the war on the Western Front.

World War II

Fall of Singapore

To be completed

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