Hero or Deserter?
Major-General Gordon Bennett played a decisive role in the defence of Malaya and Singapore in World War II. A colourful character, known to sport a straw hat with a rainbow scarf tied around it, his officers found him at times abrasive and cocky, but he was also known as an outstanding commander. He is, however, best remembered for his escape by boat from Singapore in the dying days of the Japanese invasion, which led to the imprisonment of 15,000 Australian servicemen. Bennett's decision to leave his men to their fate is one of the most controversial episodes in the fall of the island. Though he was exonerated by Prime Minister John Curtin on his return to Australia, 8th Division's commander was never forgiven by the military's top brass for what many viewed as a clear case of desertion. While Bennett alone cannot be blamed for the defeat - there were many other factors, including Britain's military failings in both tactics and defence - he was and remains a ready scapegoat. In this vivid and comprehensive history of the 8th Division and its stoic force of fighting men, Roger Maynard investigates their conflicted leader, whose reputation as an outstanding soldier was shattered by war's end. He also examines Bennett's legacy through the prism of today's military standards to establish whether he was, indeed, a hero or deserter.
Roger Maynard has spent nearly four decades working as a journalist and foreign correspondent. After starting his career in local newspapers in Britain he joined the BBC as a reporter and worked extensively for radio and television in the UK, including four years on Radio Four's flagship current affairs program Today. Since making his home in Australia in 1987 he has worked as Sydney correspondent for The Times, the Guardian, ITN and CNBC Asia. He has covered many of the world's top stories including the crisis in East Timor, the Three Mile Island nuclear scare, the clash between the Rainbow Warrior and the French Navy in the Pacific, and the Tampa affair. For many years Maynard was London correspondent for a chain of Australian radio stations including 2UE in Sydney, 6PR in Perth and 4BC in Brisbane, and has reported on general elections in Britain and Australia. His interviewees have included John Howard, Bob Hawke, Paul Keating, Margaret Thatcher, Charlton Heston, Omar Sharif, Richard Branson, Jeffrey Archer and countless other big names. Maynard is author of Milat, the bestselling book about the serial killer responsible for the horrific backpacker murders; Where's Peter?, an exhaustive investigation into the events surrounding the disappearance of Peter Falconio in the remote outback; and Life at the Top, a portrait of some of Australia's best known business leaders.