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Friday, 27 March 1942


Mr FORDE (CAPRICORNIA, QUEENSLAND) (Minister for the Army) - Since Major-General Gordon Bennett returned, he has been fully occupied in preparing a report for me, as Minister for the Army, on the campaign in Malaya and Singapore. Office accommodation and a staff have been provided for him for that purpose. A special request was made by the British War Office for a comprehensive report by Major-General Bennett on the whole Malayan campaign, together with any suggestions and recommendations he was disposed to make in the light of the knowledge which he had gained in the course of the campaign. I have not yet been advised that the reports are completed, but I understand that if not already finished, they are nearing completion. When Major-General Bennett returned to Australia, he attended a meeting of the War Cabinet which was also attended by Chiefs of Staff. He made a full, frank, and fearless statement regarding the whole Malayan campaign and the surrender at Singapore and explained that he had left Singapore two hours after the time of surrender. The unanimous feeling of members of the War Cabinet and of Chiefs of Staff, after hearing the explanation, was one of absolute confidence in Major-General Bennett. When an army surrenders, the leaders are taken away from the men, and are thereafter not allowed to see them or to have any influence with them. There is a mistaken idea that they are allowed to remain with the men after capture, and may, therefore, be in a position to influence the treatment which the men receive. That is not so. As a matter of fact, the higher the rank of an officer the less likelihood there is of his being allowed to remain in contact with his men. I have discussed the matter with leading members of the Military Board, and they are unanimously of the opinion that, as Major-General Bennett remained in Singapore until after the time of surrender, he must be completely exonerated, and that there is no ground for the laying of any charge against him. The opinion was expressed that he will be of much more use to Australia by coming here, having regard to the intimate knowledge which he has gained of the tactics employed by the Japanese, and that this should justify his appointment to an active command in the future. I assure the honorable member that full consideration is being given to the claims of other gallant officers returning from the Middle East in the making of important appointments that will have to be made to the very much enlarged Australian Army now available to defend the country.







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