Bennett was an Australian soldier who served as a Brigadier during World War I but was not on active duty between the wars. He was loud in his criticism of the regular army and especially British officers, but in 1939 he returned to the Army and was made the youngest Major General on the active list. He was given command of a Training Depot initially but in February 1941 he was made General Officer Commanding of the AIF (Australian Imperial Forces) in Malaya—his 8th Division was stationed at Johore. The Australians tried to hold the Japanese on the River Muar and scored some early success by digging deep traps in the jungle. However they were forced to retreat to Singapore where they engaged in the final battle with the Japanese on the northwest of the island. When the situation became desperate Bennett decided to escape without informing his superior, General PERCIVAL. He made his way in a junk to Batavia and returned to Australia. He was promoted to Lieutenant General in April 1942 but subsequently faced severe criticism for abandoning his forces and was never given another active command. After the war a military court of inquiry ruled that he should have remained in Singapore.