Shortlist year: 2015

Shortlist category: Australian history

Published by: Allen & Unwin

Descent into Hell is the definitive story of the Australian campaign in Southeast Asia during World War II.

This account unpicks the myths and legends of the Malayan Campaign, the fall of Singapore and the subsequent horrors of the Thai-Burma Railway, going to the heart of Australian experience.

About the author

Peter Brune

Peter Brune is one of Australia's leading military historians. He is author of the bestselling and highly acclaimed A Bastard of a Place: the Australians in Papua, as well as Those Ragged Bloody Heroes: from the Kokoda Trail to Gona Beach 1942The Spell Broken: exploding the myth of Japanese invincibility and We Band of Brothers: a biography of Ralph Honner, soldier and statesman.

He also co-authored 200 Shots: Damien Parer and George Silk and the Australians at War in New Guinea with Neil McDonald. He lives in Adelaide.

Judges’ comments

This is a well written, painstakingly researched, and deeply felt inquiry into one of the most controversial and calamitous episodes in Australian history—the fall of Singapore to Japanese forces in February 1942.

Brune's account examines General Gordon Bennett's escape from Singapore and his subsequent fate including the military court of inquiry; the behaviour of Australian troops in Singapore Town in the days before the capitulation to Japanese forces; and the 8th Australian Division's performance—in the Malayan Campaign, in Changi and on the Thai-Burma Railway.

An anguished and proud tour-de-force.