Reginald William Winchester Wilmot (21 June 1911 – 10 January 1954)
was an Australian war correspondent who reported for the
BBC and the
Australian Broadcasting Corporation
Australian Broadcasting Corporation during the Second World War. After
the war he continued to work as a broadcast reporter, and wrote a
well-appreciated book about the liberation of Europe. He was killed in
the crash of a BOAC Comet over the Mediterranean Sea.
1 Early life
2 War reporter
4 Military historian
10 Further reading
Wilmot was born in Brighton, a suburb of Melbourne; he was the son of
Reginald "Old Boy" Wilmot, a well-known sports journalist. He attended
Melbourne Grammar School and then studied history, politics and law
Ernest Scott at the University of Melbourne, where he
resided at Trinity College and became interested in debating; after he
graduated in 1936, he went on an international debating tour. One of
the stops was in
Nazi Germany where he went to a Nuremberg Rally.
Wilmot began to work as a legal clerk in 1939.
After working as a law clerk for only a few months, the outbreak of
the Second World War led Wilmot to join the Australian Broadcasting
Corporation. He was sent to the Middle East in 1940 and reported from
Greece and Syria; he was in
Tobruk during the siege of
1941. When Japan entered the war, Wilmot returned to Australia, then
went out to cover the war in the Pacific. He reported from Papua
during the Japanese invasion in 1942, including the Kokoda Track
campaign, where he walked up to the forward area, around Abuari and
Isurava, with fellow war correspondent
Osmar White and cinematographer
Damien Parer. Wilmot regarded General Sir
Thomas Blamey as incompetent
and protested at his sacking of Lieutenant General
Sydney Rowell; in
return, Blamey cancelled Wilmot's accreditation and he had to return
There Wilmot wrote a book about his experiences in Tobruk, and
narrated a documentary film called Sons of the ANZACs. In 1944 Wilmot
transferred to the
BBC where he was one of the principal reporters for
D-Day, flying in a glider with the 6th Airborne Division. He was
present at and reported from the field for most of the actions during
the liberation of Europe. When the German high command surrendered,
Wilmot was present to report on it.
After the end of the war Wilmot remained in England, where he wrote
articles on the recent war as well as a book about World War II, The
Struggle for Europe. When it appeared in 1952, the book was favourably
reviewed, and it is well regarded by military historians (John Keegan
wrote, "Wilmot effectively invented the modern method of writing
contemporary military history"). One of his articles criticizing the
Allied plan to occupy Germany appeared in LIFE Magazine.
Wilmot intended to write a volume on the Siege of
Tobruk and Battle of
El Alamein for the Australian official history of the war, but was
killed in the Comet crash; see
Australia in the War of 1939–1945.
Wilmot (right, back row), with war historians in Australia
Wilmot was part of the television commentary team for the coronation
of Queen Elizabeth II. For Christmas 1953, Wilmot was sent by the BBC
Australia to participate in a round-the-world broadcast on
Christmas Day, where he narrated "The Queen's Journey", telling the
story of recent royal visits. The Queen herself was in
New Zealand for
Wilmot was en route back to Britain from that assignment on BOAC
Flight 781 when his plane, a Comet 1, broke up following explosive
decompression over the Mediterranean Sea; all aboard were killed.
Tobruk 1941, Capture - Siege - Relief, Angus & Robertson Ltd,
The Struggle For Europe (written in part by Christopher Daniel
McDevitt), 1952. Reissue: Wordsworth Editions Ltd, Ware,
Hertfordshire, 1997. ISBN 1-85326-677-9.
^ Wilmot, Chester, Allies Handed Stalin His Victory, Life Magazine, 10
Australian Dictionary of National Biography
Biography at the Australian War Memorial
Obituary, The Times, 13 January 1954.
McDonald, Neil (2016). Valiant for Truth: The Life of Chester Wilmot,
War Correspondent. Sydney: NewSouth Publishing.
ISNI: 0000 0001 0959 9660
BNF: cb16626388z (data)