Biography

Birth date: 21 June 1911
Birth place: Australia: Victoria, Melbourne, Brighton
Death date: 10 January 1954
Death place: Mediterranean Sea
Conflict: Second World War, 1939-1945

One of Australia's pre-eminent war correspondents, Chester Wilmot was born on 21 June 1911 at Brighton, Melbourne. Having completed secondary school Wilmot attended Melbourne University where he studied history, politics and law. He graduated in 1936 and the following year, having been a champion debater at university, embarked on an international debating tour, at one point visiting Germany where he witnessed a Nazi Party rally in Nuremberg.

In 1939 he began work as a legal clerk, but at the beginning of the Second World War he joined the Australian Broadcasting Commission's field unit as a correspondent and sailed for the Middle East in 1940. He quickly gained recognition as a fine correspondent covering fighting in North Africa, Greece and Syria, and lived in Tobruk for several months during the siege.

Wilmot returned to Australia when Japan entered the war and became the ABC's principal correspondent in the Pacific. Covering the Papuan campaign in 1942, Wilmot became one of a small band of correspondents to walk the Kokoda Track where he grew increasingly critical of high command, at one point protesting to the Prime Minister when General Blamey sacked Lieutenant General Rowell. Blamey, as a result, cancelled Wilmot's accreditation. With the support of the ABC, Wilmot returned to Australia where he continued to broadcast from Sydney, wrote a book about Tobruk and worked on a documentary, Sons of Anzac, for the Australian War Memorial.

In May 1944 Wilmot began work in London for the BBC. On D-Day he flew in a glider with the British 6th Airborne Division and landed in France early on the morning of the invasion. He soon earned fame as a correspondent covering many of Britain's major operations during the remaining months of the war. He was present at the German surrender in May 1945 and returned to England to live after the war.

Wilmot continued to work as a broadcaster and journalist. His book, The struggle for Europe, became a best seller and remains one of the more highly regarded works on the war in Europe. Having returned to Australia to participate in the BBC's 1953 round-the-world Christmas Day broadcast, Wilmot was killed when the Comet aircraft in which he was flying back to England, crashed into the Mediterranean on 10 January 1954.

Rolls and Awards

Collection Items

Photograph

008619

ACRE, SYRIA, 1941-07-13. CHESTER WILMOTT, WAR CORRESPONDENT FROM AUSTRALIAN BROADCASTING COMMISSION (ABC) RADIO BROADCAST UNIT, TELLING THE WORLD ALL ABOUT IT IN MAKESHIFT CONDITIONS ON THE BACK OF A TRUCK. THE WHITE HOOD OVER THE MICROPHONE IS TO STOP THE WIND.

008619

013472

1942-10-19. OSMAR WHITE, MELBOURNE HERALD WAR CORRESPONDENT, AND CHESTER WILMOT OF THE AUSTRALIAN BROADCASTING COMMISSION, AT THEIR CAMP ON THE KOKODA FRONT. (NEGATIVE BY PARER).

013472

023807

A GROUP OF AUSTRALIAN WAR CORRESPONDENTS AND OTHERS RETURNING FROM CRETE ON BOARD THE R.F.A. "CHERRYLEAF", A BRITISH NAVY OILER. FROM THE TOP, LEFT TO RIGHT:- 1. DAMIEN PARER, DEPARTMENT OF INFORMATION; 2. CAPTAIN F.M. HARVEY, MASTER OF THE "CHERRYLEAF"; 3. COMMANDER D.N.J. WILLIAMS, RNR, MASTER OF...

023807

044146

PORT MORESBY, PAPUA. 1942-11-01. A GROUP OF WAR CORRESPONDENTS AT THEIR FOUR MILE BASE DURING THE ALLIED CAMPAIGN IN THE OWEN STANLEY RANGES AND KOKODA. THE MEN ARE, FROM THE LEFT, BACK ROW, L. EDWARDS (ABC TECHNICIAN FOR CHESTER WILMOT), TOM FAIRHALL (SYDNEY DAILY TELEGRAPH), BOB DOYLE (USA,...

044146

044512

CANBERRA, ACT. C. 1954. MEETING OF OFFICIAL WAR HISTORIANS AT ACTON OFFICES THERE TO ATTEND A MEETING OF WRITERS. LEFT TO RIGHT: BACK ROW: MR DOUGLAS GILLISON, MR LIONEL WIGMORE, MR. GEORGE HERMON GILL, DR ALLAN S. WALKER, MR CHESTER WILMOT. CENTRE: MR PAUL HASLUCK, PROFESSOR S.J. BUTLIN, MR GEORGE...

044512

044513

CANBERRA, ACT. C. 1954. MEETING OF OFFICIAL WAR HISTORIANS AT ACTON OFFICES THERE TO ATTEND A MEETING OF WRITERS. AROUND TABLE, LEFT TO RIGHT: MR GAVIN LONG, MR CHESTER WILMOT, DR ALLAN S. WALKER, MR PAUL HASLUCK, MR LIONEL WIGMORE, MR GEORGE ODGERS, SQUADRON LEADER JOHN HERINGTON, PROFESSOR S.J....

044513

Film

Sons of the Anzacs [1939-1943]

A history of the Australian forces in the Second World War up to 1943, covering the principal campaigns in which they fought and utilising contemporary footage.

F00188

Sound

"Surrender of the German forces at Luneburg Heath to 21st Army Group". Commentary by Chester Wilmot, Field Marshal Sir Bernard Montgomery reading the Instrument of Surrender.

Chester Wilmot commentates as he watches the German surrender ceremony at Luneburg Heath on 4 May 1945. Field Marshal Sir Bernard Montgomery then reads out the Instrument of Surrender, and introduces the Officers as they come forward to sign the document. Montgomery is the last to sign the document...

S00133

"How Recordings were made and Despatched during the Libyan Campaign". Narrated by Lawrence H. Cecil and introduced by Chester Wilmot

Chester Wilmot introduces the segment describing how recordings are conducted in the field by the ABC: writing a script and then producing the recording in the desert. The Commanding Officer of the Unit, Lawrence H. Cecil describes a simple studio in the field; problems with sandstorms; recording...

S01999

Timeline

Date of birth 1911-06-21 Brighton, VIC.
Other 1922 - 1930 Attended Melbourne Church of England Grammar School.
Date graduated 1935 Awarded a Bachelor of Arts (History Honours).
Date graduated 1936 Awarded a Bachelor of Laws.
Other 1939 Became a member of the Council of Melbourne University.
Other 1940 - 1942 War correspondent for the ABC with AIF in the Middle East.
Date returned to Australia 1942
Other 1942-07 Was appointed War Correspondent with the ABC Field Unit with the AIF New Guinea.
Other 1942-11 Lost accreditation as war correspondent after becoming involved in a dispute between General Sir Thomas Albert Blamey, Commander in Chief, Allied Land Forces, South West Pacific Area and Lieutenant General Sir Sidney Fairburn Rowell, General Officer Commanding, New Guinea Force.
Date returned to Australia 1943
Other 1944 Published his book Tobruk, 1941: capture, siege, relief.
Other 1944 - 1945 Moved to London and began work for the BBC as a front line correspondent for North West Europe.
Other 1945 - 1946 BBC special correspondent at the Nuremburg war crimes trials.
Other 1946 - 1954 Freelance broadcaster and journalist.
Other 1952 Appointed military correspondent for The Observer.
Other 1952 Published his book The Struggle For Europe.
Date returned to Australia 1953 Returned to Australia to participate in the BBC's 1953 Round the World Christmas Day broadcast.
Date of death 1954-01-10 Killed in the crash of a Comet airliner into the Mediterranean when he was flying back to England.