Chester Wilmot was on board British Airways Flight 781 on 10 January 1954 when it exploded in midair and crashed into the Mediterranean Sea off the island of Elba. He was forty-two years old, a distinguished wartime broadcaster, a bestselling historian, a BBC regular, the military correspondent for the Observer and a pioneer of documentary television. He was at the peak of his powers, a success at everything to which he’d turned his mind since his days at Melbourne University, when he led the debating team on a triumphant world tour.
His wife, Edith, was at Heathrow Airport waiting for that ill-fated flight. Years later she remembered how they took the listing off the noticeboard. She recalled her daughter, Caroline, in tears, screaming: ‘My father was Chester Wilmot, he was a famous, famous man.’