About Herbert Charles Onslow Plumer
Field Marshal Herbert Charles Onslow Plumer, 1st Viscount Plumer, GCB, GCMG, GCVO, GBE (13 March 1857 – 16 July 1932) was a British colonial official and soldier born in Torquay who commanded the British Second Army in World War I and later served as High Commissioner of the British Mandate for Palestine. The correct appelation of his viscountcy is that he was created Viscount Plumer of Messines. This commemorates, appropriately, his overall command of the extraordinary engineering feat of the explosive mine attacks under German trench positions in June 1917 (the enterprise started in December 1915).
Educated at Eton College, Plumer was commissioned into the York and Lancaster Regiment in 1876.
From 1879 to 1886, an unusually long period, he was Adjutant of his battalion, and in that capacity accompanied it to the Soudan in 1884 in the expedition under Sir Gerald Graham. Captain Plumer was present at the battles of El Teb and Tamai, and was mentioned in Despatches. In 1887 he passed through the Staff College, and from 1890 to 1893 was Deputy-Assistant Adjutant-General in Jersey. In 1896 he served in the operations in South Africa under Sir Frederick Carrington, when he organized and commanded a corps of Mounted Rifles, subsequently obtaining another mention in Despatches and a br brevet Lieutenant-Colonelcy. Colonel Plumer's experiences in this arduous campaign are described in a very interesting manner in his book "With an Irregular Corps in Matabeleland."
After service in South Africa he was appointed Commander of the 4th Brigade within I Army Corps in 1902 before moving on to be General Officer Commanding 10th Division within IV Army Corps in 1903. In 1904 he became Quartermaster-General to the Forces, in 1906 he was made GOC 7th Division and in 1907 he became GOC 5th Division within Irish Command. Then in 1911 he was appointed General Officer Commanding-in-Chief for Northern Command.
After commanding V Corps in 1915, he led the Second Army in Flanders during World War I, during which he won an overwhelming victory over the German Army at the Battle of Messines in 1917, started with what was described as the loudest explosion in human history, created by the simultaneous explosion of 19 mines by the Royal Engineer tunnelling companies.
Plumer is generally regarded as one of the finest army commanders serving in France during World War I. Like the majority of generals on the Western Front he was from an infantry, as opposed to a cavalry background and deprecated the insistence on the value of the "breakthrough" and the effectiveness of cavalry to exploit the opening and reach the open country beyond the front line.
As a career Infantry officer it could be argued that he understood somewhat better what could reasonably be expected of his troops bearing in mind the terrain, the weather and morale. Plumer, a meticulous planner, would often express the plans of his superiors as being too ambitious and more often than not, as seen at the Third Battle of Ypres, he would be proved to be right.
Plumer was very popular with the men gaining the affectionate nickname "old Plum" and "Daddy Plumer". He was a cliché of a General to look at; with a receding chin and a white moustache, his appearance suggested on the photographs of the day everything that he was not.
Plumer commanded British forces during the final stages of the war, during the German Spring offensive and the Hundred Days.
Following the unexpected death of Sir James Grierson on his arrival in France in 1914, Plumer was considered for command of one of two BEF Corps alongside Haig. This position eventually went to Horace Smith-Dorrien. Later in the war, Plumer was sought by Lloyd George for the position of Chief of the Imperial General Staff as a replacement for William Robertson. He declined the position and leaving no private papers and never having expressed a recorded opinion of the conduct of the war, the lengthy debate over the Generalship in World War I largely passed him by.
Post World War I
Plumer became Commander of the British Army of the Rhine in 1918, and Governor of Malta in 1919. In 1925 he became High Commissioner of the British Mandate for Palestine. He resisted Arab pressure to reverse commitments made by the British in the Balfour Declaration. His three-year term as High Commissioner is generally noted as the calmest period during the British Mandate. He was replaced by Sir John Chancellor in 1928.
He died in 1932. His body was cremated, his ashes later buried in Westminster Abbey next to those of Edmund Allenby, 1st Viscount Allenby.