Lieuteant-Generall 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 and eventually became a Field Marshall serving in World War 1. After serving in Sudan and South Africa he was commander of 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. He became High Commissioner of the British Mandate of Palestine in 1925 and 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.

Plumer is generally regarded as one of the finest army commanders serving in France during World War One. 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 and 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, Passchendaele 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.

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 One largely passed him by.

[Source: Wikipedia Herbert Plumer, 1st Viscount Plumer]

Extract from "British Commanders in the Transvaal War 1899-1900" published by W.D. & H.O. Wills Ltd:


Whilst the supreme points of interest in the progress of the Boer War have centred in the movements of Lord Roberts and Sir Redvers Buller, the progress of the relief column moving southward from Rhodesia to Mafeking, under the direction of Lieut-Colonel Plumer, is being keenly watched. At the time of writing, the column is within 40 miles of the beleaguered town, so we may reasonably hope that Colonel Baden-Powell and his plucky forces will ere long be set at liberty.

The gallant commander of the relieving force has been in the Army nearly twenty-five years, having entered the York and Lancaster Regiment in 1878. In the Soudan Campaign of 1884, his conduct was highly commendable, and he received “mention” in the despatches.

He has seen active service in South Africa, having taken a prominent part in the suppression of the Matabele Revolt of 1896.

In 1899, he was appointed to the forces on the Rhodesian Frontier, operating from Tuli as centre. Ever since the opening of the present war, the Boers in the district have been troublesome, and the long march from Tuli to Mafeking has been one succession of difficulties, testing Lieut.-Colonel Plumer's patience and resource to the utmost.

Last updated 5 February, 2009
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