Henderson, Bruce - portrait of Herbert Charles Onslow Plumer

Added to the collection is a fine miniature portrait (110mm x 80mm) by an artist only identified as "B. H."
[Later - a kind visitor advises it may possibly be by Bruce Henderson, son of a miniature painter born in Dumfries who lived in London, Robert Henderson (1826-1904), thus Bruce will now be attributed as the artist, that is until there is a better attribution, the vistor writes - As for BH, well, RH didn’t have a painter son called Bob - but he did have one called Bruce! Originally an actor, Bruce Henderson (1864-1926) turned to miniature painting for his living after going deaf. Bruce was a singular character. He partook of opium, dabbled in the occult with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and held such radical political views that an infuriated mob once threw him into a pond by for uttering them in public. He sounds great but, even if he did have the technical skills, I don’t think he would have cut it as a society painter, particularly with clients like Field-Marshal Plumer. I’d love to say your miniature is by Bruce Henderson but think it unlikely, though not impossible.  In the 1911 census, a Bruce Henderson of the correct age described himself as a photographer, and his wife Minnie Henderson was a photographic retoucher, so he may be a link.]

The sitter was unidentified when purchased, but by interpretation of his medals and decorations, his identity has become clear as being Field Marshal Herbert Charles Onslow Plumer, 1st Viscount Plumer, GCB, GCMG, GCVO, GBE (13 March 1857 – 16 July 1932), a British colonial official and soldier from Torquay who commanded the British Second Army in World War I and later served as High Commissioner of the British Mandate for Palestine. He also held an unusual post as Hon. Colonel of the 4th (Waikato) New Zealand Rifles.

Confirmation of his identity has been kindly confirmed by members of who also advise there is a statue of him at one of the barracks in Plymouth in Devon. The location of his birthplace in Torquay is currently unclear. The portrait can also be compared to two other portraits of Plumer.

Plumer was born 13 Mar 1857, at Sussex Place, London, Middlesex, and died on 16 Jul 1932, at Ennismore Gardens, Westminster, London. He was the son of Mr Hall Plumer of Malpas Lodge, Torquay and married Annie Constance Goss, daughter of George Goss, on 22 July 1884.

They had three daughters and a son, Thomas Hall Rokeby Plumer (1890-1944), who inherited the peerage, but as 2nd Viscount Plumer he had two daughters and no son, so the title became extinct on his death on 24 February 1944.

Educated at Eton. Herbert 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 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 and in 1906 he became GOC 5th Division within Irish Command. Then in 1911 he was appointed General Officer Commanding-in-Chief for Northern Command. In October 1915 he was created a Grand Officer of the Legion of Honour. Early in 1916 his services were rewarded with the GCMG, he was made a Grand Officer of the Belgian Order of Leopold, and promoted to the rank of general.

As a senior officer in the British Army Plumer would have known well two other Field Marshalls in the British Army who are represented by miniature portraits on ivory in this collection.

The first of these is an unsigned, but the sitter wearing a red jacket is Field Marshal Sir John Denton Pinkstone French, 1st Earl of Ypres (1852-1925) who was an important British military commander during World War I and Commander-in-Chief of the British Expeditionary Force. He was succeeded in December 1915 by his then deputy Sir Douglas Haig. French subsequently held the position of Commander of the British Home Forces. View

Although another miniature portrait on ivory is also unsigned and not of high artistic quality, the identity of the sitter makes it an interesting portrait. The sitter wearing a blue jacket is Field Marshal Horatio Herbert Kitchener, 1st Earl Kitchener, KG, KP, GCB, OM, GCSI, GCMG, GCIE, ADC, PC (24 Jun 1850-5 Jun 1916). View

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. Plumer 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.

He became Commander of the British Army of the Rhine in 1918, Governor of Malta in 1919 and then High Commissioner of the British Mandate for 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. He was buried in Westminster Abbey.

He had served in 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 tunneling companies. He reportedly said that before the battle commenced; 'Gentlemen, we may not make history tomorrow, but we shall certainly change the geography.'

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. 773, 1405

No comments: