Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Plant, Eric Clive Pegus (1890–1950)

by R. Sutton

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 16, (MUP), 2002

Eric Clive Pegus Plant (1890-1950), by unknown photographer, 1945

Eric Clive Pegus Plant (1890-1950), by unknown photographer, 1945

Australian War Memorial, P02193.001

Eric Clive Pegus Plant (1890-1950), army officer, was born on 23 April 1890 at Charters Towers, Queensland, fourth child of English-born parents Charles Frederic Plant, mining manager, and his wife Isabel Marion, née Pegus. E. H. T. Plant was his uncle. Charles Plant later commanded the 3rd Queensland (Kennedy) Regiment. Educated at Brisbane Grammar School, Eric served in the cadets and gained a commission (March 1908) in the 9th Infantry (Moreton) Regiment. In December 1912 he joined the Administrative and Instructional Staff, Permanent Military Forces, as a lieutenant and was posted to Victoria. Next year he became adjutant of the 15th Light Horse Regiment. On 15 August 1914 he was transferred to the Australian Imperial Force and appointed junior aide-de-camp to Major General (Sir) William Bridges, commander of the 1st Division. They sailed for Egypt in October.

In March 1915 Plant was appointed assistant-adjutant, 9th Battalion. During the landing at Gallipoli on 25 April, he led some of the foremost troops possibly as far as Third ('Gun') Ridge before withdrawing to avoid being isolated. On the following day he was promoted captain. Wounded in the left hand on 3 June, he rejoined the battalion on 12 July. In September he was evacuated to Malta, and thence to England, suffering from enteric fever. After returning to Egypt, he was sent to the Western Front in March 1916 as brigade major, 6th Brigade. For his work at Fleurbaix, Rue Marle and Pozières, France, in March-August, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Order.

Following a bitter winter, Plant took part in the Bapaume operations in March-April 1917 and in the advance to the Hindenburg line. On 3 May, during the 2nd battle of Bullecourt, he reorganized 'broken' infantry and rallied stragglers while under heavy artillery fire; he won a Bar to his D.S.O. In July he was appointed to headquarters, 4th Australian Division. At St Margaret's parish church, Westminster, London, on 7 February 1918 he married Oona Hunter Brown. When the Armistice was announced he was seconded to the staff of the army's Repatriation and Demobilization Department. He was mentioned in dispatches five times in 1917-19, awarded the French Croix de Guerre and appointed O.B.E. in 1919, and promoted temporary lieutenant colonel in May 1920.

Plant came home to Australia in July and his A.I.F. appointment terminated on 10 September. On 1 October he was transferred to the Staff Corps with the rank of major. He attended the Staff College at Camberley, England, in 1921-22, held a staff post at Army Headquarters, Melbourne, as a brevet lieutenant colonel, and became an instructor at the Royal Military College, Duntroon, Federal Capital Territory, in January 1924. Sent on exchange to the War Office, London, in 1927, he returned to Australia and served on the staff of the 1st Cavalry Division (from 1929) and the 11th Mixed Brigade (from 1933). In March 1937 he was made director of military training, A.H.Q., with the brevet rank of colonel (from July); in October 1939 he was appointed commandant of the R.M.C., as a temporary brigadier.

On 1 July 1940 Plant was seconded to the A.I.F. and placed in command of the 24th Brigade, which sailed for the Middle East in December. From 5 March 1941 he commanded the A.I.F.'s Rear Echelon as a temporary major general. On 23 June he reverted to his former rank and took over the 25th Brigade. He led it during the final phase of the Syrian campaign in June-July and was once more mentioned in dispatches. Back in Australia, he headed (from January 1942) Western Command, again as a temporary major general. He took charge of the Victorian Lines of Communication Area in April 1942 and held the equivalent post in New South Wales from September 1943. On 6 August 1946 he was placed on the Retired List. He was appointed C.B. (1945) and an officer of the Order of St John of Jerusalem (1947).

Plant was a member of the United Service Institution of New South Wales and the United Service Club, Brisbane. Five ft 7¼ ins (171 cm) tall, he had a charming manner and dressed impeccably. Beginning as an ebullient junior leader at Gallipoli, he was inspired—as a seasoned soldier on the Western Front—by (Sir) John Gellibrand and emerged as a hard-working, diplomatic, versatile and thoroughly professional officer with a flair for training and administration. Survived by his wife and their two sons, he died of cancer on 17 May 1950 at Bayview, Sydney, and was cremated. His elder son Harold served in the Royal Australian Air Force in World War II. Frank Crozier's portrait (1916) of Eric Plant is held by the R.M.C.

Select Bibliography

  • C. E. W. Bean, The Story of Anzac, vols 1, 2 (Syd, 1921, 1924)
  • C. E. W. Bean, The A.I.F. in France, 1916-18 (Syd, 1929, 1933, 1937, 1942)
  • N. K. Harvey, From Anzac to the Hindenburg Line (Brisb, 1941)
  • J. E. Lee, Duntroon (Canb, 1952)
  • G. Long, Greece, Crete and Syria (Canb, 1953)
  • Stand-To (Canberra), July 1950
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 19 May 1950
  • private information.

Citation details

R. Sutton, 'Plant, Eric Clive Pegus (1890–1950)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/plant-eric-clive-pegus-11434/text20377, published first in hardcopy 2002, accessed online 16 February 2019.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 16, (MUP), 2002

View the front pages for Volume 16

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2019

Eric Clive Pegus Plant (1890-1950), by unknown photographer, 1945

Eric Clive Pegus Plant (1890-1950), by unknown photographer, 1945

Australian War Memorial, P02193.001