Once, when the ELO suggested a candidate for a lucrative role in the Middle East, Mary Plume opposed the idea because she knew that the candidate’s children suffered a skin condition aggravated by sunlight. Another officer was considered for a globe-trotting post until she pointed out that he was seeking custody of his children after a difficult divorce, and would be better placed in Britain.
She adopted IT systems reluctantly but with good grace, but she supplemented the electronic database with written slips which she maintained until her death. She would trawl newspapers, and later the internet, for suitable vacancies for her clients.
When the ELO function was extended to all three Services under the auspices of the Officers’ Association, she worked to ensure that Army and RAF officers received the same service previously reserved for the Navy. Thanks to her efforts, hundreds of officers survived the transition to a civilian career. She once told a major-general that he would need to get his hands dirty if he was to do well “outside”, and she advised an RAF officer that grey suede shoes should not be worn to an interview.
The highlight of her career was being appointed MBE in 2011: genuinely humbled, she was thrilled when the Prince of Wales shared a joke with her at the investiture.
Mary Elizabeth Plume was born on April 3 1951 in Clapham, where her father was a senior manager in an insurance company, and she was educated at Virgo Fidelis Convent, Upper Norwood.
A devout Catholic, she abhorred modern ecclesiastical developments, and would cross London for the Mass in Latin at Our Lady and St Peter’s, Wimbledon. She was sustained by her faith through four years of cancer treatment. A loyal Englishwoman, she became a supporter of UKIP. During her final bout of illness she struggled to the polling station to cast her vote to leave the EU, and was overjoyed with the result.
She took pleasure in reading, gardening and watching cricket, but above all took delight in listening to and helping others. She was always enchanted with the company of men but never married.
Mary Plume, born April 3 1951, died September 16
This obituary is taken from the Telegraph.