Reginald Plunkett was born on 28 August 1880, the 2nd son of 17th Baron Dunsany, and Ernle Elizabeth Louisa Maria Grosvenor, only child of Colonel Francis Augustus Plunkett Burton, Coldstream Guards. Plunkett assumed the additional names of Ernle-Erle-Drax by Royal Licence in 1916, and in the same year married Kathleen, only daughter of Quintin Chalmers; they had one son and four daughters.
Plunkett was educated at Cheam School and HMS Britannia, going to sea in 1896. In 1901 he was made Lieutenant, and in 1912, Commander. Plunkett served afloat in the Grand Fleet from 1914 onwards and was present, on board HMS Lion, at the Heligoland Action, Dogger Bank, and Jutland, where he was mentioned in despatches and promoted to Captain. He was also awarded the Russian Order of St Stanislas (2nd class) with swords, in 1916, and won the DSO in 1918, when commanding HMS Blanche.
After the war, Plunkett became Director of the Royal Naval Staff College, Greenwich [London] from 1919 to 1922. He then served as President of the Naval Allied Control Commission in Berlin [Germany] in 1923 and 1924, and as Naval Aide to King George V, from 1927 to 1928. Being promoted to Rear-Admiral in 1928, Plunkett took command as Rear-Admiral in the 1st Battle Squadron, (1929-1930) before returning to shore duties as Director of the Admiralty Manning Department, (1930-32). In 1932 he was promoted to Vice-Admiral and served as Commander-in-Chief of the America and West Indies Station, (1932-34), then as Commander-in-Chief, Plymouth Station, (1935-38). Plunkett became a full Admiral in 1936, but had to wait until 1939 for a further command, when he became Commander-in-Chief, The Nore, and also First and Principal Naval Aide to King George VI, (1939-1941). He then served in the Home Guard until 1943, but ended his career as Commodore of Ocean Convoys (1943-45).
Plunkett's publications include: England's Last Chance, (1938); Mission to Moscow, (1939); The Art of War, 20th Century Version, (1943); World War III, some pros and cons, (1954); History of Charborough, 1056-1956, (1956); Solar Heated Swimming Pools, (1962); A Few Notes on Health, Happiness and Wisdom, (1965); Quotes and Notes, (1966); The Uncertain Future, (1967).
He died on 16 October 1967.
The Drax Papers mainly consist of naval files. These date mostly from the First World War and before, and also include a large number of intelligence reports, some from the First World War, but the majority dating from the Second World War. The papers also include articles and lectures by Plunkett on naval themes, with some publications.
Admiral Sir R.A.R. Plunkett-Ernle-Erle-Drax deposited his own papers at Churchill College in May 1966. On his death in the following year he bequeathed to the College a sum of money to assist in the preservation of the archives.
Admiral Plunkett-Ernle-Erle-Drax also deposited the papers of his ancestor, General Thomas Erle. Because the Drax and Erle papers form two distinct and separate collections they have been catalogued with different catalogue references, but they form two sections of the family archives.
Admiral Drax carefully preserved three groups of his papers: files from 1912 to 1918, files from 1932 to 1939 and his articles and papers. The first group was arranged by Admiral Drax and stored in a travelling filing case (apparently of his own construction). The second group of files was arranged by his secretary and is still in the official folders. Unfortunately on several occasions (and especially just before depositing them at Churchill College) Admiral Drax carefully examined the papers and destroyed so many that entire files are no longer in existence. Because Admiral Drax had devoted so much time to their arrangement the files have been left in their original order, although this sometimes obscures the importance of some of the papers.
With his articles and papers Admiral Drax seems to have been less ruthless, although a number have been marked for destruction by him. He had arranged them in spring-back folders so that he could find duplicate copies. The present chronological arrangement is designed to make them more easily used, but it should always be remembered that his drafts may be many years earlier than the printed versions.
The Drax papers are on loan to Churchill Archives Centre from the Drax family.