John Gough (VC)

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Sir John Edmond Gough
John Gough VC.jpg
Born (1871-10-25)25 October 1871
Muree, British India
Died 22 February 1915(1915-02-22) (aged 43)
Fauquissart, France
Buried Estaires Communal Cemetery
Allegiance United Kingdom
Service/branch British Army
Years of service 1891–1915
Rank Brigadier General
Unit Rifle Brigade
Battles/wars Mahdist War
1898 Occupation of Crete
Second Boer War
Third Somaliland Expedition
World War
Awards Victoria Cross
Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath
Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George
Mentioned in Despatches
Relations Sir Charles Gough (father)
Sir Hugh Gough (uncle)
Sir Hurbert Gough (brother)

Brigadier General Sir John Edmond Gough VC, KCB, CMG (/ˈɡɒf/; 25 October 1871 – 22 February 1915), known as Johnnie Gough, was a senior British Army officer and a recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces.


Gough, known as "Johnnie", was the son of General Sir Charles Gough, and nephew of General Sir Hugh Gough, both of whom won Victoria Crosses during the Indian Mutiny in 1857. This gave the family the rare distinction of holding the VC simultaneously by father, brother and (father's) son. He was also the younger brother of General Sir Hubert Gough (1870–1963), who led the British Fifth Army on the Western Front during the First World War.

Gough was commissioned a second lieutenant in the Rifle Brigade (The Prince Consort's Own) on 12 March 1891, and promoted to lieutenant on 6 December 1893.[1] He served in British Central Africa in 1896, the Sudan in 1898, and took part in the Occupation of Crete (1898–99). Promoted to captain on 5 December 1898, he served in the Second Boer War from 1899 until 1902, and received a brevet rank of major on 29 November 1900. After the war ended in June 1902, Gough was among a number of officers who left Cape Town in the SS Kildonan Castle in late July, arriving in Southampton the following month.[2] In 1903 ha was a Staff Officer in a Flying column in the Somaliland Field Force, serving in British Somaliland during the Third Somaliland Expedition. He attended the Army Staff College at Camberley in 1904–05, was back in Somaliland in 1909, then returned to the College as a highly influential teacher from 1909–1913.

Victoria Cross details[edit]

Gough was 31 years old, and a brevet major in The Rifle Brigade (Prince Consort's Own) during the Third Somaliland Expedition when the following deed took place for which he was awarded the VC.

On 22 April 1903, Gough was in command of a column on the march which was attacked by an enemy force in superior numbers led by Mohammed Abdullah Hassan near Daratoleh, British Somaliland. After conducting a successful defence, then a fighting withdrawal, Gough came back to help two captains (William George Walker and George Murray Rolland). The captains were helping a mortally wounded officer. They managed to get the wounded officer onto a camel, but then he was wounded again and died immediately. The two captains won the VC for their actions. However, Gough played down his own part in the event. It was not until late in the year that the true story came out indicating that Gough was equally deserving of recognition. He was subsequently awarded the VC in January 1904.[3] The King presented the medal to him at Buckingham Palace on 29 February 1904. He was appointed Aide-de-Camp to the King in August 1907.

Curragh Incident[edit]

Prior to the outbreak of the First World War, Gough was Chief of Staff to Lieutenant General Sir Douglas Haig at Aldershot. He played a role in the Curragh Incident in March 1914, in which his brother and other cavalry officers stationed in Ireland threatened to resign rather than coerce Ulster Protestants who had no wish to be part of a Home Rule Ireland. Gough accompanied his brother, who had been suspended from duty, to a meeting in London with the Adjutant-General Ewart (morning of Sunday 22 March), where Hubert confirmed that he would have obeyed a direct order to move against Ulster.[4] Johnnie was in the War Office on 23 March, when French (CIGS) agreed to Hubert's demand that he amend a Cabinet document to promise that the Army would not be used to enforce Home Rule on Ulster. French may have been acting in the belief that the matter needed to be resolved quickly after learning from Haig that afternoon that all the officers of Aldershot Command would resign if Hubert were punished, but was later forced to resign.[5]

First World War[edit]

Gough went to France as a Brigadier-General with the British Expeditionary Force and Chief of Staff to Douglas Haig's I Corps. In early 1915 he continued as Haig's principal staff officer when Haig was given command of the newly created British First Army. By February 1915 whilst working on planning for the forthcoming attack at Neuve Chapelle, Gough was chosen to command one of the New Army divisions. This appointment was due to commence sometime in March and would have meant his promotion to Major General.

Quotes from Johnnie Gough, VC by Ian F. W. Beckett (1989)[edit]

Gough was quoted as making a famous remark in November 1914 that was to be repeated as inspirational in the dark days of March 1918. "As he watched the enemy swarming over a low ridge one of his staff said the fight was decided. Gough turned with his eyes ablaze and exclaimed: 'God will never let those devils win.'" (p 194).

"Through Johnnie's death Haig lost a sounding board which was highly constructive yet far from uncritical. Had Johnnie gone on to command a division then it seems almost certain that, as predicted by so many contemporaries, he would have risen much further in the army. Johnnie was a convinced 'westerner' in strategic terms and a 'fighting general'. The army high command's commitment to the Western Front and to strategic offensives on that front would not have changed had Johnnie lived, but as he had demonstrated in his Staff College days he was a supreme realist and the conduct of these offensives might well have been modified by his influence with and, especially, by his ability to relate to Douglas Haig." (p 208).

Other opinions[edit]

A contemporary, General Sir George Barrow, described Johnny as "a twentieth-century Chevalier Bayard … had he lived he might have gone to the top of the Army".[6]

To some extent Hubert Gough replaced his brother as Haig's sounding board.[7]


John Gough, second from right, talking to Brigadier-General E M Percival. Also in picture are Lieutenant-General Douglas Haig and Major-General Charles Monro. France 1914

On 20 February 1915 Gough was visiting his old battalion, the 2nd Battalion, The Rifle Brigade, at Fauquissart, about 3 km north of Neuve Chapelle on the front line, about 2 km west of Aubers. His mortal wounding by a sniper there was very unlucky since the single shot that struck him in the abdomen was thought to have been a ricochet fired from approximately 1000 yards distance. He was moved to the 25th Field Ambulance at nearby Estaires, about 7 km behind the front line, where he eventually succumbed to his wound and died in the early morning of 22 February. He was buried that afternoon in Estaires Communal Cemetery, France located 7 miles south west of Armentières in Plot II. Row A. Grave 7.[8] On 20 April 1915, Gough was posthumously knighted, being gazetted KCB on 22 April 1915.[9]


Gough is memorialised in Winchester Cathedral. Gough's Victoria Cross is displayed at the Royal Green Jackets (Rifles) Museum, in Winchester, England.


  1. ^ Hart′s Army list, 1903
  2. ^ "Naval & Military intelligence". The Times (36834). London. 31 July 1902. p. 5. 
  3. ^ "No. 27636". The London Gazette. 15 January 1904. p. 331. 
  4. ^ Holmes 2004, p183-4
  5. ^ Holmes 2004, p188-9
  6. ^ Sheffield & Todman 2004, p73-4
  7. ^ Sheffield & Todman 2004, p76
  8. ^ CWGC entry
  9. ^ "The Gazette hall of fame – John Gough". The Gazette. Government of the United Kingdom. Archived from the original on 2014-05-22.