Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath
RELATIONS Sir Charles Gough (father) Sir Hugh Gough (uncle) Sir John Gough (brother)
General SIR HUBERT DE LA POER GOUGH GCB , GCMG , KCVO (12 August
1870 – 18 March 1963) was a senior officer in the
* 1 Early life
* 1.1 Family background * 1.2 Early career
* 2 Boer War * 3 Edwardian period
* 4 Curragh incident
* 4.1 The incident * 4.2 The "Peccant paragraphs"
* 5.1 Early war
* 5.1.1 Cavalry brigade: Mons to the Marne * 5.1.2 Cavalry division * 5.1.3 Infantry division
* 5.2 Corps commander: Loos
* 5.2.1 Planning * 5.2.2 Initial attacks * 5.2.3 Subsequent attacks * 5.2.4 Ousting of Sir John French * 5.2.5 Military ideas
* 5.3 The Somme
* 5.3.1 Initial phases
* 126.96.36.199 Training cavalry * 188.8.131.52 Plans for exploitation * 184.108.40.206 Battle of Albert
* 5.3.2 Summer
* 220.127.116.11 Pozières * 18.104.22.168 Clashes with subordinates * 22.214.171.124 Mouquet Farm
* 5.3.3 Autumn
* 126.96.36.199 Initial attack on Thiepval
* 188.8.131.52 Assisting Rawlinson\'s offensive
* 184.108.40.206 Thiepval Ridge
* 220.127.116.11 Tactical ideas
Battle of the Ancre Heights
* 5.3.4 The Ancre
* 18.104.22.168 Political considerations * 22.214.171.124 Initial success * 126.96.36.199 Final stages
* 5.3.5 Gough and the BEF\'s "learning curve"
* 5.4 Spring 1917
* 5.4.1 Execution of deserter * 5.4.2 Advance on the Ancre * 5.4.3 Advance to the Hindenburg Line, Arras and Bullecourt
* 5.5 Third Ypres
* 5.5.1 Planning the offensive * 5.5.2 Failure to exploit Messines * 5.5.3 Final plans * 5.5.4 Eve of the offensive * 5.5.5 Pilckem Ridge * 5.5.6 Early August * 5.5.7 Battle of Langemarck * 5.5.8 Plumer takes over * 5.5.9 Sidelined
* 5.6 Spring 1918
* 5.6.1 Preparing the defence * 5.6.2 Asking for reinforcements * 5.6.3 21 March * 5.6.4 22–25 March * 5.6.5 26 March * 5.6.6 Dismissed
* 6 Disgrace and after
* 6.1 Scapegoat * 6.2 Rehabilitation * 6.3 Baltic Mission * 6.4 Possible political career
* 7 Later life
* 7.1 Farming and business career * 7.2 Battle of the memoirs * 7.3 Final military service * 7.4 Third Ypres and the Official History
* 8 Family and final years
* 9 Assessments
* 9.1 Contemporary views * 9.2 Modern historians * 9.3 Fifth Army\'s "malaise"
* 10 Further reading * 11 Notes * 12 External links
The name of Gough probably derives from the Welsh word coch, meaning
"red". Before leaving England Gough's ancestors were clerics and
Gough was the eldest son of General Sir Charles J. S. Gough , VC,
GCB, a nephew of General Sir Hugh H. Gough , VC, and a brother of
Brigadier General Sir John Edmund Gough , VC. The Goughs are the only
family to have won the
Gough was born in
Gough was promoted to lieutenant on 23 July 1890, and his regiment
He served with the Tirah Field Force 1897–98. He was posted to
the Northwest Frontier , initially to the garrison holding the
entrance to the
Gough returned to England in June 1898, and sat the Staff College exam in August. He was hospitalised with malaria in the autumn, then married Margaret Louisa Nora Lewes (known as "Daisy") on 22 December 1898 (postponed from April). He married at an unusually early age for a serving officer.
Gough started at Staff College,
Gough then served as ADC to Lord Dundonald , who was commanding
mounted troops in Natal. In January 1900 he was promoted to brigade
intelligence officer, a role which required a great deal of scouting.
In mid-January he was sent to reconnoitre Potgeiter's Drift, a
crossing of the
On 1 February Gough was appointed, as a local unpaid major, CO of a Composite Regiment (a squadron of Imperial Light Horse , a squadron of Natal Carbineers and a company of 60th Rifles Mounted Infantry ). He led his regiment to assist Buller's third attempt (5–7 February) to cross the Tugela, and in the fourth attempt (14–27 February). He led the first British troops into Ladysmith (28 February), in defiance of written orders from Dundonald that it was "too dangerous" to proceed, and there met his brother Johnnie who had been besieged inside the town. His meeting with George Stuart White was widely portrayed. In March 1900 the Composite Regiment was reorganised. Gough lost the Natal Carbineers and Imperial Light Horse Squadrons, but received in their place two companies of mounted infantry, one Scots and one Irish. He devoted a great deal of effort to training, both in riding and musketry. From May 1900 Gough's regiment saw active service as Buller pushed into the passes of the Drakenberg Mountains northwest of Ladysmith, eventually linking up with the main British forces under Lord Roberts . The conventional phase of the war ended towards the end of 1900.
During the period of guerrilla warfare which followed, Gough's Regiment was gradually reinforced to a strength of 600 men in four companies. Along with Smith-Dorrien and Allenby , he served under the overall command of Lieutenant-General French . Gough was marked for consideration for a brevet lieutenant-colonelcy in late April 1901, although this promotion was not to take effect until he became a substantive major in his own regiment. Major-General Smith-Dorrien wrote to Gough's father praising him and expressing a wish that he could be promoted straightaway. On 17 September 1901 he led the Composite Regiment, after inadequate reconnaissance, to attack what appeared a tempting target of Boers near Blood River Port, only for he and his entire force to be taken prisoner by larger Boer forces which had been out of sight. After he escaped, Kitchener (the commander-in-chief) expressed his "deepest sympathy", and he may have survived with his reputation largely intact because his overconfidence was in favourable contrast to the timidity which had contributed to other British defeats. To his credit, according to Gary Sheffield , Gough discussed the matter at length in his memoirs Soldiering On. Although preparations were made to restore the Composite Regiment to full strength, Gough was wounded in the right hand and arm in November, losing the tip of one finger. He was invalided home on the steamship Plassy in January 1902, and reverted to his substantive rank of captain. He was mentioned in despatches four times (including the final despatch by Lord Kitchener dated 23 June 1902 ).
After his return from South Africa he declined an offer of a place on
the General Staff, hoping to return to active service in South Africa.
However, he changed his mind after the
Treaty of Vereeniging
He was appointed Brigade Major , 1st Cavalry Brigade at Aldershot in September 1902 and promoted to the substantive rank of major on 22 October 1902. His brevet rank of lieutenant-colonel took effect the following day (23 October 1902). His duties included re-equipping regular units as they returned from South Africa. He enjoyed a poor relationship with his superior, Brigadier-General Scobell , who recorded that he had "a tedious habit of questioning regulations ... He has not learned to control his temper."
Gough was appointed an Instructor at Staff College on 1 January 1904
and served until 1906. He served under Henry Rawlinson as commandant,
while the other instructors included his future colleagues Richard
Haking , John du Cane ,
Gough was promoted brevet colonel on 11 June 1906 and substantive lieutenant-colonel on 18 July 1906. He was appointed CO of the 16th (Queen\'s) Lancers on 15 December 1907. When CO of his regiment Gough, based on his experience in South Africa, favoured cavalrymen using their initiative and riding in small groups, making maximum use of the ground as cover. Gough was still the youngest lieutenant-colonel in the Army. His superior at this point was Julian Byng , who recommended him for command of a brigade.
He was promoted substantive colonel on 19 December 1910 and on 1 January 1911 was granted the temporary rank of brigadier-general and appointed General Officer Commanding 3rd Cavalry Brigade , which included the 16th Lancers, at the Curragh.
At the 1913 Manoeuvres Gough moved his force unseen between the outposts of two divisions to attack the enemy centre, causing some of his seniors to think him "a trifle too sharp".
Gough later wrote "all our relations were anti-Home Rulers." With Irish Home Rule due to become law in 1914, the Cabinet were contemplating some form of military action against the Ulster Volunteers who wanted no part of it. Gough was one of the leading officers who threatened to resign in the ensuing Curragh Incident .
On the morning of Friday 20 March, Arthur Paget (
Richard Holmes argues that Gough should have done what Fergusson did the following morning: assure his officers of his own unionist sympathies but urge them to obey orders. That evening Paget informed the War Office by telegram that 57 officers preferred to accept dismissal (it was actually 61 including Gough ). Gough was suspended from duty and he and 2 of his 3 colonels (the attitude of the third was unclear) were summoned to the War Office to explain themselves. Chetwode , who was nominated to take Gough's place if necessary, described him as "hot-headed and very Irish".
THE "PECCANT PARAGRAPHS"
Gough sent a telegram to the elderly Field-Marshal Roberts (who had
been lobbying the King and arguing with John French (CIGS ) on the
telephone), purporting to ask for advice, although possibly designed
to goad him into further action. Roberts learned from an interview
with Seely that Paget had exceeded his instructions (in talking of
"active operations" against Ulster and in giving officers a chance to
discuss hypothetical orders and threaten to resign) and left a note
In another meeting at the War Office (23 March), Gough demanded a
written guarantee from French and Ewart that the Army would not be
used against Ulster (possibly influenced by Major-General Henry Wilson
, who had recently suggested similar terms to
At another meeting after 4 pm Gough, on the advice of Henry Wilson
(also present), insisted on adding a further paragraph clarifying that
the Army would not be used to enforce Home Rule on Ulster, with which
French concurred in writing. When
FIRST WORLD WAR
Cavalry Brigade: Mons To The Marne
At the outbreak of war in August 1914, Gough took the 3rd Cavalry
Brigade to France, under the command of Allenby (GOC Cavalry Division
). They embarked between 14 and 16 August, and shipped directly from
During the following days Gough detached himself from Allenby's
command and linked up with Haig's I Corps on the BEF's right. Gough's
version of events was that he had become dissatisfied with Allenby on
24 August after his retreat exposed Fergusson’s 5th Infantry
Division to German attack on its left flank, requiring 2nd Cavalry
Brigade to mount a charge and Gough's 3rd Brigade, which was to have
been the rearguard, to fight dismounted. After the Germans fell back,
Gough was able to resume the planned retreat, only to find that
Allenby had sent the division transport, containing food, ammunition
and maps, far into the rear. Gough later claimed (in The Fifth Army)
that Allenby had been "mesmerised" by the enemy during an engagement
at Solesmes on 25 August. Gough may also have been panicking, telling
another officer that the British were "surrounded" and that the
Germans were already in
Battle of Le Cateau
By the time of the Battle of the Marne 3rd and 5th Cavalry Brigades had been formed into "Gough's Command", an ad hoc cavalry force separate from Allenby's Cavalry Division. One man wrote: "It was all push, push, push with Goughie. But he was pushing the enemy as much as he was pushing us." Gough advanced to the Aisne on 12 September, although owing to Sir John French's having failed to organise ad hoc advance guards there was neither artillery to harass the Germans nor engineers to repair the bridges, which had been blown only an hour previously.
On 15 September Gough's Command, with the addition of supporting troops, was formed into 2nd Cavalry Division and he was appointed GOC on 16 September. The two cavalry divisions, now being redeployed by train to Belgium, were formed into a Cavalry Corps under Allenby (9 September), and reached the Belgian border on 11 September.
2nd Cavalry Division was the western flank of the BEF, and after capturing Mont des Cats (12 October) and after interviews with prisoners, Gough believed that he had a chance to turn the German west flank. He gave verbal orders (13 October) to capture Mount Kemmel (also southwest of Ypres) and to cross the Lys southeast of Ypres, but was forbidden to advance further by Allenby. The staff officer Philip Howell wrote to his wife at this time that Gough was "like a cat on hot bricks" (14 October 1914). On 14 October Gough linked up with Rawlinson's IV Corps (Byng's 3rd Cavalry Division and Capper's 7th Infantry Division) which were moving down from the coast – as there was no longer any danger of being cut off Gough ordered his division to advance, while Allenby (15 October) at last persuaded Sir John French to try to take Lille and turn the German west flank – instead they clashed with new forces being brought up by Falkenhayn.
On 16 and 17 October Gough's attempts to cross the Lys were beaten back by German forces Entrenchment began on 20 October – local workers had to be rounded up, as British cavalry were not equipped with entrenching tools. Gough's division, sometimes with as few as 2,000 officers and men in the front line, was defending an area around Messines and Wytschaete. At one point he had to gallop to the front lines to order certain regiments to hold their positions – this had been caused by confused staff work, in which Gough's orders to draw up "contingency plans" for retreat had been misunderstood.
Gough was promoted major-general on 26 October 1914. The promotion was backdated to 15 September, the date on which his division had been formed. During this period Gough formed the practice of rotating units through the front lines as quickly as possible, to avoid any single unit being damaged beyond the point of effectiveness, and of holding the front lines thinly to maintain the largest possible reserve. On 27 October Gough offered some of his reserves to Haig's I Corps (he made the offer privately to his brother Johnnie, Haig's chief of staff at the time), but this was countermanded by Allenby.
At 11.30am on 29 October Gough was able to send 5 squadrons out of
his reserve to assist Byng's cavalry division. On 30 October, 31
October and the following night Gough's division (3,250 officers and
men, assisted by two companies of Baluchis, Wilde\'s Rifles (an Indian
battalion) and the
Gough's Division returned to the front line at Hooge, near Ypres, on 12 February. On 13 February he was offered a command in the expedition intended for Salonika (in the event these troops were sent to Gallipoli ) but declined after consulting his brother and BEF Chief of Staff "Wully" Robertson . Johnnie Gough was wounded and died later in February. Haig, a shy man, liked Gough for his wit and open personality, and to some extent he replaced his dead brother as Haig's confidant. Haig specifically asked (10 March 1915) for Gough to be attached to his forces in case he succeeded in "breaking the enemy line" at Neuve Chapelle (10–13 March). In the event, Gough's division was in GHQ Reserve for the battle. Philip Howell wrote to his wife that Gough liked "to fight with everyone above him as well as with the Boches" (19 March 1915).
Battle of Aubers Ridge
Gough was appointed GOC of the 7th Division on 18 April 1915, after its previous commander, Thompson Capper, had been wounded. The division was part of Rawlinson's IV Corps, itself part of Haig's First Army ; on giving him his new appointment, Haig informed him (Haig diary 18 April 1915) about how Rawlinson had attempted to have Joey Davies sacked from command of 8th Division after Neuve Chapelle and how Davies and his staff did not trust Rawlinson. Gough may have been appointed as a counterbalance to Rawlinson, with whom Haig had a wary relationship. Gough and his division were in reserve at Second Ypres (22 April).
Gough commanded 7th Division at the
Battle of Aubers Ridge
Monro gave Gough great leeway to plan his own attack after consulting with officers who had been involved in the attack on that sector on 9 May. Gough and his artillery officer "Curly" Birch devised a plan for a few minutes’ bombardment, leaving a gap to tempt the Germans out of their shelters (as a double bluff the bombardment was to be repeated several times in preceding days), while bringing some guns forward on muffled wheels to take the Germans by surprise. The assault began at 3:15 am on 16 May. The right of 7th Division (1st Royal Welch Fusiliers and 2nd Queens) was the only part of I Corps attack to succeed. The attack was renewed the next day after assistance from almost every First Army gun in range, but was unable to make much further progress. On 19 May 7th Division was withdrawn from the line, handing over its sector to the Canadian Division.
After Aubers Ridge a captain described Gough as "a little man, very smart and keen looking. He spent about 15 minutes with my company and spoke very easily to the soldiers ... he made us all laugh at the end and feel very cheery."
At the end of June Gough returned home and was awarded the CB for his services in August and September 1914.
CORPS COMMANDER: LOOS
Battle of Loos
With Capper now recovered and keen to resume command of 7th Division, and Monro being promoted to command the new Third Army , Gough was appointed GOC I Corps (2nd, 7th and later also 9th Division), still part of Haig's First Army, and promoted temporary lieutenant-general on 13 July 1915. Gough's practice of visiting front-line units irritated Horne of 2nd Division and Capper, who felt that this was a threat to his own renewed authority over 7th Division.
Gough, along with the other corps commanders of First Army, was present at a meeting with Kitchener on 19 August. After Kitchener had argued that there would be enough "exceptions" to make conscription administratively difficult, Gough, by his own account, "flared up" and declared that it was needed, while Haig urged Kitchener to put his weight behind its introduction (Haig omitted the latter points from his own diary account of the meeting).
At a meeting with his corps commanders (13 August) Haig asked Gough to draw up plans to take the Hohenzollern Redoubt, while Rawlinson was to take Loos and possibly Hill 70. Gough (22 August) proposed that 9th Scottish Division should "rush" the German positions on his left (Hohenzollern Redoubt, Fosse 8) just before dawn (4 am) after a barrage and gas attack, while the following night 7th Division would push through the Quarries to Citie St Elie. Haig recorded (1 September 1915) how "active and energetic" Gough and the artillery officer Noel Birch were, and insisted that Rawlinson (who proposed a limited stage-by-stage operation) also use gas for his initial attack. Gough would later (The Fifth Army p. 101) call gas "a boomerang ally" Gough later wrote that he had been dismayed at the lack of guns and ammunition. Neither Gough nor Rawlinson's corps had any reserve – in Gough's case only one brigade from each of his three divisions.
Haig met Rawlinson and Gough again (16 September) and ordered them to draw up plans to attack if necessary without the use of gas. Gough proposed (17 September 1915) that the attack of 2nd Division be abandoned but wrote that "a moderately good chance of success if there is an element of surprise ... this attack, by its suddenness and the size of the force employed, is aimed at capturing the enemy's second line, viz. Hulluch-Staelie-Haisnes, in practically one rush." He also offered a more cautious Plan B, for an attack over the course of two to seven days, with diversionary artillery attacks followed by sequential attacks by 9th and 7th divisions. Haig used these, and Rawlinson's similar proposals, to lobby GHQ for the attack he wanted.
On 25 September the order came down to release the gas, despite the wind being unfavourable (i.e. likely to blow it back over British troops). Although Edmonds and Liddell Hart blamed Captain Ernest Gold (meteorological officer) and Maj-Gen Horne (GOC 2nd Division), Foulkes (the gas officer) later hinted that "still higher authority" may have been responsible, and a gas officer Lt Sewill recorded being told that the order came from Corps – i.e. Gough. At 5:20 am Gough had advised Haig that it was too late to cancel the gas release. However, Nick Lloyd blames Haig for drawing up such an inflexible plan, dependent on gas, in the first place. Gough had already angered officers of 9th Division by micro-managing brigade orders.
On Gough's left 2nd Division met with heavy losses, the CO of 1st Middlesex recording that the attacking waves "were all shot down within ten minutes". On Gough's right 7th Division captured the enemy first line, albeit with heavy loss.
In Gough's centre 26th Brigade, part of 9th Division , captured Hohenzollern Redoubt, but 28 Brigade were repulsed on the left. Gough was away from his headquarters for two hours that morning as he tried to discover why 28 Brigade were not making progress. Shortly after 9:10 am, just after 28 Brigade reports had reached division HQ, orders came from Corps to renew the assault at midday. The GOC, Major-General G. H. Thesiger , made clear that the orders came from Gough and "dissociated" himself from them. The bombardment was from 11:30 am to 12 noon as planned, but orders only reached the two forward battalions just before noon, forcing the men to attack at 12:15 pm after very little preparation, suffering predictable loss from a prepared enemy. Gough made little mention of this episode in his memoirs, while the divisional history (1921) was scathing about "forlorn hope" "an offence against a well-understood military principle" "futile" "an almost unbelievable optimism" "the persistence in a frontal attack showed a serious lack of flexibility in the Higher Command in making use of the division". Nick Lloyd argues that Gough was far too influenced by the initial favourable reports, and that his behaviour displayed the aggression and impatience for which he was later to become notorious. Thesiger was relatively new to his post, unlike Horne (2nd Division) who was an experienced commander on ground where little progress had been expected anyway.
Gough had at first ordered his divisions to commit their reserve brigades, but later in the day, when it became clear that the attack had been less successful than hoped, withdrew all three reserve brigades to form a corps reserve. On 26 September Gough was ordered to renew his attack towards Citie St Elie, but during the night a German counterattack had retaken the Quarries off tired British troops, and instead they had to stabilise their position along the former German front line (Gough later recorded "fresh anxieties").
On 26 September Gough sacked Brigadier-General W. A. Oswald, GOC of 73 Brigade, part of 24th Division, as it was moving up to the front. There is little evidence to support a later claim that he had "broken down mentally"; rather, Gough was concerned that the brigade might not hold its position around Fosse 8 against German counterattacks. Although Gough later acquired a reputation as a ruthless sacker of officers, he seldom did so while they were in action, and his dislike of Indian Army officers and elderly "dugouts" (retired officers recalled to service – Oswald was both) may have played a role. A hasty attack by 64 Brigade (part of 21st Division) at 1:45 pm that day, after an excited message from a junior staff officer, is also witness to the fear of sacking under which brigadiers worked.
I Corps refusal to feed through reserve units on 26 September caused these attacks to die out.
Haig, just informed of Thesiger's death, visited Gough at 2:15 pm on 27 September. Gough recorded that Haig was "visibly worried", "sharp" and "cross", and Gough later admitted that he may have passed some of this behaviour down to his subordinates.
Although Fosse 8 had been lost to a German counterattack on 27
September, 73 Brigade had been able to establish a position on the
east face of Hohenzollen Redoubt. Another week of fighting ensued as
First Army fed in reinforcements to stop further German progress and
retake ground. Maj-Gen
On 6 October I Corps issued a stinging rebuke to 28th Division. The twelve points included "misleading and inaccurate reports" "want of discipline and soldierly bearing" in one battalion, and the "disgraceful" retreat of another, "great slackness" "too much laisser (sic) faire" although the report also complained that it was not the business of Corps to command the division. In fact 28th Division, who were much criticised by Haig and Gough, had fought hard in wet weather, against strong German resistance, winning two VCs in the process.
Ousting Of Sir John French
Gough began a corps-level inquiry into the lessons of the battle (10 October), which after a discussion with Haig was followed by an Army-level inquiry (20 October). Gough's inquiries after the battle ascertained that British attacks had been stymied by lack of grenades, but had come close to achieving a breakthrough in areas where the wind had carried British chlorine gas over the German lines.
Gough was one of several senior officers invited to correspond with
the King to keep him informed of military developments. After the
Battle of Loos, with intrigues afoot to remove French from command of
the BEF, Gough was one of the senior officers who spoke to Lord
Haldane (9 October 1915) and the King (24 October 1915) against
French. He told the King "I would not pretend that Sir John was
fitted for the responsibilities he had, and the king was surprised by
the examples I gave him of the C-in-C's failings" Haig agreed with
Gough (14 November) that on his visit to
Gough later commented on the draft of the Official History (1926) that a limited attack at Loos would have been more sensible, as it could always have been reinforced if Joffre's offensive succeeded, and was critical of Haig for – as so often – attempting to achieve decisive victory with insufficient means.
Notes from a conference held by Gough on 20 December 1915 indicate that at the time he still thought in terms of the principles of warfare as taught at Staff College: he still expected an "advance guard" to move forward until, after two or three days, a plan had been decided on for deploying the bulk of British forces, whereas in reality, by 1917, the opening day would often prove the most effective of any offensive. Like many British generals of the time, he still blamed the failures of that year on human error in applying the principles of warfare, rather than on the need to concentrate artillery, learn new tactics, and allow senior officers to gain experience.
Main article: Battle of the Somme
Haig originally wanted to launch an offensive in Flanders, and told
Gough to be prepared to take I Corps up there for this offensive –
Gough sent Paul Maze, a member of his staff, to prepare sketches of
the ground. Haig did not completely abandon his hopes for a Flanders
Offensive, and as late as 30 June 1916
Gough was appointed GOC Reserve Corps on 4 April 1916, which was to push through and exploit any breakthrough achieved at the Somme. Gough spent most of the next two months supervising the training of the cavalry divisions, including staff rides and tactical exercises. He was asked for his opinion on the battlefield conditions which would be necessary for massed cavalry to move through, and on the organisation needed to control such a force both behind the lines and after the breakthrough. His staff, initially run by Edward "Moses" Beddington, were initially an adjunct of Haig's GHQ. Beddington had to liaise with XIII and XV Corps (on Rawlinson's right) to draw up contingency plans in case "things went as we hoped for" and with Jacob, who was to be given command of II Corps, although it was not yet clear what divisions this would contain.
An officer recorded that "Goughie ... was in his element when
ordering cavalry brigades around" while a major thought him "drunk
with power" for sacking so many officers who were not up to scratch
"yet the Chief can see no wrong in him". By mid-June he was also
supervising the training of the
1st Indian Cavalry Division
Plans For Exploitation
In May, after discussions with Rawlinson, Gough proposed that two brigades of cavalry should be used, one in the north and one in the south, to assist the infantry in the event of a German collapse. He also suggested (letter to the BEF Chief of Staff, Kiggell, 1 May 1916) that a further entire cavalry division should be used in the north to help roll up the enemy second line, but this was vetoed by Haig, who wrote in the margin of the document that the ground was unsuitable for "masses of cavalry", and who ordered Gough to restrict himself to a brigade each in the Ancre Valley and at Montauban.
Reserve Corps was renamed Reserve Army on 22 May 1916, (a development described as "ominous" by Prior & Wilson) although technically still part of Rawlinson's Fourth Army . In late June the plans were recast, despite the requirements of the Battle of Verdun causing a reduction in the planned French contribution to the offensive from 39 divisions to twelve. Instead of exploiting southeast to cover the flank of a French crossing of the Somme, Haig (memo to Rawlinson 16 June, Haig diary 21 June) now wrote that once Pozières Ridge was taken, "an effort should be made to push the cavalry through" and anticipated that Gough was to exploit northeast to Bapaume and then, once further reinforcements had moved up, turn north to Monchy to take the German Arras positions in "flank and reverse". (Arras is around 15 miles (24 km) from Bapaume). Jacob 's II Corps was either to be under Gough or else to reinforce Allenby 's Third Army (opposite Arras) directly.
Haig told Gough (diary 27 June) he was "too inclined to aim at fighting a battle at Bapaume" but should instead be ready to push on, before the Germans had a chance to attack him from the North. He also rebuked Rawlinson for wanting his men to consolidate for an hour or so on the German last line rather than pushing on, and for not having decided which units Gough was to take command of. Haig would have preferred Gough to take command of the two left hand corps (VIII Corps and X Corps ) at once (i.e. prior to the infantry attack) but instead, that evening, approved Rawlinson's plan for Gough to set up HQ at Albert as soon as the Pozières Heights had fallen and to push through with the Reserve Army.
By now Reserve Army had three infantry and three cavalry divisions. Research by Stephen Badsey among the surviving evidence, suggests that the final plan was probably for Gough to commit 25th Division , followed by two of the three cavalry divisions, then the II Corps (three divisions) to exploit any breakthrough achieved in the initial attack.
Philip Howell wrote (30 July 1916) that Gough "became more and more optimistic as the day of the battle drew near". Wynne later wrote to the Official Historian Edmonds (in 1930) that even after the disaster on the northern part of the British front, on the First Day of the Somme Gough was "ultro (sic) optimistic" and promoted "far reaching" plans.
Battle Of Albert
Main article: Battle of Albert
On 1 July Gough visited Rawlinson twice in the morning. In the afternoon Haig, not yet aware of how badly the attack had gone in the northern sector and believing that Rawlinson was about to be able to push his reserves through, visited Gough and ordered him to "move up" in the evening. Gough visited Rawlinson for the third time in the afternoon but was told that there would be no breakthrough that day, so he ordered cavalry to return to billets. At 7 pm Rawlinson telephoned to give command of X and VIII Corps (the northern sector of the Somme front, where the worst losses and smallest gains had occurred on 1 July), with orders to "push them on again". Taking command on 2 July, Gough reported that VIII Corps communication trenches were blocked with dead and wounded troops and X Corps was found to be little better. In the early hours of 3 July, Rawlinson ordered Gough to renew the attack on his sector, orders which Haig then countermanded.
Gough was ordered to attack towards
Over the following months most of the shells and heavy artillery would be supporting Rawlinson's efforts, and although Gough was given extra guns later, he never had as many as Fourth Army. Whereas Reserve Army was allocated 14,000 18-pounder and 880 6-inch howitzer rounds daily in July, Fourth Army had 56,000 and 4,920 respectively. Haig's orders to Gough were to "sap", i.e. try to make small penetrations into the German lines to open them up to flanking attacks. Kiggell wrote Gough a memo (4 July) making plain that Reserve Army's role was to assist Rawlinson's attacks, by pinning down German reserves and that he was to keep within the quantity of shells which he was given. In July Gough believed that frequent attacks "in modest numbers" would keep casualties low, by keeping the Germans "off balance" and so ruling out the need or another "massive assault" on the lines of 1 July – this was a mistaken view, as small narrow-front attacks allowed the Germans to concentrate their fire, so contributing to the massive British losses of that month.
Gough was promoted temporary general on 7 July 1916.
Reserve Army took Ovillers on 16 July. In July Jacob's II Corps replaced X Corps in the line as Gough thought Morland (X Corps) slow and overly cautious.
Battle of Pozières
The events of 1 July had shown that the German positions on VIII Corps sector and much of X Corps sector as well, were too strong to attack frontally. Gough's efforts until early September consisted of attacks by two divisions of X Corps, later assisted by the newly arrived II Corps, assisting Rawlinson's left flank. On only two occasions before 3 September, were efforts coordinated with that of the Fourth Army and one of those (22/23 July) by accident.
On 15 July, the day after the Fourth Army success at the Battle of Bazentin Ridge, Haig envisaged Gough exploiting up the Ancre valley, to attack the enemy on Third Army's front (to Gough's north) from the south. The Pozières sector was handed over from Rawlinson to Gough on 15 July, making the Albert–Bapaume Road the boundary between the two armies. When Fourth Army's attacks again ran out of steam, Haig ordered Gough (18 July) to prepare for "methodical operations against Pozières ... with as little delay as possible", to capture the summit of Thiepval Ridge and cover the left flank of Fourth Army's advance. Haig sent some fresh divisions to X Corps and also deployed 1 ANZAC Corps, newly arrived on the Western Front, opposite Pozières. This was the most important attack yet expected of Gough.
Gough had to be dissuaded from launching 1st Australian Division
against Pozières at 24 hours notice.
Charles Bean , the Australian
Official Historian, later wrote that on 18 July Maj-Gen "Hooky" Walker
, the British officer commanding 1st Australian Division, had been
ordered to attack Pozières the following night. Walker was appalled
by these "scrappy & unsatisfactory orders from Reserve Army", later
recording in his diary his concerns that he would be "rushed into an
ill-prepared ... operation".
I ANZAC Corps
The attack was delayed until 12:30 am on the night of 22/23 July and Pozières was taken, partly as a result of planning and partly as tired German troops were in the process of being relieved by fresh troops. The fall of Pozières on 22/23 July was the most successful part of a Big Push involving eight divisions, spread across five corps, from Pozières on the left to Guillemont on Rawlinson's right (Rawlinson had decided to push ahead without the French after they had requested a postponement of their part of the offensive). After German counterattacks had failed, the Germans then subjected the village to several weeks of severe shelling.
Clashes With Subordinates
Gough used his corps as "postboxes", whereas Rawlinson was more tolerant of debate and discussion. Gough was reluctant to allow corps their normal role of control of artillery (he centralised artillery at Army level under Brigadier-General Tancred) and in planning operations. A memo of 16 July ordered that all points for bombardment by heavy howitzers must be selected at corps-level, and then, four days later, he ordered that after any bombardment, at whatever level it had been requested, daily reports were to be submitted to Army HQ. Neill Malcolm (Chief of Staff Reserve Army) recorded several instances in his diary (6 July, 13 July, 18 July) of corps commanders chafing at his "interference". Before coming under Gough's command, Hunter-Weston (GOC VIII Corps) wrote to his wife (1 July) of his personal liking for Gough – by 3 August he wrote to her that his staff were glad to be moving to the Second Army at Ypres, that Reserve Army staff had not run smoothly and that although he liked Gough and thought him "a good soldier ... he is hardly a big minded enough man to make a really good Army Commander". He also complained of Gough's "impetuosity" and "optimism".
Gough also clashed badly with Philip Howell , Chief of Staff of II Corps. Howell thought Gough "very loveable in many ways", if perhaps not quite sane, and "really quite a child & can be managed like one if treated as such & humoured". By 24 July 1916 Howell was writing that Gough and Malcolm had "managed to put everybody's back up" and throughout August 1916 complained repeatedly about Army-level micromanagement, with Reserve Army allegedly even taking direct control of four of 12th Division machine guns during an attack on 2 August. Philip Howell claimed (29 August 1916) that Jacob (II Corps), Percival (49th Division) and even Neill Malcolm (!) were terrified of Gough. Gough thought Howell a "great thorn" who spent much time "trying to argue", avoiding fighting and disobeying orders. Howell was killed by shellfire in September.
Gough also clashed with Cavan (XIV Corps ) (3 August). Gough's attempts to micro-manage had little effect on the strong-minded Cavan.
Main article: Battle of Mouquet Farm
Gough ordered further attacks to seize the German OG1 and OG2 trenches north of Pozières, and to take Mouquet Farm (which lies approximately between Pozières and Thiepval). The first attack, by tired troops in the dark, failed. 1st Australian Division were withdrawn on 25 July and replaced by 2nd Australian Division . Sheffield & Todman argue that Gough's "direct operational control" of 2nd Australian Division on 29 July contributed to the failure of that attack, as Gough pressured Maj-Gen Legge to attack before preparations were complete. The German positions were on a reverse slope, so wire and machine gun positions could not be destroyed by bombardment. Bean blamed Legge for not standing up to Gough, and wrote that Brudenell White blamed himself for not doing so, although Sheffield argues that this is not entirely fair, as Legge, a "colonial", should have had more support from Corps level.
By the end of July it was clear that the Germans were not about to crumble as Haig had hoped, and on 2 August he ordered Reserve Army to conduct methodical attacks in the area from Pozières to Mouquet Farm and Ovillers, as economically with men and munitions as possible, so as to draw in German reserves and thus assist with Rawlinson's attacks on Gough's right flank. Haig recorded (diary 3 August) that Gough had demanded "reasons in writing" from Legge, after the failure of the Australian attack. Gough had written to Birdwood (1 ANZAC Corps Commander) demanding an explanation and asking if the attack would have succeeded given "greater energy and foresight on the part of the higher commanders". Birdwood refused to pass this note on to Legge as he thought it was "essential to give (him) a fair trial". Legge's second attack on Mouquet Farm, was better planned and succeeded on 4 August.
Gough now planned to capture Thiepval by converging attacks by the ANZACs from the east and by II Corps to the south west. This meant that the ANZACs had to attack along the crest of Thiepval Ridge, facing German fire from west, north and east. These attacks were often small in scale and were often not coordinated with II Corps attacks, let alone with Fourth Army, allowing the Germans – who knew the BEF plan from captured documents – a chance to concentrate their fire on the attackers.
Gough almost pushed Maj-Gen Robert Fanshawe (48th Division ) (25
August) to the point of resignation. Gough complained to Haig (Haig
diary 29 August) that "the Commanders of the Australians are becoming
less offensive in spirit! The men are all right...." In over a month
of fighting II Corps and
I ANZAC Corps
Prior & Wilson criticised Gough for his responsibility for what they called "the Mouquet Farm fiasco", not least because at some point in September (documentary evidence of the exact date has not been found) Gough had changed his mind and decided to attack Thiepval solely from the front, rather than trying to outflank it via Mouquet Farm. Philpott believes that although Haig's instructions were "confusing and contradictory", Gough (and Rawlinson) share some responsibility for the costly nature of these small piecemeal attacks, whose supposed aim was to "wear down" the Germans, prior to the decisive breakthrough which Haig was hoping to achieve in September. In August, clearly still hopeful that decisive victory could be attained on the Somme, Gough wrote to one of his nephews: "We are breaking in bit by bit and we must not stop until we have made the gap. It would be terrible to ask our men to begin their attacks all over again on fresh defences next year."
Initial Attack On Thiepval
A conference was held on 23 August to plan the attack on Thiepval, and the V Corps Chief of Staff (Brig-Gen Boyd) later brushed aside the GOC 6th Division 's objections that an afternoon attack was unwise. The next day detailed plans for each division's attack were issued not at corps level but by Reserve Army.
3 September saw an attack by four divisions of Reserve Army from
Pozières to the Ancre valley, simultaneously with an attack by Fourth
Army. V Corps, extending Reserve Army operations into the Ancre
valley for the first time, attacked towards St Pierre Divion and
The attack by 39th and 49th divisions (part of II Corps) failed, with some battalions taking between 30% and 50% casualties. Gough attributed the failure to lack of "martial qualities", lack of "discipline and motivation", "ignorance on the part of the Commanding officers" and "poor spirit in the men", to which Claud Jacob, GOC II Corps, added "want of direction", "stage fright", and cowardice on the part of the brigadier, while also commenting adversely on the lack of casualties among the C.O.'s. V Corps, at Reserve Army's insistence, sent a detailed critique of the operation to 39th Division. However, Gough took responsibility for not having cancelled the operation when it was clear surprise had been lost. He had lost an ADC wounded next to him as he observed attacks, his third during the war.
Assisting Rawlinson\'s Offensive
Gough had submitted (28 August) an ambitious plan for the capture of
Courcelette on his right flank. This was rejected by Kiggell, who told
him that he was to continue to conduct limited operations to assist
Rawlinson with the
Battle of Flers–Courcelette
Two days before Flers–Courcelette, Haig (13 September) – over Rawlinson's objections (Rawlinson diary 14 September) – ordered an attack on Martinpuich (Rawlinson's left flank) and an attack by 2nd and 3rd Canadian divisions on Courcelette (Gough's right flank) with a view to opening a gap which could be exploited by cavalry. Haig also urged Gough and Rawlinson (separately) not to neglect any opportunity to put the cavalry through, the ultimate aim being to take the Germans facing the Third and even First armies (to Gough's north) from the rear. II and V Corps were also to make feint attacks at Thiepval. The Canadian assault on Courcelette was a great success. Gough wrote (to his brother Johnnie's widow Dorothea, 23 September 1916) that many corps and division commanders were "incompetent" and that "considerable exercise of firmness" was needed to get them to obey orders.
Main article: Battle of Thiepval Ridge
After Flers-Courcelette (15 Sep) Haig, perhaps believing a decisive breakthrough to be imminent, initially envisaged Gough attacking Thiepval, together with further attacks by Fourth Army and by the French further south – an attack by ten divisions.
Gough's plan was for 18th Division to capture Thiepval and Schwaben Redoubt, 11th Division to capture Mouquet Farm and Zollern and Stuff Redoubts (roughly north of Mouquet Farm) while on the right 1st and 2nd Canadian divisions were to attack from Courcelette to Regina Trench which lay just beyond the ridge line. Gough allocated all seven of his tanks (five of which broke down before reaching the lines) to the Canadians.
The preliminary bombardment began on 23 September. This was the
heaviest barrage yet fired by Reserve Army, assisted by an indirect
machine gun barrage into the German rear areas. Gough had 570 field
guns and 270 howitzers to attack along a 6,000-yard (5,500 m) front
(roughly twice the concentration of 1 July, but only half that of the
Battle of Bazentin Ridge on 14 July and much the same as that of the
Battle of Flers–Courcelette
Allenby's Third Army was to co-operate with an attack on Gough's left flank (Haig diary 24 September 30 September).
In the event poor weather delayed the attacks until the early afternoon of 25 September. As Gough planned to use a few tanks to assist his attack, Haig ordered him to delay until the following morning when they could be concealed in the morning mist but in the event further delays, for which the reason is unclear, meant that Gough attacked at 12:35 pm on 26 September, exactly a day after Rawlinson and Foch.
Four divisions of Canadian and II Corps attacked between Courcelette and Schwaben. The Battle of Thiepval Ridge was Gough's most ambitious operation to date. The attack of 26 September showed the improvement in British tactics. Mouquet Farm at last fell in the afternoon. On the western sector, lodgements were gained in Zollern, Stuff and Schwaben redoubts and British forces pushed to the edge of St Pierre Divion. Thiepval was surrounded and captured by Maxse 's highly trained 18th Division by 08.30 on 27 September. By 30 September, after fierce hand-to-hand fighting in which the British suffered 12,500 casualties, 5 square miles (13 km2) had been gained, an advance of between 1,000–2,000 yards (910–1,830 m). Regina Trench and parts of Stuff and Schwaben Redoubts remained in German hands. This fighting demonstrated that, either attacking German positions with proper artillery support, or in hand-to-hand fighting in which artillery support mattered little, British volunteer infantry could fight as well as the Germans. The same would prove true in November. Gough's capture of Thiepval (an original objective for 1 July) preserved his status with Commander-in-Chief.
A 5 October 1916 memo (over Neill Malcolm's signature) for the guidance of division and brigade commanders (bypassing corps), sheds light on Gough's tactical thinking. Although he understood the importance of the creeping barrage and of mopping-up parties, he was – unlike Rawlinson – uninterested in bite and hold tactics and tended to feel that opportunities would be lost if infantry were obliged to stop at a predetermined point to stick to an artillery plan.
He recommended aiming for deep advances into enemy positions, with troops attacking up to five consecutive preassigned objectives, with waves aiming for predetermined objectives in a conveyor-belt approach. Each brigade was to attack in up to eight "waves": two battalions, making up the first four waves, were to take the first objective and another two battalions, perhaps deployed in columns for speed of movement, would then take the second, with no battalions held in brigade-level reserve (the argument being that orders would never reach them in time). He recommended that each division attack with two brigades and hold a third brigade in reserve, ready to take the third objective, by which time the first two brigades would have been reorganised to take the fourth objective. The fifth objective would require fresh troops.
He wanted commanders to keep as far forward as possible, even if it was not possible to keep in contact with their superiors by telephone, in order not to have to waste time sending junior officers forward to reconnoitre and report back. The brigade commander was to stay forward so that while the second objective was being assaulted they could reorganise the troops who had just taken the first objective, so that they could take the third. Divisional commanders were also urged to stay forward so that they could reorganise the attacking brigades so as to create their own reserve. Simpson comments that corps would have the benefit of RFC patrols to keep in touch, but their own reserves would be too far back to be of use, while heavy artillery controlled at corps level would be more important for counterbattery work and for the preliminary bombardment, rather than being needed during the infantry assault. Simpson also comments that all this was very similar to VIII Corps views prior to 1 July attacks, and that Reserve Army's attacks in October were to be little more successful, although weather and mud made Gough's task more difficult. Although it is true that opportunities for advance sometimes went begging for lack of initiative (e.g. at Bazentin Ridge on 14 July 1916), Sheffield argues that Gough was overly focussed on infantry rather than artillery tactics, and was demanding too much from his men.
Gough agreed with Haig's suggestion (Haig diary 8 October) that "the deterioration of the Enemy's fighting qualities" meant that it was not necessary for British troops to be protected by a barrage once they had captured an enemy position, as this would hamper reserves from pushing on to the next objective. General Bridges later wrote (in "Alarms and Excursions") that "With the true cavalry spirit, (Gough) was always for pushing on". Rawlinson (diary 9 October) recorded his concerns at Gough's "hourush tactics and no reserves, as they are not sound".
The fighting at Thiepval went on until November and was later criticised by the Official Historian for lack of co-ordination and excessive reliance on infantry elan.
Battle Of The Ancre Heights
Battle of the Ancre Heights
Battle of the Ancre Heights
On 8 October, the 1st and 3rd Canadian divisions, on Gough's right
flank, assisted another of Rawlinson's offensives by attacking
unsuccessfully towards Le Sars and Regina Trench, only to be held up
by German wire. Speaking to Haig that afternoon, Gough blamed the 3rd
Canadian Division, claiming that in some cases they had not even left
their trenches. Stuff Redoubt fell (9 October) to a battalion of 25th
After two weeks of rain had rendered plans for exploitation unrealistic, Gough issued a new, more cautious plan (15 October), in which 45 tanks were to be used, although he was still under pressure from Haig to exploit to the north and north-east. Stuff and Regina Trenches (which ran approximately west-east north of a line from Thiepval to Courcelette) were then captured in a major attack by 35th , 25th, 18th and 4th Canadian divisions, completing the capture of the Ancre Heights. The battle testified to the revived German defence after their panic of September.
Wilson, whom Gough had disliked since the Curragh incident , commanded IV Corps first alongside then under Gough in 1916. Wilson commented in his diary (21 October) on reports of Gough micro-managing divisions and even brigades. That autumn Lord Loch told Wilson "Goughie is the best hated & most useless some were based on factual inaccuracies. All this suggests a commander who had an incomplete grasp of the realities of the battle." He also remarks on Gough's deliberate humiliation of Fanshawe in front of the latter's subordinates. Walker was relieved of command of 2nd Division on 27 December.
Gough was awarded the KCB in 1916.
Gough And The BEF\'s "learning Curve"
Gough practised top-down command to a degree which was unusual in the
Sheffield argues that Gough's behaviour was to some extent an attempt to answer the dilemma noted by Malcolm (diary 29 June 1916). Malcolm believed that a "happy medium" had been attained between Army maintaining control of operations and delegating decision-making to the "man on the spot" as prescribed by Field Service Regulations. Sheffield describes that claim as "misplaced". The BEF had recently grown from 7 divisions to 70 – the Army had not anticipated or trained for the challenges of officers having to command large formations, nor for trench warfare, nor for the difficulties in communication (which would remain until battlefield radios came into use) involved. Officers' personalities, and how they related with one another, mattered a great deal in how they managed these changes. Part of Gough's concern at micromanaging plans may have been because he knew that once an attack had begun he would have little chance to influence the results.
Sheffield observes that Haig was himself grappling with the dilemma of the degree to which subordinates should be "gripped", and so often gave Gough unclear guidance. Gough himself also had a tendency to ignore orders from above when it suited him, the very tendency he abhorred in his own subordinates.
Some of Gough's ideas were adopted in other armies: Fourth Army's document Artillery Lessons of the Battle of the Somme (18 November) reflected Gough's prescriptive approach rather than the delegation encouraged under Field Service Regulations, or practised by Rawlinson during the Somme. On the other hand, the tactical manual SS144 The Normal Formation for the Attack (February 1917) was a compromise between Gough's view and the opposite view, that each infantry wave should take and consolidate just one objective, with fresh units being fed through to take deeper objectives.
Execution Of Deserter
Edmonds later wrote that he had heard Gough say that his men had "no blood lust" and that officers had "no spirit of the offensive", and that he had once come into the mess demanding that an officer (two, in some versions of the story) be shot pour encourager les autres. It has been suggested that this story may relate to the execution of Sub-Lt Edwin Dyett in January 1917, for alleged desertion while serving with the Royal Naval Division at Beaucourt on 13 November 1916. Gough, overruling the Divisional Commander's recommendation for clemency, recommended that the execution proceed.
Advance On The Ancre
On 1 January 1917, Gough was promoted to permanent Lieutenant General , while continuing to hold the temporary rank of full general. He was awarded the GCVO in 1917.
Early in 1917 Gough conducted minor operations aimed at "improving our position Gough later claimed that he had thought the enemy defences too strong but had permitted the attack at the request of the corps commander. By now Gough had a reputation among junior officers for "heavy losses and complete failure" "very typical of Gen Gough, who apparently does not care a button about the lives of his men" (Brigadier-General Hodgkin's Diary, 14 March). He had a reputation for "terroris(ing) those under him to the extent that they are afraid to express their opinions for fear of being (sacked)" (Haldane Diary 31 March).
Allenby was annoyed at the apparent favouritism shown to Gough at Army Commanders' conferences. Gough was allowed to expand Fifth Army's role in Arras beyond what had originally been intended. Gough commanded the southern part of the offensive (Horne's First Army attacked in the north, including the famous Canadian attack on Vimy Ridge, while the main attack was conducted by Allenby's Third Army in the centre). 4th Cavalry Division was allotted to Gough's sector to exploit any breakthrough achieved.
Building on his experiences on the Aisne in September 1914, Gough
formed mixed brigades of infantry, cavalry, artillery and engineers
during the German withdrawal to the
Gough was ordered (Haig diary 14 April) to prepare to "pierce" the
At the Army Commanders' Conference on 30 April 1917 Haig, who had just been told that Nivelle was to be sacked, still expected Italian and (contrary to the War Office view) Russian offensives to take place that year. He told the Army commanders that he was not entirely clear what the BEF would be doing for the rest of the year but that he wanted to "shift the centre of gravity up to the Second Army". In the afternoon after the conference he told Gough that he was to command the proposed Flanders Offensive, and ordered him to speak to Colonel Macmullen (who had presented plans, later abandoned, for a tank-led assault at Ypres) and visit the workshop at Erin, where tanks were being prepared for Operation Hush , a proposed amphibious landing on the Belgian Coast.
The Second Battle of Bullecourt (3–15 May) was "memorably bloody and ill-rewarded". Sanders Marble writes: "The results could largely have been predicted before so many lives were lost. Hasty attacks failed with heavy losses. Once adequate time was allowed for preparations the village was finally wrested from the Germans ... it was not the BEF's finest hour" Bullecourt "did not win many plaudits" and further worsened Gough's reputation in the eyes of the Australians.
Battle of Passchendaele
Planning The Offensive
While Gough was fighting at Bullecourt, Haig unveiled the timetable for Third Ypres at an Army Commanders' conference at Doullens (17 May). Haig may well have chosen Gough to spearhead Third Ypres because his aggression and preference to attack "at the hurroush" contrasted with the more cautious tactics favoured by Rawlinson and Plumer, and perhaps also because his inexperience and lack of knowledge of the Ypres Salient made him more willing to do Haig's bidding. Haig's admiring biographer John Terraine later wrote that putting Gough in charge of the early stages of Third Ypres was "Haig's greatest and most fatal error". The war correspondent Repington and the CIGS Robertson agreed with one another as early as 5 July 1917 that Plumer should have been chosen because of his knowledge of the Ypres Salient, and Gough himself later came to agree.
Gough later wrote highly of Maxse (XVIII Corps ), Jacob (II Corps) and Congreve (XIII Corps), his corps commanders in 1917, although not of Watts (XIX Corps ). However, Simon Robbins suggests that the "climate of fear" still pervaded throughout Fifth Army in 1917 and even into 1918. Gough held his first corps commanders' conference on 24 May 1917, before he had moved his HQ to the Ypres sector – the composition of divisions and corps for Third Ypres had already been chosen by this point. Simpson argues that by this time, possibly because staff officers had become more experienced at their jobs, Fifth Army's approach appears to have become "more hands-off and consultative" than in 1916, e.g. suggesting that each corps hold two divisions in the front and two in reserve. On 30 May Gough moved his HQ to Lovie Chateau two miles outside Poperinghe, and the HQ was up and running by 2 June.
Much of the tactical discussion concerned how far the British infantry should realistically be expected to push. The immediate targets were the Black Line, just under 1-mile (1.6 km) forward, the Green Line 1.5–2 miles (2.4–3.2 km) further on and the Red Line 2.5–3 miles (4.0–4.8 km) further. Gough agreed with Maxse's proposal (31 May) for attacks just before sunset (giving troops more rest prior to the attack, and the Germans less time to counterattack) and advancing further than the Black Line to the River Steenbeck. Gough agreed that opportunities had gone to waste at Arras (9 April) as the initial attack had not been pressed hard enough. At the next corps commanders' conference (6 June) Gough declared that "should the enemy be thoroughly demoralised during the initial attack, it might be possible to gain portions of the Red Line (at that stage still a second day's objective) during the first 24 hours," although he was keen to distinguish between a bold attack against a crumbling enemy and "an organized attack against ... organized resistance". A document circulated on 7 June stressed that platoon, company and battalion commanders were to be urged to act with initiative to seize ground, in the hope of repeating the successes of 1 July 1916 (the First Day of the Somme, on the southern part of the British line), 13 November 1916 (the first day of the Ancre) or 9 April 1917 (the first day of Arras). Simpson comments that as adequate field artillery support on the first day would only extend as far as the Green Line in places, "a repulse was almost inevitable" for those units which pushed on further, and that Gough still did not appear to realise that an offensive might stall because of stronger German resistance and counter-attacks, rather than from lack of initiative among junior officers.
Failure To Exploit Messines
After his victory at Messines , and in accordance with prior plans, Plumer ordered II and VIII Corps to exploit German disorganisation by attacking the Gheluveld Plateau. When their patrols encountered resistance (8 June), Haig asked Plumer to launch this attack at once, instead of waiting three days to redeploy sixty heavy and medium guns as arranged. When Plumer, after consultation with his corps commanders, declined to be rushed in this way, Haig placed II and VIII Corps under Gough's command, ordering him to prepare to seize the area around Stirling Castle. Gough, despite being given Plumer's plan (9 June), did not then make any such attack, and at the next Army Commanders' Conference (14 June) stated that he had not wanted to push his men into the small salient which such an attack would achieve, and that he wished to attack the Gheluveld Plateau simultaneously with his main attack (Gough later described this as "a slight change of plan" and also claimed that he did not want to rush into an advance because of his experience at Bullecourt). Haig approved this, and stated at the conference that he hoped to capture Passchendaele–Staden–Klerken Ridge on 25 July. The failure to seize the Gheluveld Plateau (the German Army Group Commander, Crown Prince Rupprecht , had recorded in his diary on 9 June that the area might have to be abandoned) was to have unhappy consequences.
Besides the four divisions of II and VIII Corps (VIII Corps, still under Hunter-Weston, was soon moved out of the sector) Gough was also given another four of Plumer's divisions at the end of June, together with two from GHQ Reserve. Another six were transferred from Horne's First Army. (This makes a total of 16 divisions: Farrar-Hockley states that he also had a division in Army reserve, with another in GHQ Reserve close by). Plumer, now left with only 12 divisions, was also required to transfer half his artillery and all his tanks to Gough.
The Germans had between five and seven (on the Gheluveld Plateau) defensive lines, and their positions had been strengthened since mid-June by Colonel von Lossberg . The fourth position, Flandern I, was 10,000–12,000 yards (9,100–11,000 m) away. Intelligence reports, filed mistakenly with the Messines operations in the Australian War Memorial, show that Fifth Army was largely aware of the digging of the German defences throughout June.
After another corps commanders' conference on 26 June, results of the discussions were published as orders. Gough planned a four-phase attack across a front of 8 miles (13 km): "a series of organised battles". First the enemy's front system (the crest of Pilckem Ridge and the edge of Shrewsbury forest on the Gheluveld Plateau) was to be taken, then the second line after a pause of 30 minutes. After a pause of four hours the third objective was to be attacked – advancing to the River Steenbeek, entering Polygon Wood and taking the German third line, in front of which lay their field (as opposed to heavy) artillery and counterattack reserves – for a planned advance of 3,000 yards (2,700 m) in total, i.e. up to the Green Line. Army was to control artillery initially, which would then be delegated to corps an hour after the third objective had been taken. There would then, "without any settled pause" and "either immediately or within a few hours" be a fourth phase: an extra 1,000–2,000 yards (910–1,830 m), taking the attackers to Passchendaele Ridge itself at Broodseinde, with the left flank along Gravenstafel spur to Gravenstafel and Langemarck (the Red Line). Although the strength of the fourth advance was to be left to the discretion of divisional commanders, Gough, in the words of the Official Historian, "instead of confining his first day’s operation to a short fixed advance, was in favour of going as far as he could", and more than twice as deep than Rawlinson and Plumer had earlier recommended. All available heavy artillery was to be ready to lay a protective barrage in front of the fourth objective, where Gough expected that resistance by German reserves would be met. However, if little opposition was met, a further advance was to be made that same afternoon to Passchendaele Village itself (technically a fifth objective, although not specifically numbered as such), an objective which Gough more realistically hoped to attain on the third or fourth day. Haig did not interfere, and Gough would later tell the Official Historian that Haig had hoped to reach the Belgian coast within a matter of weeks.
Brigadier-General "Tavish" Davidson , Director of Military Operations at GHQ, now (25 June) proposed that Gough make jumps of "not less than 1,500 yards (1,400 m) and not more than 3,000 yards (2,700 m)", while also recommending jumps of only about a mile (1,760 yards (1,610 m)). This would enable greater concentration of artillery fire, while attacking troops would be less disorganised and less vulnerable to counterattack, as well as being better able to maintain their morale and to be relieved by fresh troops, ready for an advance to the Red Line three days later. Although Davidson later wrote that Haig had seen and approved his memorandum, Haig's diary makes no mention of it. Gough's response to the memorandum declared himself "in agreement" with the "broad principles" of "a continuous succession of organised attacks" but criticised Davidson's suggestion that major attack could be mounted every three days, Gough thinking ten days a more realistic interval. Gough and Maxse (who wrote "BALLS!" on his copy of Davidson's paper) agreed with one another that opportunities for further advance should be taken, and blamed the failures at Arras after 11 April, on renewed attacks without adequate artillery preparation. By Davidson's later account, at a conference on 28 June, Plumer also favoured permitting local commanders to attempt a deeper advance. Gough would later claim (in the 1940s) that he had wanted a shallower advance but had been overruled by Haig and Plumer – this appears to be at best a false recollection, if not a lie.
Simpson wrote that Gough's wish to allow infantry to push forward was "more cautious than is usually supposed". Rawlinson was not involved in these discussions and his view that Gough wanted to go forward at the "Hurroosh" may well be more a comment on his knowledge of Gough's temperament than a strictly accurate description of Gough's plans by this stage.
Eve Of The Offensive
Haig briefed Gough (diary 28 June) that "the main advance" should be limited until the Gheluveld Plateau had been secured as far as Broodseinde. Haig was principally concerned that Gough was not giving sufficient weight to the attack on Gheluveld Plateau. Prior & Wilson write: "It is not evident that Gough allowed these views greatly to influence the disposition of his forces". The boundary of Fifth Army was extended south, placing another of Plumer's divisions under II Corps, so that Sanctuary Wood could be assaulted, lest the Germans there subject the attackers of the Gheluveld Plateau to enfilade fire. A XIV Corps memorandum states that they had sufficient high-explosive shell but insufficient heavy guns to bombard as thoroughly as they would have liked. Prior & Wilson point out that, had Gough followed Haig's advice to concentrate more weight against the Gheluveld Plateau, that would have reduced the effectiveness of the attack on his left and centre, but also argue that more heavy guns could have been obtained from Rawlinson's forces (threatening a diversionary attack along the Belgian Coast) and Plumer's Second Army (some of which was attacking the Gheluveld Plateau, but some of which was mounting largely fruitless diversionary attacks further south).
Rawlinson urged the CIGS Robertson (29 June) of "the desirability of holding on to Goughy's coat tails and ordering him only to undertake the limited objective and not going beyond the range of his guns". He repeated this advice to Haig over dinner (3 July) although he was concerned that Haig would not insist hard enough. Aylmer Haldane recorded in his diary (30 June 1917) his lack of keenness at going to Fifth Army and wrote that Gough was "very impetuous and difficult to get on with" as well as "excitable and thoughtless and impatient".
Another memo by Gough (30 June) raised the possibility that open warfare might be attained after 36 hours, although "this is a result which we can hardly hope to attain until the enemy has been beaten in two or three heavy battles." Haig annotated this to insist that the capture of Passchendaele–Staden Ridge, not just the defeat of the German forces, must be the object of the offensive. Gough expressed scepticism to Robertson and King George V when they visited Fifth Army Headquarters on 3 July about Haig's "illusion" that the advance would be rapid – he said "we would be lucky to reach Roulers in two months". Like Plumer, Gough believed that Haig was being fed an exaggerated picture of German weakness by his intelligence advisor Charteris .
In his instruction of 5 July, Haig ordered that Passchendaele–Staden Ridge was to be taken within weeks, and that thereafter a chance for the "employment of cavalry in masses is likely to occur" as they exploited towards Bruges, Roulers and Ostend. Haig hoped to reach Roulers by 7–8 August, in time for Fourth Army to catch the high tides for their coastal operations.
Battle of Pilckem Ridge
The bombardment began on 16 July. The battle was to have commenced on 25 July. Gough was granted three extra days for bombardment as it had taken longer than expected to get heavy artillery into place. A further delay was granted for General Anthoine (commanding the French Army on Gough's left flank) as bad weather was hampering his counter-battery programme. Haig noted in his diary (23 July) that three of the four British corps commanders (but not Jacob of II Corps) welcomed the delay for the same reason (Charteris later described the conference as "definitely heated" and Haig as "very moody" after he had to bow to their wishes for a further delay). Fifth Army intelligence at the time recorded weather conditions as "bad" and "poor" for much of the pre-31 July period (making it difficult for aircraft to spot German batteries behind Passchendaele Ridge and the Gheluveld Plateau, or for sound-ranging to operate in the prevailing westerly wind).
Walter Guinness wrote of the slipshod staff planning, engineering and signalling arrangements of Fifth Army in 1917: "None of the lessons taught by Plumer's success seem to have been learned." He recorded in his diary (23 July 1917) that there was "little confidence" in Gough.
On 31 July the attack was relatively successful on the left (Anthoine's French, Cavan's XIV Corps (which took its objectives up to the Black Line before running into counterattacks), and to some extent Maxse's XVIII and Watts' XIX (both of which reached beyond the Green Line in places, although they did not take St Julien, and were driven back to the Black Line by counterattacks in places), but less so in Jacob's II Corps attacking the Gheluveld Plateau, where counterbattery work had not been good enough to silence German artillery). Despite initial German concerns at the success of the British attack in the left and centre, the German counterattack was conducted by Eingreif divisions which had survived further back towards Passchendaele Ridge, and artillery operating from and behind Passchendaele Ridge and the Gheluveld Plateau. British infantry training had proven relatively effective, but German artillery and the poor light and state of the ground caused a breakdown in communications, making it hard to bring up reinforcements.
Edmonds later stressed in the Official History that after four days Gough's men were less than halfway to their first day objectives and had lost 30–60% of their fighting strength. Prior the total rainfall for the month was almost double the normal August average. Much of the battlefield turned into a quagmire in which men and animals sometimes drowned, making movement of men and supplies difficult and severely reducing the accuracy and effectiveness of artillery.
Battle Of Langemarck
Battle of Langemarck (1917)
Gough delayed his planned attacks for a week. During the 2–10 August delay, corps reserves had to be used to relieve exhausted units in the line, instead of being kept to exploit the attack. The 10 August attack was in good weather but after rain two days earlier, not giving the ground enough time to dry. The 18th and 25th divisions attacked the Gheluveld Plateau on 10 August, aiming to capture the second objective from 31 July. They were heavily shelled by unsubdued German guns, and after initial progress were subjected to counterattacks, suffering 2,200 casualties for a gain of 450 yards (410 m) on the left and no progress on the right. Part of the reason for the failure of the attack on Westhoek to hold ground east of the village, was that Gough had dispersed his artillery along the rest of his front in readiness for the next big push.
The 16 August attack was originally scheduled for 14 August but
Gough, Farrar-Hockley claims under pressure from Haig to make rapid
progress to link up with the planned seaborne landing, allowed Jacob a
postponement of only one day. A thunderstorm forced another. Although
Second Army artillery were providing some assistance on the Gheluveld
plateau, much of their strength was being dissipated assisting the
Battle of Hill 70 , a First Army attack by the
In the centre, the
16th (Irish) Division and
36th (Ulster) Division
Haig noted (diary 18 August) that "Failure to advance on the right centre" was caused by "Commanders being in too great a hurry" and that three more days should have been allowed to allow artillery to gain the upper hand – the same advice he had given before the battle but had not enforced. He demanded Gough get the facts and then "talk the matter over with him". There is no evidence of Gough thinking the same way: at a conference of his corps commanders (17 August), he noted the tendency of his men to be driven back by counterattacks, wanting to court martial some officers and NCOs for "glaring instances" of this, and also complained that divisions were being rotated too quickly through the line, which might risk Fifth Army "running out of men". Gough proposed a series of piecemeal operations: XVIII Corps were to attack on 19 August, XIX Corps on 21 August, then II Corps on 22 August, in each case to seize the objectives which they had failed to achieve on 16 August. XIV, XVIII and XIX Corps were then to attack on 25 August, followed by II Corps later on the same day. There would then be a general advance at some unspecified future date. This plan was then abandoned as XIX and II Corps did not have enough fresh troops to attack.
It was decided instead that Maxse's XVIII Corps would attack on 19 August, then XIV and II Corps on 22 August. The former attack was successful, capturing fortified farmhouses near St Julien which had caused difficulty on 16 August (as the farmhouses were on dry ground, Maxse was able to use twelve tanks, protected by a smoke barrage). The attack on 22 August was unsuccessful owing to the ineffectiveness of the bombardment and German counterattacks, with no ground at all being gained on the Gheluveld Plateau.
Rain began again on 23 August. On 24 August Gough's intelligence branch informed him that the German defences were not linear but consisted of strongpoints in a chequerboard formation, with many German units held back for counterattack. Gough issued a new paper Modifications Required in Our Attack Formations to Meet the Enemy's Present System of Defence (24 August) –with a greater percentage of "moppers-up" to deal with bypassed enemy strongpoints, while larger numbers of troops were employed to withstand counterattacks. These tactics ("waves" followed by "worms") were later demonstrated to Third Army on 14 September, although in Simpson's view Gough did not appear to have realised that artillery superiority was needed to use them effectively.
Plumer Takes Over
Haig then saw Plumer (25 August), the day after the German counterattacks which recaptured Inverness Copse, and informed him that II Corps would soon be returned to his command, and that his Second Army was to take the lead in the offensive, to take the Gheluveld Plateau with a more cautious and methodical approach. He saw Gough later the same day and informed him that he was to undertake subsidiary attacks to assist Plumer.
By 26 August the rain had become torrential. XVIII Corps attacks on
the St Julien spur failed (27 August), while that day Inverness Copse
(on the Gheluveld Plateau) resisted its fourth assault. Simpson writes
that the large attacks on 27 August were, like those on 22 August, "no
more successful than those before". Farrar-Hockley blames the attack
on Haig's orders to "press the enemy" and on Neill Malcolm's "speaking
savagely" to the corps commanders. The Official History writes that
the attack resulted in "considerable further casualties and very
little gain in ground". Plumer's biographer describes it as "a bloody
fiasco" in which some of Gough's men were left standing up to their
knees in water for up to ten hours before zero hour. Prior 20th
(Light) Division (under XIV Corps), and
51st (Highland) Division
With a breakthrough apparently imminent, Haig ordered (26 September) that forces for exploitation, including cavalry, be ready to exploit to Roulers by 10 October, ready to link up with the long-postponed coastal advance and seaborne landing. Gough protested that 16 October was a more realistic date (Plumer's suggestion was 13–14 October) but was over-ruled by Haig. Gough appears to have anticipated a dramatic exploitation by mounted cavalry, but marginal notes by Haig on a memo from Neill Malcolm (1 October) indicate that he had misunderstood the Commander-in-Chief's intent – Haig envisaged cavalry being used more cautiously at first, in a dismounted role, in the event of German resistance breaking, a far cry from the dramatic exploitation which had been anticipated at the Somme.
The rain then resumed. Edmonds later claimed in the Official History,
that at a conference on 7 October Gough and Plumer urged "a closing
down" of the campaign, but were over-ruled by Haig, who cancelled the
plans for cavalry exploitation but ordered that Passchendaele Ridge be
taken. Prior & Wilson point out that there is no documentary evidence
for the existence of this conference, either in contemporary records
or in Haig's diary, nor did Gough make any such claim in his memoirs,
although it would have been in his interests to do so. Gough had
written to H. A. Gwynne , editor of
The Morning Post
During the night before First Passchendaele (12 October) Gough telephoned Plumer to suggest a postponement because of the foul weather, but Plumer, after consulting his corps commanders, decided to push on. Gough recommended to Kiggell that the final operation (Second Passchendaele , in which the Canadians played a key role) be delayed until frost had dried out the ground, but Haig vetoed Kiggell's suggestion of a conference with Gough and Plumer and demanded (diary 26 October) that Gough and Plumer inspect the front lines and then report back to him. The offensive went ahead as planned.
Rawlinson recorded "things had not been running at all smoothly" in Fifth Army Staff (Diary 11 and 13 October 1917). By late 1917 he recorded that "intense feeling against Goughy" had "made many enemies" and led to the "formation of a sect of officers called the GMG" which stood for "Gough must go" (Rawlinson Diary 14 October 1917 and 1 November 1917). Kiggell advised Haig to send the Canadians to Plumer not Gough as they did not "work kindly" with Gough as he "drove them too much in the Somme fighting last year" (Haig Diary 5 October 1917 Gough, Beddington and other rear echelon officers recorded being awakened at around 5:10 am, when British artillery, hampered by the fog, began to return fire. The Germans had over 8,000 guns and trench mortars. Much of the German bombardment (described by eyewitnesses as "a wall of orange flame" and "a sea of fire") concentrated on British headquarters and communications, while pauses were left in the bombardment of the British front lines to tempt the defenders out of their shelters. Gas was also used, although mustard gas was not used in areas through which German troops were to pass. 19 German divisions assaulted six of Byng's Third Army, while 43 German divisions attacked Fifth Army (13 divisions plus 2 in GHQ Reserve). Many British divisions were at little more than half strength, and none more than two-thirds, giving the Germans a 4:1 numerical superiority on Byng's front and over 8:1 on Gough's.
At 8:30 am Gough ordered the 20th and 50th Divisions to be ready to move up to the front, and obtained retrospective permission from GHQ. Gough spent the morning at his own headquarters listening to reports as they came in – III Corps forward zone was already reported overrun by 10 am – and reading reports of the rounding up of labourers and pioneers into ad hoc fighting units, as he would have been putting himself out of communication had he attempted to tour the front. At around 1 pm General Humbert arrived, telling Gough that he had only a skeleton staff but no troops to send (je n'ai que mon fanion – "I've only the pennant on my car"), and promising to lobby GQG to send French divisions. At 2 pm, after studying aerial reconnaissance reports (the fog had cleared enough by 12:30 pm for British planes to be launched), Gough ordered the corps commanders to begin a fighting retreat, described by Beddington as "a right and brave decision arrived at very quickly". He was disinclined to speak to Lawrence or Davidson again, and disappointed not to hear directly from Haig himself that day. In the afternoon he visited his corps commanders one by one. Formal orders to fall back were issued at 9:45 pm. Haig (diary 21 March) approved Gough's withdrawal. Haig (diary 21 March) appears to have regarded the initial day's fighting as a creditable result, knowing as he did that the first day was often the most successful of any offensive, and GHQ (from their 2 March appraisal) appear to have believed that the main German effort would fall somewhere else, perhaps against the French in Champagne.
To avoid a repetition of the chaos of the August 1914 retreat, Gough took particular care to order that corps headquarters retreat to spots which he had selected (sited on existing signal cables) and keep a tight grip on the location of their division headquarters. That evening he spoke to Lawrence on the telephone, who told him that the Germans were unlikely to attack again the next day as they would be too busy reorganising their tired troops and collecting their wounded – Gough claimed to have "emphatically" disagreed, and that evening Haig agreed to send a second division being moved down from Flanders – one was already on its way – to Gough's sector.
Martin Kitchen takes a rather different view, arguing that Haig was misled by Gough's overly favourable report. Haig therefore did not ask the French for reinforcements until after midnight of 21/22 March, and then asked for only three divisions – half what had been agreed under "Hypothesis A" – which reached the British line on 23 March. Following Haig's request, Petain agreed to send two divisions and some dismounted cavalry under General Pelle to cover the French left flank. This news reached Gough the following morning. On the evening of 21 March Petain, having heard that Butler's III Corps had been unable to hold the line of the Crozat Canal the previous evening, had also at last agreed that French 125th Division be deployed to III Corps sector.
At 10:45 am on 22 March, following a telephone request from Congreve for clarification of his previous verbal instructions, Gough issued written orders to corps commanders to retreat "in the event of serious hostile attacks" the forward line of the Rear Zone ("the Green Line" in front of the Somme – in practice little more than a line of signposts and wire). Fifth Army staff also informed corps commanders of the impending French reinforcement and Gough's hopes to withdraw III Corps to form a reserve. On receiving these messages at around noon, Maxse ordered XVIII Corps to withdraw immediately, without cover of artillery fire, and they fell back behind the Somme altogether that evening. Gough attempted to halt Maxse's withdrawal when he heard of it, but it was too late. Maxse's precipitate retreat allowed a German penetration at Bethencourt on his left flank, forcing Watts XIX Corps on his left to fall back also. Watts' falling back in turn jeopardised V Corps (part of Byng's Third Army) still holding the Flesquières Salient.
Bertie recorded (24 March), somewhat prematurely, that Haig had saved Gough's job. By 24 March the Germans had broken through into open country, although officers on the ground were organising stragglers and rear echelon troops into scratch formations. Reinforcements (1st Cavalry Division on Gough's left to maintain contact with Third Army, 35th Division down from Flanders into VII Corps sector, and Robillot's II French Cavalry Corps (whose formations were in fact mainly infantry) in XVIII Corps sector) were beginning to take their place in Gough's line. On Gough's right III Corps were now under the command of General Pelle, but its units were becoming interspersed with French units as Butler had been attempting to withdraw them, and had lost control of the situation.
Herbert Lawrence visited Fifth Army on 24 March (Haig was visiting Byng's Third Army that day) and reported that it had "still plenty of life" despite shortage of numbers, and that Gough was planning a counterattack by four British brigades and 22nd French Division against a bridgehead which the Germans had made over the Somme at Pargny (threatening a breach between Watts' and Maxse's Corps).
The planned counterattack did not take place as General Robillot
refused to co-operate, despite a personal visit from Maxse on the
morning of 25 March, and Watts' Corps had to fall back from the line
of the Somme. Gough spent much of that day visiting Maxse and Watts,
and reconnoitring the ground east of
Gough was not invited to the Army Commanders' meeting 11 am on 26
March, at which Haig told Plumer, Horne and Byng that
Brigadier-General Sandilands later recorded that, returning from leave, in the chaos he was unable to locate his brigade (part of 35th Division), or even find out which corps it was currently part of. Making his way to Fifth Army Headquarters on 26 March by asking a lift from a man who knew him by sight, he found Gough having his teeth examined, but decided "discretion was the better part of valour" and beat a hasty retreat from the room. At about 11am a car drew up containing Milner and Wilson, now CIGS, who asked whether it was safe to drive into Amiens. Sandilands pointed out that Gough was in the building, assuming that they would wish to speak to him, but Wilson replied "Oh he is here is he? Well good morning" and drove off. Sandilands thought "that's the end of Gough". He later realised that they had been on their way to the Doullens Conference at which Foch was appointed generalissimo.
At the Doullens Conference that afternoon Wilson suggested to Haig that Rawlinson and his staff, currently at Versailles, could replace Gough (in the Official History Edmonds openly blamed Wilson for Gough's dismissal, so that he could remove Rawlinson, "a strong man" from Versailles ). Petain (who, according to Haig had "a terrible look. He had the appearance of a commander who had lost his nerve") said of Gough's Fifth Army "Alas it no longer really exists ... From the first they have refused to engage the enemy ... they have run like the Italians at Caporetto ". This was an exaggeration, and angered even the Francophile Henry Wilson. Petain told the meeting that 24 French divisions (at another meeting at Compiegne the previous day he had given the figure as 15 divisions) were en route to prevent a German breakthrough to Amiens.
By 26 March Gough had received a British infantry division from Italy, as well as three Australian and one New Zealand Divisions. Maxse was maintaining his place in the line, despite pressure from the French to join them in retreating south-westwards. Gough had to send a messenger, Paul Maze, to Humbert's headquarters, with orders to get back XVIII Corps artillery which had been lent temporarily to the French, with orders not to leave until he had obtained written orders for its return. Gough spent much of the afternoon with Watts, whose sector was also being strongly attacked. Gough returned to his headquarters, now moved back from Villers-Bretonneux to Dury, for a meeting with Foch (who was also establishing his own headquarters at Dury) and Weygand at 4 pm. Speaking in French, Foch demanded to know why Gough was not in the front line himself, why Fifth Army was falling back, and why there was no defence as at First Ypres in 1914. Gough thought him "peremptory, rude and excited", but such a manner was common in French generals, whose subordinates also sometimes answered back in similar vein. Gough telephoned Haig to complain, adding that French troops were falling back at a much faster rate than his own. Haig recorded that Gough complained that Foch had been "most impertinent" to him. After meeting with Gough, Foch saw Fayolle (Reserve Army Group commander) and was rather more civil to him.
At 5 pm, after the Doullens conference, Haig met Milner and Wilson – he recorded that he told them that no matter what opinion at home might think, or what Foch had just said, he thought Gough "had dealt with a most difficult situation very well. He had never lost his head, was always cheery and fought hard."
On the evening of 26 March Gough telephoned Lawrence to say that the Germans were weakening and often falling back in the face of local counterattacks, and that with three fresh divisions (he had in reserve only two composite battalions and a Canadian motor machine-gun battery, which he had had to send to Watts' sector) he could push them back to the Somme. He recorded that "Lawrence laughed and said it was good to hear that we had plenty of fight still left, though no reinforcements at the moment could be sent." In fact Byng's Third Army had been prioritised for reinforcements, and had been sent seven divisions since 22 March.
Bertie recorded (27 March) that Haig himself might be sacked instead of Gough. Gough spent much of 27 March with Watts, who was still facing strong German attacks although beginning to drive them back with counterattacks, and then with Maxse whose XVIII Corps was about to be relieved by French troops coming into the line. He returned to his HQ at about 5 pm, to find Haig's Military Secretary Maj-Gen Ruggles-Brise , who informed him to his surprise that he was to be relieved of command of Fifth Army and was to hand over command to Rawlinson the following day.
Gough had to deal with a final crisis as the Germans were crossing the east-west portion of the Somme at Cerisy, threatening XIX Corps rear. Byng, on hearing this news had moved 1st Cavalry Division south of the Somme and returned it to Gough's command pending the arrival of 61st Division by hastily organised motor transport. Gough eventually telephoned Foch at 3am on 28 March to ask permission for Watts to withdraw further, although he later regretted not having simply made the decision on his own authority. XIX Corps and Carey's Force were able to hold the Stop Line on 28 March.
Gough handed over command to Rawlinson at 4:30 pm on 28 March.
Beddington and other staff officers remained to ease the transition.
Over dinner (29 March) Haig told Gough that he wanted him out of the
line, along with a Reserve Army staff, to prepare an east-west line of
defence along the Somme from
Haig defended Gough to Lloyd George during a car journey (3 April) – he recorded that Lloyd George was looking for a scapegoat for the manpower problem and for his attempts to redeploy divisions to the Middle East contrary to Robertson's advice, and that Lloyd George demanded Gough's dismissal on the grounds that he had neither held nor destroyed the Somme bridges. Haig, by his own account, replied that "could not condemn an officer unheard" and refused to sack him unless given a direct order to do so. The next day (4 April) Haig received a telegram from Lord Derby ordering that Gough be dismissed altogether on the grounds of "having lost the confidence of his troops". Haig held a farewell lunch with Gough on 5 April.
Gough's formations had retreated over 40 miles (64 km) and communications often broke down. However, he had averted a complete disaster. Andrew Roberts offers a favourable assessment of Gough's contribution:
... the offensive saw a great wrong perpetrated on a distinguished (sic) British commander that was not righted for many years. Gough's Fifth Army had been spread thin on a forty-two-mile front lately taken over from the exhausted and demoralised French. The reason why the Germans did not break through to Paris, as by all the laws of strategy they ought to have done, was the heroism of the Fifth Army and its utter refusal to break. They fought a thirty-eight-mile rearguard action, contesting every village, field and, on occasion, yard . . . With no reserves and no strongly defended line to its rear, and with eighty German divisions against fifteen British, the Fifth Army fought the Somme offensive to a standstill on the Ancre, not retreating beyond Villers-Bretonneux...
Martin Kitchen takes a more critical view, pointing out that troops were initially under orders not to retire from the forward zone, that there were no adequate lines of communications between corps, and that Gough caused further trouble by issuing orders direct to lower formations, even down to brigade level. Gough "muddle(d) through ... to the limit of his very modest abilities".
DISGRACE AND AFTER
Lord Derby (Secretary of State for War) informed the War Cabinet (4 April) that he was demanding a full report on the recent reverse suffered by Fifth Army.
Gough visited Derby (8 April) to ask about an inquiry – he recorded that Derby was "pleasant enough, almost genial", but appeared glad when the interview was over. In the House of Commons Lloyd George (9 April) refused to rule out a court martial for Gough, praised General Carey for forming an ad hoc force to hold back the enemy in the Fifth Army sector, apparently unaware that the initiative had come from Gough when Carey was still on leave, and praised Byng (GOC Third Army) for only retreating when forced to do so by Fifth Army's retreat, apparently unaware of Byng's folly in clinging to the Flesquières Salient. Byng wrote to the editor of the Daily Express (19 April) that Gough was "talking too much and had better keep quiet".
Lloyd George told the War Cabinet (11 April) that the Liberal War Committee (a committee of backbench MPs) had made "very serious protests" to him that afternoon against the retention of "incompetent" officers like Gough and Haking.
When the War Cabinet demanded a progress report into the inquiry into the Fifth Army debacle (1 May), General Macdonogh (Director of Military Intelligence) reminded them the following day that the Under-Secretary of State had recently informed the House of Commons that, with the German Spring Offensives still in progress, the Government thought it unwise to put pressure on Haig.
After Lloyd George survived the Maurice Debate (9 May) with a misleading speech, Gough wrote to Lord Milner (now Secretary of State for War), in the hope that an inquiry into the Fifth Army would reveal the lack of reserves, only to receive a reply from the Under-Secretary that he was "mistaken" in thinking that there had been a promise of an inquiry (it is unclear whether this was an error or a deliberate lie). A furious Gough wrote to a friend in June that none of the other Army Commanders would have had the resilience to handle such a massive German attack, and that he "never wanted to wear the uniform of England again". He resisted the temptation to breach King\'s Regulations by airing his views in public as Maurice had done or to brief Opposition MPs.
Haig in fact wrote to his wife (16 June) claiming that "some orders (Gough) issued and things he did were stupid" (it is unclear to what Haig was referring) and claiming that he would "stick up for him as I have hitherto done" although he had not in fact specifically done so in his report of 12 May, in which he had blamed the German crossing of the Oise on the fog and the low level of the water owing to the recent dry weather. Haig also (letter of 6 July, replying belatedly to a letter of Gough's of 21 June) claimed that he had defended Gough from political criticism throughout the winter of 1917–18 and advised him to keep quiet so that he could be restored to an active command when memories had faded. In August, stung by a letter from Lord Roberts' widow that he owed a duty to protect the reputation of the men of Fifth Army, Gough had an interview with Lord Milner, who blamed the events of March on poor defence, incompetent leadership and the reluctance of the troops to fight, and bluntly refused to help.
Press reports of the events of March 1918 appeared in the National Review and the Illustrated Sunday Herald in October 1918, while officers and men returning after the Armistice were able to challenge claims that the Fifth Army had been defeated because morale had been poor and the soldiers had lacked confidence in Gough's leadership (although in practice few front line soldiers would have known the name of their Army Commander). At a dinner on board his train in February 1919 Haig confessed to Edward Beddington that he agreed that Gough's treatment had been "harsh and undeserved" but that "public opinion at home, whether right or wrong, (had) demanded a scapegoat" and he had been "conceited enough to think that the Army could not spare" himself rather than Gough – Beddington agreed that this had been the correct decision at the time.
Beddington later complained to Haig that he had only given Gough "faint praise" in his Final Despatch, and that he had been "fobbed off" with a GCMG instead of being promoted to field marshal and being given a cash grant. Haig was angry, although he later invited Gough to his home at Bemersyde to repair their relations.
Gough was not in
A further official statement in March 1919 declared that "the matter was now closed". However, in May 1919 Gough received a handwritten note from the new Secretary of State for War, Winston Churchill (Edmonds – Official History 1918 Vol II p. 119 – attributes the letter wrongly to Churchill's predecessor Lord Milner), praising the "gallant fight of the Fifth Army" and promising to consider Gough for "command appropriate to (his) rank and service". Gough was initially angry that this was not a full exoneration and implied that he might be employed in his permanent rank of lieutenant-general (not as an acting full general, the rank he had held at the time of his dismissal), but eventually accepted because of the praise given to Fifth Army.
He was appointed Chief of the Allied Military Mission to the Baltic
United Baltic Duchy
Gough was a signatory to joint statement issued with other officers and advisors who had served in Russia , who on 23 February 1920 indicated their support of peace between the British and the Bolshevik Russia.
Gough retired from the Army as a full general on 26 October 1922, although owing to an administrative error he was initially told that he would receive the pension of a full colonel, his substantive rank as of August 1914.
POSSIBLE POLITICAL CAREER
As he had now become convinced of the merits of Home Rule he declined an offer to stand as an Ulster Unionist for a Belfast seat in the November 1918 General Election , despite an interview with Carson whom he found more "broadminded" in private than the uncompromising speeches which he was delivering in public.
Gough's name was proposed to the Cabinet early in 1921 by William O\'Brien as a potential Viceroy of Ireland (in succession to French). Nothing came of this, but he stood unsuccessfully as an Asquith Liberal (i.e. opposed to Lloyd George's coalition government) in the Chertsey by-election, 1922 . During the campaign he stressed his opposition to the policy of reprisals which had been employed in Ireland. Gough would later decline further attempts to persuade him to stand for Parliament in the 1922 General Election .
After the June 1929 General Election he recorded his dislike of the "fierce old women who support, and in large part constitute, the Tory Party" and of the "arrogant audacity" with which they appropriated the Union Jack as a party symbol. However, in March 1931 he declined another offer to stand for Parliament as a Liberal, not least because of his dislike of Lloyd George, who was now Liberal leader.
FARMING AND BUSINESS CAREER
Gough initially (August 1918) found that his recent "difficulties" in
France would make it difficult for him to pick up company
directorships. In October 1918 he attended an agriculture course at
With four daughters to support, from the summer of 1920 (i.e. after
his return from the Baltic) Gough attempted to earn his living as a
pig and poultry farmer at Burrows Lea at
Gomshall in Surrey. He also
became a director of the Ashley Trading Company, initially selling
US-manufactured wallpaper paste in Britain. In 1925–26 he bought
The reputation which Gough had won on his commercial trip to
BATTLE OF THE MEMOIRS
The war correspondent
The Fifth Army in France in 1918 by Walter Shaw Sparrow (1921) gave some indication of the strain of the battle which Fifth Army had borne, although the book, written at the time of the Irish War of Independence , tended to denigrate the 16th (Irish) Division at the expense of the 36th (Ulster) Division. Gough thought Sparrow "a fine old fighter".
Part II of Churchill's World Crisis appeared in 1927, and praised Gough's role in March 1918. In March 1930 Gough was approached by Lord Birkenhead to assist with the writing of a chapter on the March 1918 crisis in his forthcoming book Turning Points in History. Over dinner Birkenhead discussed how Haig had "completely lost the confidence" of the British War Cabinet by the end of 1917, and how in Birkenhead's opinion – which Gough did not share – Petain 's alleged entreaties had been "lie(s) and bluff" by the "d-d French" which did not justify a continuation of the Third Ypres Offensive. The book was published in October 1930 (after Birkenhead's death) and the book's praise of Gough's handling of the March 1918 Offensive was widely quoted in newspaper reviews.
Gough's conduct of the Somme and Third Ypres was strongly criticised by the Australian Official Historian Bean (1929 and 1933). Gough angrily denied Bean's account of the events at Pozières in July 1916 (Edmonds, the British Official Historian, had passed on his comments to Bean in 1927) and Bean's claim (in the 1916 volume, published 1929) that he was "temperamentally" prone to hasty attacks without proper reconnaissance.
After the publication of Birkenhead's essay, and the news that his old colleague Maj-Gen Sir George Aston was earning good money as a newspaper correspondent, Gough wrote his own account The Fifth Army (1931). He approached the King's adviser Lord Stamfordham as to whether His Majesty would be willing to mark the anniversary of March 1918 with a public tribute to the Fifth Army, only to be brushed aside by another Royal adviser Clive Wigram with the news that the King would prefer Gough, like Haig, not to write his memoirs. In the end the book was a great success. Gough was dissuaded from sending a copy to the King, but sent a copy to the Prince of Wales , receiving a handwritten note in reply. The book was ghosted by the novelist Bernard Newman . He made no mention of his dispute with Walker on 18 July 1916, although he pointedly omitted him from a list praising officers commanding Australian formations. Gough claimed that he had often vetoed attacks by subordinates if he thought them under-prepared, on too narrow a front, or in inadequate strength – Sheffield & Todman argue that this was a deliberate answer to Bean's charges. Writing about the Tavish Davidson memorandum of June 1917, he claimed that he had wanted to attack in shorter jumps (a claim not supported by contemporary documents) but that Plumer had insisted on going all-out for a deep objective on the first day. Gough also claimed that the delay in launching Third Ypres (from 25 July to 31 July 1917) wasted good weather and "was fatal to our hopes" – this is untrue. The relevant chapters were also published separately as The March Retreat (1934).
The Somme volume of the British Official History (1932) contained some guarded criticism of Gough.
In the mid-1930s the volume of Lloyd George's memoirs covering Third Ypres was published. During the ensuing newspaper correspondence Lloyd George quoted Gough's name in an attack on Haig, causing Gough to write to the newspapers in Haig's defence. Ahead of the publication of the 1918 volume, Gough dined twice with Lloyd George and his historical adviser Liddell Hart . Gough was initially impressed by the former Prime Minister's charisma, and was almost persuaded that he had had nothing to do with his sacking in April 1918, until he remembered that both Esher and Birkenhead had told him the truth years earlier. Lloyd George, who may well have been keen to appease a potential critic, eventually sent Gough a letter (described as "carefully worded" by Farrar-Hockley) claiming that new facts had come to his attention since that date, and admitting that Gough had been "let down" and that "no General could have won that battle".
In 1936 Gough complained to Liddell Hart that Haig had dominated his Army Commanders instead of taking them into his confidence and discussing matters, a view later made much of by the Canadian academic Tim Travers – Sheffield points out that this view not only needs to be treated with caution (Haig in fact held regular conferences) but sits ill with the evidence of Gough’s own command habits. He complained to Edmonds (in 1938) that other Army and corps commanders did not issue enough detailed guidance to their subordinates.
FINAL MILITARY SERVICE
Gough's colleagues continued to lobby the Government for him to
receive an award (e.g. promotion to field marshal, a peerage and/or a
cash grant) similar to that given the other army commanders at the end
of the war. The Prime Minister
From 1936 until 1943, Gough was honorary colonel of the 16th/5th The Queen\'s Royal Lancers , at the insistence of the regiments concerned, despite some resistance from the War Office because of his role in the Curragh Incident.
In the summer of 1938 Gough was invited by Hitler to visit a
Nuremberg Rally, but declined as the Foreign Office refused to give
him formal approval and advice (General Ian Hamilton accepted a
similar invitation while visiting Berlin on behalf of the British
Legion ). In 1939, prior to the outbreak of war, Gough was initially
appointed a "conducting officer" to supervise the evacuation of women
and children to Kent and Sussex, but was asked to resign after it was
pointed out that to use a distinguished general in this role was a
gift to German propaganda. He later rejoined the organisation as a
"duty officer" (an administrative role in London) and also served as a
member of an "emergency squad" standing by to give assistance in the
event of air raids, while continuing to write newspaper articles. In
March 1940 he visited the French Army, where he met General Gamelin
and inspected part of the
In May 1940 Gough joined the LDV (Home Guard) and was put in command of the Chelsea Home Guard, which he organised from scratch. News of his efficient performance reached Churchill's ears, and in June 1940 he was soon promoted to Zone Commander Fulham Percy Beddington, then GSO1 of a division, later chief of staff Fifth Army, later felt that Gough should have devoted a further two divisions to attacking the Gheluveld Plateau. Gough claimed that it was he who had realised the mistake.
Gough also criticised Haig for a poor choice of battlefield, "the worst possible for an offensive operation" – he said Haig should have attacked at Cambrai (Edmonds accepted that attacks of some kind were necessary and felt that Flanders was the best spot, contrary to Gough's opinion), for having a poor team around him (Charteris, Davidson, Lawrence, Kiggell) and for his top-down management style, claiming that Haig issued orders instead of gathering commanders and staff officers to thrash out the issues around a table. Gough also claimed that any entries in Haig's diary urging a step-by-step advance had been "written up after the event".
When told of Gough's criticisms Wynne wrote that "both Pilckem and Langemarck were thoroughly bad in their planning, and even the Official History should admit as much – and Gough must lump it. He should have been sacked for them without a pension." However, Wynne praised Gough's "gracious" admission that Haig had been wrong to select him to command the offensive, an admission which eventually appeared in the Official History. Another of the writing team, W. B. Wood, wrote (letter undated but probably in December 1944) that Gough "was at last getting his deserts" for having caused "disasters" by "adhering to his own plans for breaking the German lines over the whole of the Fifth Army front in preference to Haig's views".
There was then a further rewrite under the influence of Tavish Davidson, stressing Haig's involvement in the planning of the 31 July attacks. Edmonds ordered a further rewrite, at which point Norman Brook (future Cabinet Secretary ) intervened and called a meeting as he felt Edmonds was exercising too much unfettered discretion over the tone of the History. Edmonds' "Reflections" blame Gough for "distant objectives" and ignoring Haig's advice to clear the Gheluveld Plateau first. The final version of the Official History suggests that Edmonds came to agree with Gough that Haig had been pushing for a breakthrough, rather than the limited offensive agreed by the War Cabinet. Edmonds repeatedly mentions how, throughout the Gough and Plumer periods, Haig hoped that the next major blow might cause the disintegration of the German opposition.
FAMILY AND FINAL YEARS
Gough’s son Valentine died in infancy shortly after his return from South Africa. He and his wife then had four daughters: Myrtle Eleanore born 4 April 1904, Anne born 1906, Joyce born 6 November 1913, and Denise born 26 March 1916. Myrtle married Major Eric Adlhelm Torlogh Dutton, CMG, CBE, in 1936. Gough's wife died in March 1951.
In common with many generals of the era, Gough was a man of strong religious faith.
As late as 5 March 1951 Gough was writing to Edmonds to blame Tavish
Davidson and Herbert Lawrence for their lack of influence over Haig's
decision-making and claiming that he should have requested an
interview with Haig prior to the March 1918 attack, and demanded to
hold the bulk of his forces back from the front line, although he
doubted that Haig would have agreed to give up ground voluntarily.
His long battle for rehabilitation after his unjust dismissal
deflected attention from his poor generalship in 1916 and 1917, and by
World War Two he had come to be regarded as a military elder
statesman. His reputation was also helped by his longevity, and during
the revival of interest in the
First World War
Gough died in
Gough was a man of whom there were extreme opinions; he was the only senior general who regularly visited forward trenches. He was the youngest of the Army Commanders by five years (the next-youngest was Birdwood, who briefly commanded Fifth Army in 1918). F. S. Oliver wrote that Gough brought "something of the nature of religious fervour into his profession". He is often described as having had a "peppery" personality. However, Captain Charles Carrington (Soldiers From the Wars Returning p. 104) recorded that Gough was very civil to him when he encountered him out riding.
Boraston, in his strongly pro-Haig account (1922), wrote that Gough's
performance on the Somme "amply justified the selection of this young
but brilliant general" and wrote highly of Gough's performance during
the semi-open warfare of early 1917, during the German withdrawal to
Sir Charles Bonham-Carter , head of GHQ Training in 1917–18, argued that Gough "had greater qualities than any of the other Army Commanders" and had had the potential to be a great general, but was let down by a poor staff, and was too impatient to realise that infantry attacks needed "time to prepare".
Maj-Gen Sir Richard Bannatine-Allason wrote to Edmonds (in 1931) that Gough's "temperament did not suit him for command" and "found him full of nerves & hunting his subordinates". Simon Robbins suggests that the death of his brother in early 1915 may well have exacerbated Gough's personality issues.
Gough's admiring biographer
Simkins argues that Gough might have been more successful in the semi-open warfare of the Hundred Days. Gough was, in Philpott's view "probably the most discussed and vilified British Western Front general (after Haig at least) ... intelligent, quick witted and charming, a popular man in the army, both confident and courageous" although not popular with subordinates, and was "still learning his trade" in July 1916. However, Philpott concedes that he "interfered far too much" with his subordinates.
Prior & Wilson write of his command record on the Somme: "His grasp of the tactical situation ... seemed always limited, his dithering over the best way to capture Thiepval was disastrous for his troops, and his 'victory' at Beaumont Hamel much over-rated. His performance at the Somme should have seen him sink into a well-deserved obscurity. Perversely, in 1917, the opposite was to happen."
Historians tend to take an equally dim view of Gough's record at Third Ypres. Simpson writes that after the "more or less unsuccessful" operations on 10 and 16 August, Gough "in the end ... decided upon a more or less staggered approach, first one corps attacking and then another, which invited the sort of treatment the Germans had meted out to Fourth Army's piecemeal attacks the previous year. Throughout, though admittedly crippled by the weather, he failed to stick to the principles of careful preparation he had defined at the start of the planning for the offensive. While corps orders were as careful as before, the operations were doomed to fail". John Lee writes that "despite the atrocious rainfall Gough persisted in attacking through August in conditions that led to inevitable defeat and a severe loss of morale among the usually steady and reliable British infantry". Prior & Wilson simply describe Gough's August operations as "abysmal".
Ian Beckett (1999), building on Tim Travers' (1987) concept of a "command vacuum", argues that Gough's failings can in part be attributed to structural failings in the BEF chain of command, as officers grappled with the problems of commanding large formations under stalemate conditions, and the degree of initiative which should be permitted to subordinates. Gary Sheffield does not agree, and argues that before 1918 Gough's "poor performance at Third Ypres" masked the "tactical and operational improvements" which were being made.
Sheffield argues that Gough's overbearing behaviour, especially in 1916, may well have been a need to overcompensate for having been promoted at such a young age, over the heads of jealous colleagues (Gough admitted (The Fifth Army p. 94) that his rapid promotion brought “special difficulties” at Loos), many of whom mistrusted him because of the Curragh Incident. He also argues that Gough "demonstrated a good deal of skill during the March (1918) retreat" and might have come into his own during the advances of the Hundred Days but that his "military vices outweighed his virtues" and "he was not the right man to command an Army on the Somme," although he blames Haig to some extent for not supervising him properly. In Sheffield's view, Archibald Wavell 's later observation that Western Front operations were often conducted as "open warfare at the halt" (i.e. seeking to commit reserves to "break the enemy line" as opposed to careful siege operations) certainly applied to Gough's command at the Somme. "His inability to take direction, and his wholehearted and often unjustified confidence in his own planning, led him to overestimate his army's abilities and contributed to his disastrous operations at Bullecourt and Third Ypres". At Third Ypres his performance was "hopelessly optimistic" and "deeply disappointing". "Haig promoted and sustained (Gough) beyond his level of competence" although "arguably, while he deserved dismissal for his handling of the Somme, Bullecourt and Third Ypres, Gough was sacked for the one major battle in which he commanded Fifth Army with some competence".
Les Carlyon concurs that Gough was unfairly dealt with in 1918 but also regards his performance during the Great War in generally unflattering terms, citing documented and repeated failings in planning, preparation, comprehension of the battle space and a lack of empathy with the common soldier.
FIFTH ARMY\'S "MALAISE"
Some put the blame for Fifth Army's performance on Gough's Chief of Staff Neill Malcolm, although his overbearing behaviour with Gough's subordinates may have been, even in the view of contemporaries, a variant on the "good-cop/bad-cop" routine. Edmonds also wrote in his memoirs (which are somewhat less reliable than the Official History) that Malcolm "accentuated and encouraged Gough's peculiarities, instead of softening them down" and claimed that in late 1917 Peyton (Military Secretary) had warned Haig "three times that he was not only injuring himself but also injuring the cause by keeping Gough in command" but Haig was "perfectly infatuated with him". The situation worsened after Edward Beddington, who had been something of a buffer, left Fifth Army staff in 1917. Gough himself, in conversation with Liddell Hart and in The Fifth Army put some blame on Malcolm and also blamed himself for taking Malcolm with him on his inspection rounds, so that officers did not feel able to speak freely. However, Michael Howard, in his review of Farrar-Hockley's biography, commented that there was more to Fifth Army's "malaise" than just that. Sheffield points out that this does not seem to have been Gough's view during the war, and that Gough's problems began before Malcolm's arrival (e.g. at Loos) and continued after his removal. Watts of XIX Corps was the biggest victim of Malcolm. Farrar-Hockley argues that Gough was a popular figure until Bullecourt. Wilson's academic biographer Keith Jeffery describes Farrar-Hockley as "an unconvincing defence" of Gough.
Gough was notorious for his "encounters" with subordinates (Brigadier-General Sandilands to Edmonds, 1923). He was "looked on as a bit of a freak" (Brigadier-General Yatman to Edmonds, 1930). By late 1917 "no division wanted to go" to Fifth Army (Liddell Hart 1947) and most units looked on transfer to Plumer's Second Army with relief (Liddell Hart 1927).
In The Fifth Army he acknowledged that there were some who hated
coming into the Fifth Army, although he maintained that these were men
lacking in boldness, resolution or energy. He wrote to Edmonds (18
March 1944) that "among the senior officers the spirit of energy, of
resolution, Corvi, Steven (2006). Haig's Generals. Yorkshire: Pen &
Sword. ISBN 978-1-84415-892-8 .
* Blake, Robert (1952). the Private Papers of Douglas Haig. London:
Eyre & Spottiswood.
* Simpson, A. (2001). The Operational Role of British Corps Command
on the Western Front 1914–18 (PhD) (online ed.). London: London
* ^ Farrar-Hockley 1974, pp. 2–3
* ^ Roberts, Priscilla Mary; Spencer Tucker (2005). Encyclopedia of
World War I Volume 2. ABC-CLIO. p. 497. ISBN 9781851094202 . Retrieved
14 March 2012.
* ^ A B C Beckett & Corvi 2006, p. 75
* ^ A B Mosley, Charles. Burke's Landed Gentry, 'Gough of Corsley
* ^ Farrar-Hockley 1974, pp. 3–4
* ^ A B C D E F G H Sheffield & Todman 2004, pp. 73–74
* ^ A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z AA AB AC AD
Beckett Farrar-Hockley's more detailed account states that he was a
local unpaid major
* ^ Farrar-Hockley 1974, pp. 63–64
* ^ "The War – return of troops". The Times (36679). London. 31
January 1902. p. 6.
* ^ Farrar-Hockley 1975, p. 69
* ^ "No. 27459". The
Preceded by Charles Monro GOC I CORPS July 1915 – April 1916 Succeeded by Arthur Holland
Preceded by None GENERAL OFFICER COMMANDING THE FIFTH ARMY October 1916 – March 1918 Succeeded by William Peyton
Edmund Henry Hynman Allenby, 1st Viscount Allenby
* WorldCat Identities * VIAF : 49218999 * LCCN : nb98008986 * ISNI : 0000 0000 4405 3260 * GND : 121442861 * SUDOC : 135796792 * BNF : cb11286306n (data) * IATH : w6198cd6
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