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Petty Officer Thomas William Gould

Petty Officer Thomas William Gould, V.C. O/N C/JX 147945

Thomas William (known as 'Nat) Gould was born in Dover in Kent on 28th Dec 1914 and he was the son of Reuben and Mrs C E Gould. As a Sergeant in the Queen's Own, Royal West Kent Regiment Reuben Gould was killed in action in France on 22nd Jul 1916. Nat Gould's mother was later married to a Petty Officer Cheeseman. Educated at St James's School, Dover, Nat Gould joined the Royal Navy on 29th Sep 1933, and after training, served in the cruisers HMS Emerald and Colombo.

Nat Gould joined the Submarine Service in 1937 and served in Submarines HMS Grampus, Regent, Pandora and Regulus before joining Thrasher. He was rated Acting Petty Officer on 17th August 1940. Tommy Gould won the Victoria Cross while serving in the Mediterranean in Submarine HMS Thrasher in February 1942. On 16th February 1942 Thrasher was patrolling off Suva Bay, on the north coast of Crete, when she torpedoed and sank an escorted 3,000 ton Axis supply ship. The escorts and covering aircraft attacked with about thirty depth charges and some were reported close. Thrasher survived these attacks and carried on with the patrol. That evening Thrasher surfaced to recharge batteries. On altering course and the Submarine rolled in the swell and loud banging noises were heard outside the pressure hull. On investigation a bomb was found to be lying on the casing forward of the gun mounting.

Lieutenant Roberts, the First Lieutenant and Petty Officer Gould the 2nd Coxswain volunteered to remove the bomb. As it was thought that he bomb might roll off the casing on to the saddle tank and detonate Gould held the bomb and Roberts put a sack round the bomb and tied it with a length of rope. It was manhandled forward to the bows and dropped overboard as the Submarine went full astern to get clear.

Further checks identified a jagged hole in the casing and another bomb was lying under the casing on the pressure hull. The only way out was through a hinged metal grating about twenty feet away. The two men lowered themselves through the opening and wriggled on their stomachs to where the bomb lay. If it exploded the submarine would be lost. Thrasher was off an enemy coast and the enemy were aware there was a Submarine in the area. The Commanding Officer of Thrasher, Lt. Hugh Mackenzie, would dive the submarine if enemy forces were sighted and the two men would be drowned.

Nat Gould had to lie on his back with the bomb in his arms while Lieutenant Roberts laid in front of him and pulled him along by the shoulders as they made their way back to the hatch. With only the light of a shaded torch they worked the bomb through the casing and eased it through the grating. The bomb reportedly made a twanging noise when it was moved and it was 40 minutes before they had it clear and it could be wrapped in the sack, carried forward and dropped over the bows.

"I never expected to get the VC," Gould is reported to have said. "When we came down from the casing that night, we were soaking wet." All the Captain said was: `You'd better get yourselves dried'."

The Commanding Officer did not make much of the incident in his patrol report and merely commended Roberts and Gould for their "excellent conduct". The incident was forgotten until several months later, when, as Mackenzie recalled, he was:

"shaken by the news that Roberts and Gould had both been awarded the Victoria Cross. A great personal honour to themselves and, as they and I felt, also to their fellow submariners."

The VCs were awarded on the recommendation of the C-in-C Mediterranean, Admiral Sir Andrew Cunningham, but opposed by the Honours and Awards Committee in London, which argued that the act of bravery had not been performed in the presence of the enemy as the Victoria Cross Rules stipulate. The Committee thought that the George Cross would be more appropriate. Cunningham replied that two large enemy bombs in a submarine off an enemy coastline constituted quite enough enemy presence.

London Gazette, 9 June 1942

Petty Officer Thomas William Gould & Lieutenant Peter Roberts, Royal Navy (HM Submarine Thrasher).

'On 16th February 1942, in daylight, HM Submarine 'Thrasher' attacked and sank a heavily escorted supply ship. She was at once attacked by depth charges and was bombed by aircraft. The presence of two unexploded bombs in the gun casing was discovered when after dark the submarine surfaced and began to roll.

Lieutenant Roberts and Petty Officer Gould volunteered to remove the bombs, - which were of a type unknown to them. The danger in dealing with the second bomb was very great. To reach it they had to go through the casing which was so low that they had to lie at full length to move in it. Through this narrow space, in complete darkness, they pushed and dragged the bomb for a distance of some 20 feet until it could be lowered over the side. Every time the bomb was moved there was a loud twanging noise as of a broken spring which added nothing to their peace of mind. This deed was the more gallant as HMS Thrasher's presence was known to the enemy: she was close to the enemy coast, and in waters where his patrols were known to be active day and night. There was a very great chance, and they knew it, that the submarine might have to crash-dive while they were in the casing. Had this happened they must have been drowned.'

Thomas Gould was invested with his Victoria Cross by King George VI at Buckingham Palace in March 1943. On January 13 1943, Gould was made an Honorary Freeman of Dover; and in March, after his Investiture at Buckingham Palace, he went home to St Albans, where he then lived, for a Civic Reception hosted by the Mayor Corporation of St. Albans. Later in the war he was Mentioned in Despatches for the action in which submarine HMS Truculant sank U-308 off the Faroe Islands.

Nat Gould was 'invalided' from the Navy in October 1945. He became a business consultant and was for some years Chief Personnel Manager with Great Universal Stores. He kept up his interest in the Navy and the Jewish community, taking part in Jewish exServicemen's marches and in July 1946 took part a march through London to protest against the Government's policy towards Palestine. He was 'commissioned' as a Lieutenant, RNR and commanded the Sea Cadet Corps at Bromley in Kent, where he was then living.

In May 1965, Gould's name was in the papers again, this time as "a VC on the dole". He had lost his job as personnel manager because of "a clash of personalities" and remarked that he was finding his VC a liability.

Incredible though it may seem, people in top management seem to shy away from me. I think it might be because they are afraid that a man with such a record could show too much embarrassing initiative. If it is the VC which is frightening people away from me I wish they would forget it. Those days are over.

For several years Gould was President of the International Submariners Association of Great Britain and was an active member of his local Royal Naval Association, of the Submariners Association and the Victoria Cross and George Cross Association. Tommy 'Nat' Gould, who was one of only three Jewish recipients of the Victoria Cross in WWII, died on 10th Dec 2001 at the age of eighty seven.

'Nat' Gould's Victoria Cross was sold at Sotheby's on October 1987 for £44,000. It is held, with his other medals, by the Association of Jewish Ex-Servicemen and Women


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