Gough, Charles Frederick Howard”Freddie”.

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Gough, Charles Frederick Howard “Freddie”, born 16-12-1901 in Kasauli (Brits-Indië) into a highly distinguished military family, he was the youngest son of Lieutenant-Colonel Charles Hugh Henry Gough of the Indian Army. Chaeles was educated and earned an Honourable Mention at the Royal Naval College, Osborne, and later moved to the College at Dartmouth before being granted a commission in 1917 as a Midshipman, serving aboard the Battleship, HMS Ramillies, and the Destroyer, HMS Witherington. In 1920, Gough was bought out of his commission by his parents and he relocated to India to become a farmer and horse breeder, but returned to England two years later to take up a position in London with Lloyds Insurance Brokers. In November 1924, he joined the Territorial Army and became a Lieutenant in the 5th City of London Regiment (The London Rifle Brigade), and in 1928 was amongst the Guard of Honour to the future King George VI at the opening of the new Lloyds Building. In 1929, Gough married Barbara May Pegler, with whom he had a son and daughter, and in the same year resigned his commission with the London Rifle Brigade. Charles later became the first person to qualify as a parachutist with the Royal Aero Club.


When the Second World War began, Gough was recalled from the Territorial Army Reserve of Officers and as a Captain was posted to “H” Company, 2nd Battalion The London Rifle Brigade. Two months after the Russian invasion of Finland in December 1939, the British government decided to lend the Finns their clandestine support, and so Gough became a member of the 5th (Ski) Battalion The Scots Guards; an experimental unit, which no doubt appealed to the adventurous Gough despite the obligatory loss of rank, and consisted entirely of volunteers with experience in skiing and mountaineering. Needless to say it was a unit which attracted a broad range of characters who went on to achieve distinction with such pioneering units as the Chindits and SAS; David Stirling, the founder of the latter, was amongst them. Following a period of intense training with a brief spell at Chamoix in the French Alps, by which time Gough had become a platoon commander in “W” Company, it was planned that the force would be posted to Norway from where they would make their way to Finland. On the eve of their departure, however, it was clear that the situation had turned decisively against the Finns and so the operation was cancelled.

In June 1940 Gough was sent to France, but had barely set foot on land before he was evacuated again via Dunkirk. Dunkirk is actually about a huge military defeat, wrapped in a unique evacuation. The British army — about 300,000 strong — was completely surrounded by the German army at the end of May 1940. The men are trapped like rats on the vast beaches around Dunkirk. With the enormous losses of the First World War still fresh in mind, the end seems to be in sight for the soldiers.The planned evacuation fails when a number of large British warships are efficiently sunk by the German air force. But then a special campaign starts in a few days. About a thousand fishing and pleasure boats set sail from the English coast to the other side. The common man ensures that almost all British soldiers are brought home safely. The ‘Dunkirk myth’ was born.

Shortly afterwards, Gough was trained as a paratrooper and inducted into the 1st Parachute Brigade. Gough served in North Africa and Italy. For his part during the landing in Taranto he received the Military Cross.

Gough took part in Operation Market Garden in September 1944. Charles landed on September 17 as part of the 1st Airborne Division “Red Devils” under command of Major-General Robert Elliot Roy Urquhart, near Arnhem. Gough, a major at the time, commanded the 1st Airborne Reconnaissance Squadron. He used a parachute because he hated gliders. His squadron had the task of advancing to the bridge by jeep immediately after landing and holding it until the 2nd Battalion led by Lieutenant Colonel John Dutton “Johnny” Frost   arrived on foot.

However, the lead of Gough’s squadron got stuck in the battle line that had been hastily formed by the German Major Josef “Sepp” Krafft. Because the radio communications were not functioning, Gough returned to brigade headquarters in Oosterbeek to consult with General Roy Urquhart. However, he had gone out himself to inform himself of the situation. Gough therefore decided to head towards the bridge, which he reached in the evening accompanied by 3 jeeps. Apart from a few small groups, only the 2nd Battalion had reached the bridge. The British managed to occupy the northern approach to the bridge, but had a hard time. They were cut off from the rest of the division that failed to break through to the bridge.

Gough took over command from Frost on September 21 after he was seriously injured. The British surrendered in Arnhem that same day. Shortly before, Gough ordered the remaining British to link up with the rest of the 1st Airborne Division, which was surrounded in Oosterbeek. He himself was taken prisoner of war. In April 1945 he managed to escape and reach the American lines.

Despite being the commander of a unit whose rationale was speed, Gough was notorious for being highly unpunctual when it came to attending conferences, and the first briefing for Market Garden on Tuesday 12th September 1944 was no exception. Major-General Urquhart wrote “After the briefing had started, Freddie Gough, a cheerful, red-faced, silver-haired major, turned up with the air of a truant playing schoolboy and I laid into him afterwards for his unpunctuality. It was not the first time he had been very late for a conference.”

During the disastrous attempt to move the 9th S.S. Panzer Division’s  “Hohenstaufen” under command of SS Obergruppenführer Wilhelm “Willi” Bittrich,

  Reconnaissance Battalion across the Bridge on Monday 18th September, Gough joined in the gunfight by firing the twin Vickers machine guns mounted on his jeep; Lieutenant-Colonel Frost noted that Gough was “grinning like a wicked uncle”.

After returning to England, Gough rejoined the 1st Airborne Division. After the German surrender in May 1945, he was flown to Norway with the rest of the division. As part of Operation Doomsday, the division ensured an orderly German surrender there. Operation Doomsday came into effect immediately after the German surrender at the end of the Second World War on 08-05-1945. The British 1st Airborne Division landed at Oslo and Stavanger on May 9 and the following days as part of a transitional regime. The 1st Airborne Division was followed by other Allied army units and a Norwegian police force that crossed the border from Sweden. Together they formed Force 134, which was tasked with ensuring a controlled German surrender in Norway and preventing sabotage against important military and public targets.

In August 1945, Gough and a few hundred division colleagues were flown to the Netherlands where they took part in the filming of the film Theirs is the glory about the Battle of Arnhem.

Gough led the 11th Parachute Battalion from 1947 to 1948, before opting for a political career. He was elected to the British House of Commons on behalf of the Conservative Party in 1951. He generally supported the conservative government, especially during the Suez crisis. In parliament, Gough mainly advocated the interests of veterans. In 1964 he no longer stood for election and left parliament. In 1974 he retrospectively argued that it had been wrong for the Conservatives to oust Alec Douglas-Home in 1965.

Death and burial ground of Gough, Charles Frederick Howard “Freddie.

Shortly before his death, Gough commented on the recently released film A Bridge Too Far. He felt that the makers made a fool of the historical facts to make the film suitable for the American cinema audience. He died in 19-09-1977, age 76, while on holiday in Sorrento, Italy, where he was buried. At the cemetery there was no one to give information. The gardener indicated that the grave should be near the entrance. The coördinate of the grave is 40.624126 14.384936.


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