Thomas William Gould VC

b. 28/12/1914 Dover, Kent. d. 06/12/2001 Peterborough, Cambridgeshire.

Thomas William Gould (1914-2001) was born in Dover, Kent on 28th December 1914, the son of Reuben Gould, who hailed from Spitalfields, London, and Christina Eleanor (nee Irons). His father was killed in action on The Somme on 22nd July 1916, before Tommy had reached two years old. His mother lated re-married to Petty Officer Henry Cheeseman in 1918. Tommy was one of three children with an older brother Robert, and older sister Doris Mabel.

Thomas W Gould VC

Tommy Gould was educated at St James School, Dover, and joined the Royal Navy in 1933 and went into the submarine service three years later. During the war he experienced the horror of being trapped on the ocean floor in the Dutch East Indies as well as being bombed by the RAF off Alexandria.

On 16th February 1942, under the command of Lt H.S. Mackenzie, Thrasher sank a supply ship off the north coast of Crete but was immediately attacked by enemy aircraft and heavily depth-charged by the escorting anti-submarine vessels for three and a half hours. Through skilful work by its captain, Thrasher managed to survive the attack but while it was on the surface that night recharging its batteries, an unusual banging noise was heard. This proved to be two bombs, each about three feet long, six inches in diameter and weighing 100lb, that were lying on the submarine’s casing just in front of the four-inch gun mounting.

Roberts and Gould volunteered to remove the bombs. Gould, as Coxswain, was in charge of everything involved with the casing which enclosed a tangle of pipes, wires and other gear. When they reached the first bomb they wrapped it in an old potato sack and tied it with rope. They cautiously manhandled it forward to the bows where they dropped it overboard. As they did so, Thrasher went full astern to get clear.

The second bomb proved to be far more difficult. After an examination of the casing the two men found a jagged hole in the metal; inside was the bomb, resting on top of the pressure hull. There was no practical way to recover the bomb through the hole it had made. The only way was through a hinged metal grating trap-door. Gould was to recall:

“To get to the bomb we had to wiggle forward through the outer casing. In that confined space there were angle irons to hold the superstructure up, battery ventilators and drop bollards as well. When we got through, I saw that it was another heavy bomb, about 100lb. Then began a nightmarish journey back through the casing, which at points gave only two feet clearance from the hull: I picked up the bomb and passed it through to Roberts. I then laid on my back with the bomb on my stomach, and held on to it while he laid on his stomach with his head to my head pulling me by my shoulders. It was pitch dark and the bomb was making this ticking noise while the submarine was being buffeted by the waves.

Also at the back of their minds was the thought that if the submarine was attacked, the captain would have no option but to dive, the unpressurised casing would fill up with water and the two men would drown. After a gruelling 40 minutes they got to the grating. The bomb was then passed up to a sub- lieutenant who was waiting on the forecasing. The bomb was wrapped in sacking and gingerly lowered over the side by ropes. When we knew it was on the surface of the water we let it go, heaving lines as well. Then we ducked and waited for the explosion, but nothing happened – it obviously could not have been primed.”

On 29th June 1943 Gould received his Victoria Cross from King George VI who commented, “I bet it was cold.” Gould loved the camaraderie of submarine life and, after being invalided out of the Navy in 1945, maintained an interest in the Navy and with the Jewish community. In 1946 he was in the front row of the Jewish ex-servicemen’s march through London to protest against the government’s policy towards the Jews in Palestine.

In 1941, he married Phyllis Eldridge, and they went on to have a son. He became a Lieutenant with the Bromley branch of the Sea Cadets. For many years he was Chief Personnel Manager with Great Universal Stores. He was very proud to have been elected President of the International Submarine Association of Great Britain. He was also an active member of the Victoria and George Cross Association. In 1985, his wife passed away in Peterborough, and on 29th October 1987, Thomas Gould’s Victoria Cross medal group was sold at a Sotheby’s auction for a hammer price of £44,000 and was purchased by the Association of Jewish Ex-Service Men and Women based in Hendon, North London. The VC group was later donated to the Jewish Military Museum, also located in Hendon, which featured exhibits about Jews serving in the British armed forces from the 18th Century to the present.

The Jewish Military Museum has now closed and the museum’s artifacts, including the Thomas Gould Victoria Cross group, have been installed in the Jewish Museum’s ‘History Gallery’ which is based in Raymond Burton House, Albert Street, North London. Tommy passed away in Peterborough on 6th December 2001, aged 85, and was cremated at Peterborough Crematorium.