Gould, Charles Robert
‘Bob’ Gould was the younger son of a distinguished Wykehamist in the Indian Civil Service, Sir Basil John Gould CMG, CIE (Coll.1897-1902), of Gangtok, Sikkim, and of Lady Gould (née Lorraine MacDonald Kebbell, daughter of Cecil Kebbell, of Te Hoe, Alfredton, New Zealand). His aunt, Mary Gould, was from Winchester. He was the brother of Richard John Gould (K1936-41), and came to Winchester from Horris Hill. In games he achieved much success, getting into Commoner VI and into School IV and VIII, and he became captain of Boxing, an activity in which his exceptional length of arm, in addition to unflinching courage, made him a formidable opponent.
On leaving school he was commissioned into 4th/7th Royal Dragoon Guards, ‘B’ and ‘C’ squadrons equipped with amphibious tanks. These ‘DD’ tanks (‘DD’ stood for ‘Duplex Drive’ propellors and tracks) were converted to swim at sea by the erection of waterproof screens. The whole concept was fraught with dangers for the crews. If successful, however, the method would lead to the initial waves of troops having close tank support on the beaches.
On 18th December 1943 the Regiment arrived at their new training base on the Moray Firth. Training for these hazardous operations was far from easy, and during an exercise on April 4th 1944 Gould lost his life. According to the Wykehamist War Service Record and Roll of Honour, this was “when his landing craft capsized near Poole”. However, the truth, kept secret at the time, was more dramatic.
4th April 1944 was the opening day of Exercise ‘Smash’, training for D-Day. Early that morning, 4/7 Royal Dragoon Guards launched from their landing craft off Studland Bay, Dorset, for a live firing rehearsal. The weather was poor at the time of their launch and deteriorated later, resulting in the loss of six Valentine tanks and six men, including Gould. Cecil Newton, a tank crewman in the regiment, described what happened: “The DD tanks were launched in very rough weather in an exercise called ‘Smash 1’ in April 1944; six tanks sank and six crew-members were drowned. Naval destroyers picked up survivors who returned to barracks in naval kit that had been lent to them to replace the wet uniforms.”
One of the crewmen in a Valentine which sank was Ron Scruton: “I was the wireless operator in Corporal Bayer’s crew, with Bert Clarke (driver) and Harold Mawby (gunner); Freddy Bayer was the only non-swimmer. We launched at the appointed time, and very quickly got into difficulties in the heavy swell. Fred, who was steering by the tiller at the rear, ordered Harold and myself to put our weight against the struts on the starboard side, which was taking the battering from heavy seas. We kept shipping water, so Fred ordered Bert to come out of the driving compartment, as he was sitting up to his chest in water. This he did, and operated the engine from the rear covers. We were very low in the water, with the sea up to the top of the canvas screen, when we settled on to a reef (Old Harry Rocks) as we were getting nearer to the shore. We were rescued by a naval PT boat and taken to South Beach, then marched up the cliff road to a three-tonner at the top and back to billets. Next morning, when the tide ebbed, our tank was stranded high and dry on the reef, and had to be destroyed by naval gun-fire before the top-secret Valentine Duplex Drive amphibious tank came on general view”.
Four other tanks are still on the sea-bed, a mile out to sea and sixty feet down. The lessons learned from the rehearsal meant that the ‘DD’ tanks used on D-Day were launched much closer to the shore.
Gould was twenty years old when he died that day, and is buried in grave S.11 of St. Mark’s churchyard, Highcliffe.
4/7 RDG provided the first tanks to land on Gold Beach in Normandy onD-Day. By then the Valentines had been replaced with the ‘DD’ Sherman. ‘B’ and ‘C’ Squadron eventually landed five minutes before H-Hour at 0720. With the unit were several Wykehamists: Peter George Dennis Aizlewood (B1936-1941) was severely wounded in the landing on D-Day, and never saw action again. Two Wykehamist brothers also landed: Derek Russell de Courcy Trasenster (G1938-1942) and Michael Augustus Tulk Trasenster CVO (G1936-1941). Michael Trasenster landed on D-Day and served right through the war; Derek landed on D+1 and was severely wounded in August 1944.
On Sunday, April 4th 2004, former members of 4/7 RDG, widows andsupporters held a remembrance service on the headland by Fort Henry, Studland. A memorial was unveiled and a wreath laid on the water from a Royal Marines landing craft. This was also the first public appearance of the only surviving Valentine ‘DD’ tank, rescued from the sea-bed and restored by John Pearson Essington of Wolverhampton. The event has been annual thereafter, and attended by Gould’s Wykehamist brother, Dick.
“RJ (Dick) Gould [1931-35] wrote with his news. In April 2005 he attended a service at Studland Bay, to commemorate the disastrous 1944 pre-D-Day Exercise involving the 4/7 Royal Dragoon Guards, when Dick’s brother CR (Bob) Gould [1932-36] was one of many servicemen drowned. In July Dick was one of 200 veterans of the KRRC [60th Rifles] who marched past The Queen at St. Cross,Winchester.
- Surname: Gould
- Forenames or initials: Charles Robert
- House: K
- Years in School: 1937-1941
- Rank: Lieutenant
- Regiment: Royal Dragoon Guards
- Date of Birth: 23rd October 1923
- Date of Death: 4th April 1944
- How Died: Drowned on military exercise
- Location in War Cloister: Inner B2
- Decoration: NA
- Burial Site: St Mark's Churchyard, Highcliffe: Grave S.11