Arthur Goult risked his life to save others in a key battle in the Second World War. His remarkable courage earned him the Distinguished Conduct Medal, an honour second only to the Victoria Cross for non-commissioned officers and soldiers of the British Army. Here, I look at how Arthur – who was connected to my father’s family – became a war hero.
He could not have imagined what would happen next after he came under heavy attack from German soldiers in the Battle of Monte Battaglia in northern Italy in 1944.
Arthur Goult, a sergeant in the 3rd Battalion of the Grenadier Guards, was in command of four mortar detachments at the time of the raid, on the night of October 10 and 11.
He put his life on the line to save his fellow soldiers in the face of unrelenting machine gun fire, and with grenades exploding all around him.
He repeatedly fired mortars as the enemy closed in on him before bravely defending his position with a Bren gun, Tommy guns and grenades.
Against overwhelming odds, Arthur managed to beat off wave after wave of attacks from the enemy soldiers and thwarted attempts to take one of his mortars.
When daylight broke, he reported that 70 Germans were in a gully 50 yards from him and wishing to surrender.
A report of his actions – published in The London Gazette in March 1945 with the announcement of the award of the DCM – said:
‘No praise is too high for the way in which this NCO kept firing his mortars in support of his comrades although in imminent danger himself and the gallant way in which he led the detachments to fight back at the greatly superior force, was largely responsible for the number of prisoners taken.’
Arthur, who joined the Army in 1929, received the award from King George VI at Buckingham Palace in August 1945.
The 2,400ft Monte Battaglia – or Battle Mountain – where Arthur fought, towered over surrounding heights and was crowned by an old, ruined castle.
The 3rd Grenadier Guards played a key role in fighting there after Battaglia was seized by American troops on September 25, 1944.
The Americans – serving in the 88th Division’s 350th Regiment – defended the mountain in the face of relentless shell fire and amid torrential rain.
The 3rd Grenadier Guards – as part of the 1st Guards Brigade – took over the Battaglia area a week later.
A soldier who served with Arthur said a vital support base at Val Maggiore was ‘some four miles from Monte Battaglia to which access was by a single track mostly upon a knife-edge ridge’.
The track had ‘precipitous sides, upon which thick, gluey mud was churned nightly by a constant procession of 150 mules and 100 men with the last mile under continuous shelling and mortar fire’.
After joining the Army, Arthur was transferred to the Army reserve and recalled at the outbreak of war.
He fought at Dunkirk and in the invasion of North Africa before going to Italy.
Arthur was one of only 1,891 soldiers awarded the DCM in the Second World War.
An old boy of Coggleshall Church of England School in Essex, Arthur had a ‘fine treble voice as a lad’ and was in the parish church choir.
Born on March 24, 1911 in Chelmsford, Essex, Arthur was the son of Alfred Goult (1884-1964) and Annie May Pryke (1887-1946). He died on July 19, 1981 in Wandsworth, aged 70. At the time of his death, he resided at 1, Kingscliffe Gardens, London.
Arthur married Rose Edith Elston (1910-1988) in 1936 in Edmonton, London. Rose was the youngest daughter of John Francis Elston (1874-1960) and Maria Mildred (1873-1966). John was the son of John Elston (1841-1917) and Sarah Ann Jones (1853-1917). John was the son of William Elston (1813-1885) and Loveday Roberts (1819-1909). Loveday was the daughter of William Roberts (1791-1875) and Frances Hodge (1796-1873). William was the son of John Roberts (1766-1834) and Elizabeth James (1767-1861). John (1766-1834) was the son of William Roberts (1738-), my great-great-great-great-great grandfather.
The DCM awarded to soldiers in the Second World War. A Public Domain image, via Wikimedia Commons.
The report of the award of the DCM, published in The London Gazette on March 3, 1945. His award was also reported in The London Gazette (supplement number 36972) on March 6, 1945.