Gough, Sir Hubert de la Poer (1870–1963), soldier, was born 12 August 1870 in London, second son of Gen. Sir Charles John Stanley Gough (qv), GCB, VC, of Innislonagh, Co. Tipperary, and Harriette Anastasia de la Poer, of Gurteen le Poer, Co. Waterford, daughter of John W. Power (1816–51), MP for Co. Waterford (1837–40). (Power's widow changed the family name to ‘de la Poer’ by royal licence.) Shortly after his birth Hubert Gough was taken to Ireland; subsequently, after an interval in India (his father served in the 5th Bengal Cavalry), he was brought up in the country straddling the borders of Co. Waterford and Co. Tipperary with relatives at Gurteen, Knockeevan, and Rathronan. He was educated at Eton and the Royal Military College, Sandhurst.
In his memoirs, Soldiering on (1954), dedicated ‘to the British people’, Gough identified himself as an ‘Englishman’, but also as ‘Irish by blood and upbringing’: ‘an example of so many other people, brought up in one country and taught to love it, but educated in another country and there to love that also’. Like many other members of the Anglo-Irish elite, he joined the military as a servant of the British empire, and retained a strong sense of imperial belonging throughout his long life, combined with a clear identification with Ireland. In 1889 Gough was commissioned in the 16th Lancers and served in India; pig-sticking along the banks of the River Jumna replaced fox-hunting in Tipperary. He served on the north-west frontier of India in the Tirah expedition, 1897–8, and then in the South African war of 1899–1902. During the latter conflict he was the first member of the British relief force to enter the besieged town of Ladysmith, after advancing against orders. Later in the war, after being severely wounded, he was invalided back to England. Reaching the rank of lieutenant-colonel, he taught at the Staff College 1904–6, and commanded the 16th Lancers 1907–11.
In 1911 Gough became brigadier-general commanding the 3rd Cavalry Brigade, stationed in Ireland at the Curragh. By 1913, as it seemed possible that the debate in Ireland and Britain over the implementation of home rule would lead to civil war, the role of the army in putting down a possible unionist insurrection began to be considered. After discussion at senior level it was agreed that officers resident in Ulster would not be compelled to take part in any action; other officers who were unwilling to participate would be dismissed. On 20 March 1914 officers at the Curragh were advised of this by Sir Arthur Paget (qv), commander-in-chief in Ireland. Paget gave an ill-judged and undiplomatic speech that alienated several members of his audience, particularly Gough. Personally offended and believing that the army was about to be called out to deal with an immediate crisis, Gough tendered his resignation on the grounds that he was unwilling to initiate military action in Ulster. Other fellow-officers followed suit, and all were called to London.
At this point the British prime minister, Asquith, intervened to end the confusion and prevent a full-blown mutiny. Gough, however, demanded a written assurance that the army would not be called on under any circumstances to compel Ulster to accept home rule. After further wrangling, the secretary of state for war, Sir J. E. B. Seely, provided this assurance, which was promptly repudiated by the government. Seely resigned, together with two of the other senior military figures involved. Gough won the day; some of his colleagues resented his stance over the issue, even though he admitted in private that it had less to do with the cause of Ulster and more with the attitude of the war office, and of Paget in particular, who he recalled in his memoirs as ‘a stupid man’.
Gough went on to lead the 3rd Cavalry Brigade in the opening stages of the first world war, and was promoted to major-general of the 2nd Cavalry Division, which he commanded during the first battle of Ypres and the battle of Neuve Chapelle. He then commanded the 7th Division and in July 1915 became lieutenant-general in command of the 1st Army Corps, which fought at Loos. He was promoted (1916) to lead the Reserve Army (renamed ‘Fifth Army’, October 1916), through the Somme offensive, the advance to the Hindenburg Line, and the third battle of Ypres, up to the retreat of March 1918. Fifth Army's reputation suffered from its handling of operations in 1917. In March 1918 Gough's troops took the brunt of the German spring offensive and retired; Gough was apportioned much of the blame for what was perceived as a significant defeat, and on 27 March he was replaced as commander and, for political reasons, brought back to England.
Gough was chief of the Allied mission to the Baltic (1919) for a short period. During the Anglo–Irish war, in an article published in the February 1921 number of the Review of Reviews, Gough criticised British soldiers and, in particular, the RIC for committing ill-disciplined acts of violence, which he claimed the authorities were allowing to go unchecked and unpunished. He retired from the army with the rank of full general in 1922. That year he stood unsuccessfully as liberal candidate for Chertsey, Surrey, and, after an interval spent farming, entered a career in business. He was chairman of Siemens Brothers and a director of Caxton Electric Development and several other companies. He also travelled widely to destinations around the British empire, including Kenya, Uganda, Rhodesia, and Palestine.
Gough retained his military interests throughout his life. He presented his own account of his wartime command in The Fifth Army (1931) (a condensed section of which was reissued as The March retreat (1934)), which contributed to the rehabilitation of his own reputation and of that of his troops. He was colonel of the 16th/5th Lancers (1936–43), formed the Chelsea branch of the Home Guard in 1940, and commanded a London zone of the Home Guard until his resignation in 1942. With the sponsorship of Messrs Guinness, he helped inaugurate the Shamrock Club, a place of relaxation for Irish soldiers and Irish women serving in the British forces.
Gough was created KCB (1916), KCVO (1917), KCMG (1919), and GCB (1937). During the first world war he was also made grand officier of the Légion d'honneur, and awarded the Order of the White Eagle of Russia with Swords, the Order of Leopold of Belgium, and the Croix de Guerre. He died 18 March 1963 in London at 14 St Mary Abbots Courts after a short illness.
Gough married (1898) Louisa Nora Lewes, daughter of Maj.-gen. H. C. Lewes. They had a son, who died in infancy, and four daughters. A drawing by Francis Dodd is in private hands. The National Portrait Gallery holds a bust by Patricia Kahn (1961–2) and a chalk drawing by Sir William Rothenstein (1932). There is also an oil painting by Frank O. Salisbury, and a head-and-shoulders portrait by Rothenstein (1918) in the Birmingham City Art Gallery.