On 23rd Aug 1914 at Mons, Private Sidney Godley of the 4th Battalion Royal Fusiliers took over a machine-gun on Nimy Bridge when the officer in charge of the section, Lieutenant Dease VC, had been mortally wounded. Godley held the enemy from the bridge single-handed for two hours under heavy fire and was wounded twice, once when shrapnel hit him in the back, and again when he was shot in the head. His gallant action covered the retreat of his comrades but he was eventually taken prisoner. His final act was to destroy the gun and throw the pieces into the canal. His award of the Victoria Cross was gazetted on 25th Nov 1914 and he was presented with it by King George V at Buckingham Palace on 15th Feb 1919.
Sidney Frank Godley was born in East Grinstead, Sussex on 14th Aug 1889. His mother died in 1896 and he was sent to live in Willesden in London with his aunt and uncle. He worked in an ironmonger's until he was 20, and on 13th Dec 1909 he joined the Royal Fusiliers. He married Ellen Norman in 1919, and had a son, Stanley, and a daughter Eileen. Sidney worked as a school caretaker in Tower Hamlets. He died on 29th June 1957 at the age of 68, in Epping, Essex. He was buried with full military honours at Loughton. He was the first private soldier to win the VC in the First World War. It was thought that he was the original 'Old Bill' the character created by Bruce Bairnsfather the WW1 cartoonist. In 1938 he was presented with a special gold medal.
Unfortunately the VC medal has been the cause of a rift in the family. Colin, the son of Stanley, sold the medal in 2012 to a private collector, for 276,000 pounds. This went against the wishes of his aunt, Eileen, daughter of Sidney.
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