Sidney Godley

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Sidney Frank Godley
Sidney Godley VC IWM Q 80449.jpg
Born 14 August 1889
East Grinstead, Sussex
Died 29 June 1957
Epping, Essex
Buried at Loughton Burial Ground, Loughton
Allegiance  United Kingdom
Service/branch Flag of the British Army.svg British Army
Years of service 1909 - 1919
Rank Private
Service number 13814
Unit The Royal Fusiliers
Battles/wars World War I
Awards Victoria Cross

Sidney Frank Godley VC (14 August 1889 – 29 June 1957) was an English recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces. He was the first private soldier awarded the VC in World War I.[1]

Early life[edit]

Godley was born on 14 August 1889 in East Grinstead, West Sussex, the son of Avis (née Newton) and Frank Godley. His mother died in 1896, and he was sent to live with his aunt and uncle in Willesden, London. He was educated at Henry Street School, St John's Wood and, upon moving to Sidcup, at Sidcup National School.[2] From the ages of fourteen to twenty, he worked in an ironmonger’s store.[3] On 13 December 1909, he joined The Royal Fusiliers (City of London Regiment) of the British Army as a private with the service number 13814.[2]

Victoria Cross[edit]

Godley was 25 years old, and a private in the 4th Battalion, The Royal Fusiliers, British Army, during the Battle of Mons in the First World War when he performed an act for which he was awarded the Victoria Cross. On 23 August 1914, at Mons, Belgium on the Mons-Condé Canal, Lieutenant Maurice Dease and Sidney Godley offered to defend the Nimy Railway Bridge while the rest of the British and French armies retreated for a better defence line on the River Marne. When Lieutenant Dease had been mortally wounded and killed, Private Godley held the bridge single-handed under very heavy fire and was wounded twice. Shrapnel entered his back when an explosion near him went off, and he was shot in the head. Despite his injuries he carried on the defence of the bridge while his comrades escaped. His citation read:

For coolness and gallantry in fighting his machine gun under a hot fire for two hours after he had been wounded at Mons on 23rd August.[4]

Godley defended the bridge for two hours, until he ran out of ammunition.[5] His final act was to dismantle the gun and throw the pieces into the canal. He attempted to crawl to safety, but advancing German soldiers caught him and took him to a prisoner of war camp. His wounds were treated, but he remained in camp until the Armistice. Originally it was thought that he had been killed, but some time later it was found that he was a prisoner of war in a camp called Delotz at Dallgow-Döberitz. It was in the camp that he was informed that he had been awarded the Victoria Cross. Godley left the camp in 1918 after the guards fled their posts. He received the actual medal from King George V, at Buckingham Palace, on 15 February 1919.[3]

On 19 July 2012 his medals were sold at auction for £276,000.[6]

Post-war life[edit]

On 2 August 1919, Godley married Ellen Eliza Norman.[2] He worked as a school caretaker in Tower Hamlets, London.[6] He died on 29 June 1957.[2] He was buried with full military honours in the town cemetery at Loughton, Essex, where he latterly resided.[6]

Memorials[edit]

  • East Grinstead Town Council mounted a Blue Plaque on their offices
  • Loughton Town Council placed a Blue Plaque at 164 Torrington Drive to commemorate its famous former resident
  • in 1976 a new housing estate in Bexley, Greater London, was named after him
  • In 1992 Tower Hamlets Council named a block of flats "Godley VC House" (Digby Street, E2). A plaque attached to the flats also commemorates him [7]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "National Archives". Sidney Frank Godley. Retrieved 18 March 2008. 
  2. ^ a b c d Iain W Tidey. "Private Sidney Godley VC". Felbridge & District History Group. Retrieved 19 July 2012. 
  3. ^ a b "Sidney Godley". Spartacus Educational. Retrieved 19 July 2012. 
  4. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 28985. p. 9957. 24 November 1914. Retrieved 19 July 2012. Original citation
  5. ^ "BBC News - First Victoria Cross awarded to a private to be auctioned". Bbc.co.uk. 1970-01-01. Retrieved 2012-07-19. 
  6. ^ a b c "BBC News - Victoria Cross fetches £276,000 at auction". Bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 2012-07-19. 
  7. ^ http://www.towerhamletshomes.org.uk/your_neighbourhood/monuments__sculptures/roman_road_neighbourhood_-_sid.aspx

External links[edit]