Dates: (1889 - 1957)
Lived in Butterfield Road, Lee [now Waite Davies Road]
Private. 4th Battalion, Royal Fusiliers.
London Gazetted on 25 November, 1914.
Digest of Citation for the Victoria Cross reads:
On 23rd August 1914 at Mons, Belgium, Private Godley took over a machine gun on Nimy Bridge when the Lieutenant * in charge of the section had been mortally wounded. Private Godley held the enemy from the bridge single handed for two hours under very heavy fire and was wounded twice. His gallant action covered the retreat of his comrades, but he was eventually taken prisoner. His final act and was to destroy the gun and throw the pieces into the canal.
(*Lieutenant Maurice James Dease, also awarded the Victoria Cross. )
He was the first private, in the European War (WW I ) to be awarded the Victoria Cross. In 1938 Sidney Godley was presented with a gold medal specially struck by the people of Mons, Belgium.
A total of 628 Victoria Crosses were awarded during the First World War: 454 Victoria Crosses were awarded to UK-born recipients; 173 were awarded to servicemen who fought for Britain, but were born overseas; 1 person was awarded the Victoria Cross twice during the First World War. Special paving stones will be laid in the home towns of every UK soldier awarded the Victoria Cross as part of 2014's World War I centenary events. The specially-commissioned stones will be given to councils in the areas where the VC recipients were born. A total of 28 will be unveiled next year to commemorate medals awarded in 1914 and a further 600 will be laid in every year up to 2018. Godley's will be laid in August 2014 at East Grinsted, where he was born.
Location of Memorial:
Memorial on grave at Loughton Cemetery, Loughton, and on plaque on Nimy Bridge, Mons. A blue plaque has also been erected to Private Godley by Loughton Town Council at 164 Torrington Drive.
He was born on 14 August, 1889 at East Grinstead, Sussex and died on 29th June 1957 at Epping, Essex. It is believed that Private Godley was the soldier on whom Bruce Bairnsfather based his creation, "Old Bill," the famous 'Great War' cartoon character. According to an article in the Kentish Mercury of 20 December 1918 Sidney Godley sent his family a post card from Denmark saying he was being repatriated. This arrived in Lee on the day he arrived home. However the first member of his family to meet him was his sister, who knew nothing of the arrival of the postcard, and bumped into him while out shopping.
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