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Thursday, 19 July 2012

Victoria Cross fetches £276,000 at auction

The first Victoria Cross awarded to a private in World War I has sold for £276,000 at auction. The medal, awarded to Pte Sidney Godley, of East Grinstead, West Sussex, was expected to fetch up to £180,000.

Pte Godley manned a machine-gun position defending Nimy Bridge in Mons while under fire from German soldiers in the first weeks of the war.

A second VC, awarded posthumously to a Gloucestershire soldier, was sold for £240,000 at the same auction.

The Victoria Cross (V.C.) is the highest military decoration given for bravery and gallantry in the face of the enemy. The award is given to the armed forces in various Commonwealth countries, as well as all ofthe former British Empire territories. Private Godley was a worthy recipient, as although severely wounded by shrapnel and witha bullet lodged in his skull, he took over a machine-gun from his mortally wounded commanding officer and continued to hold his position, single-handedly for two hours, against a sustained heavy German assault. When the order came to withdraw, he maintained a covering fire until the entirebattalion was evacuated. After much resistance he was eventually overtaken by the enemy and taken as a prisoner of war.

The announcement of his award was published in the London Gazetteon the 25th November, 1914 andread: '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.'

The original Recommendation, by Lieutenant F.W.A. Steele, Royal Fusiliers, states: 'In the defence of a railway bridge near Nimy, 23rd August 1914, Private Godley of 'B' Company showed particular heroism in his management of the machine guns. His Commanding Officer having been severely wounded and each machine gunner in turn shot, Private Godley was called to the firing line on the bridge and under heavy fire he had to remove three dead bodies and proceed to an advanced machine gun position under a sustained enemy fire. He carried on defending the position for two hours after he had received a severe head wound.'

Commenting on the importance and rarity of thisV.C. group, medal specialist at Spink, Oliver Pepys, said: “The Godley V.C. is both hugely important and highly emotive and is one of the most famous medal groups of the Great War. Through his actions at Mons, even to the last, when he ensured that his gun would not fall into enemy hands, Godley set a standard that the British Tommy would aspire to for the rest of the War, and brought honour to his Regiment.”

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