1. ITV Report

Soldier's VC to be auctioned

The medals won by Private Sydney Godley to be auctioned by Spink in London Photo: Spinx

Private Sydney Godley was a true hero. The soldier from East Grinstead in Sussex became the first infantryman in the First World War to win the Victoria Cross, Britain's highest military honour for bravery.

The Victoria Cross group of six medals was awarded on August 23rd 1914, just a month into the Great War.

The VC is being offered for sale in Spink's upcoming London auction of military items on July 19th.

Godley was a Private in The Royal Fusiliers and was taking part in one of the first major battles of the war, the defence of the Nimy Bridge at Mons.

Despite being severely wounded by shrapnel and with a 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 entire battalion was evacuated. After much resistance he was eventually overcome by German troops. He attempted to crawl to safety, but advancing soldiers caught him and took him to a prisoner of war camp. His wounds were treated, but he remained in the camp until the Armistice in 1918.

It was in the camp that he was informed that he had been awarded the Victoria Cross. He received the actual medal from the King, at Buckingham Palace, in 1919.

The announcement of his award was published in the London Gazette on the 25th November, 1914 and 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.

– London Gazette on the 25th November, 1914

Auctioneers say is difficult to put a price on such a historically significant item, but the pre-sale estimate has been put at £140,000-£180,000. However, Spink suspects it will attract huge interest and therefore may well exceed expectations. The auction takes place on July 19th.

Private Sydney Godley V.C. from East Grinstead, Sussex Credit: Spinx

After retiring Sydney Godley and his wife moved to Essex. He died in 1957, aged 67. He was buried in a cemetery in Laughton, London, with full military honours. East Grinstead Town Council mounted a Blue Plaque on their East Court offices in his memory.

Spink Medal specialist Oliver Pepys said: ''He saved his regiment and they lived to fight another day. It's a fantastic story and he is the most deserving recipient. The Godley VC is both hugely important and highly emotive and is one of the most famous medal groups in the Great War.''