A war hero's prestigious decoration was set to go on sale ten years ago this week.

A Victoria Cross awarded for one of the most heroic acts of the First World War is expected to fetch £140,000 at auction next week.

Private Sidney Godley, who is buried in St John’s Churchyard in Loughton, was presented with the Army’s highest decoration after manning a machine gun under heavy enemy fire for two hours after being shot in the head.

He became the first private of the war to be awarded the medal after the action at Nimy Bridge in Mons on August 23, 1914.

As his company defended a railway bridge, three soldiers in succession were killed while manning the machine gun before the 25-year-old Pt Godley stepped up to take charge.

Despite a severe head wound, he stayed at his post while his comrades were withdrawn, only finishing when the position was over run and he was taken into custody.

He saw out the rest of the war in a prisoner of war camp in Doberitz, and eventually moved to a home in Torrington Drive, Loughton, where a blue plaque commemorating his achievements was affixed by Loughton Town Council in 2000.

Oliver Pepys is a medal specialist at London auctioneers Spink where the sale will take place on Thursday, July 19.

He said: “He wasn’t expected to survive.

“His battalion was ordered to withdraw but he decided to stay and keep on holding up the Germans – almost in a last stand.

“How he wasn’t mown down is almost a miracle. And when he’d run out of ammunition he even managed to throw his gun into the water to avoid it falling into enemy hands.”

Pt Godley died at St Margaret’s Hospital, Epping, in 1957 and was buried with full military honours.

The bullet from Nimy Bridge was still lodged in his skull and was buried with him.