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Men of Worth - The heroism of an 'unknown soldier'
The full extent of the heroism of Keighley’s ’unknown soldier’ can now be revealed.
Research by the Men of Worth Project has unearthed the story of Godfrey Ling’s war service.
The amateur historians discovered just why the “fearless” officer won the Military Cross twice.
They also discovered that Godfrey, leader of a gun battery, died carrying out a similarly heroic deed.
Godfrey came to public notice last month when a former Keighley man, now living in Cheltenham, found a photograph among his late mother’s belongings.
For many decades Mary Gibson had kept the picture of an unnamed soldier tucked into a Bible she was given for her 10th birthday in 1912.
Men of Worth founder Andy Wade recognised the man in the picture as Captain Godfrey Frank Mackwood Ling, who was killed in action in 1918.
Godfrey was born in 1896, son of Keighley doctor HC Ling, and attended Bradford Grammar School before taking medicine at London University.
At university he answered the call for volunteers, obtaining a commission with the West Yorkshire Regiment and joining the 7th Battalion Leeds Rifles. He won his first Military Cross in 1917 at the Somme while commanding a team of Stokes mortars.
The citation read: “By his skillful manoeuvring of the mortars and dispersed reconnaissance, he afforded valuable assistance to our infantry attack.
“He was instrumental in stopping an enemy counter-attack, though subjected to heavy machine gun and shell fire throughout the action.”
Within six months Godfrey had received a bar to the Military Cross for a similar act of gallantry at Cambrai, and he was handed the honour by the king. Another six months later, in summer 1918, Godfrey died while superintending the firing of two guns to cover the advance of a British raiding party.
An enemy shell hit the ammunition and detonated it, killing Godfrey and two comrades instantly.
One officer wrote to Godfrey’s parents: “His extreme courage and cheerfulness were known throughout the brigade. He was buried this morning where he lay.”
Another officer wrote that Godfrey was like a brother to him, and described him as one of “one of Britain’s bravest men”.
One of Godfrey’s long-time comrades said: “He was brave and fearless, never thinking of danger, and gave others confidence who were with him.”