Percy Augustine Binley

Name Percy Augustine Binley
Corps Essex Regiment 10th Battalion, Norfolk Regiment 1st Battalion
Rank 2nd Lieutenant
Service No. 22461
Date/Place of entry
Date of death 23 August 1918 Killed in Action
Memorial/Grave Albert Communal Cemetery Extension

Percy Augustine Binley was the grandson of William and Elisabeth Binley of Corby, so second cousin once removed of George, John, Sidney and Percy Binley of Cottingham.  His father John was born in 1843, eldest son of William and Elisabeth Binley. John became a pupil-teacher in Corby and Rothwell then travelled north in the 1870s to Wylam, a small town about eight miles west of Newcastle upon Tyne and birthplace of George Stephenson. Alongside its collieries, Wylam boasted stone quarries and a blast furnace for pig iron, which resemblance to Corby may explain why he took up a teaching post there. In 1872 John married Mary Ann Collins, a lady’s maid employed at Wylam Hall. After the birth of their first two children they moved south to Hempnall in south Norfolk where he was schoolmaster for thirty years or more and latterly also assistant overseer and rate collector. He and his family lived throughout in a house named The Laurels.

They had two more children. The youngest, Percy Augustine was born in 1881 and his unusual second name may have been chosen because it was shared by John’s cousin Augustine Roddis. Percy became assistant schoolmaster to his father in 1901 and in Rochford School, Essex afterwards. He married Mabel Palmer of Rochford in 1907 and presented his wife with diamond and sapphire jewellery on the occasion, an exceptional gift for a young teacher to buy.

Percy Augustine was teaching in the parish of Vale on Guernsey in 1911. His military service record has not survived but a report in the Chelmsford Chronicle after his death says he resigned from teaching early in the war to enlist in the Norfolk Regiment. According to the Medals and Honours Rolls he was in the 1st Battalion, which was part of the Fifteenth Brigade, Fifth Division. The Division landed in France in August 1914 and took part in most of the battles and actions on the Western Front until November 1917 when it moved to Italy. Percy is likely to have fought in the battles of Mons, the Marne, the Aisne, and the first and second Battle of Ypres.

In July 1916 the Division enjoyed a respite in GHQ Reserve but was soon involved again in the early Battles of the Somme. Between October 1916 and March 1917 it was stationed in the comparatively uneventful area around Festubert but then re-entered the fighting at Vimy and the Battles of Arras, followed in September by deployment at Polygon Wood and Passchendaele, stages in the Third Battle of Ypres.

Percy was discharged in December 1917 with the rank of corporal to take up a commission in the 10th Battalion of the Essex Regiment. That was quite a leap in rank and it would be fascinating to know what brought it about, but so far I’ve not been able to find any further information. The 10th Battalion was a Kitchener New Army regiment, part of the 53rd Brigade in the 18th Division. The 6th Battalion, Northamptonshire Regiment was also part of this division.

On 8th August 1918 Percy was recommended for a gallantry award. Fifteen days later he was killed in action during the final Battle of Albert. The record states that on 23 August Acting 2nd Lieutenant Binley ‘led his platoon brilliantly, maintaining direction through thick fog. When they were held up by machine-gun fire he led them forward with the greatest determination and rendered valuable services in the clearance of the ground to the first objective.’

The British forces recaptured Albert. Percy was awarded the Military Cross for conspicuous gallantry and line leadership during attack. He was buried in Albert Communal Cemetery extension situated south east of the town. Percy and Mabel do not appear to have had any children, and she never remarried. Mabel died in 1957 in Suffolk.
The day before Percy was killed, Frederick Vye of Cottingham, a private in the Queens (Royal West Surrey) Regiment died in the same Battle. The 23rd also saw the death in action of Francis Moore of the Royal Irish Rifles, a second cousin of Thomas William Chambers of Middleton. Both are remembered on the Vis-en-Artois Memorial.
Other Binley servicemen to whom Percy Augustine was related are Charles, George, John, Sidney and Percy Binley of Cottingham, John, George and Willis Panter of Cottingham, Albert Gear and Ernest Beeby descended from Cottingham; Wilfred, Bernard and George Frederick Binley, William and Herbert Roddis all descended from the Corby Binleys.