percy John Binley


Percy John Binley


Royal Navy


Able Seaman

Service No.


Date/Place of entry

7 Sep 1913

Date of death




Percy John Binley was born on 28 June1898, the sixth of ten children of Abraham Binley and his wife Mary Ann nee Langford, a shepherd’s daughter born in Southwick. Abraham was a son of Lewis Binley and a grandson of Thomas Binley, the first of the family to settle in Cottingham. For more information on the extended Binley family see the page on Charles Stephen Binley.

Unlike his father Lewis and elder brother John Lewis who both worked as wheelwrights, Abraham was an ironstone labourer. Like them he had a brush with the law in his youth, appearing in court alongside John Bradshaw accused of assaulting a private in the Coldstream Guards. Such misdemeanours were of course commonplace.( By contrast, Abraham’s brother John Lewis Binley was a seriously violent character, convicted of assault on several occasions including one in 1907 on his common-law wife, Carrie Townsin with whom he had five children. John had married Ada Bamford of Middleton in 1880 but she moved away to Leicester almost immediately. Family sources think he attacked her too, and may have done time in Bedford Gaol.)

Percy John lived with Abraham, Mary Ann and his brothers and sisters on Rockingham Road and later on Water Lane, close to the rectory. He joined the navy as a ship’s boy class II in September 1913, and spent his first year on training ships. Until the middle of July 1914 he was on HMS Ganges at the Royal Naval Training Establishment at Shotley, to the south of Ipswich. There followed a fortnight on HMS Crescent of the Queenstown Training Squadron where he was classified ships boy class 1. Percy John joined HMS Achilles as an able seaman on 30th October 1914. His surviving records suggest he was on the Achilles throughout the war, transferring onto HMS Vernon on 16th December 1918.

HMS Achilles was a recently built Warrior-class armoured cruiser, a member of the second cruiser squadron for most of the war. The ship did not take part in the Battle of Jutland in May1916 as she was being refitted and spent the autumn with three other armoured cruisers on patrol in the North Sea, between the approaches to Pentland Firth and Hardangerfjord in Norway.

On 16th March 1917 HMS Achilles and the armed boarding steamer HMS Dundee sighted the German commerce raider Leopard several miles off the Faeroes. The Leopard was previously a British ship, the SS Yarrowdale, which had been captured the previous December. According to the official naval despatch she was carrying a heavy torpedo armament and intended to torpedo the British ships. The Leopard was overhauled at 2.00p.m. and obeyed an order to stop. She was ordered to steer west by south then stopped again to allow a party from the Dundee to examine her. At this point HMS Achilles was manoeuvring about two and a half miles away.

The Dundee sent out a boarding party, one officer and five men. Their boat was alongside the Leopard when the two ships started to fire at one another. The Achilles began firing on the Leopard from a range of 5,300 yards. Fire broke out on the enemy ship, probably from a hit by the Dundee. The German raider fired a torpedo at the Achilles, but was then hit in the bows by one from the Achilles. 

By 4.20pm the Dundee had taken station astern of the Achilles. The Leopard was still on fire when the Dundee reported (probably incorrectly) seeing a submarine approaching her. Firing began again and within minutes the Leopard sank in flames and went down with all hands. Also dead were the Dundee’s boarding party. Alphabetical order had decided the fate of the dead seamen, four of whom were named Anderson, and the fifth Birchall.

HMS Achilles became a training ship in 1918 and on 16th December of that year Percy John was sent to HMS Vernon and stayed until November 1919. HMS Vernon was a Royal Navy shore establishment – they were termed 'stone frigates'. The ship was chosen at the start of the war to carry out torpedo trials and to train new recruits. It remained operational until 1996.

Percy John moved on to another ‘stone frigate’ HMS Victory in November 1919. Nelson’s flagship was in a desperate state of disrepair by then. A couple of years later the Save the Victory campaign would start, led by shipbuilder Sir James Caird.

For the next eighteen months Percy John was back at sea on HMS Caledon, a C-class light cruiser built by Cammell Laird and launched on 25 November 1916. In August 1921 he transferred to HMS Curacao. The Curacao was the same class of light cruiser as the Caledon and was part of the First Light Cruiser Squadron of the Atlantic Fleet. (In 1935 Curacao was featured in the film ‘Brown on Resolution’. In October 1942 to north of Ireland she was escorting the Queen Mary, which had ten thousand American troops aboard. The Queen Mary accidently struck the Curacao at speed and she sank in six minutes. Less than a third of the Curacao’s crew survived.)

From May to September 1922 Percy John was again ashore on HMS Vernon, then on Victory I until June 1925. For the next twelve months he was on HMS Barham, a Queen Elizabeth class battleship which had been the flagship of the Fifth Battle Squadron at the Battle of Jutland. In 1920 she was made flagship of the First Battle Squadron of the Atlantic Fleet before joining the Mediterranean Fleet in 1924. According to some sources she was sent to Lancashire during the 1926 general strike to land food supplies.

Percy John moved on to HMS Malaya, another Queen Elizabeth class battleship, on 15th September 1925 then briefly to her sister ship HMS Warspite in the following June. Warspite became the flagship of the Commander-in-Chief, Mediterranean Fleet but by then Percy was on HMS Assistance (Crescent Moon), a repair ship.
Between August 1926 and November 1928 he was on HMS Warspite. He transferred onto Victory I and left the navy on 28th November 1928. Percy John Binley died in 1958.

 Other Binley servicemen to whom he was related are his older brother Sidney , Charles, George, and John Binley of Cottingham, John, George and Willis Panter of Cottingham, Albert Gear and Ernest Beeby descended from Cottingham; Wilfred, Bernard and George Frederick Binley, Percy Augustine Binley,  William and Herbert Roddis all descended from the Corby Binleys.