Sydney George L Binley

Name Sidney George L Binley
Corps Army Cycle Corps
Rank Private
Service No. 1161
Date/Place of entry 1915
Date of death 1979

Sidney George Binley was born in 1895 at Barnack, the fourth of ten children of Abraham Binley and his wife Mary Ann nee Langford, a shepherd’s daughter from 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 and Percy John Binley.

Sidney George lived with his family on Rockingham Road and later on Water Lane, close to the rectory. In 1911 he was a farmworker living with his parents and the youngest five children. While his attestation record has not survived, his discharge papers have. They show he was a private in the Territorial Force 46th North Midland Divisional Cyclists Corps that landed at Le Havre on 28th February 1915.

The Army Cyclist Corps was formed late in 1914 but cycle units already existed, some of them created for the Territorial Force in 1908. Sidney George may have been serving in this capacity in the Leicestershire Regiment 5th (Territorial) Battalion but that is not yet proven.

 Once the war began, each infantry division included a cyclist company. Cyclists were principally employed in reconnaissance and communications but frequently took on other tasks such as trench digging and similar manual work. They were fully armed and sometimes used as mobile firepower in support of the infantry. Cyclists were paid at the same rate as privates in the infantry regiments.

The War Diary of the 46th Division Cyclist Corps show how frequently those serving within it moved around. Between disembarking at Le Havre in February and the end of 1915 they operated over at least twenty two towns and villages in the Ypres Salient / Pas de Calais. These included Merris near Armentieres, St Jans Cappel near Bailleul, Kemmel, Zillebeke – several men were injured here while laying cables - Bethune, Vermelles, and Calonne-sur-Lys. Almost every one of the twenty two towns and villages has a Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemetery.

(The Corps was also at the village of Le Paradis which was the site of a massacre in 1940 during the British retreat to Dunkirk. Ninety nine soldiers of the Royal Norfolks who had lost touch with their regiment fought with the Waffen-SS there but had to surrender when they ran out of ammunition.  They were immediately machine-gunned but two soldiers survived and were witnesses at the war crimes trial of the German commander who was executed in 1949.)

In late December 1915 the 46th Division marched south to Marseilles, embarking on the Beltana on the 5th January 1916 as part of the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force to Egypt. The ship put in briefly to Valletta harbour before continuing to Alexandria where the troops disembarked on the 12th. They pitched camp the following day at Shallufa twenty miles north of the militarised Suez Canal, a regular target for the Turkish army. On 31st January they transferred to Sidi Bishi camp. The Diary comments that repairs had to be made: ‘training and adjustment to cycles to which considerable damage had been caused in transit.’ 

The whole episode proved pointless as the orders to go to Egypt were countermanded. On 4th February the 46th Division was back on the Alexandria quayside to embark for France on the transatlantic liner “Minnewaska’. The ship put in to Marseilles on 9th February and the troops made their way back to the Pas de Calais.

The Division was billeted at Aubigny-en-Artois, a village some fifteen kilometres north-west of Arras, when the decision was taken to form the XVIIIth Cyclists Battalion from the 46th, 25th and 51st Division Cycling Corps. Only four officers and ninety five other ranks were deemed necessary for the new battalion. 

Those not chosen were transferred to Surplus Personnel. Sidney George was among the latter. He was discharged at Nottingham on 6th May 1916 aged twenty two. His papers describe his character as ‘very good…a clear, smart and efficient soldier’. What happened next is unclear. He was discharged to Cottingham presumably in good health as there is no mention of illness or disability on his discharge record. Was he recalled into a different regiment?
Sidney George died in 1979 aged eighty four.

Other Binley servicemen to whom he was related are his younger brother Percy, and 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.