Ralph Douglas Binney

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Captain Ralph Douglas Binney, C.B.E., Royal Navy, Retired (14 October, 1888 – 8 December, 1944) was an officer in the Royal Navy. He was the brother of Thomas Hugh Binney.

Life & Career

Binney was born on 14 October 1888, the son of T. G. Binney of Guisnes Court, Tolleshunt D'Arcy, Essex. He entered the Royal Navy as a Naval Cadet on 15 May 1903, joining the training ship Britannia at Dartmouth. He passed out on 15 September 1904, on which day he was rated Midshipman and appointed to the Swiftsure in the Home Fleet, where he served until 10 July 1906.[1] Captain Galloway thought him "Very zealous & able all round. Should do well in the Service."[2] On 10 July he was appointed to Implacable in the Mediterranean where he served until December 1907. Until 15 October 1906 he was educated by the Navigating Officer and not a Naval Instructor. On 15 November he obtained 922 marks out of 1,000 in his seamanship examination and was promoted to the rank of Acting Sub-Lieutenant. The same month he received a £5 prize for the Junior Naval Officers' examination in French. He then studied for and was then examined in the various examinations for the rank of Lieutenant, obtaining first classes in College (Parts I and II), Gunnery, Pilotage and Torpedo. For this achievement he received a £10 prize, and was retrospectively promoted to Lieutenant with seniority of 15 November 1908. For the 1908 manœuvres he was appointed to the "C" Class destroyer Star on 30 June 1908. He was appointed to the "B" Class destroyer Quail on 17 June 1909 for the 1909 manœuvres.[1]

Binney was appointed to Blake for appointment to the River Class destroyer Itchen with the Home Fleet on 7 August 1909.[1]

Binney served in the armoured cruiser Shannon from 1 March, 1910 to 31 April, 1911.[1]

He qualified 13th out of 21 officers.

Binney joined the staff of the Inspector of Torpedo Practice for Home Fleet Battle Practice on 20 August, 1913 and then assisted the staff of the Director of Naval Ordnance in compiling Blue Books until 13 February, 1914.[1]

Binney was appointed as Gunnery Officer of London from 13 February, 1914 until the ship paid off on 27 October 1916. On 11 November he was appointed to Excellent for gunnery duties. He then returned to sea as Gunnery Officer of Collingwood in the Grand Fleet from 5 April 1917 to 12 February 1919.[1]

Binney married Ruth Frances on 6 November, 1918 in Broughton Parish Church.[1]

Post War

In December 1918 Captain Cole C. Fowler wrote, "Sat. except. French. specially recommended. Very proficient Gunnery officer. Zealous, hardworking & takes great interest in his work. Strongly rec. for advancement & good gunnery appointment. On 12 February 1919 Binney was appointed to Excellent. Captain Robert N. Bax wrote, "Has been employed writing official books during time in Excellent. Hardworking & industrious." On 29 July he was appointed gunnery officer of the King George V. In May 1920 he applied for the War Staff Course, and in June was recommended for promotion by Vice-Admiral Oliver Sir Henry F. Oliver. In September Captain Arthur J. Davies "A good sound & tactful officer. An able Gunnery Lieut. with exceptional knowledge: good organiser & makes his reports clear & concise. Very strongly recommended for promotion to Commander." He was promoted to the rank of Commander on 31 December 1920.[2]

He again applied for the staff course in March 1921, and was recommended by Captain Bertram S. Thesiger.[3]

The director of the college, Captain The Hon. Reginald A. R. P.-E.-E.-Drax, wrote of him:

Sat. Below av. Does not appear to be much gifted with intellect of the type required for Staff Work. Good tempered & cheerful. He may possess other valuable qualities, but has no aptitude for Staff Work & only just succeeded in qualifying.[3]

Binney served as Assistant Chief of Naval Staff and Director of Naval Intelligence of the Royal Australian Navy from 1 June 1923 to 1 August 1925.[3] The Naval Staff comprised just him and first one, then two other Staff Officers.[4] In October 1925 the First Naval Member, Admiral Percival H. Hall-Thompson, wrote of him, "Exc. in Staff Work", Ab. av. so far as work in office gives scope to judge", "very tactful", "very sound", "So far as I can judge from short experience of him at sea has leadership well developed, good influence with all, pleasant personality & temperament. V.G. ability in organising. No expnce as to his admin. ability." He went on "Wd be specially recommended if he had sea time & experience. Report is based upon my knowledge of him as a Staff Offr. Was able to form some opinion of his seagoing capacity & that opinion was a high one." He reverted to the Royal Navy on 26 January 1926.[3]

Having returned to the United Kingdom on 4 January 1926 he was borne on the books of Victory for the Senior Officers' Technical Course, Part I. On 8 April he was appointed Commander (Second-in-Command) of the Royal Sovereign, which served in the Atlantic and then Mediterranean Fleet. In August 1927 Captain William M. James wrote of him:

Conscientious & painstaking, not gifted with great powers of leadership, good [illegible], so far as his general conduct concerned, Tactful, Phylly fit, but not an athlete, excellt social qual's, An inability to instil enthusiasm in or invoke whole hearted response from Subnts is a definite drawback to his character.[3]

He was promoted to Captain upon retirement on 21 October, 1934.[1]


Binney died at age 56 of injuries sustained in trying to stop "smash and grab raiders" in London who had made off with jewels valued at 3,500 pounds sterling. Binney had jumped onto the running board of the perpetrators' saloon car as they fled, but he lost this perch and was dragged under the car for a half mile and died at Guy's Hospital.

The driver of the car, a labourer named Ronald Hedley, was charged and found guilty of murder, the sentence being death by hanging. His accomplice, Thomas James Jenkins, welder, was found guilty of manslaughter and sentenced to eight years' penal servitude. Hedley was an experienced burglar, having been nicknamed "Silver" for repeatedly breaking into a jeweller's named Silver's in Bermondsey. The trial took six days and the two were convicted on 12 March, 1945. Hedley's subsequent appeal was dismissed by the Court of Criminal Appeals on 13 April. However, Hedley was reprieved by the Home Secretary on 26 April, two days before his planned execution on 28 April. In October, 1949 the Metropolitan Commissioner of Police appeared before the Royal Commission on Capital Punishment and stated that he believed that the key reason for the rise of armed gangs after the war had been the failure to execute Hedley in 1945.[5]


  • "Marriages" (Marriages). The Times. Thursday, 7 November, 1918. Issue 41941, col C, pg. 9.
  • "Naval Officer Dragged Under Car" (News). The Times. Saturday, 9 December, 1944. Issue 50012, col C, pg. 4.
  • "Obituary" (Deaths). The Times. Monday, 11 December, 1944. Issue 50013, col E, pg. 6.
  • "Funerals" (Deaths). The Times. Friday, 15 December, 1944. Issue 50017, col B, pg. 6.
  • Thomas, Donald (2006). Villains' Paradise: A History of Britain's Underworld. London: Pegasus Books. ISBN 1933648171.

Service Record

Naval Appointments
Preceded by
William R. Phillimore
Captain of H.M.S. Marshal Soult
26 Sep, 1930[6]
Succeeded by
Edward G. G. Hastings


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 Binney service record. The National Archives. ADM 196/51/238.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Binney service record. The National Archives. ADM 196/144/282.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 Binney service record. The National Archives. ADM 196/127/87.
  4. The Navy List. 1st October, 1924. p. 48. The Navy List. 1st July, 1925. p. 50.
  5. Thomas. Villains' Paradise. pp. 179-180.
  6. The Navy List. (July, 1931). p. 253.