George Binney

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Sir (Frederick) George Binney (DSO) (23 September 1900, Epsom, Surrey[1][2]–1972) was a noted arctic explorer and Royal Naval Reserve commander. During World War II, he led or was involved in efforts, including Operation Rubble, to procure supplies of Swedish ball bearings for Britain.[3][4][5][6]

Arctic exploration[edit]

Whilst still an undergraduate at Merton College, Oxford, Binney organized and was secretary to the 1921 Oxford University Spitsbergen expedition, subsequently leading both the 1923 Merton College Arctic Expedition, and the 1924 Oxford University Arctic Expedition.[2] He was a pioneer in the use of seaplanes for Arctic survey work and wrote up this experience in his 1925 book With Seaplane and Sledge in the Arctic.

The Avro 504 seaplane used was supplied by A. V. Roe and Co., Ltd. and its 180-h.p. Lynx air-cooled engine provided by Armstrong Siddeley. (For The Avro Arctic see The Avro 504O). He was awarded the Royal Geographical Society's Back Award in 1927.

Subsequent to these expeditions he worked in the Arctic for the Hudson's Bay Company (1926–1930). During this time he wrote The Eskimo Book of Knowledge (published by the Hudson's Bay Company), a book explaining a rather colonial view of the wider world to the Inuit.[7] He also completed a course at the Dundee School of Economics in 1932.


In 1939, Binney took up a post as the Swedish representative of the UK Ministry of Supply (Iron and Steel Control).[2] He was to assist in the acquisition of steel, machine tools, and most notably ball-bearings for the UK's armament programme. Following the outbreak of war and the isolation of Sweden after the German invasions of Norway and Denmark, Binney organised a series of blockade-running operations. This included Operation Rubble, Operation Performance, Operation Bridford, and Operation Moonshine.[7]


Binney was knighted in 1941 and awarded a Distinguished Service Order in 1944.[2] He was awarded the Patron's Medal of the Royal Geographical Society in 1957 ("For contributions to Arctic exploration ... the pioneer use of the air survey technique … and to the development of the university exploring expedition").[8]

Private life[edit]

Binney acquired Horham Hall, Essex as his residence.[9] He was married twice, in 1946 to Evelyn Mary Fane (they divorced in 1954), and in 1955 to Sonia Simms.[2][7]

Selected publications[edit]

  • Binney, George (1925) With Seaplane and Sledge in the Arctic - The account of the 1924 Oxford Arctic Expedition, London, Hutchinson & Co[10][11]
  • Binney, George (1929) Hudson Bay in 1928. Geographical Journal, Vol 74, No 1, pp. 1–27
  • Binney, George (1931) The Eskimo Book of Knowledge, London, Hudson's Bay Co.[12][13][note 1]

Other sources[edit]


  1. ^ The book is mentioned in Helen DeWitt's novel The Last Samurai.(p 242)


  1. ^
  2. ^ a b c d e Levens, R.G.C., ed. (1964). Merton College Register 1900-1964. Oxford: Basil Blackwell. p. 124.
  3. ^ Obituary: Sir George Binney, DSO,The Geographical Journal Vol. 139, No. 1 (Feb., 1973), pp. 199–201
  4. ^ Barker, Ralph (2005) The Blockade Busters: Cheating Hitler’s Reich Of Vital War Supplies, Pen & Sword Books Ltd
  5. ^ Coastal Forces Heritage Trust (2010) The Coastal Forces Heritage Trust: Incorporating The Coastal Forces Veterans, Newsletter issue 6, May 2010 Archived 8 October 2011 at the Wayback Machine (Accessed July 2011)
  6. ^ Polar Record (1973) Obituary: Sir George Binney, Kt, DSO, Polar Record, Vol 16, No 104, p 753–58
  7. ^ a b c The Papers of Sir George Binney,University of Cambridge (Accessed July 2011)
  8. ^ Royal Geographical Society, Medals and Awards - Gold Medal Recipients Archived 27 September 2011 at the Wayback Machine (Accessed July 2011)
  9. ^ Munro, Bruce (Autumn 2007). "Some Stately Homes of North-west Essex". Saffron Walden Historical Journal (14).
  10. ^ W., J. M., and George Binney. 1926. "Review of With Seaplane and Sledge in the Arctic". Geographical Journal. 67, no. 3: 268.
  11. ^ Flight (1926) Review of With Seaplane and Sledge in the Arctic, Flight, 7 January pp. 11–12
  12. ^ The Argus (1931)Review of The Eskimo Book of Knowledge (Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, Saturday 1 August 1931 p4. (Accessed July 2011)
  13. ^ Crowe, Keith J. (1991) A history of the original peoples of northern Canada, McGill-Queen's Press pp. 169–170 (Accessed July 2011)