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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Binney, Sir Thomas Hugh (1883–1953)

by Scott Bennett

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 13, (MUP), 1993

Thomas Binney, n.d.

Thomas Binney, n.d.

from National Portrait Gallery (UK)

Sir Thomas Hugh Binney (1883-1953), naval officer and governor, was born on 9 December 1883 at Douglas, Isle of Man, eldest son of Thomas Godfrey Binney, gentleman, and his wife Susan Lockhart, née Hobson. Intent on a career in the Royal Navy, at the age of 13 Hugh joined the training ship, H.M.S. Britannia, Dartmouth, as a cadet. For most of the years from 1899 to 1914, he served at sea. He saw action as gunnery officer of the Queen Elizabeth during the Dardanelles campaign; he was promoted commander in 1916 and awarded the Distinguished Service Order in 1919. Binney performed duties aboard the Hawkins on the China Station and became captain in 1922; he commanded the Nelson (1928-30) and the Hood (1932-33), and in 1931-32 was officer-in-charge of the Tactical School at Portsmouth, England. As rear admiral (1934), he commanded the 1st Battle Squadron, Mediterranean Fleet, from 1936. At the outbreak of World War II he was in charge of the Imperial Defence College, London. From 1939 he was flag officer (ashore), Orkneys and Shetlands, Scotland. Having been appointed C.B. in 1935, he was elevated to K.C.B. in 1940. Promoted admiral in 1942, he served as flag officer-in-charge, Cardiff, and retired in mid-1945. At the parish church of St Martin-in-the-Fields, London, on 31 October 1942 he had married Elizabeth Bride Blair-Imrie; they were to remain childless.

On 24 December 1945 Binney succeeded Sir Ernest Clark as governor of Tasmania. Although he was later described as an uncontroversial governor whose decisions were accepted 'without question', Binney's term coincided with a period of political turmoil. The Legislative Council twice rejected supply in 1948, forcing the Cosgrove government to an early election. Cosgrove again asked Binney to dissolve the parliament in 1950 when his minority government faced 'legislative impotence' after the resignation of the Speaker W. G. Wedd (an Independent) in protest at the appointment of Thomas D'Alton as agent-general. The dissolution was granted only after Binney 'satisfied himself that no alternative Government was possible'. His term of office was extended in 1950 and he was appointed K.C.M.G. in 1951.

The Binneys were unostentatious residents of Government House and made a determined effort to fit into the life of the Tasmanian community: they travelled extensively, and tirelessly attended a host of public functions. A keen sailor, Sir Hugh regularly raced with the Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania and won the Derwent Sailing Squadron pennant (1951). Lady Binney was active in the Girl Guides' Association and the Australian Red Cross Society. She represented Tasmania on the executive of the Country Women of the World Association, supported many charitable organizations and was a frequent visitor at Clarendon Children's Home. A tubby man who sometimes wore an incongruous bowler-hat, Binney had a modest and friendly demeanour which enhanced his gubernatorial role. He cherished the British Empire as 'an empire of ideals, rather than of territories'. Having retired on 8 May 1951, he returned to England. Following surgery for cholecystitis, he died of pulmonary embolism on 8 January 1953 at Colchester; his wife survived him.

Select Bibliography

  • W. A. Townsley, The Government of Tasmania (Brisb, 1976)
  • Who Was Who, 1951-1960
  • Times (London), 2 Nov 1942, 10 Jan 1953
  • Mercury (Hobart), 6 Nov, 26 Dec 1945, 6 Jan, 3, 5, 6, 8 May 1951
  • Age (Melbourne), 16 May 1951.

Citation details

Scott Bennett, 'Binney, Sir Thomas Hugh (1883–1953)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1993, accessed online 22 October 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 13, (MUP), 1993

View the front pages for Volume 13

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2020

Thomas Binney, n.d.

Thomas Binney, n.d.

from National Portrait Gallery (UK)