Second Lieutenant William Barclay Binning, born on 24 September 1896 at Park Place, Cowdenbeath, Fife, was the elder son of Sydney Binning and Jane Binning, of "Lochview," Stenhouse Street, Cowdenheath, Fife. They owned and ran a plumbing business in the High Street of Cowdenbeath,

His siblings were Annie, Isabella and John.

He was educated at Foulford Primary School, Cowdenbeath, Dunfermline High School, Beath High School and Edinburgh University.

He enlisted in December 1914 and began officer training in January 1915 in Stirling, joining the 11th Battalion, Cameronians (Scottish Rifles) in the Bristol area for further training in February 1915. They crossed to France on 3/4th October 1915 from Folkestone, joining the 9th Battalion and served on the Ypres Salient from October to December 1915. He then joined the Machine Gun Corps in January 1916 and, after training served in 28 Machine Gun Company (9th Division) in the area north-east of Armentieres.

He was wounded in the abdomen at Le Touquet Railway Station (the British Front Line) on 23 April 1916, evacuated to Casualty Clearing Station No 2 in Bailleul for an operation, and died at 3.05pm on 24 April 1916, age 19. He is buried in Bailleul British Military Cemetery 25 April 1916, and is commemorated on the Cowdenbeath War Memorial.

His mother went into mourning black on hearing of the death of her son and wore black every day for the rest of her life.

It is not known whether Adam Fulton, his school chum, joined the forces. He went on to qualify as a vet and in 1928 married Jane Kelso. Jane and William were engaged to be married when William was killed. Jane, whom William called Jean, was also Dux at Beath High in 1914 and would go on to qualify and work as a school teacher before marrying Adam. They had no children.

John Binning, William’s brother, married and had two sons, Sydney and John, who also went on to be pupils at Beath High school and today are the keepers of all the artefacts and documents from William’s life. As young boys they remember playing with William’s service revolver.

He wrote this letter to his parents:

Don’t grieve dearest mother and father. I should so much have liked to live and shown you what good there was in me but still I am happy for I have done something. I shall be happy in His care and will look forward so much to our re-union. Don’t let any thought of me or my welfare worry you for I am going to Him and will be safe in His keeping.

You might check all the effects, father, if they ever reach you. I have noted whom I would like them to be given to – the others, you will just have to keep. Give Johnnie every chance of realizing his ambitions and tell him I expect him to do well.

Give Belle, Annie and Johnnie my very best love.

Don’t worry, dear ones. I am safe in His keeping. I have tried to do my duty but I have failed sometimes.

With all love to all, from your loving son.

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William Barclay Binning.


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Jane and Sydney Binning with Isabel (on knee), William, Annie.

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