The Life And Death Of John Byng.

by Daniel Russ on October 24, 2013



Vice Admiral John Byng


The Admiral Who Was Shot For Losing Battle.


John Byng was a man of high birth, as they say. Born and raised in plentitude, well schooled, and of royal blood, he became a star officer of the Royal Navy.  He first participated in battle at the age of 13 at Cape Passaro in 1718. Twenty nine years later he was a Vice Admiral. He had received a vicountcy from King William II. Although he had a reputation for being a solid naval commander, most of his wins were of the association variety. He served on vessels that others commanded.  He received plumb jobs because his father was a successful naval commander in the fleet of King William III.


His first real command happened at the Battle of Majorica against the French Fleet at the beginning of the Seven Years War. He was given a losing hand by a disorganized of planner. He was outgunned, undermanned, under funded and delayed. His fleet needed upgrades and repairs but he had the Ship of the Line and the Royal orders and he set sail. The French beat him to the beaches of Majorica with 15,000 troops. After hemming and hawing he pressed a attack that did little damge to the French fleet but ample damage to his own.


After four days, with few better options, he retreated to Gibraltar.


The sad state of affairs was made worse by the loss of Majorica which caused an outcry from British subjects. It had been under the Crown since 1708 and now the French had occupied it and raised their own flag.


A movement to grant clemency to officers of high rank and family was defeated. Byng was taken to the quarterdeck of a ship and knelt on a cushion in front of all hands. He dropped a white handkerchief to indicate his readiness to accept his fate. Royal Marines fired and killed him.


Voltair remarked: “Dans ce pays-ci, il est bon de tuer de temps en temps un amiral pour encourager les autres”



His epitaph:


To the perpetual Disgrace
The Honble. JOHN BYNG Esqr
Admiral of the Blue
Fell a MARTYR to
March 14th in the year 1757 when
were Insufficient Securities
For the
Life and Honour
of a


Source: Battle At Sea, John Grant. 2000, Covent Garden Books. Wiki



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