On this Date 1757: ADM John Byng Executed

Maritime Activity Reports, Inc.

March 14, 2019

On 14 March 1757, Admiral John Byng, Royal Navy, was executed by firing squad while he was kneeling on the forecastle of HMS Monarch in the Solent. Admiral Byng had been court-martialed for personal cowardice, disaffection, and for not having done his utmost to prevent Minorca from falling to the French following the Battle of Minorca on 20 May 1756. He was convicted only of “failing to do his utmost”. The British and French fleets were numerically equal (ten ships each), but the British had scrapped their group together hastily and its ships were in disrepair. The British fleet suffered significant, but not fatal, battle damage. When the French fleet departed at the end of the engagement, Admiral Byng did not order his fleet to follow. Rather, he had the fleet sail to Gibraltar for repairs. It was this departure to Gibraltar that the court-martial interpreted as a failure by the Admiral to do his utmost against the French. The court-martial was highly controversial, with many contending that the Navy panel had found the Admiral guilty to hide their own failure to properly prepare the fleet for the mission. Regardless, the event is said to have instilled a tradition of aggressiveness in Royal Navy officers.

Source: Bryant's Maritime Newsletter

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