Family’s plea to exhonerate admiral shot ‘for not doing his best’

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A Remembrance service to mark the 260th anniversary of the execution of a British Admiral is to be held in Southill in March.

And descendants of his family are seeking an exhoneration into his death, by firing squad on the deck of his ship.

Admiral John Byng, the fifth son of George Byng, Viscount Torrington, was born in Southill in 1704 and joined the Navy aged 13.

He gave many years of loyal service to the Royal Navy and volunteered to attempt to relieve the British Garrison on Minorca from the siege by the French in 1756, a task he undertook with leaking ships and marines in poor health.

He dislodged the French Navy, they retreated and he returned to Gibralter for repairs and additional marines.

Once in Gibraltar, he was refused permission to return to battle. Minorca was lost to the French and this was the start of the Seven Years War.

Admiral John Byng was returned to England, court-martialled for ‘NOT DOING HIS BEST’ and shot on the deck of his own ship ‘The Monarch’ on 14 March 1757 at noon. Ironically, the ship previously called ‘The Monarque’ was taken from the French in a previous battle.

Many believe that he was the scapegoat for the King and the Royal Navy, who had already lost Minorca, before Byng was engaged to disrupt the French. Even those who had to find him guilty, under the law of ‘not doing his best’ pleaded with the King and Government to overturn the verdict they had to find due to the law at the time.

He is buried in All Saints Church in Southill.

French writer and philosopher Voltaire wrote ‘The English shoot an Admiral to encourage the others’.

The Admiral Byng Campaign, established by Byng descendants and supporters are seeking an exoneration not a pardon. (Exoneration is to officially free someone from blame, pardon denotes guilt in the first place).

Tulip Saddiq MP will hand in a petition to the Secretary of State for Defence, Michael Fallon MP, on the anniversary of the time and date of Admiral Byng’s execution: Noon 14 March 2017.

The Remembrance service, led by the Rt Rev Richard Atkinson with be at All Saints Church in Southill at 11.30am on March 14.