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John Byng
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Military Personnel
    (October 29, 1704-March 14, 1757)
    Born in Bedfordshire, England, United Kingdom
    British admiral
    Court martialed for failing to 'do his utmost' to prevent the capture of Minorca by the French during the Seven Years' War
    Executed by firing squad
    He rose through the naval ranks partly due to the influence of his father, Admiral Sir George Byng.
    He displayed a defeatist attitude before the Battle of Minorca.
    He approached the French fleet at an angle, so his leading ships were engaged while the remainder (including Byng's flagship) were out of firing range.
    His descendants unsuccessfully petitioned for a posthumous pardon (2007).
    He was sent to Minorca in unseaworthy vessels that were inadequately manned and the governor of Gibraltar refused to provide additional troops for the relief force, so his attitude, even if defeatist, was realistic.
    The court martial did acquit him of personal cowardice.
    The suspicion that the Admiralty put him on trial to cover their asses led to public protests over his execution.
    His execution was satirized by Voltaire in 'Candide,' with a character observing 'In this country, it is wise to kill an admiral from time to time to encourage the others.'

Credit: C. Fishel


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