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  #26  
Old 16-03-2009, 10:27
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Francis Stanley Francis Stanley is offline
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Default Re: Did Admiral John Byng deserve to be executed?

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Originally Posted by herakles View Post
There were plenty of good things in Roman times K! Like aqueducts, viticulture ... ...
Yes but apart from that, and schools, and roads, what have the Romans ever done for us!......I think that shooting is too good for most Admirals.....
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  #27  
Old 16-03-2009, 10:47
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Default Re: Did Admiral John Byng deserve to be executed?

Sex, sex, sex! That's all the Romans think about. (Me too! )

Promised me the known world ... ...
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  #28  
Old 16-03-2009, 19:35
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Default Re: Did Admiral John Byng deserve to be executed?

Greeting's Herakles,

I don't know if you would be interested, but I only live about 30 minutes from Admiral Byng's home town. I took a drive out there today and went to the church where he is entombed in the family vault. A very quite sleepy village, could not find the Padre but had a nose around. Found a little booklet all about him with a few photographs inside. Which I will endeavour to put on this thread.

Baz.
Attached Images
File Type: jpg Admiral Byng.jpg (479.6 KB, 16 views)
File Type: jpg Admiral Byng 1.jpg (443.2 KB, 15 views)
File Type: jpg Admiral Byng 2.jpg (278.8 KB, 23 views)
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  #29  
Old 16-03-2009, 19:49
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Default Re: Did Admiral John Byng deserve to be executed?

Here's another try.
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  #30  
Old 16-03-2009, 19:58
herakles
 
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Default Re: Did Admiral John Byng deserve to be executed?

Well, I for one would like to see the booklet!
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  #31  
Old 16-03-2009, 22:02
Linton Linton is offline
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Default Re: Did Admiral John Byng deserve to be executed?

The articles of war under which the Royal Navy of the period operated were draconian.The penalty of death appears in quite a few of them.
It is alleged that the phrase "pour encourager les autres" was used to describe the court martial and subsequent execution and it certainly sharpened many officers minds over the next fifty years.
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  #32  
Old 16-03-2009, 23:53
herakles
 
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Default Re: Did Admiral John Byng deserve to be executed?

The Articles of War certainly were draconian. All crimes were punishable with flogging, and 21 (of the 36) carried a sentence of death. This number was reduced to 35 articles in the 1757 revision of the articles.

About the only Article that doesn't deal with punishment is the first that directs compulsory religion on board ship.

The Articles used against Byng were introduced in 1749, only 8 years before his death.

Put in context with the times, it should be noted that a vast number of crimes in society were also punishable by death.

The Articles were first formally stated rather earlier, around 1650.

I find it interesting to reflect on why such draconian measures were in vogue at this time. Perhaps the Ruling Class was feeling uncomfortable.

The Articles attempt to control behaviour. I wonder if in fact the situation is any different today considering the draconian measures in place in England. The only difference seems to be that people are not hanged today for smacking their kids.
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  #33  
Old 17-03-2009, 00:28
John Odom John Odom is offline
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Default Re: Did Admiral John Byng deserve to be executed?

This has been an interesting thread. I have had nothing to contribute, but I found the inscription on the tomb to sum it well in my mind.
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  #34  
Old 17-03-2009, 01:15
kookaburra kookaburra is offline
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Default Re: Did Admiral John Byng deserve to be executed?

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Originally Posted by barry-sheila@tiscali.co.u View Post
Greeting's Herakles,

I don't know if you would be interested, but I only live about 30 minutes from Admiral Byng's home town. I took a drive out there today and went to the church where he is entombed in the family vault. A very quite sleepy village, could not find the Padre but had a nose around. Found a little booklet all about him with a few photographs inside. Which I will endeavour to put on this thread.

Baz.
Yes, this was a very nice post. Love it when discussion actually stirs someone's interest enough to go out and do a bit of exploring. Well done Baz.
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  #35  
Old 17-03-2009, 04:14
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Default Re: Did Admiral John Byng deserve to be executed?

Well, now what is it that Nelson signaled to his ships? "England expects all men to do their duty."

This was a different time and a different world. People joined up with the RN for three good meals a day or were pressed or perhaps were convicted of a petty crime and given a choice. Steal a loaf of bread and hang at the Old Bailey.

The professional seaman at a time when England ruled the waves in the age of sail, went aloft in all weather and all seas. Disipline was harsh because it had to be. When a command was uttered, you acted without question or reservation. Failure to do so could doom the ship. Great Captains kept to the rules BUT made the ship a cohesive unit and understand the importance of maintaining high morale.

My take, harsh as it seems, is that the leader, Admiral Byng, was not competent. His crew was not properly trained and the ships poorly fought. There is ample evidence in the information presented to support this. English Captains rarely, if ever, lost against equal odds. Why? The French spent half their time in port, bottled up by the English who sailed 24x7 in all weather for years at a time, An Admiral who got too comfortable with life on shore and let the high standards slip, deserved to be court marshaled. The French army had little or no effect on the battle at sea. This is about a Captain who enjoyed the good life on shore and neglected his duty to constantly prepare his ship and crew for action. He was brave and his ships were bravely fought, but the RN had a much higher standard. Byng did not meet that standard.

Of course, politics intruded in that an intersession was not granted, however, that does not change the facts of the battle or the result. The punishment was indeed harsh, but well within the parameters of the RN at that time. There was no double standard in this instance. If a shipman committed most of those mentioned articles, he would be flogged, flogged around the fleet, keel hauled, or hung. If discipline was to prevail, an Admiral took the same risk. Aren't we glad that we served in a different time, but we must evaluate the decision in their time and place.

Now if we could just bring back those rules for the financial people who trashed the world economy, we'd all be better off.

Fred
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  #36  
Old 17-03-2009, 06:16
herakles
 
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Default Re: Did Admiral John Byng deserve to be executed?

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My take, harsh as it seems, is that the leader, Admiral Byng, was not competent. His crew was not properly trained and the ships poorly fought.
Fred
Evidence Fred please?

Of course discipline is essential. But not brutality.
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  #37  
Old 17-03-2009, 08:15
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Francis Stanley Francis Stanley is offline
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Default Re: Did Admiral John Byng deserve to be executed?

Sorry to sound a little pedantic, but I do not beleive that keel hauling actually happened in RN ships, it certainly was not a formal form of punishment.
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  #38  
Old 17-03-2009, 08:41
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Default Re: Did Admiral John Byng deserve to be executed?

Quite right Francis. Keel hauling was popular with the Spanish and others but I am not personally aware of a case in our Navy. We had our own viscous death sentences of course like "flogging round the fleet".
Others have mentioned on this thread about the Press. There is a popular misconception that the Navy pressed every man they could find. This may well have been true in times of great need but usually the press gangs looked for trained sailors, men who "knew the ropes". A ship could not sail with a full crew of landsmen only! In times of war and great shortages the prisons were often emptied, most noticeably Newgate, and the men were sent to the ships.
The gangs worked mostly around the south coast of England. Portsmouth, Chatham, along the Thames and so on. Bristol too of course was another haunt of seafarers and the Press operated successfully there. They tried to take men from Wales on the odd occassion but they were so badly beaten that they gave up in the end. Liverpool too was a no go area for the same reason! Scotland was raided for sailors too but usually the gangs looked much closer to the dockyard ports. Its often overlooked that many men volunteered to join probably for the same reasons that most of us did: adventure, world travel etc. and in those days men more usually joined a ship rather than the navy. Some were rather unlucky and were transferred from ship to ship (Weren't we all?!!) but this was by no means the norm.
regards
Jan
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  #39  
Old 17-03-2009, 09:01
herakles
 
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Default Re: Did Admiral John Byng deserve to be executed?

Here I am quoting from a Wiki article:

Keel hauling comes from the Dutch term kielhalen; "to drag along the keel". It was a legal punishment in the Dutch navy and is first recoded in 1560. It was not formally abolished until 1853. There is no evidence of its use in the British navy.
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  #40  
Old 17-03-2009, 11:02
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Default Re: Did Admiral John Byng deserve to be executed?

Good morning Herakles,

Strewth mate!, you sure have started something here.
I really don't want to get into the rights and wrongs of Admiral Byng, but, he did have old leaking and undermanned ships. The Government of the day new the French had landed Soldiers and equipment on the island and did not tell Admiral Byng. In fact they did nothing about it at all. I do feel that Admiral Byng became the "scapegoat" and took the blame for an inadequate government. Or more precise one man in particular.

Herakles, if you want this booklet, how can I get it to you? I don't mind posting it to you, would be my pleasure.

Baz.
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  #41  
Old 17-03-2009, 11:47
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Default Re: Did Admiral John Byng deserve to be executed?

There is a painting of the Admiral's execution in the NATIONAL MARITIME MUSEUM. You can see it on their web site, I was going to post it but it will probably be copyright.

regards
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  #42  
Old 17-03-2009, 12:00
Beery Beery is offline
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Default Re: Did Admiral John Byng deserve to be executed?

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Originally Posted by herakles View Post
I find the idea that someone senior needs to be executed to get others to better perform their duties a most distasteful one.
I agree. You don't fashion a great navy by executing folks in order to get others to perform well. That's surely what the French did 30 or 40 years later, and look what a shambles of a navy they got! If anything, the fact that this extremity was no longer carried out after this disgusting court martial is probably one of the factors, along with the poor showing of the navy in the American War, that led to the resurgence of the British navy by 1800.

Just my opinion.
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  #43  
Old 17-03-2009, 14:47
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Default Re: Did Admiral John Byng deserve to be executed?

Herakles quoted as follows:

He was shot as he did not do his "utmost against the enemy, either in battle or pursuit."

He served on the most comfortable stations, and avoided the more arduous work of the navy. Most likely, he enjoyed the patronage of his father.

Byng attacked the French on the 20th May 1756. Ship numbers were equal. He had the weather gauge but his leading ships were badly mauled and the French then withdrew without being damaged. In Byng's fleet Captain Andrews of the Defiance was killed, and Captain Noel of the Princess Louisa was mortally wounded. The British ships also suffered much more than the French in their masts, yards and rigging; so much so in fact, that Byng, unable to communicate with the fort and unable to find the French, withdrew to Gibraltar.

Byng was court martialed under The Articles of War in that he did not do his utmost against the enemy, either in battle or pursuit.

That when the British fleet, on the starboard tack, was stretched abreast, or was about abeam, of the enemy's line, Admiral Byng should have caused his ships to tack together, and should have immediately borne right down on the enemy; his van steering for the enemy's van, his rear for its rear, each ship making for the one opposite to her in the enemy's line, under such sail as would have enabled the worst sailer to preserve her station in the line of battle.

That the Admiral retarded the rear division of the British fleet from closing with and engaging the enemy, by shortening sail, in order that the Trident and Princess Louisa might regain their stations ahead of the Ramalies; whereas he should have made signals to those ships to make more sail, and should have made so much sail himself as would enable the Culloden, the worst sailing ship in the Admiral's division, to keep her station with all her plain sails set, in order to get down to the enemy with as much expedition as possible, and thereby properly support the division of Rear-Admiral West.

That the Admiral did wrong in ordering the fire of the Ramillies to be continued before he had placed her at proper distance from the enemy, inasmuch as he thereby not only threw away his shot, but also occasioned a smoke, which prevented his seeing the motions of the enemy and the positions of the ships immediately ahead of the Ramillies.

That after the ships which had received damage in the action had been refitted as circumstances would permit, the Admiral ought to have returned with his squadron off Port Mahon, and endeavoured to open communication with the castle, and to have used every means in his power for its relief, before returning to Gibraltar.

These are sufficient facts for courtmarshal and conviction, in my opinion. He had the weather guage. That means Byng had control over the timing of the battle. In otherwords, he could dictate terms. His tactics were flawed and poorly executed. The English were the best 'gunners' in the world. They attacked the French on their own terms and caused no damage while suffering greatly? This is an outcome that cannot be accepted in Whitehall. The English ships were always in bad shape or undermanned. It was the Admiral's job to make do or find creative ways to get his ships in fighting shape and to train his crew to the highest standards. None of this was likely to happen with a brave but lazy officer who enjoyed food, drink, and comfort ashore to the disipline of duty in training at sea.

The execution was regretable, but not without merit for those times.

Fred
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  #44  
Old 17-03-2009, 18:20
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Default Re: Did Admiral John Byng deserve to be executed?

Admiral Byng was held in confinement in Greenwich Naval Hospital, when I was there in 63 the window of the room he was kept in still had the iron fittings for the bars.
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  #45  
Old 18-03-2009, 02:35
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Default Re: Did Admiral John Byng deserve to be executed?

Mates,

There is one avenue that has NOT been explored which might help prove or disprove the case against Admiral Byng.

We know that the number of ships were equal, but back in those days a fleet might contain ships-of-the-line down to sloops. What was the composition of the French and English ships at the battle? Even within a class, cannon varied considerably from 42 pounders to 6 pounders? What was the broadside weight of each ship versus it's range? Did the long guns come into play? If these factors were overlayed on the sequence in which the battle unfolded, you could make an educated guess that Byng was overmatched? It's a long shot, but it's possible. Today, they'd enter it into a computer to produce a simulation that would output the probability of victory or defeat.

This would have to begin with research. Documents might be found with the trial papers?

Fred
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  #46  
Old 18-03-2009, 02:37
herakles
 
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Default Re: Did Admiral John Byng deserve to be executed?

This is a completely valid point and one that I can't shed any light on.
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  #47  
Old 18-03-2009, 09:45
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Jan Steer Jan Steer is offline
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Default Re: Did Admiral John Byng deserve to be executed?

Some interesting stuff on the thread.
Hervey of the PHOENIX, a favourite of mine, went to Menorca on an intelligence run only to discover that the French had already sailed and he was cut off from Mahon. Blakeney, the governer, had been slow to organise a defence. Hervey then sailed to join Byng as he approached Menorca with a relieving fleet substantially weaker than the French one. Hervey recommended that the troops be landed at once but Byng decided keep them onboard to replace his very sick crews. As a frigate captain it was Hervey's task to record the details of the battle. Both fleets engaged in line of battle and as the British drew closer to the French, INTREPIDE (fifth in line) was damaged and drove on the ships astern of her. This made a gap in the line and Byng tried to reform rather than go headlong at the French. Mathews had been court-martialled in 1744 for doing just that. This pause allowed Galissonniere to draw clear whilst doing major damage to the British van.
It was decided to withdraw to Gib to secure but Hervey was in favour of staying at Menorca to awit reinforcements. Byng sent Hervey to command DEFIANCE which was badly damaged and her captain dead and was despatched to Gib to get the hospital ready. Hervey found onboard so many sick and wounded that he could only muster 226 of a crew of 400 fit for duty! regards Jan
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  #48  
Old 18-03-2009, 10:13
herakles
 
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Default Re: Did Admiral John Byng deserve to be executed?

Yes, most interesting. The other side to the suggestion that Byng was incompetent.
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  #49  
Old 18-03-2009, 10:45
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Default Re: Did Admiral John Byng deserve to be executed?

Greeting's shipmates,
Minorca had been overrun by French troops long before his arrival, and with the exception of fort San Phillippe, all points of vantage had been siezed by them. Their batteries, positioned on the heights commanded the approaches and dominated the sole area of resistance. The fortress, weakly held as it was, could not hold out for long and, in the meantime, Byng was in no position to give assistance. Only a powerful landing force could have been of any avail, and this he had not got. In short, if he had taken any other course of action other than returning to Gibralter, he would, in all probability, have added to the calamity of the Government's neglectful loss of Minorca, by suffering the destruction of his entire fleet. That would indeed have been deserving of recall and trial by courts martial. but instead, he succeeded by means of cool, skillful leadership in extricating his command from it's impossible position; and this on top of a battle in which he had inflicted serious damage on a far superior enemy fleet, and driven it off.

Baz.
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  #50  
Old 18-03-2009, 11:46
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Default Re: Did Admiral John Byng deserve to be executed?

At Gib Hervey found his new command, HAMPTON COURT, and four other ships, all being reinforcements for Byng. Despite this Byng was very reluctant to return to Menorca and on 2nd July he was replaced by Hawke who found that the island had already surrendered. Byng went home for trial. Very few men with the exception of King George II believed him to be guilty and most expected him to be dismissed the service but not executed. Hervey could not accept Byng's death and wrote to his sister in 1757, "I can never wipe it off my spirits, it gives gloominess to everything relating to the profession I am in, and is such a check on all sallies of joy".

Thus ended a particularly unsavoury episode and the government had its scapegoat.



Jan
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