John Byron

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John Byron
John Byron-Joshua Reynolds-1759.jpg
John Byron, by Joshua Reynolds, 1758
Born 8 November 1723
Died 10 April 1786
Allegiance  Kingdom of Great Britain
Service/branch  Royal Navy
Rank Vice Admiral
Commands held HMS Siren
HMS Dolphin
Battles/wars

Seven Years' War

American War of Independence

Vice Admiral The Hon. John Byron, RN (8 November 1723 – 10 April 1786) was a Royal Navy officer. He was known as Foul-weather Jack because of his frequent encounters with bad weather at sea.

Early career[edit]

Byron was the son of William Byron, 4th Baron Byron and Frances Berkeley. He joined the navy in 1731,[1] accompanying George Anson on his circumnavigation of the globe as a midshipman. On 14 May 1741, Byron's ship, HMS Wager, was shipwrecked on the coast of Chile.[1] The survivors decided to split in two teams, one to make its way by boat to Rio de Janeiro on the Atlantic coast; the other, John Byron's, to sail North and meet Spaniards.

He later wrote about his adventures and the Wager Mutiny in The Narrative of the Honourable John Byron (1768). His book sold well enough to be printed in several editions. His experiences form the basis of the novel The Unknown Shore by Patrick O'Brian, which closely follows Byron's account.

Byron was appointed captain of HMS Siren in December 1746.[1]

Seven Years War[edit]

In 1760 during the Seven Years' War, Byron commanded a squadron sent to destroy the fortifications at Louisbourg, Quebec, which had been captured by the British two years before. They wanted to ensure it could not be used by the French in Canada. In July of that year he defeated the French flotilla sent to relieve New France at the Battle of Restigouche.

John Byron Death Notice

Between June 1764 and May 1766, Byron completed his own circumnavigation of the globe as captain of HMS Dolphin. This was the first such circumnavigation that was accomplished in less than 2 years.[2] During this voyage, in 1765 he took possession of the Falkland Islands on behalf of Britain on the grounds of prior discovery.[citation needed] His action nearly caused a war between Great Britain and Spain, as both countries had armed fleets ready to contest the sovereignty of the barren islands. Later Byron discovered islands of the Tuamotus, Tokelau and the Gilbert Islands, and visited Tinian in the Northern Marianas Islands.

In 1769 he was appointed governor of Newfoundland off the mainland of Canada, an office he held for the next three years.[1] He was promoted to rear admiral on 31 March 1775, and vice admiral on 29 January 1778.

In 1778 and 1779, he served as Commander-in-chief of the British fleet in the West Indies during the American War of Independence. He unsuccessfully attacked a French fleet under the Comte d'Estaing at the Battle of Grenada in July 1779.[1] Byron was briefly Commander-in-Chief, North American Station from 1 October 1779.[3]

Family[edit]

On 8 September 1748 he married Sophia Trevanion, daughter of John Trevanion of Caerhays in Cornwall, by whom he had two sons and seven daughters, three of whom died in infancy. Their eldest son, John "Mad Jack" Byron, in turn fathered the poet George Gordon Byron, the future 6th Baron Byron. John Byron was also the grandfather of George Anson Byron, another admiral and explorer and later the 7th Baron Byron. He was the brother of Hon. George Byron, married to Frances Levett, daughter of Elton Levett of Nottingham, a descendant of Ambrose Elton, Esq., High Sheriff of Herefordshire in 1618 and a surgeon in Nottingham.[4][5]

Death[edit]

John Byron died on 10 April 1786. His remains were buried in the Berkeley family vault situated beneath the chancel of the Church of St Mary the Virgin, Twickenham.[6]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Sir Hugh Palliser
Commodore Governor of Newfoundland
1769–1771
Succeeded by
Molyneux Shuldham
Military offices
Preceded by
James Gambier
Commander-in-Chief, North American Station
1779
Succeeded by
Mariot Arbuthnot