Talk:John Byng

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There are several good sources about John Byng and the Battle of Minorca available on the web. [1] (dead link, but archived here) is from The Royal Navy: a History from the earliest times to the present, published in 1897 (if I understand correctly [2]), so it's probably in public domain. There is also an article from the British Royal Naval Museum [3] (also dead, archive copy here), and a text about the painting from the National Maritime Museum [4]. Google [5] returns namy more useful sources. Zocky | picture popups 12:57, 14 March 2006 (UTC)

Amended, to include archive links. Kablammo (talk) 19:38, 21 April 2016 (UTC)


"The severity of the penalty and the suspicion that he was used as a scapegoat led in time to a reaction in favour of Byng. It became a commonplace to say that he was put to death for an error of judgment. The execution was also satirized by Voltaire in Candide."

We have the above then a section in aftermarth with the same statement. One or other should be removed as it feels like 'deja vu' at the momentAlci12 18:02, 2 May 2006 (UTC)

Bibliographic notes[edit]

The notes here are fantastic and I applaud whoever added them all; perhaps, however, there is a way to shrink the font or link to a source where they're collected in the same manner? I offer it as a purely stylistic suggestion. 23:29, 10 September 2006 (UTC)


This article is a joke, was it written by his descendents? How about some unbiased facts? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 06:44, 14 March 2009 (UTC)

  • Yes, there are indeed some severe NPOV issues here. I've tagged the article as such so that this is cleared up, among many other things:

Byng, an admiral since 1745, was then serving in the Channel. He was ordered to the Mediterranean to relieve the British garrison of Fort St Philip (Port Mahon). Despite all his protests to the Government, he was not given enough money or time to prepare the expedition properly. Even his sailing orders were inexplicably delayed by 5 days, and this turned out to be crucial to the lack of success of the expedition. So he was forced to set out with only ten unseaworthy ships that leaked and were inadequately manned. Then Byng was in particular much aggrieved because his marines were landed to make room for the soldiers who were to reinforce the garrison, and he feared that if he met a French squadron, he would be dangerously undermanned. His correspondence shows clearly that he left prepared for failure, that he did not believe that the garrison could hold out against the French force, and that he was already resolved to come back from Minorca if he found that the task presented any great difficulty. He wrote home to that effect to the Admiralty from Gibraltar. The governor of that fortress refused to spare any of his soldiers to increase the relief force.

aristotle1990 (talk) 19:58, 14 March 2009 (UTC)

The article appears to be orginally based on the 1911 Britannica article, as shown by the link appearing at the bottom. The text (including that above quoted above) has been edited since, and more information and cites have been added to the piece. (And it could use more.) If there are specific factual disputes about the information quoted above, then appropriately cited text should be added, or the dispute discussed here. Are there specific facts in issue?
The article should not be tagged to require a "clean up" of text which is based on a reliable secondary source, unless the assertions are in question. If the article is felt to present a biased version of the facts, it would be helpful if who hold that belief identify the disputes. Kablammo (talk) 18:53, 14 March 2009 (UTC)
It wasn't the facts so much as the language, especially under "Battle of Minorca". I've just fixed some of it. aristotle1990 (talk) 19:58, 14 March 2009 (UTC)
Looks good. The 1911 EB does tend to use more colourful language than we're used to. Regards, Kablammo (talk) 20:10, 14 March 2009 (UTC)

To address the comment which opens this section: The article contains an implication of sloth directed against Byng (from the 1911 EB article); it also quotes the views of N.A.M. Rodger and Warren Tute that the execution did powerfully "encourage" later RN officers to do their utmost. These views are not those of a partisan of Byng. In what way are the facts in this article biased? I propose to remove the NPOV tag. Any objections? Kablammo (talk) 21:52, 14 March 2009 (UTC)

Support. I've gone over the article and fixed up some other stuff. I think we can take it off now. aristotle1990 (talk) 01:02, 15 March 2009 (UTC)
Done. Kablammo (talk) 17:02, 15 March 2009 (UTC)
The comment "higher officers of the navy...showed great [leniency] to men of their own rank" has been included, quite properly, in the article. It's sourced from 1911 EB but, in view of the doubts here, I've added a {{cn}} tag as "commentary". --Old Moonraker (talk) 08:11, 15 March 2011 (UTC)
The comment seems not to apply as a new-found ref indicates that it was the Lords Justice of Appeal who lacked the leniency. Deleted. --Old Moonraker (talk) 18:00, 15 March 2011 (UTC)

Is this really what you mean?[edit]

The language needs tidying up.

  • Despite his protests to the contrary, he was not given enough money or time to prepare the expedition properly.
What this actually means is that Byng protest "contrary" to the statement you have made ie: he protested that he was given enough time and money.
Is that what you mean? It seems hardly possible!
  • ....since he failed to pursue the superior French fleet to protect his own.
This reads that "pursuit" of the French fleet would "protect his own". That is the exact opposite of what is intended here. The order in which words are placed is important, and the conjunction need to define exactly what you mean. The words "in order" need to be put in there.
.....he, in order to protect his own fleet, failed to pursue the French.
etc etc....

Amandajm (talk) 02:04, 24 July 2010 (UTC)

I reworded these, to "Despite his protests, he was not given enough money or time to prepare the expedition properly" and "he chose not to pursue the superior French fleet to protect his own." Better? Muad (talk) 03:55, 14 March 2011 (UTC)


A good article. The phrasing "a well-established Admiral with a rising and stellar career" needs to adopt a single focus. Perhaps the verbatim repetitions of the material in the precis could be expanded rather than repeated. --Wetman 10:09, 14 March 2006 (UTC)

The dates and age cited in the introduction to this article appear incorrect. John Byng's date of birth is stated as 29 October 1704, and he is supposed to have joined the navy at the age of 14 (that is, some time after 29 October 1718). However, it states that he took part in the Battle of Cape Passaro, which occurred on 11 August 1718 (when he was still 13). Presumably, as he would have joined as an Ensign, and required some training before being posted, either his date of birth is wrong (unlightly but possible), he joined the navy at 13, or he never took part in the battle. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Myversion (talkcontribs) 13:14, 14 March 2011 (UTC)

Elaborated dates: seems he was 13. Midshipmen trained "on the job". --Old Moonraker (talk) 13:57, 14 March 2011 (UTC)

Computer game, based on fiction, used as source[edit]

I deleted an inline link to HMS Surprise - a frigate* simulator for Windows because it's: (a) a self-published source; (b) a computer game and (c) based on the excellently researched but fictional Aubrey–Maturin series of novels. This falls within WP:NOTRELIABLE criteria. It's now been reinstated because "The 1911 reference that replaced it was bogus". That's a startling claim so, to counter it, I propose strengthening the contested reference with the relevant passage from the cited work: Neither must it be forgotten that in the previous war in 1745 an unhappy young lieutenant, Baker Phillips by name, whose captain had brought his ship into action unprepared, and who, when his superior was killed, surrendered the ship when she could no longer be defended, was shot by sentence of a court-martial. That seems to sum up the point in the WP article quite nicely. If anyone else wants to suggest that EB1911 is "bogus" that would make an interesting topic to take to the experts at the WP:RSN. --Old Moonraker (talk) 22:17, 23 March 2011 (UTC)

OK, no dissenters: the self-published source reverted in favor of EB1911. --Old Moonraker (talk) 13:38, 27 March 2011 (UTC)

Further reading section[edit]

Half the page seems a little excessive. (talk) 05:59, 1 July 2011 (UTC)

Excessive or obsessive? Looks like the result of a lot of research and hard hard effort, though, unless it's copied from the bibliography of some other work. How could we cut it back? --Old Moonraker (talk) 06:21, 1 July 2011 (UTC)
The quantity is huge; the quantity as a proportion of the article is starting to turn into a joke. If someone has really read and recommends all of those works, maybe we can persuade them to flesh out the page here. This is currently more of a reading list than an article. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 14:18, 1 July 2011 (UTC)

Per 1911 EB: "The number of contemporary pamphlets about his case is very great, but they are of no historical value, except as illustrating the state of public opinion." Encyclopædia Britannica/Byng, John That said, the state of public opinion is important, and the inclusion of these publications does no harm. Kablammo (talk) 15:26, 29 August 2014 (UTC)

Now deleted, as discussed below. Kablammo (talk) 19:38, 30 June 2016 (UTC)

the court-martial[edit]

I feel unqualified to edit a Wiki article, but I should draw attention to my book, INJUSTICE, Sutton Publishing, 1996 in which I argue that the court-martial seriously misunderstood the law. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Lake rudyard (talkcontribs) 16:28, 27 March 2012 (UTC)

It's good when editors with good knowledge of a topic contribute to the project, but needing to avoid WP:COI restricts you from using material from your own published works. (I wonder how Joseph Heller would have got on!) Suggesting the book on the talk page and leaving it to another contributor, as you have done, is the right way to go about it. Is ISBN 9780750940214 the one you are suggesting? --Old Moonraker (talk) 16:45, 27 March 2012 (UTC)

No. It is ISBN-10: 0750940212 ISBN-13: 978-0750940214 which can be found at LakeRudyard — Preceding unsigned comment added by Lake rudyard (talkcontribs) 20:22, 27 March 2012 (UTC)

That's a yes, then, as they have the same ISBN.--Old Moonraker (talk) 20:47, 27 March 2012 (UTC)

Fourth son of George Byng, or fifth?[edit]

EB 1911 says John Byng was the fourth son of George Byng,[6] as does our article on the father.[7] The Royal Naval Museum says he was the fifth.[8] Can anyone state which is correct? Kablammo (talk) 23:03, 27 August 2014 (UTC)

John was the fifth (5th) son of Admiral George Byng, 1st Viscount Torrington.
  • 1st son: Pattee, 2nd Viscount, d. 1747;
  • 2nd son: Matthew, d. 1714;
  • 3rd son: George, 3rd Viscount, d. 1750;
  • 4th son: Robert, Governor of Barbados, d. 1740;
  • 5th son: John, Admiral of the Blue, d. 1757.
source: Burke's Peerage
ChessieClio (talk) 00:02, 28 August 2014 (UTC)
Difficult, the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, in their respective articles, state that George had 15 children; 11 sons and 4 daughters. Of these John was the fifth surviving son. The History of Parliament however has him as the fourth son. The presence of Matthew Byng in the list may suggest a reason for the discrepancy. Given that Matthew died young, probably barely in his teens, he may be being omitted from some sources in the counting of George Byng's children. I'm not entirely convinced by this explanation myself however. If you have an authoritative source that names Matthew as the second son, and given the ODNB is usually pretty authoritative itself, I'd be inclined to change the articles to have John as the fifth son, but with a note explaining that some sources have him as the fourth. Benea (talk) 12:23, 28 August 2014 (UTC)
Thanks Benea and ChessieClio. I have changed to text to "fifth", and left a hidden note referring editors here. An explanatory note may also be helpful, but that probably should contain the cites to the other sources, which I don't have. The article for Robert Byng also is incorrect; I will change it, but without citation. Kablammo (talk) 16:04, 28 August 2014 (UTC)

Royal Marines or Marines?[edit]

The article says Byng was shot by Marines Royal Marines in 1757. My neighbor (a retired Commander on submarines) claims to have been a Marine in the Navy before they were Royal. However, Wiki appears to contradict my neighbour: "The Royal Marines were formed as part of the Naval Service in 1755." (2 years before the execution) and "Titled "Royal Marines" in 1802 "Corps of Royal Marines" in 1923. Ref. Or did the navy have some Marines that were not Royal Marines?

— Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 17:22, 20 April 2016 (UTC)

Tute (the cited source) does not mention Royal Marines but the source linked at footnote 19 does. I will remove the "Royal". Kablammo (talk) 18:28, 20 April 2016 (UTC)

Further reading section, part II[edit]

As mentioned above, the long list of contemporary pamphlets is of no great use, except to show public opinion at the time. I no longer believe that the list belongs in the article, as conclusions about the state of public opinions should come from secondary sources. I therefore have removed the list, which can nevertheless be accessed in the history of this article here. Kablammo (talk) 19:35, 30 June 2016 (UTC)

"On this day" hook[edit]

The "On this day" hook is blatantly false. Byng was not court martialled on the 14th of March. DuncanHill (talk) 10:14, 14 March 2017 (UTC)

@DuncanHill: thanks for spotting this, as you mentioned at the errors page it's been wrong for years. -- Euryalus (talk) 11:14, 14 March 2017 (UTC)

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A pardon?[edit]

What good would a pardon do now, all these years later? It sounds like a publicity ploy by the family, unless they have hopes of retroactively collecting benefits of some sort. But it fails on several counts: he was tried and convicted according to the law as it was written at the time. He broke the law as it was written; contrary to the tone of the article, there are plenty who feel that he DIDN'T try his hardest to win, and set out expecting to be defeated, instead of pressing on and finding a way to win anyway, as many commanders have done in the past. Perhaps you feel that the punishment was harsh for the crime, but he was duly SPITE of the fact that he faced death for it. They could have failed to convict if they really thought he wasn't guilty at all. This is a case where they can't deny he is guilty, but really wish there was some way they could give him a lesser punishment. In the end I suspect it comes down to this: if the RN starts posthumously starts by pardoning Byng, where does it end? What about all the hundreds of other sailors duly convicted of various "crimes" such as theft, "sodomy", "cowardice", etc. Should we have spared Byng because he was an Admiral? Should he be pardoned now? I find it quite egalitarian that an Admiral was punished arbitrily and harshly...just like any other seaman, mate or rated officer would have been. To pardon him now is to open the gates to demands for hundreds of other pardons, or at least to show favoritism to a man just because he was an officer and the punishment was unpopular at the time. Hundreds were hung or shot are far less serious charges, because death was the penalty. You don't have to agree that it SHOULD have been, but it was. AnnaGoFast (talk) 12:00, 23 January 2018 (UTC)

Please confine yourself to discussion of how to improve the article. Pinkbeast (talk) 18:25, 23 January 2018 (UTC)