Admiral John Byng was shot on the deck of his ship, the HMS Monarch, at 12pm on March 14 1757. His offence was nothing more than following the orders of his superiors. Having ignored warnings of an imminent French invasion of Minorca, the British Navy sent a small, poorly armed and poorly led fleet to repulse them, and ordered the fleet to follow tactics which were 50 years out of date.
When the offensive failed, Byng was accused of "not doing his utmost". The court, while clearing Byng of cowardice, misunderstood the wording of the charge and sentenced him to death for an error of judgement, which was no offence. Byng died bravely, giving the signal to the firing squad for his own execution. His death saved the guilty men. He was one of the bravest men ever, the victim of a conspiracy which involved the highest officials of the British Navy.
Author: Dudley Pope
Title: At 12 Mr Byng Was Shot
First Published by: Littlehampton Book Services Ltd
Date: May 1962