England · Executions

Admiral executed for “failing to do his utmost”

March 14, 1757

Portsmouth, England

Admiral John Byng is executed for “failing to do his utmost” during the Seven Years War

Admiral Byng had failed to pursue a French fleet which would have likely become a suicide mission, and instead chose to protect his own fleet. Due to the Articles of War, anyone who did not perform to the utmost of his capability was sentenced to death. At his execution, the Admiral knelt on a cushion and dropped his handkerchief as a sign to fire.

Twenty two years following his death, the Articles of War were amended to find an alternate punishment, befitting of the severity of the crime, and capital punishment was retired for the crime of “failing to do the utmost.”

Admiral Byng’s epitaph reads:

To the perpetual Disgrace
of PUBLICK JUSTICE
The Honble. JOHN BYNG Esqr
Admiral of the Blue
Fell a MARTYR to
POLITICAL PERSECUTION
March 14th in the year 1757 when
BRAVERY and LOYALTY
were Insufficient Securities
For the
Life and Honour
of a
NAVAL OFFICER

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