Reading for the Weekend – Admiral Byng

Screen Shot 2014-06-13 at 1.28.30 PMAdmiral ByngHis Rise and Execution by Chris Ware (ISBN# 978-1-84415-781-5, eISBN 9781844684984). I do have to admit that the book is a slight deviation from the previous ones. Controversial incident of Admiral Byng happened somewhat before Napoleonic era, but the reasons I have interest in this particular book is the view to the politics that governed Royal Navy during the pre-revolutionary period when French navy could still stand up against their British Rivals.

Of course, French did not win the battle that caused Byng to end up dead at the deck of St. George. He was perfect scapegoat for British politics.

Admiral Byng is was born in family of distinct military history. His father, also Admiral of the Royal Navy, maintained Mediterranean station in previous conflict and quite literally young Byng followed his fathers footsteps but with distinctly different results. That said, younger Byng did not come to admiralship by family favors (outside what could be expected of course) but by steady rise and seniority. His career was not meteoric and while he made modest fortune through prize money, it was not extravagant.

Book gives good record of the action off Minorca in terms that even layman can understand – something of a rarity in many naval histories. First half delves in the history of the family, Byng’s rise in rank and his character. Second half concentrates to the events off Minorca, Byng’s trial and eventual fall.

Book highlights the dramatic change in the application of of Royal Navy Fighting Instructions at the time when British navy was about to take a leap over their French counterparts.

Overall, good read if you are interested in naval histories, but the politicking and court matters are somewhat on the dry side of the dock.

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