‘I’ve remortgaged my house to clear my ancestor Admiral Byng’s name’ says Camden artist

Admiral Byng

Admiral Byng - Credit: Archant

A Camden artist has remortgaged her house in an attempt to re-write the history books and clear her ancestor’s name.

Thane Byng on Hampstead Heath

Thane Byng on Hampstead Heath - Credit: Archant

Thane Byng, a seventh-generation descendant of Admiral John Byng – the only British admiral to be executed by firing squad – said she would do whatever it takes to restore his honour.

“He was made a scapegoat and has been remembered as a coward – it is simply not right.

“He faced an impossible situation that the history books have recorded incorrectly.”

In 1756 Admiral John Byng was despatched to Gibraltar to stop the French from taking control of the British garrison on the Mediterranean island of Minorca.

An event was held outside Parliament to mark the anniversary of Admiral Byng's execution. Alexandra

An event was held outside Parliament to mark the anniversary of Admiral Byng's execution. Alexandra Kennedy, soprano, sings 'TRUTH' and Sue Ferrar on the violin is 'TIME'. (Picture: Ian Potts) - Credit: Archant

But by the time he had arrived, the enemy had already landed.

“He told the admiralty he didn’t have enough ships or sailors but all complaints fell on deaf ears,” said Ms Byng.

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As a result the garrison surrendered and after an unsuccessful skirmish with the French, Admiral Byng was ordered home.

Charged with “failing to do his utmost”, and despite the court’s unanimous recommendation for mercy, on March 14 1757 Admiral Byng was executed by firing squad on board the HMS Monarch in Portsmouth Harbour.

Three previous attempts to clear Admiral Byng’s name have all failed because his descendants are not considered “to be in living memory of the deed”.

“His story has affected my entire life,” said Ms Byng. “I feel like I have always been on a quest to set the record straight.”

Since 2007 the Admiral Byng Campaign has lobbied the Ministry of Defence for an official pardon, attempted to have the case against the Admiral overturned on legal grounds and submitted a petition to the House of Commons, all without success.

Ms Byng said: “If we can’t change things the black and white letters way, then we have to be more imaginative in gaining support, and this year we’re on track to do just that.”

Last month at the Old Royal Naval College, Greenwich, in an effort to raise the Admiral’s profile, Ms Byng’s remortgaged house paid for composer Piers Maxim and a number of soloists to perform a threnody in memory of Admiral Byng.

On the 260th anniversary of the Admiral’s death Ms Byng plans to hand in another petition at the exact time and date of her forbear’s execution, demanding his exoneration.

She said: “We want history to finally be made right and we will never give up, we’ve waited too long.”