John Byron

Vice-AdmiralJohn Byron (8 November 1723 – 10 April 1786) was a British Royal Navy officer and explorer. He earned the nickname “Foul-Weather Jack” in the press because of his frequent encounters with bad weather at sea.[1] As a midshipman, he sailed in the squadron under George Anson on his voyage around the world, though Byron made it only to southern Chile, where his ship was wrecked. He returned to England with the captain of HMS Wager. He was governor of Newfoundland following Hugh Palliser, who left in 1768. He circumnavigated the world as a commodore with his own squadron in 1764–1766. He fought in battles in the Seven Years’ War and the American Revolution. He rose to Vice Admiral of the White before his death in 1786.

British naval officer
For other people named John Byron, see John Byron (disambiguation).

John Byron

Honourable John Byron, by Joshua Reynolds, 1758
Born 8 November 1723
Died 10 April 1786 (aged 62)
London, England
Allegiance  Kingdom of Great Britain
Service/branch  Royal Navy
Years of service 1731–1786
Rank Vice-Admiral
Commands held HMS Siren
HMS Dolphin
Leeward Islands Station
Battles/wars Seven Years’ War

American War of Independence

His grandsons include the poet Lord Byron and George Anson Byron, admiral and explorer, who were the 6th and 7th Baron Byron, respectively.

. . . John Byron . . .

Wreck of the Wager

Byron was the second son of William Byron, 4th Baron Byron and Frances Berkeley, the daughter of William, 4th Baron Berkeley. After studying at Westminster School he joined the Royal Navy at the age of 14, making his first voyage aboard HMS Romney in 1738–40.[2]

In 1740, he accompanied George Anson on his voyage around the world as a midshipman aboard one of the several ships in the squadron. On 14 May 1741, HMS Wager under Captain Cheap (as Captain Dandy Kidd had died), was shipwrecked on the coast of Chile on what is now called Wager Island (es:Isla Wager) and Byron was one of the survivors.[3] The survivors decided to split in two teams, one to make its way by boat to Rio de Janeiro on the Atlantic coast; the other, including John Byron and the Captain, to sail north along the Spanish colonial coast.

Captain Cheap at Wager Island had a party of 19 men after the deserters rejoined the camp. This included the surgeon Elliot and Lieutenant Hamilton who had been cast adrift with him plus midshipmen John Byron and Campbell who had been in the barge. They rowed up the coast but were punished by continuous rain, headwinds and waves that threatened the boats. One night while the men slept on shore, one of the boats was capsized while at anchor and was swept out to sea with its two boatkeepers. One of the men got ashore but the other drowned. As it was now impossible for them all to fit in the remaining boat, four marines were left ashore with muskets to fend for themselves. The winds prevented them from getting around the headland so they returned to pick up the marines only to find them gone. They returned to Wager Island in early February 1742. With one death on the journey, there were now 13 in the group.

Martín Olleta, a Chono chieftain, guided the men up the coast to the Spanish settlements of Chiloé Island so they set out again. Two men died; after burying the bodies, the six seamen rowed off in the boat never to be seen again while Cheap, Hamilton, Byron, Campbell and the dying Elliot were on shore looking for food. Olleta then agreed to take the remaining four on by canoe for their only remaining possession, a musket. It is likely the party travelled across Presidente Ríos Lake in inland Taitao Peninsula, a lake Chile regarded as officially discovered in 1945.[4][5] Eventually they made it to be taken prisoner by the Spanish. The Spaniards treated them well and they were eventually taken to the inland capital of Santiago where they were released on parole. The Spaniards heard that Anson had been generous in the treatment of the prisoners he had taken and this kindness was returned.

Byron and the other three men stayed in Santiago till late 1744 and were offered passage on a French ship bound for Spain. Three accepted the passage. Campbell elected to take a mule across the Andes and joined the Spanish Admiral Pizarro in Montevideo on the Asia only to find Isaac Morris and the two seamen who had been abandoned in Freshwater Bay on the Atlantic coast. After time in prison in Spain, Campbell reached Britain in May 1746, followed by the other three two months later.

In England, the official court martial examined only the loss of the Wager in which Baynes, in nominal charge at the time, was acquitted of blame but reprimanded for omissions of duty. Disputes over what happened after the wreck were instead played out as Bulkeley and Cummins, Campbell, Morris, the cooper Young and later Byron published their own accounts, the last of which was the only one that in any way defended Cheap who had since died. Twenty-nine crew members plus seven marines made it back to England.

Byron’s account of his adventures and the Wager Mutiny are recounted in The Narrative of the Honourable John Byron (1768). His book sold well enough to be printed in several editions.

Byron was appointed captain of HMS Siren in December 1746.[3]

. . . John Byron . . .

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. . . John Byron . . .