Byng, Sir John, Earl of Strafford 1772-1860, general, was the third son of Major George Byng of Wrotham Park, Middlesex, and M.P. for that county, a grandson of Admiral Sir George Byng, first Viscount Torrington [qv.], by Anne Connolly, daughter of Lady Anne Wentworth, who was eventually co-heiress of the last Earl of Strafford of the second creation. He was born in 1772, and entered the army as ensign in the 33rd regiment on 30 Sept. 1793, and was promoted lieutenant on 1 Dec. 1793 and captain on 24 May 1794. With the 33rd, then commanded by Colonel Wellesley, he served in the disastrous campaigns in Flanders of 1793-5 and throughout the retreat to Bremen, and was wounded at the skirmish of Geldermalsen. In 1797 he was appointed aide-de-camp to General Vyse, then commanding the southern district of Ireland, and was much engaged in the suppression of the rebellion of 1798 in Ireland, when he was again wounded. In 1799 he became major in the 60th regiment, and in 1800 lieutenant-colonel of the 29th, and in 1804 he exchanged into the 3rd guards, with which he served in Hanover in 1805, at Copenhagen in 1807, and in the Walcheren expedition in 1809. In 1810 he was promoted colonel, and in 1811 ordered to join the army under Lord Wellington in Portugal. On 7 July 1811 the Duke of York wrote to Lord Wellington recommending him warmly (Wellington Supplementary Despatches, vii. 177), and shortly after Colonel Byng's arrival in Portugal in September 1811 he was posted to the command of a brigade in the second division under General Hill, and retained it until the end of the Peninsular war.
He was with Hill's corps in Estremadura and Andalusia, and so was not present at the battle of Salamanca. In 1813 his brigade was hotly engaged at Vittoria, and was attacked by Soult at the pass of Roncesvalles, when that marshal tried to break through Wellington's lines, and though Byng had to fall back on Sorauren, his heroic resistance enabled Wellington to concentrate enough troops to beat the French. He was engaged in the attack on the entrenched camp on the Nivelle, where he was wounded, at the passage of the Nive at Cambo, before Bayonne. For his conduct at this battle he was afterwards permitted to bear as an honourable augmentation to his arms the colours of the 31st regiment, which he planted in the enemy's lines, as an especial mark in appreciation of the signal intrepidity and heroic valour displayed by him in the action fought at Mougerre, near Bayonne, on 18 Dec. 1813. Major-general Byng, as he had been promoted on 4 June 1813, continued to command his brigade on the right of the army throughout the advance on Toulouse, and was present at the actions at Espellette and Garris, at the battle of Orthes, the storming of the camp of Aire, and the battle of Toulouse, and on the conclusion of the war was made K.C.B. and K.T.S.
Byng commanded the second brigade of the first or guards division under General Cooke at Waterloo, and after the battle his brigade headed the advance into France, took Péronne, occupied the heights of Montmartre, and formed part of the army of occupation.
Byng saw no more service. In 1819 he received the command of the northern district; he was colonel of the York Infantry Volunteers 1815-16, of the 10th West Indian regiment 1816-19, and in 1822 of the 2nd West India regiment; in 1825 he was promoted lieutenant-general, and in 1828 received the colonelcy of the 29th regiment. In 1828 he became commander-in-chief of the forces in Ireland and was sworn a privy councillor of that kingdom. In 1832 he was made governor of Londonderry and Culmore, but he resigned his Irish command in 1831 to enter the House of Commons as M.P. for Poole. As one of the very few distinguished generals who supported the Reform Bill, he was looked upon with especial favour by Lord Melbourne, and was created by him in 1835 Baron Strafford of Harmondsworth, county Middlesex. His elder son held office under Lord Melbourne and Lord John Russell, and his services were recompensed by his father, the old general, being created Earl of Strafford and Viscount Enfield in 1847. He had been made a G.C.B. in 1828, a G.C.H. in 1831, and a Knight of Maria Theresa of Austria and of St. George of Russia after the battle of Waterloo, and in 1841 he was promoted full general. In 1850 he succeeded the Duke of Cambridge as colonel of the Coldstream guards, in 1855 he was made a field-marshal, and on 3 June 1860 he died at his residence in London.
Royal Military Calendar
Times, June 1860.
Contributor: H. M. S. [Henry Morse Stephens]