While a midshipman in the Royal Navy, John Byron (1723-1786) was shipwrecked during a storm off the coast of Chile on 14 May 1741. His frequent encounters with bad weather in ensuing years won him the sobriquet, “Foul Weather Jack.” Byron’s grandson, George Gordon, Lord Byron, used his grandfather’s experiences as the basis for the shipwreck scene in his epic poem, Don Juan.
During his naval career, Byron commanded several ships. In 1760 he commanded a small squadron that superintended the destruction of the French fortifications at Louisbourg, Nova Scotia, and, while so engaged, destroyed French merchant shipping and three small men-of-war. In 1764, Byron commanded the frigate Dolphin during her circumnavigation of the globe with the sloop Tamar. They reached the English Channel on 9 May 1766, ending a voyage of “little more than twenty-two months,” the shortest voyage around the world up to that time.
Byron became a rear admiral when he was made governor of Newfoundland in 1769 and rose to the rank of vice admiral in 1778. Given command of a squadron fitting out for the North American station, Byron sailed for American waters on 9 June 1778, his ships “wretchedly equipped” and “badly manned.” The squadron’s somewhat lackluster performance against one commanded by the French admiral, D’Estaing, caused some to look askance at Byron as a fleet commander, and he was never again so employed.
(DE-79: dp. 1,300; 1. 306'; b. 36'9"; dr. 10'9"; s. 24 k.; cpl. 200; a. 3 3", 8 20mm., 4 dcp., 1 dcp. (hh.), 2 dct.; cl. Buckley)
DE-79 was laid down on 24 May 1943 at Hingham, Mass., by the Bethlehem-Hingham Shipyard; launched--apparently without ceremony--on 14 August 1943; transferred to the United Kingdom under lend-lease on 25 October 1943; and commissioned by the Royal Navy on 30 October 1943 as HMS Byron (K.508)
During World War II, Byron served in the English Channel, the Arctic, and the Atlantic in 1944 and in the North Sea in 1944 and 1945. In the course of these operations, she participated in the destruction of two German U-boats: U-722 on 27 March 1945 in company with Fitzroy (K.553) and Redmill (K.554); and, teaming with Fitzroy, U-1001 on 8 April 1945.
Returned to the United States Navy on 24 November 1945, the destroyer escort was carried on the Navy list as DE-79 until struck form the Navy list and sold for scrap on 25 October 1947.
Robert J. Cressman
21 November 2005