General Sir Robert Byng is a former army general and an infamous figure throughout Wellington Wells.
Robert Byng served in India and was heavily traumatized by his actions there. There, he met his wife and they eventually had a daughter. He betrayed his wife and arrested her, apparently so he could become general. He took Victoria with him to Wellington Wells after her mother was arrested for being part of a group trying to force the British out of India. Before he left, his wife wrote to him from prison telling Robert that Victoria should live with her grandfather, the king, in India, as she figured that Robert would mistreat Victoria and that she would be bullied for her race. However, Robert decided to take Victoria with him to England, possibly out of kindness but more likely just to prove her wrong.
Robert was a general during the German invasion, and after Britain surrendered, worked with the Germans to ensure that nobody would be killed. In order to ensure that a rebellion wouldn't happen (for he believed that it would fail), he had his secretary Ollie Starkey organize the creation of papier-mache tanks to fool the people into believing that the Germans possessed superior firepower. He also was a collaborator of Colonel Von Stauffenberg on the Authority Project, though he didn't know the true purpose of it.
Some years after the thirteen and under children were taken by the Germans, General Byng wrote to Harry Haworth, a brilliant chemist, to create a drug that would effectively bring the spirits of the population up. This came to be known as Joy. He also reinvented himself as a war hero and gained immense control over the Bobbies. He eventually became a patron of Sally Boyle, and protected her with his influence from Anton Verloc.
The Events of We Happy Few Edit
Act One Edit
Arthur Hastings robs the Victory Memorial Camp and goes into the General's office to turn off the camp's power, so Ollie can steal from them. Later, when Arthur meets Sally, she reveals that she is close with Byng, causing Arthur to angrily lash out at her. Later, when he apologizes for his actions, Arthur makes a deal with Sally for a Letter of Transit in exchange for cod liver oil.
Act Two Edit
Robert has been protecting Sally Boyle ever since he has become her patron. When Sally meets Arthur, she offers to get him a Letter of Transit from the General, as they're close, but Arthur angrily lashes out at her, commenting on how she always makes "helpful new friends." Some time later, Robert enters her house while Sally is out, and she returns to discover that he has made himself at home. Sally tries to distract Robert with music, sex, and drugs in order to keep him from hearing her crying daughter Gwen. However, she passes out and finds that he has left her house while she was unconscious, and prays that he hasn't seen or heard Gwen.
Later, Sally goes to see Arthur and he apologizes for his actions, and they make a deal for the Letter of Transit in exchange for cod liver oil (Gwen has the measles). Sally goes to Robert to get it, which he gives to her without hesitation, but confronts her on Gwen, revealing that he wrote himself a note that says "Sally has a baby." Sally tries to deny it, but eventually admits that she has a daughter. Robert figures out that it is Anton's, and understands why she wouldn't tell Anton, though Robert is slightly peeved that she didn't inform him. Sally asks for help getting out of the city, and he offers to smuggle Gwen out, but says that he can't spare Sally. He tries to kiss her, and she angrily rejects him. He almost hits her, but restrains himself, and comments on how she doesn't know what it's like being lonely, as she's always with someone. He then tells her that she can find her way out.
Sally learns that the General has a boat that's under repairs, and moves forward with her plan to escape Wellington Wells. She goes to Robert's safe house to steal his boat keys, only to be knocked out by a dart. When she comes to, she discovers that Robert has locked her down in his base, leaving her with food for a year, while he plans to take back Wellington Wells, and keep her as his He tells Sally that she'll give up Gwen because she doesn't want her daughter to starve to death. Sally tries to seduce him again, only to hit him with a bottle and run. She uses chemicals against him to knock him out, and heads out. However, he gets back up and tries to attack Sally again, but she slices his cheek open with a glass shard, and locks him down in his bunker.
Act Three Edit
Robert is confronted by Ollie Starkey, who wants to know his own involvement with the Germans. Robert confesses that he knew the tanks were fake, and that Ollie helped him with all of it in order to avoid the deaths of many. He claims that he and Ollie had the same conversation a year ago. Ollie says that the people of Wellington Wells need to be told the truth about the food shortage and asks Robert for help. Robert, however, insists that the Executive Committee would just reject it and kill him, and would then "pop a Joy." After Ollie threatens to get his daughter involved, Robert angrily yells at him and orders for his soldiers to kill Ollie.
Robert Byng is shown to act noble and kind, but has an uglier side to him that he keeps hidden away. He has a cruel and manipulative personality that he keeps hidden from certain people. Robert reveals this when he nearly hits Sally and locks her in his bunker. Robert also appears to be obsessed with her, as most of his actions seem to be for her benefit (when in reality, he is just trying to be with her). He comments on how he feels lonely, implied to be in a sexual and romantic way. It is mentioned in notes from his wife that Robert also seems to use people to get to higher positions of power. He also appears to be easily exasperated and irritated by things, like when Ollie comes to confront Robert for what is apparently the second time about the tanks.
- He has been knighted, as he is refered to as Sir Robert Byng in the papers.
- There is a soldier living in the Victory Memorial Camp who tells several other soldiers (on multiple occasions) a story of how Byng handled a situation in India, where an elephant goes on a rampage and kills several civilians, before being put down by him. The purpose of the story is to highlight how the General is essentially flawless and brilliant (while also putting down Indian people).
- The above story is also a reference to "Shooting an Elephant", a short essay written by George Orwell, in which an English police official in India (the Narrator) is called upon to shoot a rampaging elephant. By the time he arrives with his rifle, the Elephant has calmed down and is harmless. However, with the eyes of the natives on him, the Narrator feels compelled to kill the elephant regardless; it dies slowly before being stripped for meat. The Narrator reasons that had he chosen not to kill the elephant it would've shown that the British were weak-willed, thus destabilising confidence in British rule and causing social unrest. Orwell wrote this as a critique of oppressive regimes, noting that the oppressor is actually no freer than the oppressed. As such, the reference to the story in We Happy Few is a meta-critique of the nature of Wellington Wells.
- His original concept art by Whitney Clayton bears similarities to British actor Sean Connery. This is notable in his portrayal of Major General Roy Urquhart in the 70s war movie A Bridge Too Far.