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Last veteran of HMS Hood sinking dies.

Discussion in 'WWII Obituaries' started by Liberator, Oct 5, 2008.

  1. Liberator

    Liberator Ace

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    The last remaining survivor of the sinking of WWII battle cruiser HMS Hood in May 1941 has died at the age of 85, his naval association has said.

    Ted Briggs, from Hampshire, was one of just three survivors out of more than 1,400 crew after an exchange of fire with the German battleship Bismarck.

    BBC NEWS | UK | Last veteran of Hood sinking dies
     
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  2. Herakles

    Herakles Member

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    A piece of HMS Hood was found and now resides at HMS Centurion (or did in 1981)

    Ted Briggs was present when it was installed as a memorial that year.
    The "piece" is a watertight canister with pay accounts enclosed, protected thus in case of damage in action. The canister was released when Hood blew up and eventually floated onto a beach in Norway.

    There it was secreted away by a Norwegian fisherman in his loft and had he been caught with it he would have been shot. It remained forgotten until 1981 when it was rediscovered and returned to Britain and eventually to Centurion, the Navy's Pay and Records centre. It should be there now, on display.

    The documents inside had deteriorated and were unreadable.

    The picture is of Ted unveiling the lid of the cannister, and more info on the subject can be found here....

    H.M.S. Hood Association-Battle Cruiser Hood: H.M.S. Hood Today - Relics and Artefacts from H.M.S. Hood

    And his obit can be read here:

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/news...ies-at-85.html
     

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  3. Slipdigit

    Slipdigit Good Ol' Boy Staff Member WW2|ORG Editor

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    Thanks for posting this, Herk and Liberator.
     
  4. Herr Kaleun

    Herr Kaleun Member

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    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/obituaries/3140770/Ted-Briggs.html

    From Telegraph.co.uk...

    Ted Briggs, who has died aged 85, was one of only three men out of a crew of 1,421 to survive when the battle cruiser Hood was sunk by the German warship Bismarck in the North Atlantic in May 1941.

    As an 18-year-old Flag-Lieutenant's messenger, Briggs was on Hood's compass platform when a shell from Bismarck hit the ship between centre and stern, penetrated the deck, exploded and touched off the ammunition in the four-inch and 15-inch magazines. According to one witness, the column of flame generated was “four times the height of the mainmast".

    Ted Briggs himself recalled that he was lifted off his feet and dumped headfirst on the deck: "Then she started listing to starboard. She righted herself, and started going over to port. When she had gone over by about 40 degrees we realised she was not coming back." There was no time, or need, for an order to abandon ship. Hood sank within three minutes.

    On his way to the compass platform shortly before the action, Briggs had bumped into a fellow-sailor, Frank Tuxworth, with whom he had earlier been playing cards. Tuxworth joked: "Do you remember, Briggo, that when the Exeter went into action with the Graf Spee, there was only one signalman saved?" Briggs laughed and replied: "If that happens to us, it'll be me who's saved, Tux."

    Briggs was sucked down beneath the sea. He later wrote: "I had heard it was nice to drown. I stopped trying to swim upwards. The water was a peaceful cradle - I was ready to meet my God. My blissful acceptance of death ended in a sudden surge beneath me, which shot me to the surface like a decanted cork in a champagne bottle. I turned, and 50 yards away I could see the bows of the Hood vertical in the sea. It was the most frightening aspect of my ordeal, and a vision which was to recur terrifyingly in nightmares for the next 40 years."

    Briggs swam clear of the stricken ship and, when he looked back, she had gone.

    Only two other men - Midshipman William Dundas and Able-Seaman Bob Tilburn - survived. All three clung to small rafts for nearly four hours, singing Roll Out the Barrel to stay awake; even so, they were close to death from hypothermia when they were picked up by the destroyer Electra. Their rescuers could not believe that there was no sign of anyone else from Hood, alive or dead.

    Hood, launched in 1918, was at the time still the biggest warship ever built. "She was the outward and visible manifestation of sea-power," wrote Sir Ludovic Kennedy in his book Pursuit: the Sinking of the Bismarck. "For most Englishmen the news of Hood's death was traumatic, as though Buckingham Palace had been laid flat or the Prime Minister assassinated."

    Albert Edward Pryke Briggs was born on March 1 1923 at Redcar, in the North Riding of Yorkshire. He never knew his father, a builder and decorator who died in a fall from a ladder three months before his son's birth. Ted first saw Hood when he was only 12 and she was anchored off the mouth of the Tees. In his book, Flagship Hood, co-written with the late Alan Coles and published in 1985, he recalled: "I stood on the beach for some considerable time, drinking in the beauty, grace and immaculate strength of her."

    The very next day he went to the local recruiting office and announced that he wanted to join the Royal Navy: "They patted me gently on the head," he remembered, "and told me to come back when I was 15. So I did just that. I had joined up within a week of my 15th birthday."

    After his training at HMS Ganges, Ipswich, Briggs was surprised and delighted to be assigned to Hood; he joined her on June 29 1939, just before war was declared. "It never once occurred to me that she might be sunk," he said. "As far as I was concerned, she was invincible. And everybody on board shared this view."

    The fact was, however, that this formidable vessel had one - and, as it turned out, fatal - weakness: her deck armour was not strong enough to withstand the vertical trajectory of a shell fired at extreme range. It was a weakness that the Bismarck was able to exploit.

    The British were aware in May 1941 that the German fleet had left Norway, and guessed that it would attempt to use the Denmark Strait between Iceland and Greenland to break through to the Atlantic, where it would attack the convoys carrying supplies and arms from America to Britain.

    On the evening of May 23 Bismarck and the heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen were sighted in the Strait. Hood, along with Prince of Wales and six destroyers, went to intercept them. There followed several nerve-wracking hours of cat-and-mouse, as Hood and her sister ships tried to locate the Germans. Although dawn at this latitude was at 2am, visibility was poor; there were snow flurries, and radar at this stage of the war was not fully effective beyond 20 miles.

    Finally, at 5.35am on May 24, Hood spotted the enemy. She moved to close in, and attacked. Briggs recalled: "We had taken them by surprise, and fired about six salvoes before she replied. And when she did, her gunnery was excellent. The third salvo hit us at the base of the mainmast, causing a fire - some of the ammunition was exploding.

    "Then there was a hit just above the compass platform. It didn't explode but it caused some bodies to fall down. I saw one officer with no hands and no face - I knew every officer on the ship, but I didn't recognise him. We were closing in to get the range we wanted, and that's when the final salvo hit. I didn't hear any explosion - all I saw was a terrific sheet of flame."

    Ted Briggs served 35 years in the navy, reaching the rank of lieutenant. He was appointed MBE in 1973, and until his retirement in 1988 worked as a furnished letting manager for an estate agent at Fareham, in Hampshire.
    Both his fellow-survivors from Hood predeceased him: William Dundas in 1965, and Bob Tilburn in 1995.

    Briggs, who was president of the HMS Hood Association, said shortly before the 60th anniversary of the sinking: "Hardly a day goes by when I don't think about it. I once said to an old Navy man that I sometimes wished I could forget about it. He said to me, 'You are a naval curio, and you will always remain so. You will never be allowed to forget.'" In July 2001 he visited the site of the wreck and released a plaque to commemorate the ship and those who served in her.

    Ted Briggs married twice, and his second wife, Clare, survives him. There were no children.
     
  5. JCFalkenbergIII

    JCFalkenbergIII Expert

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  6. Skipper

    Skipper Kommodore

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    Sad news. R.I.P Sir! :poppy:
     
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  7. 4th wilts

    4th wilts Member

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    a wonderful man,never one to hide his emotions.goodbye mr briggs.:(
     
  8. Kai-Petri

    Kai-Petri Kenraali

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    R.I.P. Ted!

    And thanx for sharing the article/info guys!
     
  9. Martin Bull

    Martin Bull Acting Wg. Cdr

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    Indeed, RIP Ted Briggs - truly, because the events which he almost unbelievably survived haunted him throughout his life.

    He worked tirelessly to keep the memory of the 'Mighty Hood' and his lost comrades 'green' - and I'd highly recommend his memoir which makes fascinating reading.
     
  10. Phantom of the Ruhr

    Phantom of the Ruhr Member

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    I can only hope he is now at peace with his comrades.

    Farewell Mr. Briggs, you will be missed by all.
     
  11. wtid45

    wtid45 Ace

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    R.I.P TED.I will have to pick my stepmums brain i remember her and my dad talking of either a friend or relative on the HOOD.
     
  12. Za Rodinu

    Za Rodinu Aquila non capit muscas

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    I come a bit late but...

    -------

    Ted Briggs
    [SIZE=-2]
    Oct 23rd 2008
    From The Economist print edition
    [/SIZE]


    [SIZE=-2]HMS Hood Association[/SIZE][​IMG][SIZE=-1][/SIZE]

    [SIZE=-1]Edward Albert (“Ted”) Briggs, last survivor of the sinking of HMS Hood, died on October 4th, aged 85[/SIZE]

    [SIZE=-1]TO DIE in a hospital bed was not the end Ted Briggs expected. He thought he had copped it when, at 16 and on Atlantic patrols on HMS Hood in 1939, he looked up to see a black object “as big as a London bus” tumble gently out of the sky and pepper the deck with shrapnel. Or, some months later, when a stick of bombs from an Italian aircraft blew him down the ladder from the flag deck, giving him a cut on the nose that bled like a torrent. Or the moment when, inching out along an upper yardarm to retrieve a halyard (for he was a signal boy), he saw the engine-room safety valves pump out a column of red-hot steam, and expected to be boiled alive. [/SIZE]
    [SIZE=-1]The life of a boy-sailor on the navy’s prize battlecruiser was no cakewalk. From Fall-in at 05.25 to Turn-in at 20.45—swinging into a hammock under a heavy wool blanket, his mouth still dry with gritty cocoa—came constant swabbing and scrubbing of the grey corticine decks, interspersed with instruction and drill. That was in time of peace. But Mr Briggs knew only two months of quiet before he was ordered to hoist flag “E” and “show up 46”: “Commence hostilities against Germany.”[/SIZE]
    [SIZE=-1]He had not joined the Royal Navy to fight. He had joined because, one day in the summer of 1935, he saw from the beach at Redcar in North Yorkshire a long, slim, huge ship at anchor far away. It was the Hood on a visit to Hartlepool. Mr Briggs, a straightforward man, was embarrassed to mention her “beauty” and “grace”, but that was what he felt. It was a love affair. He tried to join the navy the next day; a man told him, since he was 12, to come back later. The day he eventually went on board the Hood, at 16 at Portsmouth, was the time he first felt that peculiar mixture of queasiness and wild excitement that assailed him each time he was piped to Action stations and the big guns opened fire.[/SIZE]
    [SIZE=-1]In his many writings and talks about the Hood, Mr Briggs recalled great happiness on board. Though patrols near the Arctic to intercept German ships brought mountainous seas and soaking, freezing spray, the “mighty Hood” was a vessel on which he felt cared for. He was proud of her and the tasks he did for her: officers’ messenger to and from the cabins of the braided top brass, and signal boy, running up the flags as needed and securing them, on the high yardarms, with Inglefield clips.[/SIZE]
    [SIZE=-1]The Hood was an old ship, rusty and slow, built in 1916 and never properly refitted or armoured since. She performed well in the North Atlantic and the Mediterranean, leading the force that destroyed the fleet of Vichy France at Mers-el-Kebir in 1940 (an action Mr Briggs found “revolting” though, as ordered, he tremblingly clipped up the white-and-red bunting that meant “Open fire”). But her plating groaned in heavy seas, and water sloshed almost continually over the afterdeck. “Briggo” learnt quickly the niceties of crapping without being washed away. But, boy as he was, he fretted about the ship. Well over his head, officers with “scrambled egg” on their chests did not worry until too late about the thinness of her deck-armour. [/SIZE]


    Roll out the barrel
    [SIZE=-1]On May 23rd 1941 the Hood hoisted her battle ensign. She had been shadowing the better-armoured Bismarck, a “jumped up” ship as Mr Briggs thought of her, for 30 days or so in the North Sea; now she was closing in. As the German ship fired her 15-inch shells, Mr Briggs, high on the compass platform, saw a vast sheet of flame blow up in front of him. Within minutes the Hood was listing at 40 degrees, and it was clear “she just wasn’t coming back”. [/SIZE]
    [SIZE=-1]The deck was already awash. With a Burberry and a number-three suit over his life-vest, Mr Briggs struggled to undress, ripping off his gas-mask and his battle-helmet. When the water surged over him he quickly resigned himself to warm and cradling death. But almost at once he was propelled like “a champagne cork” back to the surface. A sudden air-pocket had saved him. He broke surface to see the bows of the Hood vertical in the sea. The sight recurred in his dreams ever after. [/SIZE]
    [SIZE=-1]Some 1,415 men died when the Hood went down, perhaps the most demoralising disaster for Britain in the second world war. Three were saved. Mr Briggs clung to a life-raft, singing “Roll out the Barrel” to stay awake, until he was rescued after three hours by HMS Electra. Back on land he found himself a hero, plied with sweets and cigarettes and allowed the luxury of long baths with Lifebuoy soap. Yet when he reached his mother’s house in Derby he collapsed in tears, “a gibbering, quivering young lad from the war returning”. [/SIZE]
    [SIZE=-1]He served as a signalman on other ships, retiring in 1973 with the rank of lieutenant, but the Hood never left him. An inquiry was held into the sinking; it found that a German shell had pierced the deck-armour and exploded in a magazine. Mr Briggs had his doubts. He blamed the unstable multiple rocket-launchers, a whim of Churchill’s that the crew had always hated; he also blamed Admiral Holland, the commander-in-chief, for putting “our lovely old girl” in the van of the attack. [/SIZE]
    [SIZE=-1]In 2001, almost 80, he visited the wreck site to release a plaque to his lost comrades. Far beneath the water the Hood lay broken in half. But her rudder was locked in obedience to the last signal Mr Briggs had seen hoisted, two blue-flag 2, a 20-degree port turn into the Bismarck’s guns. [/SIZE]
     
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