Albert Edward Pryke "Ted" Briggs MBE (1 March 1923 – 4 October 2008) was a British seaman and the last of the three survivors of the destruction of the battlecruiser HMS Hood. He remained in the Royal Navy after the Second World War and was later commissioned.
Albert Edward Pryke Briggs
|Born||1 March 1923|
Redcar, North Riding of Yorkshire, England, UK
|Died||4 October 2008 (aged 85)|
Portsmouth, Hampshire, England, UK
|Years of service||1938–1973|
|Battles/wars||Second World War Korean War|
|Awards||Member of the Order of the British Empire Mention in Despatches|
|Other work||President of the HMS Hood Association|
Born 1 March 1923 in Redcar, North Riding of Yorkshire, Briggs first saw Hood at anchor off the River Tees when he was 12, and volunteered to join the Royal Navy the following day. He was told he would have to wait until he was 15, so it was on 7 March 1938, one week after his 15th birthday, that he finally joined the navy. Briggs was trained at HMS Ganges for 16 months. After his training he was delighted to be assigned to HMS Hood which he joined on 29 July 1939. He initially served as an officers' messenger.
In May 1941 Hood was dispatched with HMS Prince of Wales to intercept the German battleship Bismarck in the Denmark Straits. The German ship was twenty years newer and slightly larger than Hood; she had similar main armament, but superior armour. The battlecruiser encountered Bismarck and engaged her at long range. Bismarck returned fire and destroyed Hood, killing all aboard save Briggs and two others. This Battle of the Denmark Strait and the loss of the Hood were regarded by the British public as one of the greatest disasters to befall the Royal Navy during the war. Prince of Wales survived, only to be sunk by Japanese bombers in December 1941.
Ted Briggs, on the compass platform near the bridge, recalled not hearing the initial explosion, but only a huge sheet of flame that shot around Hood's compass platform, followed by a heavy list. When the list reached 30 degrees Briggs realized that "she was not coming back". Briggs states that no order was given to abandon ship "It just wasn't necessary," and that he found himself in the water about 50 yards (46 m) from Hood as her B-Turret went under after he made it only halfway down the ladder leading to the bridge. As Briggs and the remaining crew on compass platform struggled to escape, Briggs remembered "The flag Lieutenant who was just in front of me stood to one side to let me go through... I'll never forget that." He also could remember how the compass master had stood on the platform "tall and fearless" as the water pulled him down. Briggs himself attempted to swim away from the vessel but was pulled under by her as she started toward the ocean bottom. Briggs remembers struggling to stay afloat, giving up hope, and then miraculously being propelled to the surface. This was probably the result of air escaping from the ship, possibly the bridge windows collapsing and releasing trapped air or a boiler explosion. He then remembered that "When I reached the surface, 50 yards away I saw her bows, vertical out of the water. That image would haunt me in nightmares for the next 40 years. When I swam clear of the ship, seconds later I turned back, she was gone."
After the Hood sank, Briggs got aboard a raft from the ship and saw only two other survivors, Bob Tilburn and Bill Dundas, who boarded some rafts as well. Briggs paddled his raft to the other two survivors and stayed by their sides, holding their hands and singing popular British songs to keep them conscious. After three hours, and about to pass out from hypothermia, the three survivors were rescued by HMS Electra.
Briggs was one of only three men aboard to survive the tragedy (1,415 were confirmed lost). In both publications and recorded interviews, he refers to the sacrifice made by the squadron's navigating officer Commander John Warrand, who stood aside and allowed him to exit the compass platform first. Briggs also confirms that the squadron commanding officer, Vice-Admiral Lancelot Holland, was last seen still sitting in his admiral's chair and making no attempt to escape the ship as she sank.
After the loss of Hood he was assigned to HMS Mercury and also participated in the inquiry into the loss of Hood. He was then transferred to HMS Royal Arthur and then to the requisitioned merchantman HMS Hilary. Hilary served as a Combined Operations Headquarters ship, at Salerno and had the same role during the D-Day landings. Later he served aboard HMS Mercury as a Fleetwork Instructor. Briggs was promoted first to Leading Signalman in March 1942 and then Yeoman of Signals in March 1943.
Briggs retired on 2 February 1973 with the rank of lieutenant, settled in the south of England and worked in Fareham as a furnished lettings manager. In the year he retired, at the Queen's Birthday Honours he was appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE). In 1975 Briggs joined the HMS Hood Association as one of its youngest members and was elected as its first President. In 1995, Briggs again served as president of the organisation.
Briggs regularly told his story as a guest-speaker, lecturer, and subject of historical television and radio documentaries. In July 2001 Briggs visited the wreck site and released a plaque which commemorates the lost crew of the Hood. He was co-author of a book on the subject, titled Flagship "Hood": The Fate of Britain's Mightiest Warship. Briggs recorded an oral history with the Imperial War Museum, which is available on its website.
Decorations & MedalsEdit
In addition to being appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire, Lieutenant Briggs own Decorations include the 1939–1945 Star, the Atlantic Star, the France and Germany Star, British War Medal 1939-1945 with Mention in Dispatch Palm, the Naval General Service Medal, the Korea Medal, the United Nations Korea Medal, the Campaign Service Medal and the Naval Long Service & Good Conduct Medal.
- July 1939 - May 1941 - HMS Hood
- October 1945 - HMS Brissenden - Palestine patrols
- April 1948 - HMS Mercury as Fleetwork Instructor
- February 1949 - HMS Maidstone - Second Submarine Squadron
- October 1949 - HMS Mercury - Cryptographic Instructor
- February 1950 - HMS Ceylon - Korean War
- July 1952 - HMS Mercury - Signal Instructors Course
- January 1953 - rated as Chief Yeoman of Signals served at CinC EASTLANT Communications Centre
- November 1953 - HMS Indefatigable and HMS Theseus Training Squadron as Training Chief Yeoman
- December 1955 - Commissioned officer. HMS Mercury - Commissioned Communication Officer Course
- July 1956 - promoted to Commissioned Communication Officer
- September 1956 - HMS Ceylon as a Signals Officer - Suez Canal operation
- May 1958 - HMS Mercury
- January 1959 - HMS Sea Eagle (Londonderry) as Assistant Base Communications Officer
- December 1960 - HMS Mercury - New Entry Training Officer
- April 1961 - promoted to Lieutenant
- February 1963 - Assigned to HMS Loch Killisport as Communications Officer - 3rd Frigate Squadron
- June 1964 - Whitehall Wireless Station as Rating Control Officer
- October 1966 - HMS Ganges as Communications Officer
- June 1969 - HMS Drake (Devonport) as Officer in Charge of the Signal Training Centre
- January 1971 - HMS Excellent (Whale Island) as Officer in Charge of the Leading Rates Leadership School
- Biography of Ted Briggs for the HMS Hood Association
- Obituary—Ted Briggs—Last survivor of the sinking of HMS Hood, Dan van der Vat, The Guardian, 7 October 2008. Retrieved on 7 October 2008.
- "Last veteran of Hood sinking dies", BBC News, 5 October 2008.
- on YouTube
- Hood and Bismarck by David Mearns and Rob White
- The Times (Obituaries), 2008-10-07, page 59.
- "No. 45984". The London Gazette (Supplement). 22 May 1973. p. 6477.
- "Ted Briggs Obituary". Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 8 August 2014.
- "Briggs, Albert Edward Pryce 'Ted (Oral history)". www.iwm.org.uk. Retrieved 15 October 2018.