Albert Edward Pryke "Ted" Briggs MBE (1 March 1923 – 4 October 2008) was a British seaman and the last survivor of the destruction of the battlecruiser HMS Hood. He remained in the Royal Navy after the Second World War and was later commissioned.
Born on 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.
Soon after the Second World War began, Hood was assigned to patrol and escort duty in the North Atlantic and also served as part of Force H in the Mediterranean Sea. In May 1941 Hood was dispatched with HMS Prince of Wales to intercept the German battleship Bismarck in the Denmark Straits. Hood, with Ted Briggs aboard, encountered Bismarck and engaged her at long range. Bismarck returned fire and within minutes sent a volley of 38 cm (15-inch) shells crashing into Hood's bowels, setting off a massive explosion in her magazine, and breaking her in half. The Battle of the Denmark Strait and the loss of the Hood were perceived 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, recalls a huge sheet of flame followed by Hood listing rapidly. When the list reached 30 degrees Briggs realised that "she was not coming back". Briggs states that no order was given to abandon ship 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. 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, 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. After spending three hours in the water and near dead from hypothermia, he was 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 sinking wreck.
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 remained in the Royal Navy after the end of the war, became an officer, and served until 1973 in a variety of capacities (see #Military service). 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 organization.
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 Flagship "Hood": The Fate of Britain's Mightiest Warship.
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