Tuesday, October 07, 2008
Royal Navy Lt. Ted Briggs, retired, the last survivor of the World War II sinking of British battle cruiser HMS Hood, has died at the age of 85.
Briggs was one of only three seamen among the 1,418-strong crew to survive an attack by the German battleship Bismarck on May 24, 1941. A salvo from the Bismarck hit the Hood during the Battle of the Denmark Strait and the magazine exploded, tearing the ship in half. It sank within three minutes.
Briggs, an 18-year-old signalman, later described how he had been sucked under by the sinking ship before being propelled to the surface, where he saw HMS Hood disappearing below the waves.
"I turned and swam as best I could in water 4 inches thick with oil and managed to get on one of the small rafts she carried, of which there were a large number floating around," he wrote in an account posted on the HMS Hood Association's Web site. "When I turned again she had gone and there was a fire on the water where her bows had been."
Briggs said he saw two other survivors, Midshipman William Dundas and Able Seaman Bob Tilburn, on rafts nearby. "There was not another soul to be seen," he wrote.
The trio were picked up by a British destroyer three hours later.
In 2001, the wreckage of the Hood was found, almost 10,000 feet below the ocean's surface between Greenland and Iceland. Briggs helped lay a plaque on the underwater wreckage, which was designated an official war grave by the British government.
Briggs used to say 'I was not a hero, I was a survivor,'"
Briggs retired on 2 February 1973 with the rank of lieutenant. In the year he retired, at the Queen's Birthday Honours he was appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE).
HMS Hood, sunk in battle on May 24, 1941 by the KMS Bismark