The last survivor of the sinking of the World War Two battle cruiser HMS Hood died in October at the age of 85. Ted Briggs was one of only three men out of the crew of 1419 to survive the bombardment of shells from the German battleship Bismarck, which led to the sinking of the Royal Navy’s flagship within three minutes on 24th May 1941. This attack led Winston Churchill to issue the command to ‘Sink the Bismarck’, setting the Royal Navy on a single focused mission which was to culminate in the destruction of the Bismarck in the North Atlantic, just three days after the sinking of HMS Hood. The 18 year old Briggs, a signalman on HMS Hood, survived the sinking because he was caught in an underwater air pocket.
For 60 years the wreck of HMS Hood lay undetected in deep water in the Denmark Strait between Greenland and Iceland. But, in 2001, it was found 3,000 metres below the surface of the sea. In July of that year, Ted Briggs stood on the deck of a craft above the site of the wreck and lowered a memorial plaque dedicated to the ‘shipmates, husbands, fathers, brothers and all relatives’ who died on board that day. This plaque, with a pressure-resistant case containing a CD of the Roll of Honour attached to it, was secured to the bow of HMS Hood using a remote control submarine.
Ted Briggs often voiced how honoured he felt to become the president of the HMS Hood Association. In fact, it was after serving a 30 year naval career that he returned to represent the memory of his first ship. He unveiled several memorials to HMS Hood and was a figurehead of remembrance events. Over the years, he saw how technological advances could change the way in which HMS Hood was commemorated: from commemorative plaques to the remote submarine that memorialised the newly discovered ship. UKNIWM has records of a number of memorials to HMS Hood, including a plaque, commemorative memorabilia and a book of remembrance. Only last week the National Memorial Arboretum also dedicated a memorial to HMS Hood. Now that HMS Hood has been found, and its last remaining survivor has died, we wonder whether there will be any new memorials or whether commemoration in the future will focus on those that now exist?