Albert Edward Pryke Briggs, MBE, was born on 1st March 1923 in Redcar, North Riding of Yorkshire. He and his sister Ethel were raised by their mother in Redcar.
It was in the summer of 1935 that 12 year old Ted had the experience that would forever change his life- he first saw H.M.S. Hood. The mighty vessel was visiting Redcar. Anchored off shore, Hood was living up to her reputation as a crowd gatherer: locals and people on holiday were paying boatmen to take them on short excursions around her. Ted desperately wanted to see her up close, but his family could not afford the price the boatmen were charging. He was bitterly disappointed, but the day still had a profound effect: Hood's mighty, yet beautiful appearance mesmerized the young Ted and instilled in him a fervent desire to join the Royal Navy and hopefully Hood herself.
The following day he ran to the local Royal Navy recruitment office and tried to enlist. As he was only 12, he was politely told to be on his way, but to come back when he turned 15. Just under 3 years later, Ted did exactly that: On 7th March 1938 (a week after his 15th birthday), Ted signed up in the Royal Navy as a Boy. His training was held at H.M.S. Ganges at Shotley Gate in Ipswich. He trained there for 16 months until, to his surprise but utter delight, he was drafted to the very ship which had first inspired his naval career- H.M.S. Hood. Ted's dream had come true.
Ted joined Hood's company on 29th July 1939. Just over a month later, Britain went to war. Ted soon found he had joined the workhorse of the Royal Navy: Hood was kept extremely busy patrolling the Atlantic and escorting various ships. For the first time in her career, Hood was actually performing the work she had been intended for, and Ted was there to see it all. He was with her in Force H in the Mediterranean, to include the unfortunate action against the French Fleet at Mers el-Kebir. He was also aboard on 24th May 1941, when Hood sank during famous battle with the German battleship Bismarck. He was one of only three crew members rescued.
Ted Shortly After the Loss of Hood, 1941
Ted on survivors leave, June 1941
In June, after his survivor's leave ended, Ted was assigned to H.M.S. Mercury. During this sleepless time he participated in the second inquiry into Hood's loss.
He soon transferred to H.M.S. Royal Arthur (shore establishment, Skegness) and then to the converted merchantman H.M.S. Hilary. The Hilary served as a Combined Operations Headquarters ship, at Sicily, Salerno and the D-Day landings. He also served aboard H.M.S. Mercury as a Fleetwork Instructor. Ted was promoted first to Leading Signalman (March 1942) then Yeoman of Signals (March 1943).
Following the war, Ted remained in the Navy, eventually reaching officer ranks. The following is a brief timeline of his assignments and promotions:
- October 1945- Aboard H.M.S. Brissenden on Palestine patrols
- April 1948- H.M.S. Mercury as Fleetwork Instructor once more
- February 1949- H.M.S. Maidstone, Second Submarine Squadron
- October 1949- H.M.S. Mercury again, but this time as a Cryptographic Instructor
- February 1950- H.M.S. Ceylon on station for the Korean War
- July 1952- H.M.S. Mercury for Signal Instructors Course.
- January 1953- Ted was rated as a Chief Yeoman of Signals. He was then assigned to the CinC Eastlant Comm Centre.
- November 1952- H.M.S. Indefatigable and H.M.S. Theseus Training Squadron as Training Chief Yeoman
- December 1955- Ted was selected for commissioned officer. He was then assigned to H.M.S. Mercury for the Commissioned Communication Officer Course.
- July 1956- Ted was promoted to Commissioned Communication Officer (later converted to Sub Lieutenant (SD) (C) in January 1957)
- September 1956- Assigned to H.M.S. Ceylon as a Signals Officer. Ted was present for the Suez Canal operation.
- May 1958- Assigned to H.M.S. Mercury once more.
- January 1959- On board H.M.S. Sea Eagle (Londonderry) as Assistant Base Communications Officer.
- December 1960- Back on board H.M.S. Mercury. New Entry Training Officer.
- April 1961- Ted was promoted to Lieutenant (SD) (C)
- February 1963- Assigned to H.M.S. Loch Killisport as Communications Officer 3rd Frigate Squadron
- June 1964- Assigned to the Whitehall Wireless Station as Rating Control Officer
- Late October 1966- At H.M.S. Ganges as Communications Officer
- June 1969- Assigned to H.M.S. Drake (Devonport) as Officer in Charge of the Signal Training Centre
- January 1971- Reassigned to H.M.S. Excellent (Whale Island) as Officer in Charge of the Leading Rates Leadership School
Ted whilst in H.M.S. Hilary (1943/44)
On 2nd February 1973, Ted retired from the Navy and settled in the south of England. A few days later he began a new career as a furnished letting manager (he would eventually retire from this career in 1988). In June 1973, Ted was made a Member of the British Empire (MBE). In 1975 he joined the newly formed H.M.S. Hood Association as its first President and one of its youngest members. The post of President was later held by Hood survivor Bob Tilburn. Ted once again assumed the Presidency of the H.M.S. Hood Association in 1995.
Ted continued to lead a very active life. He remained a sought-after guest speaker for television documentaries and radio programmes. He even visited the wreck site in July 2001, releasing the Roll of Honour plaque which memorialises his fallen shipmates and the Mighty Hood. He served as the Association's President during it's time of greatest growth.
In late September 2008, Ted was taken ill and hospitalised. He passed away peacefully on 4 October 2008. He was survived by his wife Clare and cousins in Australia. Sadly, Clare passed away the following January. Ted had no children from either of his marriages.
For those of you who are interested in learning more about Ted and his time aboard Hood, we highly recommend "Flagship Hood." This book, written by Ted and the late Alan Coles, is one of the best histories of Hood from beginning to end. It offers a very detailed and insightful look at life aboard the great ship. You can also see footage of Ted discussing Hood in a number of television documentaries.