Commemorative envelope produced by ourselves, dedicated to the 85th anniversary of the launching of HMS Hood, with matching 85th anniversary BFPO 2752 postmark dated 23 August 2003 with the ships crest inset and used by kind permission of the current Lord Hood, the stamp affixed is a 1st Class stamp. This has been signed by Ted Briggs, who at the time of signing was the last living survivor of the sinking of Hood by the Bismarck.
When Bismarck sailed for the Atlantic in May 1941, Hood, together with the newly commissioned battleship Prince of Wales, was sent out in pursuit along with several other groups of British capital ships to intercept the German ships before they could break into the Atlantic and attack Allied convoys. Hood was commanded by Captain Ralph Kerr and was flying the flag of Vice-Admiral Lancelot Holland. The German ships were spotted by two British heavy cruisers on 23 May, and Holland's ships intercepted Bismarck and her consort, the heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen, in the Denmark Strait between Greenland and Iceland on 24 May.
The British squadron spotted the Germans at 05:37 (ship's clocks were set four hours ahead of local time – the engagement commenced shortly after dawn), but the Germans were already aware of their presence, Prinz Eugen's hydrophones having previously detected the sounds of high-speed propellers to their south-east. The British opened fire at 05:52 with Hood engaging Prinz Eugen, the lead ship in the German formation, and the Germans returned fire at 05:55, both ships concentrating on Hood. Prinz Eugen was probably the first ship to score when a shell hit Hood's boat deck, between her funnels, and started a large fire among the ready-use ammunition for the anti-aircraft guns and rockets of the UP mounts.
Right before 06:00, while Hood was turning 20° to port to unmask her rear turrets, she was hit again on the boat deck by one or more shells from Bismarck's fifth salvo, fired from a range of approximately 16,650 metres (18,210 yd). A shell from this salvo appears to have hit the spotting top as the boat deck was showered with body parts and debris. A huge jet of flame burst out of Hood from the vicinity of the mainmast, followed by a devastating magazine explosion that destroyed the aft part of the ship. This explosion broke the back of Hood and the last sight of the ship, which sank in only three minutes, was her bow, nearly vertical in the water. A note on a survivor's sketch in the British RN Historical Branch Archives gives 63°20?N 31°50?W as the position of the sinking.
Of the 1,418 crew, only three men, Ordinary Signalman Ted Briggs, Able Seaman Robert Tilburn and Midshipman William John Dundas, survived; they were rescued about two hours after the sinking by the destroyer Electra.
Signed during an exclusive signing held in Portsmouth in August 2003 to celebrate the launching of our commemorative envelope, produced by ourselves with the assistance of Ted Briggs and The HMS Hood Association.
85th anniversary launch of HMS Hood survivor signed cover
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