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1940s / HMS Hood Explosion 1941
The battlecruiser HMS Hood was the pride of the British navy between the two world wars. It was actually obsolete by the time the Second World War started, but it was urgently needed despite its shortcomings. On May 24, 1941, in the Battle of the Denmark Strait, the Hood was engaged in an 11-minute skirmish with the German warships Prinz Eugen and Bismarck. A single 1700-pound armor-piercing shell from the Bismarck ripped into the Hood causing a giant fireball and a subsequent massive explosion. The Hood split into two sections and sank in just three minutes. About 150 minutes later, only three surviving British sailors from the Hood's crew of 1,415 were plucked from the cold Atlantic by the destroyer Electra: Ted Briggs, Robert Tilburn, and William Dundas. None was older than 20. The sinking of the Hood and the loss of more than 99.7 percent of its crew stunned the British public. The three survivors became reluctant celebrities and were always emotional when pressed to talk about that day in 1941. Dundas died in an automobile accident in 1965. Tilburn died in 1995. Briggs, the youngest of the three, died in 2008 at the age of 85. Briggs participated in a 2001 ceremony in which a memorial plaque was laid on the Hood's wreckage and debris field.