Falklands 40: Royal Navy base HMS Sultan in Gosport remembers 'good bloke' David Briggs who died onboard HMS Sheffield

ROYAL Navy sailors at HMS Sultan in Gosport have commemorated the death of former instructor David Briggs – ‘a good bloke’ who died in the attack on HMS Sheffield forty years ago.

Friday, 6th May 2022, 3:21 pm

The petty officer – known to friends as Basher – bravely led efforts to help shipmates out of acrid smoke-filled compartments of the destroyer as fire raged when she was hit by an Exocet missile from an Argentine warplane.

On his final attempt to recover colleagues and vital equipment, the 25-year-old was overcome by fumes.

Efforts to revive him failed and after his body – the only one of the 20 men killed aboard Sheffield recovered – was transferred to task group flagship HMS Hermes, he was buried at sea.

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David Briggs, whose death on HMS Sheffield inspired colleagues to save lives.

David was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Medal for his actions, and his death inspired David Briggs award, which is given to trainees who demonstrate outstanding leadership at HMS Sultan.

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Chief Petty Officer Alan ‘Sharkey’ Ward was a close friend of Basher and is one of a small band of Falklands veterans still serving in today’s Royal Navy and has dedicated most of his career to the art of fire-fighting and damage control on a ship.

Describing his fallen comrade, CPO Ward said: ‘(He was) a good bloke, nothing was too difficult for him and he was always encouraging the lads. He was always on top of his game and a stickler to have things done by the book, which he learnt to do from his teaching at Sultan.’

A Sea King hovers off HMS Sheffields stern during the rescue operation to recover her ships company

After the missile hit HMS Sheffield on May 4, 1982, David was forced to abandon his regular breathing apparatus as it was too cumbersome to fit through a hatch.

Instead he used a respirator – but the filter was unable to protect him from the fumes emitted by the blazing ship and he succumbed to smoke inhalation on his third venture into the compartment.

Alan Ward said added: ‘It just goes to show that in the heat of battle you make some courageous decisions whether they are right or wrong.

‘I have spent most of my career teaching firefighting and damage control and saying just because you have been told you can doesn’t mean you should use equipment that is not meant for that purpose.’

Describing how he tasks students to follow his old friends example, Officer Ward said: ‘Would Basher have done this and would he approve? I’m sure he would give you his blessing and thanks for thinking of him and doing it by the book.’

The senior rating is remembered in the Marine Engineering Branch Falklands Memorial Garden, alongside another victim of HMS Sheffield, Leading Marine Engineering Mechanic Allan Knowles, and his medals can be seen at the Marine Engineering Museum.