Petty Officer Marine Engineering Mechanic (Mechanical)
David Briggs was born in Balham, South London on the 18th May 1956, moving with his parents, Jean and Richard, to Crawley in West Sussex the same year. His father had served in the Royal Air Force from 1942 to 1947. David was throughout his life a keen touring cyclist, at the age of 13 he cycled over 1000 miles in a fourteen-day round-trip from Sussex to the Peak District and Yorkshire Dales. His last machine was a hand-built ‘special’ which was lost with his ship. David was also keenly interested in steam engines and cycled to many rallies. His love of travel combined with his very orderly way of life and the joy that he derived from things mechanical led him naturally to the Royal Navy.
David joined the Royal Navy straight from school and soon reached Leading Rate. While serving in HMS Egeria, a small offshore survey vessel, he single-handedly extinguished a dangerous engine room fire at sea for which he received a Flag Officer’s Commendation. A long spell standing by HMS Newcastle then followed while she was building at Swan Hunters in Wallsend. During this time, David married Christine on 23 July 1977 in a ceremony at St. Andrew’s Church, Burgess Hill. The above photo was taken on that happy day. They subsequently set up home in Lee on the Solent to be near David’s ship. Sadly, circumstances meant that there were no children. He was promoted Petty Officer and returned to HMS Sultan in Gosport for a spell as an instructor before his final draft to HMS Sheffield.
HMS Sheffield had sailed from Portsmouth on November 19th, 1981 for a patrol in the Arabian Gulf. After taking part in a major Mediterranean exercise, and four days before her planned return to Portsmouth, the ship was diverted to the South Atlantic on April 2nd, 1982, within hours of the Argentine invasion of the Falkland Islands. While on forward radar picket duty about 70 miles south and east of Stanley, on Sunday May 4th, the Type 42 destroyer was struck amidships by an Exocet missile fired from Argentine Naval Super Etendard aircraft. The missile’s warhead failed to explode, but the resulting fires quickly spread, and the ship had to be abandoned.
The dramatic circumstances of that gallant ship’s loss and David’s own bravery are described in the attached citation for his posthumous Distinguished Service Medal. David’s body was recovered by a friend and fellow Petty Officer, PO Medical Assistant Jed Meager QGM, and laid out on the ship’s fo’c’sle. From there, it was flown to the flagship, HMS Hermes, on May 6th. That same evening, he was buried at sea in a ceremony witnessed by the aircraft carrier’s ship’s company, and in the presence of his Captain, ‘Sam’ Salt, and Commander Bob Rowley, the Marine Engineering Officer of HMS Sheffield. The Reverend Roger Devonshire, Flag Chaplain, conducted the committal proceedings. Of the 20 who died in the attack, David’s was the only body to be recovered.
David was clearly well thought of by both senior and junior colleagues to whom he was known as ‘Basher’. In life, and in the events immediately preceding his death, he proved that he was a quite outstanding Petty Officer stoker, even in that most elite group of men. He is still missed, not least by Christine but also his parents for whom he was the only child.
MINISTRY OF DEFENCE
HONOURS AND AWARDS
MONDAY, 11th OCTOBER 1982
The QUEEN has been graciously pleased to approve the Posthumous award of the Distinguished Service Medal to the undermentioned in recognition of gallant and distinguished service during operations in the South Atlantic:
Petty Officer Marine Engineering Mechanic (M) David Richard BRIGGS D1348157
On 4th May 1982, HMS SHEFFIELD was struck by an Exocet missile fired by an Argentine aircraft. Petty Officer Marine Engineering Mechanic Briggs was in the vicinity of the After Section Base and set in motion the initial fire-fighting effort.
He then moved forward to his action station at the Forward Section Base but at this stage personnel were being evacuated from this area on to the forecastle. However, he led his team back to recover important equipment which was necessary to continue the fire-fighting operation. Unable to wear breathing equipment due to restricted access through a hatch, Petty Officer Marine Engineering Mechanic Briggs and his team re-entered the smoke filled forward section. In conditions of increasing smoke and almost no visibility Petty Officer Marine Engineering Mechanic Briggs made several journeys to the Forward Section Base to pass out much valuable equipment. Sadly on the last attempt he was overcome by smoke and rendered unconscious, subsequent attempts to revive him proving unsuccessful.
Petty Officer Marine Engineering Mechanic Briggs demonstrated leadership, bravery and devotion to duty in trying to save his ship.
In 2022, as part of the 40th Anniversary commemorations, geographical features were identified and named after the fallen of 1982. BRIGGS BEACH is a long sand beach on mainland East Falkland, south of Dutchman’s Island.
It is in position
51° 23′ 27.25″ S, 057° 53′ 48.60″ W
As well as Briggs Beach, David was chosen to have a street named after him at the Mount Pleasant Complex (MPC). MPC is the base for British Forces South Atlantic Islands (BFSAI). BRIGGS ROAD is located at
51° 49′ 45.65″ S, 058° 27′ 46.26″ W