A REMINDER of the timeliness of recognising and remembering the sacrifices made by the WW2 generation is provided by former signalman Ralph Brigginshaw – here proudly giving the thumbs up after being thanked by the people of Norway.
Just three days after receiving this diploma of gratitude from the Norwegian Government, the 98-year-old veteran of the Battle of Narvik passed away at his West Sussex home, surrounded by his family.
The ex-sailor served in the destroyer flagship at the first naval battle in the Norwegian port in April 1940, when a bold dash led by Ralph’s HMS Hardy surprised superior German forces which had captured the iron ore port in the Arctic.
In the ensuing fighting, Hardy was sunk – Ralph was struck by shrapnel in the back and arm and found himself in ice-cold water trying to swim with one usable arm. He covered around 200 yards to reach land where he collapsed.
Having mauled much of the German destroyer fleet, the Royal Navy sent in a second force, led by battleship Warspite, to finish the enemy off; all ten German destroyers were sunk.
Ralph was eventually evacuated to a hospital in the Lofoten islands, where he spent six weeks recuperating before being repatriated.
He spent another two and a half years being treated for his injuries, then returned to active duties with sloops HMS Cygnet and Black Swan, was loaned to a Polish destroyer in the run-up to D-Day and served aboard an Algerine-class minesweeper.
He left the RN in 1950 as Yeoman of Signals and became a radio and radar engineer at Gatwick airport in civvy street.
His naval escapades prompted his brother Leonard to join the post-war RN, he was an avid reader of Navy News up to his death, and, 79 years after Narvik, he was the last surviving crewman from the Hardy.
“The family are devastated by Ralph’s passing but we understand that he had a long good life and loved his country and the Royal Navy,” said his great nephew Luke. “Ralph was my hero growing up and, along with grandad, fuelled my love for the Royal Navy and its history – he was the subject of many family stories.”
You can hear Ralph describe the fighting at Narvik in an interview he recorded aged 94.
Press release copyright MOD