Two Gates born war hero who’s heroic efforts changed the course of history
Our local newspaper the Tamworth Herald ran a campaign to bring world wide attention to the events of 30th October 1942 and to let the world know about the heroic efforts of Tamworth born Colin Grazier and his two colleagues. The Herald’s wonderful campaign won them, quite rightly, the United Kingdom’s Campaign of the Year Award 2000 and enough funds were raised to provide a permanent memorial to our war hero. The Tamworth Heritage Trust applauds the efforts of the Tamworth Herald and the Colin Grazier Memorial Committee and is proud to include this very important subject on the website.
An attack by a British destroyer on a German U-boat in the Eastern Mediterranean in October 1942 altered the course of the entire war, and Two Gates born Colin Grazier, along with Lieutenant Tony Fasson and Naafi canteen assistant Tommy Brown, wrote themselves into history. Because of their efforts, the capture of secret German Enigma coding material from U-559, enabled Bletchley Park’s codebreakers to crack a new Enigma system introduced to cover a maximum U-boat offensive. Indeed Winston Churchill hailed the work of Bletchley Park as ‘The secret weapon that won the war.’
After ten critical months with no U-boat signals intelligence available, this was the crucial factor in defeating Hitler’s Atlantic U-boat wolf packs before they could starve Britain into defeat in the winter of 1942-3. Had it been possible to release the facts of her triumph at the time, the name of HMS Petard would surely have ranked alongside that of Nelson’s Victory in the annals of British history. Because of the top secrecy about Ultra messages that lasted nearly four decades, the Petard’s achievement remained unknown, her fame unrecognized.
On the night of 30th October 1942 a Sunderland Flying Boat reported that it was in visual contact with a submarine heading in a westerly direction and then a long battle ensued between HMS Petard and the U-559. It was imperative that they forced the submarine to surface. Eventually the stricken sub appeared in HMS Petards search-lights, after the crew of the German U boat had been evacuated and placed under arrest, the captain of HMS Petard asked for volunteers to go and search the damaged submarine and this is when Lt. Fasson from Jedburgh, Scotland said that he would go aboard. He stripped off his clothes and jumped into the freezing cold sea. Colin Grazier also volunteered and followed him across. The two men were then joined by 16 year old canteen assistant Tommy Brown, and they began the task of searching the rapidly sinking sub for any vital information. The two senior men, Fasson and Grazier went into the submarine and passed all the information they could get their hands on to the young Brown who was waiting on the conning tower. Suddenly the submarine lurched and slipped beneath the waves, taking Grazier and Fasson to their final resting place. But not before they had passed the vital information that enabled Bletchley Park to crack the Nazi’s secret code. Although the brave Tommy survived, he was tragically killed along with his sister in a house fire three years later at his home in North Shields in February 1945.
Colin Grazier and Tony Fasson were later recommended for posthumous awards of the Victoria Cross but the Admiralty, concerned this might draw unwanted attention from German Intelligence, instead ordered posthumous awards of the George Cross, the highest civilian award for bravery. Tommy Brown was awarded the George Medal. Because of the Official Secrets Act, their mission remained a secret for 30 years. Colin Grazier and his two comrades helped save hundreds of thousands of tons of shipping from torpedoing and of course no-one can estimate the countless lives their actions saved. Their deeds that day paved the way for the build up of forces for the Normandy Invasions.
Bletchley Park was arguably the most successful intelligence operation in world history, the top secret workplace of the remarkable people who cracked Germany’s vaunted Enigma Code. Almost to the end of the war, the Germans had firm faith in the Enigma ciphering machine, but in fact the codebreakers were deciphering nearly 4,000 German transmissions daily by 1942. It is now recognized that Colin Grazier, Lt. Fasson and Tommy Brown’s efforts shortened World War II by at least 12 months.
- Tamworth war hero Colin Grazier
- The HMS Petard
- 16 year old Tommy Brown
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