The Real Enigma Heroes by Phil Shanahan

We’ve all heard about the film U-571. Or, more importantly, how its a travesty of a film. Supposedly a fictional film based on true events, it is nothing more than a plagiarism of heroism, twisted to maximise profits with scant regard for any kind of integrity.

The men who were the REAL heroes were Able Seaman Colin Grazier, Lieutenant Tony Fasson and NAAFI Canteen Assistant Tommy Brown. Serving onboard the Destroyer HMS Petard, in October 1942 they volunteered to join a boarding party for the sinking U-559. Although the U-Boat was rapidly sinking, Grazier and Fasson went down below and retrieved vital documents, passing them up the conning tower to Brown. They remained below searching, and were onboard when the ship went down. Colin Grieve and Tony Fasson were both awarded a posthumous George Cross, and Tommy Brown the George Medal.

The capture of vital Enigma code books enabled codebreakers at Bletchley Park to finally crack the Enigma riddle, and continue to read German communications until the end of the war. In particular, the capture helped the Allies to win the crucial Battle of the Atlantic. Without that victory, D-Day might not have been possible, and the war may have lasted much longer – raising the disturbing possibility of the Russians reaching the Rhine or the Channel.

Yet surprisingly, it has taken decades for Grazier, Fasson and Brown to receive any recognition. The official secrets act precluded any publicity being given to the incident. The British Government were also keen to ensure that the Germans – and Russians – did not find out that the Enigma code had been broken. And thus the situation remained. Even the men onboard HMS Petard on that fateful night were not aware of how important Grive and Fasson’s actions were.

Phil Shanahan, of the Tamworth Herald, has ensured that the mens names will be remembered for evermore. Starting with a chance discovery – that Grieve came from Tamworth, he was astounded that the winner of the George Cross was unknown in his home town. A series of articles in the Herald followed. A Committee was formed, and set about raising funds for a fitting tribute in Tamworth town centre. Along the way he had some interesting encounters, with the Producer of U-571, and the Imperial War Museum. The U-571 debacle in particular raised much publicity for the Colin Grive Project. As Shanahan states, not many English provincial journalists have been interviewed in a Dallas daily newspaper!

There are some emotive episodes. In particular, I felt a personal connection with the dilemma Phil Shanahan found when confronting the Imperial War Museum. It is simply impossible to cover absolutely everything in any museum or book. The sad fact is that many people have their cause that is close to them, but there is never enough room to give each of them the credit that they deserve. It is a dilemma that many a poor Curator has faced, and I feel that the people who have to choose what to leave out deserve more sympathy. Similarly, it is easy to understand the sentiment that Grieve and Fasson should have been awarded the Victoria Cross. It’s something that I have written about at the time – that bravery is bravery, regardless of enemy action. Yet they were awarded the George Cross under the standards set, and it would have been unprecedented to upgrade them to the VC.

This is a very interesting and rather unique book. It is, in many ways, two books in one – firstly the story of HMS Petard, and then secondly the long fight to earn Grazier, Fasson and Brown recognition. They are complementary stories, and are intwerwoven in the order of which Shanahan and his team uncovered the stories and embarked on their campaign. There are some small errors of accuracy, but you can feel Shanahan’s passion. Something that many historians would do well to take note of, and not those involved in the making of U-571.

A fine statue was commissioned and erected in Tamworth town square, and a nearby Hotel was named the Colin Grazier Hotel. A Tamworth Housing Estate has had its roads named after men involved in the incident. And every year, the people of Tamworth celebrate Colin Grazier Day, with a small ceremony at the memorial, and a tot of rum in the evening.

This is a book and a campaign that is gripping and most inspiring. If only more local newspapers and local councils would be more diligent in recognising our communities heroes. It has certainly motivated me to ensure that Portsmouth’s heroes of the two world wars should never be forgotten.

The Real Engima Heroes is published by The History Press

About these ads

14 Comments

Filed under Book of the Week, Navy, Uncategorized, World War Two

14 responses to “The Real Enigma Heroes by Phil Shanahan

  1. x

    The book I have is “Fighting Destroyer”………..

    But try Maritime Books first…………

  2. James Daly

    Fighting Destroyer is mentioned several times by Shanahan. My local library has a good naval collection, I will have a look for it there. When they’ve finished repairing the flood damage caused by some little toerags…

  3. You can even go to an AT&T corporate retail shop and
    inquire about a refurbished unlocked Iphone or a locked one.
    Your creativeness for the perfect mobile phone becomes reality with the Iphone.

  4. This paragraph will help the internet people for
    setting up new web site or even a weblog from start
    to end.

  5. Every weekend i used to pay a visit this web page, because i want enjoyment,
    for the reason that this this web site conations really nice funny stuff too.

  6. Visitors wish to watch a common programs in the convenience
    of their PC’s. Can you enjoy being one if the first to view new movie releases?
    After the audition, appreciate the representative and then comfortably leave.

  7. The first came out in 1989 and the next came
    out in 2004. TV is being watched by another selection online with the utilization
    of a Television on internet software. Poor
    technology is not a new comer to Hollywood movies.

  8. Jailbreak for iPhone means you’re allowed to install third party programs on your own
    iPhone. Please ensure you donate to have the latest news regarding other devices and the iPhone 5.

  9. Its latest release, the iPhone 4, has sold 3 million units in just a few days after release.
    That Is vital if you like to perform this activity right.
    They say close to the end-of the monthyeah, yeah, yeah.

  10. I do believe all the ideas you’ve offered on your post.

    They are really convincing and will definitely work. Nonetheless,
    the posts are too quick for starters. May just you please extend them a bit from subsequent time?
    Thank you for the post.

  11. Hi there, just became aware of your blog through Google, and found that it is really informative.
    I am going to watch out for brussels. I’ll appreciate if you continue
    this in future. Lots of people will be benefited from your writing.
    Cheers!

  12. As promised, the voice clarity is great, and the interface is easy and easy
    to use. In this way, you will not only make money but you can be a celeb and an icon if given the chance and luck.

  13. Your very basic software called BIOS. There is, of
    course, the hazard that BBM-loving customers will eschew BlackBerry
    telephones and use rival devices. Many computers shed pace
    because of to “registry errors”.

  14. Thanks in favor of sharing such a nice opinion, paragraph is fastidious, thats why i have read it completely

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s