Sunday, 30 October 2011

The Real Enigma Heroes

Well, my blogging schedule is all out of sync because I have been away for a week. We went to the Isle of Man, which was an amazing and peaceful place, with the most wonderful history and scenery - but incredibly isolated. We took a laptop but, despite the hotel's claim to provide free Internet access we (and the other guests) failed to make any connection, and attempts to use our mobile phones were equally unsuccessful. However, the lack of modern technology made for a thoroughly relaxing holiday with plenty of time for reading, chatting, and sightseeing.

Anyway, now I am back I had planned a review for the Irish Reading Challenge 2011 run by CarrieK at until I remembered that on this day in 1942 Able Seaman Colin Grazier, who came from Tamworth (where I live) lost his life as he snatched German codebooks from a sinking U-boat.

With him was Lieutenant Tony Fasson, who also died, and Tommy Brown, a 16-year-old canteen assistant, who survived, only to die in a house fire after his return to England. The documents rescued by the three men provided vital details which helped experts at Bletchley Park crack Germany's Enigma Code. Deciphering  intercepted German messages meant Allied supply convoys were safely re-routed to avoid German submarines, while the subs themselves were hunted down. It is thought that the recovery of the codebooks led to Allied victory in the Battle of the Atlantic which, in turn, laid the foundation for the final defeat of  Germany in 1945 - and may even have shortened the war.

Yet Grazier, Fasson and Brown were forgotten for almost 60 years, until a retired miner made a chance remark during an interview with the Tamworth Herald, claiming that a Tamworth seaman had 'virtually won' the Second World War. Deputy Editor Phil Shanahan thought the claim unlikely, but instead of dismissing it out-of-hand some instinct made him check the statement out. Phil was the driving force behind the paper's campaign to uncover the story of the three forgotten heroes, and to win recognition for them, not just in Grazier's home town, but on a national basis.

A memorial featuring three anchors (created by world-renowned sculptor Walenty Pytel) now stands in Tamworth's Market Square and an annual service, when those present drink a glass of rum to honour Grazier, Fasson and Brown, is held on the nearest Sunday to October 30 (so it was due to take place today). In addition, information about the trio, together with the wealth of photographs, documents and memories gathered together by Phil, are on a display in a special exhibition at Bletchley Park's historic Hut 8.

The full story of Grazier, Fasson and Brown can be read in Phil's book, The Real Enigma Heroes (published by Tempus),  in which he also details his five-year search for the truth and his battle to ensure the trio will never again be forgotten. I have reviewed this before (, but am mentioning it again as my own tribute to three brave men.

As I said in the original review, I should admit to a kind of vested interest, because I worked with Phil Shanahan for many years, but it really is a very good book, which gripped my interest from start to finish - if I didn't enjoy it I would say so, even though the author is a friend!

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