Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Brave Tommy's Heroic Efforts Helped Shorten World War II; Tommy Brown Was One of Three Sailors Who Dived into a Sinking U-Boat. Tim Stickings Reports on What Happened Next

Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Brave Tommy's Heroic Efforts Helped Shorten World War II; Tommy Brown Was One of Three Sailors Who Dived into a Sinking U-Boat. Tim Stickings Reports on What Happened Next

Article excerpt

Byline: Tommy Brown

IT is 75 years this month since Tommy Brown from North Shields dived into a sinking German U-boat to recover documents which would eventually help crack the German Enigma code.

With First Lieutenant Anthony Fasson and Able Seaman Colin Grazier, 16-year-old Tommy braved Mediterranean waters to dive into the hull and retrieve the documents, but although Tommy escaped alive, his two comrades - who had been passing cipher books up to him - were not so lucky.

The German crew had tried to scuttle the boat by letting water pour in as they evacuated, but Fasson found a set of keys in the captain's cabin to unlock the drawer containing the top secret code books.

Tommy, a galley assistant on HMS Petard, made it out of the U-559 submarine with the code books, which were soon in the possession of Bletchley Park experts, including Alan Turing, who set to work breaking the code.

When they cracked it later that year, the Allies could intercept the messages being despatched to German U-boat commanders, avoid their torpedoes and turn the course of the war.

But Tommy never got to see the full effect of his heroism, as he died just months before VE Day - not on the battlefield, but trying unsuccessfully to rescue his little sister Maureen from a house fire.

Nonetheless, King George VI presented Tommy's family with a George Medal on his behalf to celebrate his courage and his unheralded role in winning the war.

Journalist and author Phil Shanahan is marking the anniversary by publishing an updated edition of 'The Real Enigma Heroes', his account of Tommy Brown's heroic actions and the campaign to bring them to public attention.

Phil, who was awarded the Freedom of Bletchley Park for his work on the story, is also publishing it as an e-book for the first time.

He said: "When I first Googled the men's names in 1998, there were no search results. Then I found myself watching their story at a huge national event and talking about them with people such as Prince Charles, the Duke of Kent and the First Sea Lord. …

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