ANKERSIDE Shopping Centre is to pay a special tribute to Tamworth WW2 hero Colin Grazier by featuring a display on his extraordinary story in March and April.
The exhibition is being held in association with Phil Shanahan, author of The Real Enigma Heroes, who led a multi-award winning newspaper campaign to bring Colin’s secret mission to public attention. The event is being held in a vacant shop near to Boots.
Phil will be on hand to chat to shoppers about the story and to sign copies of his book between 11am and 3pm on March 20, 23, 24, 27, 30 and 31, and April 3.
After that a smaller window display will remain at the shop until April 27.
Jeff Wigley, Ankerside Shopping Centre manager, says he is delighted to be working alongside Phil to help pay special tribute to Colin Grazier.
“We’ve been in talks with Phil for a while regarding marking the end of the war and the heroic acts of Tamworth-born Colin Grazier, so we’re pleased the exhibition will be coming to Ankerside.
“With the centre being a huge part of the local community, we’re extremely proud of the town’s heritage, so it’s going to be fantastic having the display at Ankerside until April 27,” he said.
“We’re encouraging our shoppers to stop by to chat to Phil about his dedicated exhibition and we look forward to seeing the people of Tamworth learning all about Colin Grazier.”
Able Seaman Colin Grazier, from Two Gates, Tamworth, died along with First Lieutenant Tony Fasson, from Jedburgh, Scotland, capturing vital codebooks from a sinking German U-boat during the Second World War. They drowned in the Eastern Mediterranean on October 30, 1942, when the U-559 sank. However, they managed to pass the codebooks to Tommy Brown, a NAAFI canteen assistant, before the vessel went down.
The documents helped Britain’s codebreakers at Bletchley Park to crack the Nazis’ four-rotor naval Enigma code, used by the German high command to send messages to their U-boats at sea. This enabled the Allies to find and destroy the U-boat wolf packs, which had been sinking their supply ships in the Atlantic, bringing Britain close to starvation and surrender. This was pivotal to winning the Battle of the Atlantic, a victory Winston Churchill described as crucial to the outcome of the entire war.
Historians have credited the capture of the codebooks by Grazier and Fasson with helping to shorten the conflict by up to two years.
The breaking of the code came after a 10-month intelligence blackout due to the Germans introducing a fourth rotor on their Enigma machines which encrypted the messages.
Grazier was only 22 when he lost his life. He had married his childhood sweetheart Olive just two days before he left to join HMS Petard. He and Tony Fasson (29) were posthumously awarded the George Cross for their bravery, while Brown received the George Medal.
However, the significance of their actions was kept secret to prevent the Germans finding out that their code had been broken. The truth finally came out decades later when the Official Secrets Act was lifted, but Grazier, Fasson and Brown remained uncelebrated. Even their families thought they had died in what the Tamworth Herald described in a report at the time as an ‘unsuccessful mission.’
Brown, who was only 16 and had lied about his age to join the war effort, managed to jump clear of the U-559 when it sank, but tragically died two years later in a fire at his home in North Shields. His younger sister also died in this fire.
The exhibition will include photographs from the incident, along with pictures of the heroes and their crewmates from the Petard. The ship had forced the U-559 to the surface with depth charges after a 10-hour hunt involving two other destroyers.
Visitors will also be able to see newspaper cuttings from the campaign Phil led. It culminated in the unveiling of the Three Anchors Monument in St Editha’s Square, Tamworth. Each anchor represents one of the heroes.
Phil Shanahan says he is also delighted that Ankerside has embraced the local hero.
“The team there has been really helpful and I would like to thank them for putting on this tribute to Colin and his colleagues in his home town. It all helps to spread the message about what they achieved. For decades people thought Colin died in an unsuccessful mission. His parents even died thinking that, but nothing could be further from the truth. He didn’t die in vain.”