On 30th Oct 1942 Royal Navy Officer, Lt. Tony Fasson, Able Seaman Colin Grazier and canteen assistant Tommy Brown from HMS Petard boarded the German U Boat, U-559, retrieving material which would lead to the decryption of the German Enigma code.
In early 1941 Fasson was posted to HMS Nile, the naval headquarters in Alexandria, Egypt, finally returning to sea duty in March 1942 as first lieutenant of the destroyer Petard. On 30 October 1942 Petard, in conjunction with the destroyers Pakenham and Hero, the escort destroyers Dulverton and Hurworth, and an RAF Sunderland flying boat of 47 Squadron based in Port Said, attacked and badly damaged the German submarine U-559. The crew of the U-559 abandoned their vessel, with 7 dead and 38 survivors.
Hut 8 Bletchley Park became part of a national tribute to the efforts of the men and women who worked so hard to break the “Enigma” codes. Our 3 heroes were given prominent recognition.
Fasson and Able Seaman Colin Grazier, along with NAAFI canteen assistant Tommy Brown, swam naked to the U-559 and entered the sinking submarine, which had water pouring in through seacocks left open by the Germans. Working in complete darkness, fully aware that the submarine could sink without warning at any time, Fasson and Grazier located documents which Brown carried up to men in a whaler.
They continued searching until the submarine suddenly foundered and sank like a stone, drowning Fasson and Grazier; Brown survived. Fasson and Grazier were subsequently awarded the George Cross, while Brown – as a civilian employee in the Navy – received the George Medal. The awards were published in the London Gazette on 14 September 1943.
The codebooks that Fasson, Grazier, and Brown retrieved were immensely valuable to the code-breakers at Bletchley Park, who had been unable to read U-boat Enigma for nine months. The captured material allowed them to read the cyphers for several weeks, and to break U-boat Enigma thereafter