Touching tribute to war hero at Lichfield hotel talk

A spontaneous and moving tribute was paid to three WW2 heroes following a talk at the George Hotel in Lichfield given by Enigma Communications’ managing director Phil Shanahan.

Phil had been booked as the after dinner speaker at Lichfield St Chad Rotary Club and spoke about the story behind his book, The Real Enigma Heroes.

One of the heroes, Colin Grazier, came from nearby Tamworth and the talk was held the day after the 75th anniversary of the mission which cost his life – but paved the way for freedom.

Phil Shanahan, author of The Real Enigma Heroes, pictured with Tim Wadsworth president of Lichfield St Chad Rotary Club and Keith Eagland group’s speakers secretary.
Phil Shanahan, author of The Real Enigma Heroes, pictured with Tim Wadsworth president of Lichfield St Chad Rotary Club and Keith Eagland, the group’s speakers secretary.

Colin (22), along with Tony Fasson (29), died rescuing vital codebooks from a sinking German U-boat in 1942. They were assisted by a 16-year-old boy, Tommy Brown, from North Shields, who survived the incident only to die in a house fire two years later.

The operation was kept secret for decades after the war because of the need for secrecy. Historians now say it shortened the conflict by at least a year, saving countless lives. Phil became aware of the action in 1998 and launched a campaign to bring the men to public attention. It culminated in the unveiling of the three-anchors monument in St Editha’s Square, Tamworth.

The publication of The Real Enigma Heroes followed the release of the Hollywood blockbuster U-571 which credited fictional American sailors with snatching Engima ‘treasure’ from a U-boat.

“I have given talks on this subject in various parts of the country, but it was special to be on home territory for this one and opposite to where I used to work at the Lichfield Mercury many years ago. The fact that Colin lived just a few miles up the road – and that it was held a day after the 75th anniversary of the mission – made it even more special.

“Afterwards, a member of the audience was moved to stand up and recite the Ode of Remembrance taken from Laurence Binyon’s poem. Everybody joined in with the last line: ‘We will remember them.’ It was a very touching tribute to the men.”

On the anniversary itself, on October 30, Parliament paid its own tribute. More than 60 MPs signed an Early Day Motion, proposed by Dr Julian Lewis MP, chairman of the Commons Defence Select Committee, in tribute to Grazier, Fasson and Brown.

MPs across all parties registered their support by signing the motion, making it the 20th most supported EDM out of the 557 so far tabled since the General Election in June 2017.

* To celebrate the 75th anniversary an updated version of The Real Enigma Heroes, has been released, along with an ebook, both featuring a special anniversary cover. It is published by The History Press, price £16.99 (ebook £9.99). For more information on the story click this link.

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