Colin Grazier

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Colin Grazier
Born (1920-05-07)7 May 1920
Two Gates, Fazeley, Staffordshire, England
Died 30 October 1942(1942-10-30) (aged 22)
Mediterranean Sea
Allegiance  United Kingdom
Service/branch  Royal Navy
Years of service 1940-1942
Rank Able Seaman
Service number P/SSX 25550
Unit HMS Petard
Battles/wars World War II  
Awards UK George Cross ribbon.svg George Cross

Able Seaman Colin Grazier, GC was posthumously awarded the George Cross for the "outstanding bravery and steadfast devotion to duty in the face of danger" which he displayed on 30 October 1942 in action in the eastern Mediterranean when capturing codebooks vital for the breaking of the German naval "Shark" Enigma cipher from the sinking U-559.[1]

30 October 1942[edit]

On the night of 30 October 1942 an enemy submarine was reported 70 miles north of Port Said. The HM Destroyers Pakenham, Petard, Dulverton, Hero, and Hurworth were ordered to proceed from Alexandria to relieve the HMS Echo who had been searching for the submarine (which was German U-boat U-559).

HMS Petard, assisted by Wellesley aircraft of the No. 47 Squadron, located the u-boat and attacked the submarine with depth charges for nearly ten hours and finally forced the stricken boat to the surface at around 1040pm. The U-boat was caught in Petard 's search-lights,and the German crew, with Captain Hans Heidtmann, were taken on board under guard, but not before they had opened seavalves and petcocks in order to scuttle the submarine before abandoning it. HMS Petard's now sought volunteers to swim over and search the damaged submarine. Lieutenant Francis Fasson RN said that he would go aboard.[2]

He stripped off his clothes and jumped into the cold sea. Colin Grazier also volunteered and followed him across. The two men were then joined by 16-year-old NAAFI canteen assistant Tommy Brown, and they began the task of searching the rapidly sinking u-boat for any vital documents, code books or machinery.[3]

The two senior men, Fasson and Grazier, entered the submarine and passed all the information they could get their hands on to Brown who was waiting on the conning tower. Suddenly the submarine lurched and slipped beneath the waves, taking Grazier and Fasson with it.

Their daring mission though remained a secret for over 30 years due to the Official Secrets Act.

George Cross citation[edit]

The awards were published in the London Gazette on 14 September 1943.[4]

The King has been graciously pleased to approve the posthumous award of the George Cross to: — Lieutenant Anthony Blair Fasson, Royal Navy. Able Seaman Colin Grazier, P/SSX.25550 - for outstanding bravery and steadfast devotion to duty in the face of danger.

— London Gazette

Usefulness of the captured code books[edit]

However, they had managed to pass the vital code books that reached Bletchley Park on 24 November 1942. They proved to be the Wetterkurzschlussel (short weather key) and Kurzsignalheft (short signals) code books, which yielded a priceless information in breaking the u-boat Enigma codes. Convoys could now be rerouted to avoid wolfpacks and losses were halved in January and February, 1943.[5]

Legacy[edit]

The Colin Grazier Memorial in Tamworth, Staffordshire

In Grazier's home town of Tamworth there is a Hotel named after him, which contains a gallery of photographs, and an Avenue, and an office block named after Colin Grazier. In October 2002, a commemorative sculpture was unveiled in Tamworth to honour Grazier and his two colleagues involved in the capture of documents from U-559. The sculpture, the work of Polish sculptor Walenty Pytel, takes the form of three anchors, and the date of the unveiling was chosen to coincide with the 60th anniversary of the action against U-559.[6]

References[edit]