A book detailing the Tamworth Herald’s campaign to honour a forgotten war hero who helped crack the Enigma code is about to be published.
Deputy editor Phil Shanahan has been closely involved with the investigation behind the campaign for ten years and his book, The Real Enigma Heroes, charts the paper’s fight to raise awareness of Tamworth man Colin Grazier.
Colin drowned after recovering two codebooks from a German U-boat during World War II, and his work, alongside two other war heroes, is said to have shortened the Second World War by at least a year.
The codebooks led to cryptanalysts at Bletchley Park, Churchill’s secret wartime codebreaking centre, cracking the German naval Enigma code, paving the way for an end to the war.
But their heroics were hushed up because of the sensitive nature of the work and remained a secret until the story landed on Phil’s desk.
He said: “We had a reporter who went out to do a feature on a retired miner. When the reporter came back he said the man had claimed there was a man in Tamworth who had won the war.
“It struck a massive chord with me. As a journalist of course, it’s a one in a million story, because it’s so rare to tell the tale of someone with such a massive claim on a world scale.
“I feel very lucky and privileged to have been given the chance to take it further.
“But there was another side to it too, something far more personal. I felt there was a wrong here that needed to be righted.
“These men had been denied proper recognition. They were virtually unknown in their home towns and yet the whole world should know their names because of the impact they have had on world history.”
Thanks to his work and a press campaign that boosted publicity and raised £17,700, there is now a monument in Tamworth in their honour, with roads also named after them and their ship.
There is a Colin Grazier hotel and a major business now resides in Grazier House. There have been beers named after the heroes and Tamworth hosts two annual ceremonies to remember them.
During the multi-award-winning campaign, Phil was invited to collect a posthumous award on behalf of Grazier and the two other sailors from the Celebrity Guild of Great Britain. It was presented by actress Prunella Scales in London.
Phil has been working on the book with officials at Bletchley Park, where the Enigma code was finally cracked, and its publication marks the culmination of a hard slog to tell the full story.
Researching and writing the book has taken up many weekends during the past three years and he has been burning the midnight oil to complete it.
The Real Enigma Heroes, to be launched at a ceremony at Bletchley Park on March 23, charts the progress of the Herald’s campaign while recounting the story of the three men.