U Boat lost ENIGMA

Discussion in 'Top Secret' started by Sadsac, May 15, 2009.

  1. Sadsac

    Sadsac Senior Member

    Hello `Et Al' - help please recalling the U boat sunk as `our chaps' were salving the ENIGMA machine.
    Two of O.Chaps were lost during this operation / sinking.
    Just cannot recall (off hand) which boat / Ships / Chaps involved.
    All info greatfully received.

    Apologies to ???? - I have also posted this in `War in Air' Thread.
    Still finding my way around !!!

    chipm likes this.
  2. Peter Clare

    Peter Clare Very Senior Member

    Hi Sadsac, I believe this is the incident you refer to.

    The Type VIIC boat U-559 - German U-boats of WWII - uboat.net

    Legal Tyranny - The Story Behind U571 - Chapter 8, U-559, U-Boat Codes are Broken

    Even when Bletchley Park began to decipher encrypted Nazi messages, the U-boat version of Enigma proved much more difficult. Not until 1943, after British sailors drowned trying to recover an Enigma machine, were U-boat codes broken on a regular basis.
    It wasn't an easy chase on October 30, 1942. HMS Petard and three other British destroyers were pursuing a Nazi sub in the Mediterranean Sea, not far from the Egyptian shore. U-559 was proving why U-boats were so dangerous. She was elusive. The chase lasted 16 hours before U-559's commander decided to scuttle his damaged ship about 70 miles north of the Nile Delta. (Follow this link to a map where U-559 went down. Look in the lower right-hand corner.)

    Demonstrating courage that is hard to comprehend, three young men swam from Petard to U-559. Lt. Tony Fasson, Able Seaman Colin Grazier, and Canteen Assistant Tommy Brown descend into the sinking submarine. They wanted to retrieve the Enigma machine.
    They could not remove U-559's Enigma from its mount. But with Brown at the top of the stairs, water streaming into the stricken vessel, Fasson and Grazier quickly passed the "Wetterkurzschlüssel" (short signal weather code) and the "Kurzsignalheft" (short signal code book) up to Brown who threw them into his whaleboat.

    With death by drowning a near certainty if they didn't immediately leave the ship, Fasson and Grazier continued to gather Enigma documents, keypads and codes. Brown threw it all into the skiff. Barely a blink of an eye after Brown had the priceless Nazi codes on his whaleboat, U-559 went to the bottom, 70 miles from Port Said. Fasson and Grazier went down with her.

    Tommy Brown, the Canteen Assistant, turned over one of the most important finds of WWII. He was 16 years old. Wanting to fight for his country, he had lied about his age.

    Fasson and Grazier received Britain's second-highest honor for bravery, the George Cross. Brown received the George Medal. Two years later Brown was also dead. He died trying to rescue his two sisters from their burning slum tenement.

    U-559's soaked Enigma machine turned out to be an even-more astounding recovery than anyone could have known. It contained the keys to the major German U-boat codes "Shark and Triton" - codes that Bletchley Park had not been able to decipher. Once Bletchley Park realized that the weather signals could be decoded with a four-rotor Enigma with the fourth wheel set on "A" (thus running in the Enigma equivalent of "idle"), they could reverse-engineer the wiring of the fourth wheel. THIS was the REAL achievement of the three valiant Englishmen.

    No informed person disagrees: The heroism of Fasson, Grazier and Brown shortened the war. Without their sacrifice, "Shark" would not have been broken until much later, if at all. Because it was broken, the Allies were able to establish naval supremacy in the Atlantic much sooner. Naval supremacy meant an earlier D-Day. An earlier Normandy invasion meant the cost of human lives would be less terrible.

    Near the time of the Normandy invasion, the Allies made one more important capture of a U-boat Enigma machine: U-505. It was an American mission.
  3. Sadsac

    Sadsac Senior Member

    PETER, many thanks for prompt & informative reply.
    Now I am going to search for FULL info on Lt Fasson & AB Grazier.
    such as the text of the Gazetting of the awards, pic of U 559 / captain etc
    Will post such as I have on U 559 shortly.

    Again Ta ever so Sadsac
  4. Sadsac

    Sadsac Senior Member

    PETER, following on from your input here is my file on U 559 ;

    U 559
    Type: VII.C, ocean-going.
    Constructor: Blohm und Voss, Hamburg.
    Armament: 14 Torpedoes, 1 x 88mm, 1 x 20mm.
    Commissioned: 27.2.41. Operational: June, 1941.
    Service Life: 20. Operational Life: 16. Patrols: 10.
    Theatres: Atlantic, Mediterranean. Sank HMAS Parramatta (DD) on
    27.11.41, escorting c/v to Tobruk; 4 m/vs (11,781 grt) and damaged 1
    (5,917 grt). On 19.8.41 attacked by 3 British destroyers, with 180
    DC's. Departed: 29.9.42, Messina; for East Mediterranean.
    Last Action: 30.10.42, 29.U-Flotille, sunk by Wellesley N/47 Sqd.
    RAF, based at Landing Ground 87, Egypt, HMS Pakenham (DD Capt E.K.B.
    Stevens), HMS Dulverton (DD L.Cdr W.N. Petch), HMS Hurworth (DD Lt
    D.A. Shaw), HMS Hero (DD L.Cdr W. Scott) and HMS Petard (DD L.Cdr
    P.C. Egan), with 288 DC's, at 32.30N 33.00E, near Port Said, Egypt.
    A boarding party from HMS Petard swam across and code books were
    recovered, which enabled the decryption of the German `Shark' Enigma
    code. The first two to board, who had swum across were Lt.A. Fasson
    (the 1st Lt.) and Able Seaman C. Grazier, but after recovering the
    documents went down with the craft, both were posthumously awarded
    the George Cross.
    8 crewmen were lost, the Commander and 37 others were made POW.
    Commander: KL H. Heidtmann 02.41-10.42.
    M/V attacked/damaged/sunk : Alva(S), Shuntien(S), Warszawa(D),
    Athene(S), Brambleleaf(S), (Heidtmann).

  5. Peter Clare

    Peter Clare Very Senior Member

    PETER, many thanks for prompt & informative reply.
    Now I am going to search for FULL info on Lt Fasson & AB Grazier.
    such as the text of the Gazetting of the awards, pic of U 559 / captain etc
    Will post such as I have on U 559 shortly.

    Again Ta ever so Sadsac

    Hi Sadsac.

    Look forward to your reply

  6. James S

    James S Very Senior Member

    Sadsac, see "Seizing The Enigma" by David Kahn (Souvenir Press) and "Enigma -The Battle for The Codes" Hugh Sebag- Montefiore ( Phoenix).

    From Kahn's book U-559 damaged and sinking.
    Anthony Fasson ( Bearded)

    From Montefiore's , Mark Thornton commander of HMS Petard , he was removed from his command following his shooting of a number of Italian Submariners who had surrendered when the submarine Uarscieck was captured by Petard in December 42.
    Thornton's behaviour had become erratic and his treatment of his own crew was giving cause for concern , the shooting of the Italians proved to be the last straw.

    The rating is Ken Lacroix the only British seaman to have entered U-559 and come out alive.

    Heidtmann of 559 , a poor quality photo.
    (Knight's Crioss Holders of The U-Boat Arm - Kurowski ( Schiffers) ).

    It is possible that the Royal Navy later dived on the wreck to retrieve further items from it.


    (See post 4).

    Attached Files:

  7. Sadsac

    Sadsac Senior Member

    JAMES, many thanks for info. Will see if book is easily obtainable.

    Any one any idea of a memorial to those lost during the recovery of the Engima ?? I remember seeing `just a plaque' on the wall at Bletchley many years ago. Has it been improved upon ?? The then (circa 1999) Director was `going to do something' !

  8. James S

    James S Very Senior Member

    No idea Sadsac , but you have to think the two men are deserving of something.
    I would apologise if it seemed I was trying to undermine your own desire to lok out info on the two men but I thought the write up and photos of two of those who boarded U-559 might have been of interest also that she may have been dived on.

    To be honest I wish that the remains of the men could be recovered and given a decent burial at home , it is the least they deserve.
    ( Although to be honest this is not going to happen).

    Both books are a good read - not all the enigma breakthroughs came from Submarines - some major material finds from simple weather ships, converted trawlers.

    Montefiore does mention that the Germans made counter intellignece captures in 41 ( Crete). which should have alerted them to something being badly astray - times dates locations of German landings and intentions which would indicate that their codes sytem had been compromised , the penny failed to drop and if the naval aspect had been considered in the same light it would have been hard to deny.
    (The failure to intercept convoys , the sinking of supply ships. Donitz did suspect.)

    Perhaps this ranks alongside the torpedo crisis as something which perhaps should not have been ?

    (Hindsight and certainty is again a wonderful thing).
  9. Smudger Jnr

    Smudger Jnr Our Man in Berlin

    I believe it was Dived on by the RN and the Diver reported that there was two bodies inside.

    As all the crew evacuated the bodies must have been the two RN officers who failed to escape when it went under.

  10. kevin mears

    kevin mears Member

    This is of passing interest to me because I once knew an RN Veteran who served on Bluebell and then Petard. This story is purely anecdotal but as he related it to me, the U-Boat was too deep for the depth charges and so this chap had the idea of putting soap into the pressure detonator (barostatic fuse?) thereby ensuring that as the soap dissolved slowly the depth charge could descend further before detonation. Have no idea how true this all is but thought you might find it of interest.


    Kevin Mears
  11. James S

    James S Very Senior Member

    Kevin , one way to try and get round a problem .

    Thanks for the additional info Tom , how could money pay you for doing that and its no secret the money was not very good .
  12. Sadsac

    Sadsac Senior Member

    PETER / JAMES / KEVIN, thanks.

    JAMES ; no need for apologies, ALL info is of interest. Re Ken Lacroix, please see input by PETER (for'ard of yours), he writes that the `other' to be at U 559 is TOMMY BROWN !! If you two `get at it' will the sound of drawn CUTLASS' be heard - GO TO IT !!!

    PETER ; see message to JAMES - `ave at `Im Sir'. Be interesting to see the outcome. Could it be you are BOTH correct ??

    KEVIN ; great story, could well have been as you write. Wonder if it got past `up the chain of command ? I have similar story re KONTANIS (spelling ?) Greek Sub and UJ 2210. Will post it when time permits.

    HIIIISSSSSSS - sound of Cutlass being drawn !!!!

    Regards to ALL, Sadsac
  13. James S

    James S Very Senior Member

    If you two `get at it' will the sound of drawn CUTLASS' be heard - GO TO IT !!!

    I don't think so.:)
  14. Sadsac

    Sadsac Senior Member

    James - OK - but still no thoughts who is correct re the two different names that attended the securing of the Rnigma Machine. Was it Lacroix or Brown, or both ???

  15. beeza

    beeza Senior Member

    From a new member who has just noted the above posts. Can I point out that ENIGMA had been broken long before material from the U-559 was captured. The first
    broken traffic was of the old 3 wheel code system and the material found on U-559 was of the new 4 wheel system, which initially, was a lot harder to decypher.
    The 3 wheel system was originally broken by Polish codebreakers in 1938 who fled
    to Paris after war broke out in 1939. In early 1940 the first war time messages were broken but this was after a delay of 2 months. Not until April 1940 were messages broken within 24 hours of the receipt of enigma messages. In June 1941 naval messages were able to be read, this after the capture of Lauenburg, a German
    weather ship.
    It would seem that from capture of German weather ships, material from U110 also helped in the reading of the Enigma code.
    A good read on this subject can be found in the book "ENIGMA' by Hugh Sebag-Montefiore.
    James S likes this.
  16. geoff501

    geoff501 Achtung Feind hört mit

    James - OK - but still no thoughts who is correct re the two different names that attended the securing of the Rnigma Machine. Was it Lacroix or Brown, or both ???


    I think Lacroix remained in the whaler and took the material on board, Brown entered the conning tower, several times and handed the material from Lt. Fasson and AB Grazier to the whaler.

    There is a post on a memorial to Lt Fasson here on the Scottish War Memorials website here:

    The Scottish War Memorials Project :: View topic - LT F A B FASSON GC, Bedrule Church

    There are a few more memorials to these men, on that site somewhere.
    (I may have posted this before, but just seen this thread today)
  17. geoff501

    geoff501 Achtung Feind hört mit

  18. geoff501

    geoff501 Achtung Feind hört mit

    .....The 3 wheel system was originally broken by Polish codebreakers in 1938 who fled to Paris after war broke out in 1939.

    December 1932/January 1933. Complete machine wiring recovered mathematically by Marian Rejewski.
  19. roscoe

    roscoe Banned

    All true but there's a side story to this. The signals operator on U559 had written poetry to his girlfriend and when he realised that his boat was sinking he opened the safe and took out his book. Had he not done this they would not have been able to open the safe in time to get the code books.

    The U559 incident occured at the same time that other technical breakthroughs had been made. The 10 cm RADAR was being fitted to convoy escorts as was the HF DF (Huff Duff) The U-Boats were getting found and sunk more and more often.

    If you think about it the fourth rotor would only move after 17576 key presses, very few U-boat messages were this long. It was of course the initial rotor rotation that was important and remember that it passes through each rotor twice. Once you knew which rotor was in the fourth position decyphering the code was easy, it very rarely moved.

    9 U-boats were lost during 1939.

    24 during 1940

    35 during 1941

    86 during 1942

    243 during 1943

    249 during 1944

    145 during 1945.

    I lecture on the Enigma and Ultra for the British Legion charity. I have my own Enigma Machine.
  20. roscoe

    roscoe Banned

    At the start of the Polish invasion the Germans introduced two more rotors (that's five to go into three positions changed on a daily basis) The Polish were blind from that day onwards. It wasn't broken again until BP did it.

    I am a naval artist and have started recently a whole series on the plight of the convoys during WWII. I believe that it is story that is not told enough. I paint not just the ships but the men on the ships too.

    The whole thing was a bloody affair. It was OK when you had the enemy in sight and was able to fire back but these people were constantly in danger and literally minutes from death 24/7. The only respite was when the weather was too rough.

    The men on the convoys were the bravest of the brave in my opinion.
    Roy Martin likes this.

Share This Page