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LT F A B FASSON GC, Bedrule Church

 
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DerekR
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 14, 2007 7:10 pm    Post subject: LT F A B FASSON GC, Bedrule Church Reply with quote

UKNIWM Ref: 44195
OS Map Ref; NT599179

This plaque within Bedrule Parish Church commemorates one of the most important actions of the entire Second World War and remembers one of the principal characters in it:

IN LOVING MEMORY OF
FRANCIS ANTHONY BLAIR FASSON
LIEUTENANT, G.C. R.N.

KILLED IN ACTION
IN AN ENEMY SUBMARINE
IN THE MEDITERRANEAN
30TH OCTOBER 1942

"BE STRONG AND OF A GOOD COURAGE FOR THE LORD
THY GOD IS WITH THEE WHITHERSOEVER THOU GOEST"



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Last edited by DerekR on Wed Mar 14, 2007 7:19 pm; edited 1 time in total
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DerekR
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 14, 2007 7:11 pm    Post subject: GeorgeCross Reply with quote


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DerekR
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 14, 2007 7:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

This narrative of the action in which Lt.Fasson lost his life is listed on the UKNIWM under Ref No. 44196


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DerekR
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 14, 2007 9:34 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote



Son of Capt. Francis Hamilton Fasson, Scottish Horse, and Lilias Clara Fasson, of Lanton, Roxburghshire.
Born 17th July 1913.

Ineligible for the Victoria Cross since the action did not take place under enemy fire, Fasson was posthumously awarded the George Cross.
The London Gazette: 14th September 1943


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geoff501



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PostPosted: Fri Mar 16, 2007 6:06 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

On 30 October 1942 A Sunderland seaplane operating in the Eastern Mediterranean reported the position of a U-boat off Haifa. HMS Petard, sailing towards Haifa, was ordered to the boat's suspected position. Three other destroyers, Pakenham, Dulverton and Hurworth joined in the search. Asdic contact was made shortly after midday, Petard attacked first, dropping five depth charges at 12:57. Dulverton then joined in the attack, this continued for several hours. Although oil was sighted and escaping air heard there was no sign of the sub. Eventually contact was lost. It was suspected the U-boat was silent below 500 feet, beyond the fuze range of the depth charges. Permission was sought to block up the depth fuzes with soap to increase their working range, Petard fired off ten soaped up charges at 6:42. This caused the sub to move, contact was regained and the attack continued. At 10:42 the sub finally surfaced in the darkness and was soon under the destroyers searchlights. By that time a total of 288 depth charges had been fired at the sub. Gunfire soon fell on the U-boat but is was clear she was being abandoned and a cease fire order was given. Lt. Fasson started lowering the starboard boat. Petard's commander (Lt. Cmd. Mark Thornton DSC) ordered Sub. Lt. G. Gordon Connell to make his way to the U-boat. He was joined by Able Seaman Colin Grazier who had stripped off to enter the water. Lt. Fasson then apeared and ordered Connell to stay in the whaler and take it towards the U-boat. The other two swam towards the sub, by then joined by 15 year old Tommy Brown, a canteen assistant. When the men reached the boat, they found lights still on and two bodies inside. Water was pouring into the conning tower from shell holes in the plates. Fasson and Grazier climbed into the control room and made towards the captain's quarters. Breaking into cabinets, they retrieved some papers and a wooden case fixed to a wall. These were passed along to Brown who was inside the tower. He made his way up the ladder and handed the material to the whaler which was now alongside. Brown went down again to bring up more documents. On the third trip the men were ordered out, Brown shouted to them to come up. They had just started out when the submarine swiftly sank. Fasson and Grazier had not been able to overcome the inrush of water.
On 1st February 1942, the German Navy had added a fourth rotor to the Enigma machine. Bletchley Park codebreakers were unable to read the new U-boat ciphers. From January to December, 239 Allied ships in convoys had been sunk by U-boat and a further 840 independently sailed sinkings. Although the wiring of the fourth rotor had been recovered by Bletchley the previous year when it had been used in error, they were unable to break into the new codes, there were just too many variables.
The material captured from the U-boat included the short weather code book 'Wetterkurzschluessel' and 'Kurzsignalheft', a short signal codebook. These two books contained codes for reporting weather, ship sightings and position reports, before being enciphered with the Enigma machine. These short signals were used to minimise direction finding bearings being taken on long radio transmissions from U-boats. These documents arrived at Bletchley Park on 24 November. On Sunday 13 December, the cryptanalysts in Hut 8 broke back into the naval codes. A telephone call to the Submarine Tracking room reported the position of over 12 U-boats. Convoys could be re-routed past these. Ship sinkings halved in January and February 1943. This U-boat key (Shark) continued to be read until the end of the war in Europe.

Fasson and Grazier, a native of Tamworth, Staffordshire, both received posthumously The George Cross and Brown received The George Medal for their actions that day. When it was discovered he was underage, Brown was sent home. He died two years later while attempting to rescue his younger sister from their burning home.

Most of the above is taken from Siezing The Enigma by David Kahn.

In the early 1970s, Connell was on a touring holiday in the Scottisb borders. Out walking, he climbed a bank to get a better view. There he noticed a war memorial with Lt. Fasson's name on it. Dangling from Connell's neck were the Zeiss binoculars he had captured. He decided to write a book about Petard's first commission:
CONNELL, G G. Fighting Destroyer: Story of HMS Petard, 1974
Now out of print but may be available second hand. A second book was recently published, authored by another crew member who was on the destroyer's second commission. I've not read that one.

Kahn writes of Fasson:

"Thornton's first Lieutenant was Anthony Fasson, a Scot from the border country. An experienced career officer, he exerted a firm discipline on his subordinates but also mixed easily with them. The ratings rarely took umbrage at his punishments; the junior officers found him a genial companion; those who fell short of the captain's difficult standards found Fasson understanding. And Thornton considered him an exceptionally fine leader."

The final word is by Author and Naval Historian Ralph Erskine:

"The Wetterkurzschlüssel and Kurzsignalheft were retrieved from U-559 by Lieutenant Anthony Fasson, Able Seaman Colin Grazier (both were posthumously awarded the George Cross - Britain's second highest award for gallantry) and 16 year-old Tommy Brown (who survived to receive the George Medal). Without their bravery, Shark would not have been broken before four-rotor bombes came into service, if at all. The Allies (Britain, Canada and the United States) would not then have established naval supremacy in the Atlantic until the second half of 1943 at the earliest, which would have probably delayed the D-Day Normandy landings until 1945. Few acts of courage by three individuals can ever have had so far-reaching consequences. Without Ultra, the U-boats would still have been defeated in the long run, but the cost in human life in the global conflict would have been even more terrible than it was."
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Adam Brown
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PostPosted: Fri Mar 16, 2007 6:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm pretty sure Lt Fasson George Cross is also commemorated on the Jedburgh War Memorial.

The Scottish National Museums hold an Enigma machine. It was on public display a few years ago when the film Enigma was out but I think it is in storage now.

Adam


Last edited by Adam Brown on Sun Mar 18, 2007 11:42 am; edited 1 time in total
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DerekR
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PostPosted: Fri Mar 16, 2007 6:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Geoff,
Thank you for adding a fine narrative to the thread.
I really think that Lt.Fasson is still an obscure figure in Scottish Border history but hopefully we are on the way to correcting this.
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geoff501



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PostPosted: Sun Mar 18, 2007 5:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
I'm pretty sure Lt Fasson George Cross is also commemorated on the Jedburgh War Memorial.

The Scottish National Museums hold an Enigma machine. It was on public display a few years ago when the film Enigma was out but I think it is in storage now.


Perhaps this is the memorial that Connell mentioned?

I hope they put it back on display sometime, there are probably not any others on display in Scotland.
I won't comment on the film Sad

Quote:
I really think that Lt.Fasson is still an obscure figure in Scottish Border history but hopefully we are on the way to correcting this.


I sincerely hope so.

A couple of related links I've found. From The Guardian:


http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk_news/story/0,3604,270729,00.html#article_continue

And something on the Grazier memorial. Click the thumbnails for larger images of the memorial and plaque:

http://www.alanwiseman.co.uk/General/Grazier.htm
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DerekR
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PostPosted: Sat Mar 24, 2007 8:01 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

See also: Fasson Jedburgh British Legion Plaque
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DerekR
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 17, 2007 12:58 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

There is a new book out January 2008, relating to this.
"The Real Enigma Heroes" by Phil Shanahan.
A write up in a weekend paper mentions that the Lt. Fasson was the son of a Scottish Rugby International.
A surviving sister is mentioned, Sheena d'Anyers-Willis.
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DerekR
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PostPosted: Sat Jun 14, 2008 4:01 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Fasson is also remembered in the Episcopal church in Jedburgh:

http://warmemscot.s4.bizhat.com/viewtopic.php?t=3301
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