North Tyneside town square named in honour of teenage WWII war hero

Thomas Brown, from North Shields, has been honoured in his home town.

A 15-year-old Second World War hero has been honoured in his home town of North Shields.

The new town square has been named after Thomas Brown. He was awarded the George Medal for bravery after retrieving codebooks from a sinking German U-boat which went on to crack the Enigma code.

A stone memorial to Thomas, commissioned by his family, has been installed in the square.

The inscription reads: “A memorial to Thomas Brown GM. A North Shields boy who helped shorten World War II by capturing vital Enigma code books from a sinking German U-boat.

“Two of Thomas’ shipmates drowned in the operation carried out from HMS Petard during October 1942 in the Mediterranean."

The other two men, Lieutenant Anthony Fasson and Able Seaman Colin Grazier have memorials in their home towns - and now there is one placed in Thomas's hometown too.

Thomas Brown’s niece Lynn Melville said: “His siblings got his stained glass window installed in the Exchange Theatre in 2002. Now we’re the second generation keeping his story alive.“The Town Square is right at the heart of North Shields so this is a fitting tribute. We’re incredibly proud of Thomas."

Locals were asked to vote on a new name for the square in 2023 - with more than half the votes going to honour Thomas Brown.

Thomas Brown’s nephew Andrew Miller said: “Thomas left home because he wanted away. North Shields was never big enough for him. He’d had quite a tough upbringing and he had a taste for adventure.

“What’s more, when he signed up for the NAAFI he lied about his age, he’d only just turned 15."

Not much is known about why Thomas had jumped from the Petard into the water - according to his family, Thomas just appeared on deck joining the two naval men who swam over to the U-boat.

“The two other men went under the water into the submarine and he stayed above water. They passed the books up to him, making three trips to the surface.

“The submarine was sinking. It went down with the two men inside.

“The papers had to stay dry and Thomas did manage to protect them. He got them back on board the HMS Petard so they could go on to Bletchley Park where they were used to crack the naval Enigma code" Mr Miller said:

Ms Melville added: “No-one in the family talked about it afterwards, they weren’t allowed because of the Official Secrets Act and the 50-year closure period.

“Since that lifted in 1992 we’ve found out bits of detail from his siblings and read lots of historical information. It’s been a case of fitting the pieces together."

The naming ceremony was attended by more than 30 of Thomas Brown’s descendants. Credit: North Tyneside Council

Mayor of North Tyneside Dame Norma Redfearn DBE said: “It’s a real privilege to unveil this memorial and officially name the Town Square after Thomas.

"We hope this helps keep his memory alive for future generations and gives people in North Shields a real sense of pride."Thomas was awarded the George Medal, but died before he could receive it. The medal was presented to his mother by King George VI in 1945.

His medal is now display in the Discovery Museum in Newcastle.

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