The Navy, Army and Air Force Institute 90th birthday

The Northern Echo: HERO: Tommy Brown HERO: Tommy Brown

AN appeal has been made to find the family of the youngest ever recipient of the George Medal.

The Navy, Army and Air Force Institute (Naafi), based in Darlington, celebrates its 90th birthday this year.

As part of celebrations planned for later this year in the town, the George Medal won by 16-year-old Tommy Brown, from North Shields, North Tyneside, will be returning to the region.

It is hoped that members of Tommy’s family will be able to attend the celebrations and welcome the medal back to the North-East.

Tommy joined Naafi in 1941 when he was 15 and went on to work as a canteen assistant on board HMS Petard during the Second World War.

In October 1942, despite being a non-combatant and aged only 16, he dived into the waters of the Mediterranean sea to help colleagues Tony Fasson and Colin Grazier retrieve documents from a scuttled German U-boat.

Tommy was the only survivor of the mission, as both Mr Fasson and Mr Grazier died when the submarine sank.

The documents helped British codebreakers crack Germany’s Enigma code and contributed to the Allied victory in the war. For his bravery, Tommy was awarded the George Medal.

However, he received the award posthumously as he died on shore leave while trying to save his 11 brothers and sisters from a house fire in North Shields in 1945.

A stained-glass window was dedicated to Tommy in his home town in 1987.

Reg Curtis, Naafi chief executive officer, said: “We are looking forward to an important year of events to celebrate and commemorate both the heritage of our organisation and the achievements of all those who have served the services over the past 90 years.

“Our 90th anniversary gives us the perfect opportunity to rediscover and recognise some of our most heroic staff over the years, including George Medal recipient Tommy Brown.

“We would like to invite Tommy’s family to join us for a presentation in Darlington, to welcome the medals home to the North-East, to recognise his bravery and commemorate the 550 Naafi staff that have died in service since our formation in 1920.”

Tommy’s brothers, Stanley Brown, from North Shields and David Brown, from Durham, presented the Naafi with his medals in 1985.

They were put on display at the Bletchley Park Museum, in Buckinghamshire, where the British codebreaking operation was based.

If you are related to Tommy Brown or have information about his family, contact Marie O’Connor at Ptarmigan Bell Pottinger on 0113-237-2826 or email marie@ptarmiganpr.

co.uk

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