b. 17/07/1913 Lanton, Scotland. d. 30/10/1942 Mediterranean Sea.
DATE AND PLACE OF GC ACTION: 30/10/1942 Mediterranean Sea.
Francis Anthony Blair “Tony” Fasson (1913-1942) was born on 17th July 1913 in Lanton, Scotland, the 2nd son of Captain Francis Hamilton Fasson, Scottish Horse and Lilias Clara Bruce Fasson (nee Blair), of Lanton Tower, Roxburghshire. He had an older brother James who, as Lieutenant Colonel of Lanarkshire Yeomanry, was captured in Singapore and held as a Japanese POW in Formosa. Tony, as he was known, also had a sister, Sheena, who was a VAD and a leading WRNS. Their father was a local Justice of the Peace and Head of the Red Cross in the Home Guard.
Tony attended Stubbington Preparatory School until 1926, when at the age of 13, he entered the Royal Naval College, Dartmouth. As a talented sportsman, he played rugby for the United Services and for the Navy – his father had played for Scotland. After Dartmouth, he joined the Fleet Air Arm until his near-death crash in 1934 in a Flying Swordfish when ditching into a ploughed field where he was saved by a local ploughman from being strangled as the wires tangled around his neck. After a spell of recuperation, he returned to the Navy and at the 1st Battle of Narvik in 1940 was mentioned in despatches and from then onwards he was posted to many ships. While on one off the coast of Malta, when he was a Gunnery Officer, he saved the lives of two Maltese stewards trapped in the engine room. He was promoted, becoming the first 1st Lieutenant of HMS Petard in 1942. The ship came into service in June 1942.
During this year, he was selected to command his own destroyer but this was countermanded by the Captain of HMS Petard, Mark Thornton, who stated “we could not afford to let him go”. On 30th October 1942, in the Mediterranean, when U-559 was forced to surface by depth charges, she was immediately fired on by destroyers, whereupon her crew abandoned ship. Allied naval commanders had been briefed about the importance of recovering documents and code machines from enemy submarines and knew not to sink them at all possible. Fasson and Able Seaman Colin Grazier volunteered to swim to the sub to see what could be retrieved and dived into the water, shortly followed by Thomas Brown, who was just 16 years old. Fully aware of their perilous situation, they made their way to the U-Boat’s control room and bundled up all the documents they could see. After finding an Enigma machine bolted to the bulkhead, Fasson managed to free it. This was all passed up to Brown and transferred to a whaler, which Sub Lieutenant Connell had brought alongside. The U-559 then suddenly sank, taking Fasson and Grazier with it. Brown only just managed to escape.
Fasson was recommended by the Admiral of the Fleet, Sir A.B. Cunningham for the Victoria Cross but he was deemed ineligible as firing had ceased before he reached the U-Boat. It was also discussed that Fasson and Grazier only be recommended for a mentioned in despatches, but eventually it was announced in the London Gazette on 14th September 1943, that both men receive posthumous GCs. Thomas Brown was awarded the George Medal (he sadly died in a house fire a few years later). Fasson’s GC was presented to his parents and sister at Buckingham Palace by King George VI on 20th February 1943.
Fasson’s body was lost at sea following the incident so he has no known grave. He is commemorated on the Portsmouth Naval Memorial. His medals including his GC, 1939-45 Star, Atlantic Star, Africa Star, and War Medal 1939-45 with Mentioned in Despatches oak leaf were presented to the National War Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh Castle in 1993 by his sister, Sheena, where they are currently displayed.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: NATIONAL WAR MUSEUM OF SCOTLAND, EDINBURGH.
BURIAL PLACE: LOST AT SEA.
Thomas Stewart – Images of Fasson GC on the Portsmouth Naval Memorial, and of the Fasson GC Medal Group.