Town pays tribute to a true local hero

Tynemouth MP Alan Campbell by the memorial window. Picture by RusbyMedia
Tynemouth MP Alan Campbell by the memorial window. Picture by RusbyMedia

Hero Thomas Brown has been remembered at an event to mark 75 years since his heroic actions helped shorten the Second World War.

More than 70 people, including many of Thomas’s surviving siblings and family, spent Saturday afternoon at The Exchange, on Howard Street, North Shields, as its Thomas Brown Room and window memorial were rededicated.

Thomas's brother Norman Brown and Thomas's great-nephew, also called Thomas. Picture by RusbyMedia

Thomas's brother Norman Brown and Thomas's great-nephew, also called Thomas. Picture by RusbyMedia

Thomas was just a 16-year-old canteen assistant when, on October 30, 1942, he boarded a sinking U-boat with fellow members of HMS Petard and retrieved Engima codebooks which helped break German codes and shorten the war by around two years.

Thomas was the only one of the three to survive and was given the George Medal for his bravery.

The newly-redecorated room – complete with photographs, news articles and mementoes relating to Thomas and his heroics – was reopened by his younger brother Norman, 89, and his great-nephew Thomas.

Norman said: “It has been a fantastic day. It is so important that the window and the room itself are there as memorials to my brother.

Looking at the exhibition. Picture by RusbyMedia

Looking at the exhibition. Picture by RusbyMedia

“People who come by to The Exchange will be able to read about what he did – people who may not even have known it was there before.

“There are some great photos on the wall and news articles, too. It is as good a memorial to my brother as you could get. It is just a shame he is not here to see it.”

At the event, speakers read war poems and readings and an afternoon tea and the Darling Dollies singers provided 1940s-style entertainment.

The room and window were originally installed at The Exchange in 2002 to honour Thomas, who tragically died in a house fire aged just 19 in 1945.

Thomas Brown's war medals, including the George Medal. Picture by RusbyMedia

Thomas Brown's war medals, including the George Medal. Picture by RusbyMedia

The Exchange building, which until 2015 was a restaurant, was reopened in 2016 and relaunched as a cultural arts venue.

Toby Bridges, chairman of The Exchange, said: “Thomas Brown is a big part of North Shields history and we at The Exchange are so proud to be able to have an exhibition and window memorial to honour his life and what he achieved.

“The event was a result of lots of hard work from our team of staff and volunteers, who should be so proud of what they have achieved.”

Tynemouth MP Alan Campbell, who was at the event, said: “Thomas Brown was a remarkable young man. His story is one of extraordinary courage in retrieving the Enigma codes which helped end the war. This event and the exhibition are an important reminder of him and what he did.”