British Gold to Canada

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henryk
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British Gold to Canada

Post by henryk » 10 Jul 2021 20:23

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/ottawa/o ... -1.6092275
Go to source for pictures.
How Ottawa seized a golden opportunity to help defeat the Nazis in the Second World War

Top-secret Operation Fish moved billions in British gold to Bank of Canada vault

Alistair Steele · CBC News · Posted: Jul 10, 2021 4:00 AM ET

In June 1940, the Second World War was not going well for Great Britain. More than 300,000 Allied soldiers and sailors had just been rescued in the desperate evacuation from the French port of Dunkirk. The French army soon crumbled, and by mid-month German troops were marching into Paris. The Nazi invasion of Britain seemed both imminent and inevitable.

The newly formed government of Winston Churchill needed a plan to keep the nation's wealth out of Hitler's hands. Some of it had already made its way across the Atlantic, but Britain needed a way to move the rest. Operation Fish was hatched and would soon become the single-largest transfer of material wealth in history at the time — though very few people in Britain or Canada, where billions of dollars worth of gold and securities would be sent for safekeeping, ever caught a whiff.

"[It was] totally in secret. People just never knew about it, and all of those resources were there to prosecute the war in the event of a German invasion of Britain," explained James Powell, an Ottawa historian and retired Bank of Canada executive who has researched and written about the daring wartime operation.

A load of fish'
Powell's telling of the story begins with Sidney Perkins, an employee of the Bank of Canada's Foreign Exchange Control Board. On the morning of July 2, 1940, Perkins left his home on Euclid Avenue in Old Ottawa South and arrived at work to learn he was being sent on a top-secret mission. The stakes were unimaginably high. Later that day, Perkins and David Mansur, the bank's acting secretary, met Alexander Craig from the Bank of England at Bonaventure Station in Montreal. The men shook hands and Craig announced he'd brought them "a load of fish."

In fact, the heavily guarded train that had just arrived from Halifax contained no seafood. Instead, it held a nearly unfathomable amount of wealth in the form of gold and securities — the latter seized from the British public under the Emergency Powers Act. Craig and his "load of fish" had arrived in Halifax the previous morning aboard the light cruiser HMS Emerald following a harrowing seven-day voyage. A relentless gale had forced two destroyers escorting the shipment to turn back, leaving the Emerald and its precious cargo at the mercy of the U-boats that lurked in the North Atlantic. In the month of May alone, more than 100 Allied and neutral ships had been sunk. For Britain, to lose a single vessel loaded to the gunwales with gold and securities would have been disastrous. "To take the gamble and to ship all these resources over was truly a gutsy decision, to say the least," Powell noted.

A desperate decision
Gutsy, but absolutely necessary. Britain needed free access to its own financial assets in order to buy much-needed materiel from the United States, which remained officially neutral at that time and as such was not allowed to extend credit for war supplies. It was strictly cash and carry. For Britain, losing that buying power would likely have meant losing the war.

"Britain isn't moving the equivalent of hundreds of millions in gold because it's an easy thing to do," said Tim Cook, director of research at the Canadian War Museum and author of a dozen books on Canada's military history. "They're forced to do it because it really looks like Britain is going to fall."
The shipment that arrived in Montreal on July 2 was split in two. Five-hundred boxes stuffed with securities then worth an estimated £200 million were taken to the Sun Life Building there, while the gold — some 9,000 bars packed into more than 2,000 bullion boxes, worth a total of £30 million at the time — continued on to Ottawa's Union Station.

Under cover of darkness, armoured cars transported the treasure to the newly built Bank of Canada building on Wellington Street, where men worked in 12-hour shifts carrying crates and bags down to the bank's 60-by-100-foot subterranean vault. "The story that I have heard is that there was so much gold coming in at one point, they were just stuffing it everywhere, in hallways, in the incinerator room, just stuffing it to keep it safe before the accountants could come and look at all the boxes and tally it all up to make sure it was all there," Powell said.

'A cold chill'
That shipment paved the way for more, including a much larger convoy that left Britain just one week later. "Seeing tens of millions in gold piled on the quay gave me a cold chill," Perkins would later remark about one of the subsequent shipments he witnessed being unloaded in Halifax According to the Bank of Canada, some 1,500 tonnes of gold bullion and coins eventually made their way into the vault, where they remained for the duration of the war. Powell estimates the value of all that gold at £470 million, the equivalent of nearly $90 billion Cdn today — making the Bank of Canada's Ottawa vault the largest cache of gold outside Fort Knox. The value of the securities stored and traded by British bankers in Montreal is incalculable, Powell said.

So, too, was the value of Operation Fish to the Allied war effort. "It was a bureaucratic act, but you can imagine if there had been an invasion of Britain, the Germans would have gone after all this gold and securities right away," he said. "If that gold had been seized by the Nazis, who knows what the course of the war would have been?"

Mission remained a secret
Perhaps one of the most astounding aspects of Operation Fish is that while hundreds of Canadians were involved — including bankers, brokers, secretaries, labourers, guards and many others — it remained a secret until after the war. Not a single gold-bearing ship was ever lost, and not a single ingot was ever misplaced "Secrets are very hard to keep in times of war. Only one person talking could have set off a real chain of events here," Cook said.

For Cook, Operation Fish stands as a testament to the "quiet professionalism" of the men and women involved. "This is a story of tremendous courage on the part of many, of bureaucratic planning ... the stuff that doesn't usually get written about in histories, but really one of those key events that allows Britain to keep fighting," he said. "I believe that Canadians should understand this history. It's part of what makes us who we are today."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Alistair Steele
Writer and editor
After spending more than a decade covering Ottawa city hall for CBC, Alistair Steele is now a feature writer and digital copy editor at cbc.ca/ottawa.

EwenS
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Re: British Gold to Canada

Post by EwenS » 11 Jul 2021 12:27

"Britain isn't moving the equivalent of hundreds of millions in gold because it's an easy thing to do," said Tim Cook, director of research at the Canadian War Museum and author of a dozen books on Canada's military history. "They're forced to do it because it really looks like Britain is going to fall."

That is one aspect, but there is another. This is also the period of "Cash & Carry" before Lend Lease. So any war supplies from the US had to be paid for immediately before being put aboard ships for the Atlantic crossing. So it is much more convenient to have the gold etc on the American continent.

Sid Guttridge
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Re: British Gold to Canada

Post by Sid Guttridge » 11 Jul 2021 13:12

If I remember correctly, France had also intended to move its gold reserves to Canada aboard the cruiser Emile Bertin. She completed one delivery successfully but had just docked for a second time in Canada when Petain's new government ordered her to Martinique in late June 1940 for fear the British would seize the delivery. The gold was still there in early 1943 when the French West Indies defected to the Free French.

Cheers,

Sid.

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henryk
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Re: British Gold to Canada

Post by henryk » 11 Jul 2021 19:12

EwenS wrote:
11 Jul 2021 12:27
"Britain isn't moving the equivalent of hundreds of millions in gold because it's an easy thing to do," said Tim Cook, director of research at the Canadian War Museum and author of a dozen books on Canada's military history. "They're forced to do it because it really looks like Britain is going to fall."

That is one aspect, but there is another. This is also the period of "Cash & Carry" before Lend Lease. So any war supplies from the US had to be paid for immediately before being put aboard ships for the Atlantic crossing. So it is much more convenient to have the gold etc on the American continent.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lend-Lease#Cash_and_carry
Cash and carry
In 1939 however – as Germany, Japan, and Italy pursued aggressive, militaristic policies – President Roosevelt wanted more flexibility to help contain Axis aggression. FDR suggested amending the act to allow warring nations to purchase military goods, arms and munitions if they paid cash and bore the risks of transporting the goods on non-American ships, a policy that would favor Britain and France. Initially, this proposal failed, but after Germany invaded Poland in September, Congress passed the Neutrality Act of 1939 ending the munitions embargo on a "cash and carry" basis. The passage of the 1939 amendment to the previous Neutrality Acts marked the beginning of a congressional shift away from isolationism, making a first step toward interventionism.[6]

After the Fall of France during June 1940, the British Commonwealth and Empire were the only forces engaged in war against Germany and Italy, until the Italian invasion of Greece. Britain had been paying for its materiel with gold as part of the "cash and carry" program, as required by the U.S. Neutrality Acts of the 1930s, but by 1941 it had liquidated so many assets that its cash was becoming depleted.[7] The British Expeditionary Force lost 68,000 soldiers during the French campaign, and, following the Dunkirk evacuation in 1940, abandoned much of its military hardware.

During this same period, the U.S. government began to mobilize for total war, instituting the first-ever peacetime draft and a fivefold increase in the defense budget (from $2 billion to $10 billion).[8] In the meantime, Great Britain was running out of liquid currency and asked not to be forced to sell off British assets. On December 7, 1940, its Prime Minister Winston Churchill pressed President Roosevelt in a 15-page letter for American help.[nb 2][9] Sympathetic to the British plight, but hampered by public opinion and the Neutrality Acts, which forbade arms sales on credit or the lending of money to belligerent nations, Roosevelt eventually came up with the idea of "lend–lease". As one Roosevelt biographer has characterized it: "If there was no practical alternative, there was certainly no moral one either. Britain and the Commonwealth were carrying the battle for all civilization, and the overwhelming majority of Americans, led in the late election by their president, wished to help them."[10] As the President himself put it, "There can be no reasoning with incendiary bombs."[11]

In September 1940, during the Battle of Britain the British government sent the Tizard Mission to the United States.[12] The aim of the British Technical and Scientific Mission was to obtain the industrial resources to exploit the military potential of the research and development work completed by the UK up to the beginning of World War II, but that Britain itself could not exploit due to the immediate requirements of war-related production. The British shared technology included the cavity magnetron (key technology at the time for highly effective radar; the American historian James Phinney Baxter III later called "the most valuable cargo ever brought to our shores"),[13][14] the design for the VT fuze, details of Frank Whittle's jet engine and the Frisch–Peierls memorandum describing the feasibility of an atomic bomb.[15] Though these may be considered the most significant, many other items were also transported, including designs for rockets, superchargers, gyroscopic gunsights, submarine detection devices, self-sealing fuel tanks and plastic explosives.

In December 1940, President Roosevelt proclaimed the United States would be the "Arsenal of Democracy" and proposed selling munitions to Britain and Canada.[11] Isolationists were strongly opposed, warning it would result in American involvement with what was considered by most Americans as an essentially European conflict. In time, opinion shifted as increasing numbers of Americans began to consider the advantage of funding the British war against Germany, while staying free of the hostilities themselves.[16] Propaganda showing the devastation of British cities during The Blitz, as well as popular depictions of Germans as savage also rallied public opinion to the Allies, especially after Germany conquered France.
I wonder how much the value of the technology transfer was then , and the future value after WWII?

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