Turning the pages of world war history will lead us to walk over the reminiscences of a plethora of ancient, glorious yet explicitly covert operations or missions which, have been undertaken for shielding national interests. Such an amazing remnant of history was the remarkable 'Operation Fish' conducted by the then UK's Prime Minister, Sir Winston Churchill in 1940. Being tagged as one of the 'Top Secrets', this is gloriously known to be the game-turning plan by Churchill in restoring the nation's treasure and largest physical wealth transfer from-nation-to-nation so far.
As the darkest clouds gathered in the skies of Europe by 1939, considering the defeat of Belgium, Netherlands, and France almost on the verge of capitulation, the chances of the United Kingdom's fall were becoming more clear and louder. Soon after discerning the approaching massacre, Sir Winston Churchill decided to transport the national treasure to Canada, consisting of a precious trove of gold and securities that sums up to a magnanimous amount of 300 billion dollars at the current market value.
The Agenda behind the 'Operation Fish'
'Operation Fish' was backed by the core agenda of preserving the national wealth of United Kingdom and protecting it from the Nazi Army. The plan was if the nation got conquered by the Nazi army, Churchill will utilize the treasure to operate the Commonwealth from Montreal. The gold and securities being transported to Canada will be deployed for funding the war attempts by procuring tanks, planes, guns, ammunition and other required supplies from Canada and USA. Furthermore, the Bank of England was on the mission of running a 'Shadow Bank' with its headquarters in Ottawa. After the Munich Pact signed by the Prime Ministers of Britain and France with Adolf Hitler, the Nazi leader, it started to increase its gold reserves as a measure of precaution in Canada. As the situation worsens, Churchill accelerated the process and fabricated 'Operation Fish'.
How the Operation took Place
During the summers of 1939 and early 1940s, a fleet of ships (HMS Emerald, Southampton, Glasgow) transported towering quantities of gold and securities from England to Canada for protecting UK's national treasure. These ships were being previously tested in the waters an with the war situations more and more aggravating, the Green light was given by the UK government to conduct the 'Operation Fish' which would aid in accelerating the flow of gold and securities from UK to Canada. By deploying the wartime powers, the British government collected all the securities and gold held by the natives and along with the government treasure, transported them in shipments to Canada. The outcome of this remarkable mission was; securities valued over 300 billion dollars (present rate) were being transported to Montreal and more than 1500 tonnes of Gold to Ottawa.
The decision was undeniably not easy and the only possible way to shift the tonnes of gold and securities was by sailing ships across the U-boat invaded North Atlantic. In May 1940, more than 100 ships were being descended by the Nazi troops, which represented around 41% of the total ship capacity and 1 u-boat loss.
During the World War I, Britain had already gone through a bitter experience while conducting a similar sort of mission. At that time, the UK government tried to evacuate their wealth i.e, 43 tonnes of gold to Canada by sailing the SS Laurentic from Liverpool to Halifax, which was descended by a German submarine in 1917. Thus, significant chances of 'Operation Fish' facing a massive upside down were very much prominent and severe.
Under the governance of Churchill, the ships were directed to sail under convoy across the North Atlantic. Boats by the name of HMS Revenge, HMS Resolution, HMS Emerald, HMS Enterprise, the cruiser HMS Bonaventure and 3 converted former passenger liners; the SS Sobieski, Monarch of Bermuda and SS Batory were brought into action for transporting UK's national treasure.
The total amount of wealth was unloaded in the Halifax port and around 300 soldiers were taken to Montreal by train. At the Bonaventure railway station, Montreal, Alexander Craig from Bank of England handed over the total wealth to David Mansur from Bank of Canada, from where the shipment was split into two divisions; one with the securities in Montreal and another with the gold to Ottawa.
In Montreal, the total amount of security deposits that valued around 230 billion dollars (current value) were kept in the three-storied underground vault of the Sun Life Assurance company's building and guarded by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police officers.
Likewise, in Ottawa, 1500 tonnes of gold were stocked in an underground 6000 square foot vault of the Bank of Canada. The Bank hired around 100 retired bankers to organize and count the total amount of gold and securities.
As the historians have stated, the entire mission proved to be a remarkable gamble which, paid a whopping amount of dividends to the UK government indeed. During the operation, around 134 boats were descended by the German troops in the North Atlantic, however, not a single one among them was carrying any amount of gold or securities. It helped the British government to fund the production process of the war machines until the Lend-lease Act was being implemented. On a concluding note, it can be said that; though the operation included thousands of soldiers and officials, it remained to be one of the most successful covert yet noteworthy and decisive interventions of all times.