Fortune what fortune? In 1940 Churchill’s British government acted to deny Britain’s national wealth to Hitler when the Nazis were on the Channel coast after overwhelming and overrunning France having defeated the combined British and French armies ending in the Dunkirk debacle.
The final phase of a clever, secret operation involving Merchant and Royal Navy ships was put into high gear, their mission was to ship tons of remaining gold bullion and securities to safety in Canada and the United States.
Since 1938 Britain eyeing the war storm clouds prepared to ship its wealth to safety secretly shipping fifty tons in 1939 worth £14 million (approximately USD$2 billion today) to Ottawa’s Bank of Canada on two British cruiser warships while one was providing transport to King George VI and Queen Elizabeth’s on their royal tour of Canada and the United States.
Other secret shipments involving five warships led by an old cruiser named HMS Emerald carried more gold bullion soon other large warships and even converted ocean liners joined in the special convoys because time was short causing limits on carried amounts to be thrown to the winds, the pressure was on culminating when Operation Fish happened in 1940.
On June 24, 1940 the HMS Emerald was again sent to Halifax carrying approximately £30 million million in gold bullion and £200 million negotiable securities all crammed in every nook and cranny onboard the ship.
The gold was hidden in ammo boxes and securities everywhere else including the Captain’s quarters floor on which Bank of England’s chief banker Alexander Craig slept guarding the stuff.
Security was extremely tight in Halifax transferring everything done in secret onto a waiting secure CNR train then shipped on 12 baggage cars to Montreal where the cars with 500 boxes of securities transferred onto trucks and transported to the Sun Life Assurance building in Montreal meanwhile, the rest, 2,230 boxes of bullion mostly sovereign coin, shipped to Bank of Canada.
Total British fortune transfer since 1939 amounted to approximately £470 millions in gold and approximately £1,250 millions in securities (conversion into today’s American dollars multiply by 1.2472).
The securities were stashed in a special underground vault, with thick reinforced concrete walls, three stories beneath the Sun Life Building, guarded secretly around the clock by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police so discreetly that neither the general public nor 5,000 Sun Life employees working in the building ever had a clue so much hidden loot existed under their feet.
Starting in 1929 until 1933 the Sun Life Assurance Company of Canada built the 26-storey classic style, 450-foot high tower depicted in my picture, located on square flanked by Dorchester boulevard, Metcalfe, and Mansfield streets.
The structure once trusted with all Britain’s life savings consists of a steel framework with exterior walls of Stanstead granite backed by brick and faced with terracotta improvements to the building continued until 1999.
This my contribution for WP single word prompt:”FORTUNE”.