Posts Tagged ‘Lost’

Has a lost Nazi ghost train carrying gold finally been found? Two treasure hunters think so

August 19th, 2015

It is believed that towards the end of the war, as the Red Army closed in on the city of Wroclaw, Nazis loaded a train with gold and other treasure and sent it south west.

“Lawyers, the army, the police and the fire brigade are dealing with this,” Marika Tokarska, an official at the Walbrzych district council, told Reuters.

“The area has never been excavated before and we don’t know what we might find.”

Workers Inspects Gold Bars Taken From Jews By The Nazi's And Stashed In The Heilbron Salt Mines

According to local legend, the train vanished after heading into mountains straddling the current Polish-Czech border.

“In the region we actually two gold train stories,” Joanna Lamparska, a local historian, told Radio Wroclaw.

“One is supposed to be under a mountain and the other somewhere around Walbrzych.

“But no one has ever seen documentary evidence confirming the existence of such trains.”

Other historians point out that the Nazis dug miles of tunnels in the south-west mountains of what is now Poland in one of the biggest construction projects in the history of the Third Reich.

The reason for the tunnels remain shrouded in mystery, and some believers in the ghost train argue the Germans may have excavated secret railway stashes and hidden the loot in one of them for safe keeping.

The value of its cargo may also explain the lack of documentation of the train as the Germans could have put secrecy before paperwork, they say.

A US soldier inspects thousands of gold wedding bands taken from jews by the Nazi's and stashed in the Heilbron Salt Mines

How the gold came into the Nazis’ posession also remains unclear. It has been suggested the treasure is linked to the Nazis’ monumental wartime looting spree, which stripped museums and private houses of their artworks.

Walbrzych local government has refused to comment on the matter other than to ask the claimants to come forward and give the location of the apparent find as it may have been boobytrapped with mines.

Taduesz Slowikowski, a treasure hunter who has searched for the missing train, said he was sceptical that the alleged find in southern Poland would still contain the treasure.

“They may have found the train, but not the gold,” he told Radio Zet, a Polish national radio station.

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Was Russian gold worth millions lost in the Clyde?

April 14th, 2015

Such a veil of secrecy existed over the whole operation it is not known if it was ever recovered.

In fact, the incident has only come to light at all thanks to a secret diary kept by one of the Ulster Queen’s engineers, and now revealed by his daughter for the first time in a new book.

Leonard H. Thomas from edinburgh who sailed on the Arctic convoys during the second world war pictured in 1941 (Cenral Scotland News Agency)

Edinburgh man Leonard H Thomas served on the Ulster Queen on four convoys to and from Murmansk and Archangel in Russia’s extreme northwest.

Thomas had got into the habit of keeping copious notes and sketches during his pre-war role as a crewman on the research ship RRS Discovery II in the Southern Ocean.

He had joined the Discovery as a 17 year old in his native Portsmouth.

He continued his writings on the Convoys – but aware that should any of his diaries be discovered he would be in serious trouble – he wrote in code and secreted them well.

Before he died in 2000, aged 88, he transcribed some of them into four A4 journals, which his daughter, Leona Thomas, has now edited into a book.

Leona, 61, a retired school teacher, said: “The story about the Russian bullion is fascinating. It must be documented somewhere, but I have never been able to find out what happened afterwards.”

According to her father’s notes, there had been “a peculiar silence all through the ship” as she was loaded in Russia. No-one was allowed on deck, no-one was allowed along the alleyways for’ard of the engine room, and no-one off the mess decks unless they were on watch.

The reasons soon became clear.

Thomas recorded: “No scuttles [were] allowed to be opened, but someone got a gleek out and saw mighty big steam locomotives smothered in soldiers, up and down the cleared area of the track, hundreds of them, all with rifles and many with Tommy guns

“Our guards lined the deck, we later heard, either side of a small derrick which handled the paravanes [mine detectors]. A huge, dark wagon was coaxed, nudged, and jogged until the derrick’s fall was hanging vertically and a rope net was placed on the ground.

“Officers approached the wagon and examined locks and bolts [with] armed troops literally surrounding it. Then began the laborious manual exercise of [unloading] what looked like ammunition boxes, which required two men to lift.

“Surely this wasn’t small arms ammunition! Not with our own guards and hundreds of troops watching it loaded into us. It certainly was not. It was bullion!

“Two boxes were enough to load the sling and up they went, deposited on our deck, from where each one was slid and lowered down into the ‘B Gun’ magazine, never out of sight of at least one officer.

“This was the arrangement so that the millions could be spent in the USA to arm the Russians.”

“Then into the Wardroom [went the] harassed officials, who, we heard, lashed into the whisky ‘as if it were free’! Probably, with all that off their hands, they could afford to.”

Once back in the Clyde, after “a fast run down the Minches”, calamity was to come, however.

Thomas wrote: “It was very late when we saw the welcoming but shaded lights of the Boom Control vessels, hauling left and right to usher us through the widening but regulated aperture, and suddenly the serenity of approaching a hallowed anchorage and being met by a small but important armada and a lighter.

The Ulster Queen in 1942 when it employed as an Irish sea ferry (Central Scotland News Agency)

“For the next hour it was cloak-and-dagger stuff again, no-one allowed on the upper deck for’ard of the Wardroom or on the working alleyways. We heard that troops and all sorts were organised to receive the bullion from where it had been man-handled onto the upper deck.

“The paravane derrick was reeved [threaded] and a wire was taken with snatch blocks to a winch.

“The first two boxes were slung with a hemp rope-sling.

“In the shaded lights were many officials, officers, men in good suits, bayonets, torches, clipboards, tarpaulins, surreptitious smokers, but nary an onlooker.

“Our Captain anxiously peered over the port wing of the bridge, his nose barely over the canvas dodger, to observe the last rites of the Russian bullion.

“And then it happened. The first boxes, two in number, were being hauled toward the lighter, and who knows what happened, but one slipped and fell with a resounding thump and a splash into the Clyde.

“I was told on good authority that it was nothing so much as resembling a H. M. Bateman cartoon. Needless to say, all were to blame according to what was imparted as a result of this shocking affair.

“The rest was capably transferred to a lighter, various bits of paper signed, exchanged, and pocketed, and a tug chuffed up to pull the lighter clear.”

Written in the diaries left for Leona, her father said: “I was thankful to keep all these years, the actual daily scroll of some of the harrowing times I found myself in, especially the runs in the arctic waters so fraught with danger, both man-made and that of nature.”

Leona said of the gold: “Who knows, it may still be there.”

Through Ice and Fire: A Russian Arctic Convoy Diary 1942, is published by Fonthill Media

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World War Two hero’s wedding ring returned 70 years after it was lost

March 13th, 2015

The ring was presented to one of his surviving relatives, his 92-year-old sister, Dorothy Webster, along with a fuel gauge from the bomber and a rock from the mountain into which it crashed.

The inside of the gold ring is inscribed with the names John and Joyce – Flt Sgt Thompson had married a Londoner called Joyce Mozley in June 1944, before being sent off on active service. She remarried after the war but died in 1995.

His Halifax, part of 148 Squadron, crashed about 25 miles north of Tirana, the Albanian capital, while delivering weapons and other supplies to Albanian partisans fighting the Nazis.

In 1960 a local man, Jaho Cala, found the ring while out collecting wood in the mountains.

Nervous about informing the Communist authorities of the Hoxha regime, he took it home and kept it hidden for decades.

He later revealed its existence to his son, Xhemil Cala, instructing him to try to find out who it belonged to.

His son, who became a police officer, wore the ring for years and made several attempts to find out who it belonged to, but without success.

Two years ago he contacted the British and American embassies in Tirana, guessing that it may have belonged to an Allied airman flying missions over Albania.

In October, a team of British and US officials located the remains of the aircraft on the sides of a 6,000ft high mountain.

The British embassy were eventually able to confirm that the ring belonged to Sgt Thompson, who came from Darley Dale in Derbs. The embassy contacted his family and the relatives of the six other RAF crew members.

“Seventy years we’ve waited. We can’t believe that we’re here today celebrating this after all this time,” Mrs Webster, who was a year younger than her brother, told The Associated Press. “My father would have been thrilled to pieces with it all.”

She said she was “overwhelmed” to receive the ring and other items and that she still remembered her brother “very well, as if it were yesterday.”

She was accompanied by four of his nephews and other family members at a ceremony at the Albanian defence ministry in Tirana.

“Your brother helped to liberate my country. He will never be forgotten,” Mimi Kodheli, the defence minister, told her.

“All these years it has been a story of loss,” said one of her sons, Alan Webster. “We now know almost everything that happened. It’s a sense of closure. We know where John is. He’s over there in the mountain.”

His brother, Brian Webster, said: “Our grandfather and grandmother never locked the house in Matlock – (they were) waiting for their missing son.”

Another relative, Philip Thompson, said the family had struggled to obtain information from the War Office about Sgt Thompson’s fate “because he was part of a secret operation in Albania.”or a long time the family believed that he had crashed in Poland.

Presenting the ring, Xhemil Cala said he was relieved to have fulfilled his father’s wish that it be returned to the airman’s family. “I will go to his grave and say rest in peace for your dying wish has been fulfilled,” he said.

Arthur Gilbert, 91, a childhood friend of the RAF flight engineer, told the Matlock Mercury last year: “He was a cheery little lad and he came from a big family. It was very sad to hear that he had never returned from the war.”

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Lost war tales of Tarrant’s father

May 25th, 2014

Chris Tarrant fondly remembers his late father as his “closest friend”, but the television host has revealed he wishes he had spoken more with him about the Second World War.

The 67-year-old has written an account of his father Basil’s war diary, recounting stories including how the decorated Army officer won the Military Cross for leading a night patrol of 16 men on the German-Dutch border which overcame 60 enemy soldiers.

In a newspaper interview Tarrant said he could talk to his father about “anything”, but “the only thing that was taboo was the war”.

He said: “It was a generational thing. The ones like Dad, who had been in the thick of the fighting, rarely said a word about it.

“From childhood, I knew better than to ask. After he died, I realised I barely knew him at all.” Tarrant said he regrets not taking his father up on an offer of visiting Juno Beach on the 50th anniversary of D-Day for a television programme.

“Dad was proposing, for the first and only time, to talk about his war experiences and I rejected it.”

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