Posts Tagged ‘gold’

Polish army will be drafted in to settle Nazi gold train mystery

September 1st, 2015

Meanwhile authorities have blocked public access to the site following a suspicious forest fire over the weekend.

At a crisis meeting on Tuesday morning, police, the town council and the local forestry commission agreed to seal off the area.

Police and technicians have now erected signs warning would-be explorers not to trespass in the area.

The embankment by the Wroclaw-Walbrzych main line considered to be the favourite for the train’s location in the town of Walbrzych, southern Poland, was badly scorched along with 219 square yards of forest and bush.

The blaze was only contained when five fire engines were scrambled to the scene after the alarm was raised at around 8pm on Sunday night.

Locals come to take a look at the believed location of the the Nazi 'Gold Train'at Walbrzych

On Friday a Polish official confirmed that an object had been found which may be the fabled Nazi ‘gold train’.

Piotr Zuchowski, head of conservation at Poland’s culture ministry, said his officials had seen radar images of a train discovered by two treasure hunters who had been tipped off to its location by one of the men who hid it.

“A man on his deathbed gave the people looking for the train the information they needed to find it,” he said, describing the find as “unprecedented”.

The Polish culture ministry later said on Tuesday it would no longer comment on the train, saying in a statement that all questions should now be referred to the Dolny Slask authorities.

Both Walbrzych and Dolny Slask authorities have previously said they remain sceptical about the train and had seen no conclusive evidence of its existence.

Since the end of the Second World War rumours of Nazi gold train disappearing without trace have flourished in the town of Walbrzych, in south-west Poland, close to the border with the Czech Republic.

Although the train’s cargo is as yet unknown, Polish officials have confirmed that the two treasure hunters will be in line for a finder’s bounty.

Mr Zuchowski said: “If it is confirmed, the train is carrying valuable items, the finders can expect a 10 per cent finder’s fee, either in the form of a reward from the ministry or from the owners of the property.

“Of course any items of value will be returned to their original owners, assuming we can find them.”

Meanwhile experts have claimed that the apparent discovery of a Nazi train thought to be packed with looted treasures could be the first of many, suggesting just a fraction of Hitler’s vast tunnel complex in the country has so far been discovered.

Walbrzych in western Poland has been gripped by the decades-old mystery of missing Nazi gold trains since officials said on Friday they are ’99 per cent certain’ that a hidden train has been discovered by treasure hunters.

Matt cartoon, 1 September


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Nazi gold train’s existence revealed in deathbed confession

August 28th, 2015

Mr Zuchowski told a press conference on Friday that the dying man was involved the operation to hide the train 70 years ago. The identity of the man, and the two treasure hunters – believed to be a Pole and a German – who claimed the find last week has not been revealed, and remain part of the mystery still surrounding the train.

The minister said he is now “99 per cent” that the train has been found, after seeing photographs of an object taken with ground penetrating radar.

“This is unprecedented. The train is over 100 metres long, and is armoured. We do not what’s inside but its armour indicates it has a special cargo,” said Mr Zuchowski. “There is probably military equipment but also jewellery, works of art and archive documents which we knew existed, but never found.”

And the suggestion that the train carried stolen personal items, rather than solid gold blocks, has sparked a keen interest among specialists in returning looted property to their lawful owners.

“We are still very keen to establish the facts surrounding the content of this train, but certainly the discovery alone is of great interest,” said Mary Kate Cleary, Art Recovery Group’s research and due diligence director.

The entrance to the Riese tunnels where the treasure may have been found

“The Nazis engaged in a systematic campaign to loot works of art and cultural property from public and private collections in Europe with close to 80,000 objects confiscated in Poland alone. If even a fraction of that number can be recovered from this train then we could be witnessing one of the most significant finds in modern history.”

The authorities and the finders have kept the exact location of the train secret, owing to fears that it could be booby trapped and that any explosives on it could have become unstable, and so pose a danger to other treasure hunters who have reportedly descended on Walbrzych in the hope of getting to the train first.

Despite the news blackout on the location Radio Wroclaw, a radio station in southern Poland, claimed the train was located somewhere beside a four-kilometre stretch of the Wroclaw-Walbrzych main line near Walbrzych. This would tie in with one of the original rumours of a gold train, which said the Nazis had parked a locomotive with trucks in a tunnel off the main line and then concealed the entrance.

Although just what the train might have been carrying is still unclear, Mr Zuchowski said the two treasure hunters are in line for some kind of reward for their efforts.

“If it is confirmed, the train is carrying valuable items, the finders can expect a 10 per-cent finder’s fee, either in the form of a reward from the ministry or from the owners of the property,” said the vice minister. “Of course any items of value will be returned to their original owners, assuming we can find them.”

Ms Cleary, the art restitution expert, welcomed the Polish government’s promise of returning the items to their owners. She added that recovery operations of this scale require international cooperation.

“We encourage authorities to make public the details of any artworks, cultural property or archival documents so that we can begin efforts to identify and return them to their rightful owners,” she said.

Archaeologists have said that any excavation process could take months.

The tunnels are thought to be under Ksiaz Castle

Along with the fear of landmines, unstable explosives and booby traps the train could now be buried under tonnes of earth and rock.

Some historians have warned that it might also have been carrying secret supplies of chemical weapons.


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Did a deathbed confession reveal the location of Nazi gold train?: live

August 28th, 2015
  1. A deathbed confession revealed the existence of the train. We don’t know who made that confession.
  2. The train’s location was then pinpointed with ground-penetrating radar.
  3. The train is along a 4km stretch of track on the Wroclaw-Walbrzych line.
  4. The train’s contents are not certain. However, it could contain gold, art, jewellery and documents.

13.42

More from Piotr Zuchowski, the head of conservation.

He also said.

Quote We do not know what is inside the train.

Probably military equipment but also possibly jewellery, works of art and archive documents.

13.36

Piotr Zuchowski, head of conservation at the culture ministry, described the find as “unprecedented”.

Quote The train is 100 metres long and is protected.

The fact that it is armoured indicates it has a special cargo.

Nazi gold train announcement

13.34

Poland’s culture ministry says that whatever is on the train will be returned to the rightful owners, if they can be found.

13.26

13.22

According to Radio Wroclaw, the train is located along a four kilometre stretch of track of the Wroclaw-Walbrzych line near Walbrzych.

13.18

Wow!!

13.14

OK – we have news now from the press briefing.

Matthew Day, our man in Poland, says they have announced that evidence of the existence of the train came from photographs taken using GPR.

What is GPR?

Wikipedia tells me:

Ground-penetrating radar (GPR) is a geophysical method that uses radar pulses to image the subsurface. This nondestructive method uses electromagnetic radiation in the microwave band (UHF/VHF frequencies) of the radio spectrum, and detects the reflected signals from subsurface structures. GPR can have applications in a variety of media, including rock, soil, ice, fresh water, pavements and structures. In the right conditions, practitioners can use GPR to detect subsurface objects, changes in material properties, and voids and cracks.

13.03

While we wait for the details from this press conference, here is a look at Polish tunnels…

12.55

It looks like even this press conference – which we thought was happening at 12.30pm – could be a myth.

We’ll let you know…!

12.48

Some people have speculated that the train could be below Ksi?? Castle in Wa?brzych.

Ksiaz Castle in Walbrzych, Poland

12.46

Legend has it that a train set off from the western city of Wroclaw (then known as Breslau) during the final days of World War II before mysteriously disappearing around Walbrzych (Waldenburg at the time).

Walbrzych officials have said the train was found on city land but are keeping its exact location under wraps – ditto for the identities of the two men.

12.30

We believe the press conference will be held by Piotr Zuchowski, Poland’s head of national heritage.

Yesterday he said:

Quote I’m certain the train exists, but it might contain dangerous materials from World War Two.

12.09

As we wait for the press conference to start, you may like to read this background article on the legend of the train.

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

12.05

There remain so many unanswered questions with this story.

What we are hoping to find out is:

- Does this train exist, and if so has it definitely been found?

- What does it contain?

- What happens next?

An old miner shaft at the Old Mine Science and Art Centre in Walbrzych, Poland

12.01

A press conference is due to be held at 12.30 UK time (1.30pm in Poland) with the latest details.

So to recap:

  1. Poland’s deputy culture minister says he is “convinced” the train exists.
  2. He has warned people not to search for it, because it could be booby trapped or mined.
  3. Experts are warning that the gold could be tooth fillings, rather than pristine gold blocks.
  4. The identity of the two men claiming the 10 per cent fee remains unclear.
  5. The location – or even existence – of the train remains unclear.

12.00

Hello, and welcome to The Telegraph’s live coverage of the possible discovery of a legendary Nazi gold train.

Part of a subterranean system built by Nazi Germany in what is today Gluszyca-Osowka, Poland


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Nazi gold train ‘found’ in Poland: live

August 27th, 2015

Latest

07.00

How could you hide a train for 70 years? Trains are big things.

For more answers to some of your questions, here’s a handy explainer.

06.00

Summary

Here is a brief summary of what we know (and what we don’t) so far after a regional mayor’s office in southern Poland confirmed that a train of a “military nature” had been found.

  1. “Significant discovery” made in the Polish city of Walbrzych
  2. Zygmunt Nowaczyk, deputy mayor of Walbrzych, said “the discovery was in the town’s district”
  3. Two unidentified men are claiming through a lawyer that they have found the legendary Nazi gold claim
  4. Arkadiusz Grudzien, a spokesman for Walbrzych council’s legal office, said: “The train is of a military nature. There is no mention of valuables: just military equipment”
  5. The lawyer for the two men, Jaroslaw Chmielewski, said: “This is a find of world significance, on a par with [discovering] the Titanic”
  6. The Polish state treasure and culture ministry has been informed in case the find contains anything of value

04.15

Patrick Ney, director of the British Business Centre in Warsaw, wrote a blog a couple of years ago about the tunnels the Nazis built in south-west Poland. He wrote:

Quote Somewhere, under the hills and mountains of Lowers Silesia, lie seven underground complexes. The Project Reise network, built by Organisation Todt, comprise hundreds of kilometres of underground tunnels, bunkers and research facilities. Unseen from the air by the thick Silesian forests above them, and protected by the dense rock, thousands of slave labourers toiled with basic equipment to create the network, attached to the magnificent Baroque castle of Ksia?, as either a research station or as one of several Fuhrer headquarters.

Apparently there are Nazi artefacts littering the tunnels to this day:

02.33

Part of a subterranean system built by Nazi Germany in what is today Gluszyca-Osowka, Poland. According to Polish lore, a Nazi train loaded with gold, and weapons vanished into a mountain at the end of World War II.

It was reported last week that Polish authorities held a crisis meeting in which they warned treasure hunters against trying to unravel the mysteries of the train, warning it may have been boobytrapped by the Nazis:

Quote Jacek Cichura, the local governor in Walbrzych, where the train allegedly was found, said the meeting was to explore how authorities can safely handle the train if it is located.

“Our priority is the safety of the public,” Mr Cichura said. “If the gold train actually exists, then it is probably mined. There is also the possibility of methane.”

00.50

The Telegraph’s Matthew Day has put together this helpful explainer on what we know – and don’t know – about the rumoured Nazi gold train find:

Quote How did the “gold train” legend begin?

Not long after the war a Pole spoke with a German miner who was about to leave the area because it was to become part of post-war Poland. The miner spoke of how a train laden with treasure had been parked in a secret siding in the last days of the war. Since then people have been looking for that train. There is no documentary evidence supporting the “gold train” legend.

23.57

The hills around Walbrzych are home to some of the Project Riese tunnels – the code name for a construction project of Nazi Germany in 1943–45, consisting of seven underground structures. The purpose of the project remains uncertain.

23.48

The legend goes that as the Nazis treated from the Red Army in 1945, several tons of gold held in the German city of Breslau (now Wroc?aw in Poland) were piled onto a train. Reports state the train may contain the gold fittings from the Amber Room of Frederick I of Prussia – considered the Eigth Wonder of the World.

However, the train never reached its destination and went missing in south-west Poland.

If this has indeed been found in the countryside around Walbrzych, it would be of priceless value and one of the most important historical discoveries ever.

23.31

Is this where the train is buried?

23.25

Arkadiusz Grudzien, a spokesman for Walbrzych council’s legal office, said:

Quote The letter (from the ‘finders” lawyer) does not give the exact location but there is no doubt the location is within the limits of our district.

The train is of a military nature. There is no mention of valuables: just military equipment.

23.10

It could take up to six months to dig the train up, some experts have said – assuming it’s buried.

23.02

At a press conference Zygmunt Nowaczyk, deputy mayor of Walbrzych, said “the discovery was in the town’s district”.

The Polish state treasure and culture ministry have been informed in case the find contained anything of value, Matthew Day reports.

23.00

The train, according to legend, is 500 feet long, armoured, with gun platforms and a cargo of precious metals. Not so easy to hide.

Hunt begins for legendary £1billion in Nazi gold

22.43

An old miner shaft at the Old Mine Science and Art Centre in Walbrzych, Poland

All we know for sure so far from today’s developments is a press officer in the Polish town confirming a military train has been found and the Walbrzych’s deputy mayor saying there was “formal information”.

22.07

The Telegraph’s Matthew Day visited Walbrzych last week. Marek Marciniak, the owner of a cafe adjacent to Walbrzych town hall, told him:

Quote People are talking about it. They are talking about in the town. My clients talk about it and we’ve had a lot of journalists coming by.

And when I go home and flick on the television I see a lot of news about the about the ‘gold train’.

Ksiaz Castle in Walbrzych, Poland

Mr Marciniak, like many others, is quick to stress everybody has heard stories about the train and its gold before, and how people have tried and failed in the past to gain their fame and fortune by finding it. What sets this time apart from the others, he pointed out, is that the two claimants have taken a legal step by filing a claim with the local authorities in Walbrzych in the hope of attaining a finder’s fee of 10 per-cent of the value of the find.

21.56

The legendary Nazi ghost train that disappeared without trace into the mountains around Walbrzych in April 1945 with a cargo of gold as it fled the advance of the Red Army.

21.36

The two men who have apparently found the Nazi gold train said through their lawyer that they would only reveal the location of their alleged find if they were guaranteed to eventually receive a finders’ fee of 10 per cent of its value.

Workers Inspects Gold Bars Taken From Jews By The Nazis And Stashed In The Heilbron Salt Mines

21.31

A deputy mayor in Poland says lawyers for two men who claim to have found a Nazi gold train have told him that it is somewhere in the southwestern city of Walbrzych.

Zygmunt Nowaczyk said on Wednesday that the lawyers have not offered any proof of the alleged discovery. Nonetheless, Mr Nowaczyk said he will pass on the information he has to the national government because if found, the train would be state property. Speaking at a press conference, he said:

Quote The city [of Walbrzych] is full of mysterious stories because of its history. Now it is formal information — [we] have found something.

21.30

Hello and welcome to our live coverage it emerges that “something significant” has been found in the Polish city of Walbrzych, where searchers are looking for a lost Nazi gold train.


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On the hunt for the Nazi gold train: Inside the Polish tunnels hiding the bullion

August 23rd, 2015

Mr Marciniak, like many others, is quick to stress everybody has heard stories about the train and its gold before, and how people have tried and failed in the past to gain their fame and fortune by finding it. What sets this time apart from the others, he pointed out, is that the two claimants have taken a legal step by filing a claim with the local authorities in Walbrzych in the hope of attaining a finder’s fee of 10 per-cent of the value of the find.

Ksiaz Castle in Walbrzych, Poland

This is a measure nobody before has taken, and has fuelled speculation that this time somebody may have actually found something.

But just where the train might have been found remains unknown. The two who have claimed to have found it have kept the location under wraps, saying, through their lawyer, that they may reveal their secret to the president of Walbrzych next week. But until then the location stays secret.

The local press have claimed one place the train could lie is the village of Walim. Stretched along a valley some 12 miles west of Walbrzych and overlooked by the forested Owl Mountains, Walim has emerged as a contender for the location because its hills are home to some of the Project Riese tunnels.

One of the biggest construction projects in the history of the Third Reich, Project Riese involved digging miles of tunnels in a series of complexes across the Walbrzych region, which was until 1945 part of Germany. Thousands of slave labourers died hewing the rock for reasons that still remain unclear. Some say the tunnels were for a secret command centre, others claim they were for underground factories for Hitler’s secret weapons, or even hid research on an atomic bomb.

An old miner shaft at the Old Mine Science and Art Centre in Walbrzych, Poland

To this day not all the tunnels have been explored so believers in the gold train legend say the locomotive and its cargo may still lie hidden in a secret siding.

On his office computer Pawel Brzozowski, Walim’s director of culture and tourism, pulled up an old German map of the village. It showed a now non-existent railway line running into Walim. He explained the theory was that there may have been a special track laid that led into a Reise tunnel.

“In May we found that somebody had carried out illegal digging on one of the hills near the cemetery not far from the track may have been, and this indicates that somebody has been searching,” he said.

Some of the tunnels and caverns in Walim’s hills are large, big enough, perhaps, to house a train. Mr Brzozowski said he hopes the legend and its gold lies buried somewhere in the hills but maintains a dose of scepticism.

“It would be important for us, if it was found,” he explained. “It could bring people here, and already people are asking about it. We are just waiting to see what happens. But some people laugh about it because there have always been stories about the train.”

Further up the valley at the entrance to Walim’s Reise tunnels, now a tourist attraction, Marcin Pasek, shakes his head at talk of finding the gold train. A tunnel guide for five years he has heard the legend many times and it still fails to ring true for him.

“I have my reservations about this,” he said with a slight laugh. “There has been talk but no evidence. Maybe there was some treasure but why leave it on a train? In the past Nazi loot has always been found in boxes: never on a train. Or maybe somebody has found a train, but perhaps it’s just an old abandoned train with no treasure.”

While his scepticism about the discovery claims appears to strike a chord with many people in the Walbrzych region there is also abundant hope the train and its precious cargo will soon be uncovered. That would bring a surge of publicity to a region unknown to many in Europe, and provide a an economic boost to town to a that has suffered of late.

Mines around Walbrzych have closed, jobs lost and the population has dropped 170,000 to 110,000 in just 25 years.

“We hope it’s true. For this region it would be good news,” said Mr Marciniak, the cafe owner. “But even it isn’t, the legend will live on,” he added with a smile. “Nobody ever sees the Loch Ness monster but people still go to Loch Ness.”


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On the hunt for the Nazi gold train: Inside the Polish tunnels that may hold the bullion

August 22nd, 2015

Mr Marciniak, like many others, is quick to stress everybody has heard stories about the train and its gold before, and how people have tried and failed in the past to gain their fame and fortune by finding it. What sets this time apart from the others, he pointed out, is that the two claimants have taken a legal step by filing a claim with the local authorities in Walbrzych in the hope of attaining a finder’s fee of 10 per-cent of the value of the find.

Ksiaz Castle in Walbrzych, Poland

This is a measure nobody before has taken, and has fuelled speculation that this time somebody may have actually found something.

But just where the train might have been found remains unknown. The two who have claimed to have found it have kept the location under wraps, saying, through their lawyer, that they may reveal their secret to the president of Walbrzych next week. But until then the location stays secret.

The local press have claimed one place the train could lie is the village of Walim. Stretched along a valley some 12 miles west of Walbrzych and overlooked by the forested Owl Mountains, Walim has emerged as a contender for the location because its hills are home to some of the Project Riese tunnels.

One of the biggest construction projects in the history of the Third Reich, Project Riese involved digging miles of tunnels in a series of complexes across the Walbrzych region, which was until 1945 part of Germany. Thousands of slave labourers died hewing the rock for reasons that still remain unclear. Some say the tunnels were for a secret command centre, others claim they were for underground factories for Hitler’s secret weapons, or even hid research on an atomic bomb.

An old miner shaft at the Old Mine Science and Art Centre in Walbrzych, Poland

To this day not all the tunnels have been explored so believers in the gold train legend say the locomotive and its cargo may still lie hidden in a secret siding.

On his office computer Pawel Brzozowski, Walim’s director of culture and tourism, pulled up an old German map of the village. It showed a now non-existent railway line running into Walim. He explained the theory was that there may have been a special track laid that led into a Reise tunnel.

“In May we found that somebody had carried out illegal digging on one of the hills near the cemetery not far from the track may have been, and this indicates that somebody has been searching,” he said.

Some of the tunnels and caverns in Walim’s hills are large, big enough, perhaps, to house a train. Mr Brzozowski said he hopes the legend and its gold lies buried somewhere in the hills but maintains a dose of scepticism.

“It would be important for us, if it was found,” he explained. “It could bring people here, and already people are asking about it. We are just waiting to see what happens. But some people laugh about it because there have always been stories about the train.”

Further up the valley at the entrance to Walim’s Reise tunnels, now a tourist attraction, Marcin Pasek, shakes his head at talk of finding the gold train. A tunnel guide for five years he has heard the legend many times and it still fails to ring true for him.

“I have my reservations about this,” he said with a slight laugh. “There has been talk but no evidence. Maybe there was some treasure but why leave it on a train? In the past Nazi loot has always been found in boxes: never on a train. Or maybe somebody has found a train, but perhaps it’s just an old abandoned train with no treasure.”

While his scepticism about the discovery claims appears to strike a chord with many people in the Walbrzych region there is also abundant hope the train and its precious cargo will soon be uncovered. That would bring a surge of publicity to a region unknown to many in Europe, and provide a an economic boost to town to a that has suffered of late.

Mines around Walbrzych have closed, jobs lost and the population has dropped 170,000 to 110,000 in just 25 years.

“We hope it’s true. For this region it would be good news,” said Mr Marciniak, the cafe owner. “But even it isn’t, the legend will live on,” he added with a smile. “Nobody ever sees the Loch Ness monster but people still go to Loch Ness.”


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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


World War Two

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