The secret cargo on board the RMS Titanic

Aug 6, 2001
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I recently read that there was some cargo on board the Titanic belonging to The Bank of London.I heard that all this was going to be revealed in the 100 aniversary of the sinking. What was the bank transporting in Titanic s cargo hull? Why it is only going to be revealed a hundred years after the tragedy?
 

Paul Rogers

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Nov 30, 2000
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West Sussex, UK
Please don't ask for primary sources, ('cos I can't remember!), but I vaguely remember reading an article that speculated on this.

The article hypothesised that the Bank Of England was transferring gold bullion to the US, (a quite normal inter-Country payment at the time), on the Titanic. The gold bullion didn't show up as cargo, because, strictly speaking, it wasn't. It was listed as "general mail" or some such description.

I remember thinking that the story appeared sensationalist and farfetched, so didn't bother to keep the article. But who knows?

The 100 year timescale may be because the loss was considered an Official Secret, which may have damaged the British economy if known at the time. The UK Government can set timescales for public release of information considered "sensitive." A lot of information is being released currently regarding the last years of the 2nd World War, marked to be released 50+ years after the event.

Sorry I can't be of much help. Maybe someone knows more?

Regards,

Paul.
 
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Richard

Guest
Sounds like myth. There were a few about this disaster you know.
 
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David Haisman

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The gold onboard Titanic theory stands up well in my opinion. Serving onboard the Union Castle Line mailships back in the 60s, it was common knowledge to most crewmen that gold was brought from South Africa on almost every voyage from the Cape. In fact , part of a gold consignment went missing during this period and when the ship docked in Southampton, the gold bars were found hidden in a sand box on one of the upper decks. The full story could be made available from the Southern Daily Echo archives no doubt.
Most of these gold shipments never left Southampton docks but were transferred to the White Star Line berths no.s 43/44 and then shipped across to New York on the Cunard White Star ships. I have no doubts that this may well have been the case in Titanic's day, bearing in mind that governments have certain privelleges as to what stays out of the ships manifests for obvious reasons. The strong rooms on most ships I've served on were situated right forward and the gold visited every watch by a Master At Arms and a ships officer. Had the Titanic carried any gold, I've no doubt it would have been stowed in a similar fashion and would by now be well below the ocean floor level after impact with the sea bed. This is only a theory of mine and of course is open to question but I think there could be some credibility in such an idea.
David Haisman
 
Nov 22, 2000
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The story that I was told was that Britain was "moving" some of her gold reserve as there were already rumblings of trouble over World War One and the Government was paying attention to the old "keeping all your eggs in one basket" theory. What safer way to transport it than on the World's largest virtually unsinkable liner?
 

Sam Brannigan

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Feb 24, 2007
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Would it not have been more likely that they would have transferred any bullion in the Lusitania and Mauretania, as they were 100% British ships with strongs links to the government because of the loan for their construction?

This also reminds me that when I took out a personal pension ("responsible" is my middle name) the company which sold it to me, Sunlife Of Canada, made a big deal of the fact that British gold reserves were stored in their vaults in Montreal throughout the second world war. I can't remember how they got there, via New York or Halifax, but I wonder if the same was true for the first world war and Britains reserves were stored in another part of the empire as opposed to the USA, a strictly foreign country?

Regards

Sam
 
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Gavin Murphy

Guest
.......and of course neutral for the first few years of both wars. That may have made a difference perhaps in where the gold was destined. In both cases, America made it clear it didn't want to be part of either war at the outset.

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Sam Brannigan

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Feb 24, 2007
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True.

But both countries had the advantage of being relatively far from the hotspots.

Even then, I wonder how the Americans would have felt had a country immediately on its borders been invaded by an aggressive power whose ways contradicted the American way of life?

I think the British weighed this one up well!

The more I think about it the more I feel that any gold would have been sent to Canada on a fairly nondescript, low profile vessel instead of a glitzy superliner to New York.

Imagine the pandemonium at Pier 54 on the arrival of one of the Olympic class liners. It isn't too difficult to imagine any special cargo getting accidentally mixed up with the regular stuff while removing it from the holds.

Airlines still haven't got it right today, and there is always media reports of highly classified information going missing while "highly trained" operatives are buying Martini or whatever in their local supermarket!

I don't think they would have taken the chance in 1912

Regards

Sam
 
Nov 22, 2000
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Boys, two convincing theories, but British gold was sent to virtually every country that would accept it. The Government reckons that much of it is still there as some bright spark forgot where they had sent it!
Yes, it would make sense to send it to Canada BUT, with Canada being a British Protectorate, should the U.K. be invaded, it would be fairly easy to get the overuled Government to ask for it back. A neutral country would be in a much stronger position to hold on to it? Who better than our ex-Colonial chums to play banker!
Anyway, that's the story as told to me, although by now we must be aware that just about every movable item and person in the U.K. was aboard the Titanic!
 
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Gavin Murphy

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Good points G, but......

Would the holding (or withholding) of gold reserves for a country it was friendly to (nothwithstaing the Boston Tea Pary) be deemed an act friendly to a beligerant? Don't know. But remember the Lend-Lease Agree't before USA entrered WWII....that may provide some guidance on this matter.

And not to put too fine a point on it, Canada was hardly a British Protectorate in 1912. Granted the UK dictated our foreign policy (a decision made by Canada), but confederation occurred in 1867.

S, if you are interested, there was a story about 5-6 months ago in a magazine of Canada history called the Beaver (our national animal) about UK gold coming here prior to WW2. It was shipped over on nondescript ships, etc. If you are intereted, you can go to their website and learn more. BTW, I have had a book review column in this mag for about 8 years....even reviewed some T books there, etc.


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Sam Brannigan

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Feb 24, 2007
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Geoff

At the risk of being extraordinarily controversial (!) as a nationalist in Northern Ireland I consider myself Irish. However, a lot of good friends consider themselves British. I never contest what other people feel is their nationality here, it leads to problems.....!

Of course, people can also describe themselves as "English", "Scottish" or Welsh" and still call themselves "British", maybe this was the case in Canada as well in those far off days.

Perhaps those travelling from Canada had closer ties with the Empire and travelled on business (hard to imagine many poor Canadians making the trip across the Atlantic for a holiday) and it suited their business or diplomatic affairs to describe themselves as British.

I realise this is speculation and a serious digression from the thread but it would be interesting to find out.

Kind Regards

Sam
 
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Gavin Murphy

Guest
Interesting comments all around here.

G, to answer your question: Up until fairly recently, our passports referred to Canadians as British subjects. I suspect since the repatriation of our constitution from UK in 1982, this has now gone by the wayside, although of course the Queen is still our head of state, to wit, Prince Charles being here now.

As we did not have extensive offshore diplomatic missions until post WW2, the Brits taking care of the majority of our external affairs, and since we were technically British subjects, although a self-governing dominion, we simply referred to ourselves as British when travelling offshore to benefit from any international protection we might need from British consular offices. Although we are now much more viable on the international scene, it is still recommended that we seek assistance from the British consular offices where no Canadian one can be found.

And, of course, as S says, outside Quebec, the vast majority of Canadians at the time were of British stock. We were quite content to let Mother England look after our affairs.

I hope this helps.

G
 
Nov 22, 2000
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Thanks boys for casting a new light on some of the questions.
Sam, surprisingly, many Canadians returned to both the U.K. and Europe during the hot summer months. This was a regular occurrence in the early part of the twentieth century. The shipping companies realised this and offered very favourable fares - the idea being that the traveller would feel in some way indebted to the company and would use them for ever more and also tell all their friends about how good these shipping companies were to them! Eaton's stores, for example, rewarded many of their best working staff with an extended trip home for both themselves and their families. Even though this usually meant travelling in third class it was still considered a very substantial perk of the job. Even some of the Detroit car companies closed down completely during the summer months and faced with no employment, the employee's used this time to return home and catch up with their families. Most of these workers were Eastern Europeans and they greatly contributed towards the coffers of the shipping companies.
 

Sam Brannigan

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Feb 24, 2007
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Thanks Geoff

I can already hear the hordes of Titanic lovers running to their bosses for return trip holidays to some exotic climes!!! /ch{
happy.gif
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Oh for a boss like Henry Ford today!!!

Downtroddingly

Sam
 
Dec 4, 2000
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I have it on good authority that the secret cargo was a supply of the (then) newly discovered material known as unobtainium. They had so much trouble getting this material that none was actually in the strongbox. Naturally, it was closely guarded. In recent years unobtainium has become more difficult to find because so much of it is used in sailboat hardware. That's why owning a winning sailboat is so expensive, or so I am told. Recently, I talked to a scuba diver who had been contracted to recover the unobtainium from Titanic, but he gave up the contract when realized that obtaining unobtanium was impossible.

-- David G. Brown