Extraordinary mission to fly 100 tonnes of WWII gold from London to Warsaw 80 years after being hidden from the Nazis
It sounds like something out of a James Bond film: 20 billion PLN worth of gold flown from London in a top-secret mission.
However strange it sounds, though, the operation really did take place and the gold was returned to Poland, where it had left eighty years ago.
When World War II broke out in 1939, all of Poland’s gold reserves – around 100 tonnes of bullion – were secretly transported out of the country.
In 1943, they were split in three and left at the Bank of Canada in Ottawa, the Federal Reserve Bank in New York, and the Bank of England in London for safekeeping.
Now newly-released pictures show the gold stored in London being returned to Poland, in a mission involving eight trips by plane.
It will be stored at the National Bank of Poland in a secret location.
The gold was delivered as bullion, as bars of gold each weighing 12.5 kg and stamped with a serial number.
The 8,000 bars were transferred from Britain to Poland over several months in an operation handled by G4S Cash Solutions UK, a global security company that transports valuable items – such as gold, diamonds and works of art – for governments, museums, banks and mining companies around the world.
“The movements of the gold were meticulously planned in coordination with everyone, including the police, the Bank of England, the Narodowy Bank Polski and G4Si,” said John Lennox, Operations Director at the company.
“Given the sensitivity this operation, we needed to be prepared for anything. Plans can change at short notice. Having a strong team, flexible and professional drivers, and making sure everyone was regularly updated meant the operation was a complete success,” he added.
The gold was moved in a top-security operation: it arrived at the airport in London in the middle of the night in trucks escorted by police and helicopters.
After landing in Poland on 22 November, the bars were transferred to the National Bank of Poland’s vaults under full police escort.
“This is one of the biggest private movements of gold between banks in the world.” said a G4Si employee who accompanied the gold on two of the trips.
NBP President Adam Glapiński told a Monday press conference last week that Poland has adequate levels of gold reserves and did not exclude the possibility of increasing their levels in the coming years.
He said that Poland's overall gold reserves are worth some PLN 42.3 billion (EUR 9.84 billion). Half of the reserves, 123 tonnes, remain in England.