SOE Spy Diamonds - The Times

Discussion in 'SOE & OSS' started by Jedburgh22, May 24, 2013.

  1. Jedburgh22

    Jedburgh22 Very Senior Member

    Diamonds funded Special Operations Executive sabotage missions

    SOE files revealed that £82,500 was earmarked for spy diamonds
    Hans Wild/Time & Life Pictures/Getty Image

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    • [​IMG]SOE files revealed that £82,500 was earmarked for spy diamonds Hans Wild/Time & Life Pictures/Getty Image

    Roger Boyes Diplomatic Editor
    Published at 12:01AM, May 24 2013

    The Special Operations Executive — the irregulars known as Churchill’s Secret Army — used diamonds to help to fund their sabotage operations in German-occupied wartime Europe.
    Declassified Cabinet papers released by the National Archives show that the SOE used the gem trade to pay for missions in Spain and the Balkans. Easily transported, diamonds were seen as a natural currency during the Second World War at a time when it was difficult to source large quantities of local cash. The documents from Group Captain John Franklyn Venner, head of finance for the SOE, to the Treasury reveal that £82,500 was earmarked for spy diamonds. However, only trusted brokers could be used to convert the gems into ready cash. When the broker fell ill, was arrested, deported or simply disappeared, the undercover soldiers were left high and dry.
    “I bought diamonds as and when suitable varieties for the Madrid market were offered to me through the Ministry for Economic Warfare,” wrote Venner from his Baker Street office in December 1942, “but when I learned that Madrid was finding such difficulty in disposing of the comparatively large quantities already sent, I diverted diamonds to other markets such as Cairo, Lisbon and Tangier for SOE purposes.”
    The financing of the Polish resistance, according to other documents, was largely carried out in gold dollar coins and German Reichsmark rather than diamonds. The money was supposed to be air-dropped from British planes but this was only practical when flights could be made under cover of darkness. As a result, the Polish resistance was usually strapped for cash.
    The Polish home army was ready to step up operations in eastern Poland, on top of its preparations for an uprising, but told SOE it needed $4 million. Two thirds of that would come from the British, a third from the Poles, making use of American funds. The papers show that the British tried to persuade the Americans to pick up almost the entire bill. The Americans refused.
    “The dollars would not be provided unless the American authorities were fully apprised of the details of the operation,” said a 1943 memo by Venner. “It is absolutely certain that it would come to the knowledge of the Poles that their special ops were being entirely financed by the American Government.” This, said Venner, was “most undesirable from the prestige and all other points of view”.
  2. PsyWar.Org

    PsyWar.Org Archive monkey

    Although in the Far East, they made a handsome profit by forging Japanese currency (Operation Grenville).
    I think it was the Indonesian currency that SOE actually persuaded De La Rue to re-print banknotes using the original plates and paper and repeating the serial numbers.

  3. Tony56

    Tony56 Member Patron

    Shortly after the war my aunt was the PA to Edward Wharton-Tigar, MD of a diamond mining company; during the war he was recruited by the Special Operations Executive and undertook assignments in North Africa, in the run up to Operation Torch.

    In Tangiers he was instrumental in the destruction of a German tracking station monitoring ship movements through the Strait of Gibraltar and organised the purchase of currency in Switzerland and had it transferred to Africa in diplomatic bags.

    Later, in the Far East, he ran a SOE black-market operation named ‘Remorse’. Currency was purchased in exchange for gold sovereigns, gemstones, diamonds, emeralds and even rare, high value, postage stamps, apparently very popular in Switzerland.

    Edward Wharton-Tigar died in 1995, his career and SOE exploits are contained in his autobiography “Burning Bright” – a very interesting read.
    Last edited: Aug 10, 2016

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