Academic journal article Military Review

Wealth of an Empire: The Treasure Shipments That Saved Britain and the World

Academic journal article Military Review

Wealth of an Empire: The Treasure Shipments That Saved Britain and the World

Article excerpt

WEALTH OF AN EMPIRE: The Treasure Shipments that Saved Britain and the World

Robert Switky, Potomac Books, Washington D.C., 2013, 247 pages, $29.95

Britain watched in fear as Germany slowly gobbled up Europe. The coming storm became the impetus for evacuating massive sums of gold and treasuries to save Britain and the world from fascism. Switky's book is a roller coaster ride across the early years of World War II--from 1939, when the British monarchs visited North America, to spring 1941, where constant fear of German invasion punctuated a year of desperate measures. The royal visit hid the first of many gold shipments to Canada and the United States during the "Phony War'" while the threat of German invasion throughout 1940 drove desperate transfers of over one billion dollars in gold and securities from Britain to Canada.

The key attraction of Switky's book is how the military history of the initial years of World War II interweaves with the political and economic turmoil of Europe and North America. His story highlights the desperate straits Britain faced with an isolationist United States and a growing threat from Germany.

He details how Chamberlain and Churchill fought the odds to save the wealth of Britain, understanding the isolation they faced as the beacon of free society in Europe even before the fall of France. They knew that Germany would eventually turn their sights on Britain and its wealth in circumstances where U-boat blockades could choke off shipments of goods necessary for Britain to survive.

Switky's research highlights the limitations of intelligence during World War II. He details many assumptions in intelligence that drove the mad push to move gold to countries willing to sell supplies, weapons, and support off the island. …

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