The Second World War, in addition to being Canada’s second deadliest conflict, also touched the country in a surprising number of weird and little-known ways. Jasper National Park was home to secret experiments to build a giant aircraft carrier out of ice. The federal government secretly bought a castle outside of Victoria in case it needed to house a royal family sent into exile by a Nazi invasion of the U.K. And we secretly acted as a giant piggy bank to hide Europe’s gold from the Nazis.
Watch the video or read the transcript below to learn about Operation Fish, probably the most consequential secret operation involving Canada during the Second World War.
What if I told you there was a time when much of the world’s wealth was secretly stashed in a Canadian basement and guarded by nothing more than these guys: 24 members of the RCMP’s ceremonial drill team.
The year is 1940 and most of this part of the world (Western Europe) is facing imminent conquest by Nazi Germany. The Nazis love gold, and France and the U.K .have about 83 million ounces of it. At today’s gold prices, that’s about 146 billion US dollars.
So, on the eve of war, here’s what they came up with:
- Take all the French and British gold and pile it on to overloaded ships.
- Send those ships through waters teeming with icebergs and U-boats.
- Fill up the Bank of Canada vault, and then put whatever’s left in the basement of this building in Montreal.
- It’s basically impossible to guard or insure this much money, so just don’t tell anyone about it. And, if anybody asks what’s in the crates, you tell them it’s fish.
And it worked. Not one gold bar was lost in transit, Canada very kindly held on to it until the war was over, and these guys (the Mounties) got to spend World War II looking fabulous while standing guard outside a vault.
So let it be known, it you ever need someone to hold on to something until things cool off, Canada is your man.