Saving the Gold

ADMIRAL MEZEVIRIS

Saving the Gold of the Bank of Greece- March 1941
(source: G. Mezeviris  Vice- Admiral R.H.N.,
"Four decades in the Service of the R.H.N", Athens 1971)

 

Among the preventive measures taken in expectation of the German attack was the transport to Crete of the gold of the Bank of Greece, the night of March 3,1941, with the destroyers “KING GEORGE” and “QUEEN OLGA”.

 

Gregory Mezeviris narrates:

 

“Special precautionary measures were taken for the execution of this mission. To avoid alarming the people it was paramount to keep absolute secrecy. The extremely precious load had to be secured not only from any enemy action but also from the eventual risk of being dropped in the water during the transshipments and the temptation that could be inspired to someone from the several people that were participating in this operation. For the sake of secrecy, there was no written order by the Chief of the R.H.N. Fleet but oral personal instructions were given by me to the ships commanders. The destroyers came alongside the Skaramanga Shipyards dock that was not suitable for this purpose with the northwest winds that were blowing. The result was that the destroyer “QUEEN OLGA” was damaged; this damage required several days of repairs when the ship returned from this expedition. The cases containing the gold were transported to the dock by fire engines escorted by senior officers of the Bank of Greece and Security Agents. To the workers that loaded the cases it was said that they contained coins; sailors supervised by naval officers brought the cases onboard the destroyers. In addition to the security provided by the gold escorts, I ordered that sailors keep guard of the precious load under the personal supervision of the ships’ executive officers.

 

The destroyers sailed at nightfall at 30 knots, in order to arrive at Souda Bay and unload the cases during the night.

 

Several hours before sunrise the cases had safely been placed inside the dock warehouse but no transport means had yet arrived to move them from there. The Bank had apparently forgotten to inform the Heraklion Branch of the Bank of Greece who was the consignee!

 

I went onshore and tried to find the Authority charged to take over the further responsibility of the gold. The cases shouldn’t remain any longer on the dock warehouse because there was risk of air attack. Unfortunately no Authority, not even the General Commander of the Island of Crete, had received any instructions or accepted taking the responsibility of the gold. Finally, the Commander of the Gendarmerie accepted to assume the guard of the precious load, the Heraklion Branch of the Bank of Greece was notified to send a qualified officer to take delivery of the gold and the British Military Authorities of Souda accepted to provide transport means. Then, I ordered the immediate departure of the destroyers because their presence could provoke enemy air-force attacks.

 

It’s with great relief that I was informed the next day that the gold had been safely deposited in Heraklion…”