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How the British drowned Soviet gold: the fatal flight of the cruiser "Edinburgh"
How the British drowned Soviet gold: the fatal flight of the cruiser "Edinburgh"

The caravan, codenamed QP-11, departed from Murmansk for the shores of Great Britain on April 28, 1942. He transported timber, as well as a cargo not indicated in the accompanying documents, placed in 93 boxes on board the cruiser "Edinburgh". The boxes contained gold - 465 bars worth more than $ 6.5 million at the modern exchange rate. However, difficulties arose with the delivery of the valuable metal to its destination: the very next day after leaving the port, the transport ships were discovered by German aviation.

How the Germans attacked the cruiser Edinburgh

The commander of the Edinburgh, Captain Hugh Faulkner, and the commander of the 18th cruiser squadron, Rear Admiral Stuart Bonham-Carter, on the bridge of the cruiser

Information about where the caravan is located and what route it is moving on was transmitted by flight reconnaissance to the high command of the German Navy. Immediately after that, in order to destroy the enemy ships that were part of the convoy, the Germans sent seven submarines. One of them, U-456, was commanded by Lieutenant Commander Max Martin Teichert - the main culprit in subsequent events.

On 30 April, submarines torpedoed British ships. Although the shells did not hit a single target, the command decided to withdraw the Edinburgh from the caravan in order to save the cargo. Making the necessary anti-submarine maneuvers, the cruiser moved at full speed in the direction of Iceland. However, despite the precautions taken, the ship was spotted and attacked by Max Martin Teichert's submarine.

The two torpedoes fired by the submarine inflicted severe, but not fatal damage to the ship - it remained afloat and retained the ability to go under its own power. Three British destroyers arrived in time to deprive the submarine of a chance to finish off Edinburgh, but could not prevent her from staying close to the scene. Meanwhile, the ship, accompanied by an escort, headed back to Murmansk.

Who actually sunk the cruiser "Edinburgh"

The picture was taken from the stern side of the Edinburgh, damaged by a torpedo

Two days later, on May 2, the cruiser was attacked again - it was discovered by three German destroyers, who purposefully searched for the downed Edinburgh. As a result of a short but fierce battle, the ship was hit by a third torpedo, which completely deprived her of independent movement.

The Germans also did not manage to avoid losses - after shelling by the British, one of the German ships, having received serious damage, began to sink to the bottom. To save the team, the enemy had to withdraw from the battle: having picked up the crew, the two surviving German destroyers left towards their home base.

Despite the favorable outcome of events, it was not possible to save the "Edinburgh": due to the hit of the third torpedo, the cruiser, during the subsequent towing, threatened to break into two parts. After some deliberation, it was decided to remove the crew from the side and flood the hopelessly damaged ship. At 08:52, 28 minutes after the battle ended, the fourth, this time a British torpedo, was launched into Edinburgh, which sent the cruiser to the bottom.

Edinburgh Gold - Lend-Lease Fee

The deck of "Edinburgh" after being hit by a torpedo from U 456 literally reared up

The Soviet Union was included in the Lend-Lease program on June 11, 1942, and before that, in order to purchase weapons, the country had to take a loan from the United States in the fall of 1941 and in the winter of 1942. The amount of each loan was equal to a billion dollars - the USSR did not have that much currency, but it had gold, which America agreed to buy at the rate of $ 35 per ounce.

According to one of the versions, it is believed that the bars from Edinburgh were intended precisely for the American side, which gave the Union millions of foreign currency advances against the supply of the precious metal to the United States. However, another version looks more plausible: according to it, the gold was intended for the British for military and civilian supplies to the USSR.

From the memoirs of Anastas Mikoyan: “On April 16, 1946, Prime Minister Attlee announced to the House of Commons the figures related to British deliveries to the Soviet Union. According to them, from 01.10.43 to 31.03.46 the USSR received cargo for military needs in the amount of 308 million pounds, for civilian needs in the amount of 120 million pounds. At the same time, the prime minister explained that the data is related only to the delivered cargo - losses on the way were not taken into account in the announced figures.

Attlee also indicated that civilian supplies were carried out based on an agreement signed between the states in August 1941. The essence of the document was that the Soviet side paid for goods: 40% of the cost - in dollars or gold, 60% - at the expense of a loan that was received from the Government of the United Kingdom."

Thus, taking into account the politician's recollections, one can come to the conclusion that the transported gold bars are most likely not connected with America and the Lend-Lease program. It looks more like the British were supposed to be the recipients of the precious metal: gold was sent to them as payment for the 40% mentioned in the agreement. This assumption is also supported by the distribution of gold bars raised from a sunken ship in the 80s of the last century.

How the USSR and Britain shared the sunken gold

This is how the gold of "Edinburgh" looked like, raised to the surface 40 years after the sinking of the ship

Despite the fact that the question of the fate of the ingots arose immediately after the end of the war, it was not possible to resolve it positively for two reasons. The first was the technical side - there was no equipment for lifting gold from a depth of more than 200 m. The second consisted in overcoming legal subtleties. In accordance with the law of the sea, the sunken cruiser was allowed to penetrate only with the consent of the UK. However, in order to extract boxes with valuable cargo from it, the permission of the USSR was required, which at one time paid for the "insured event".

Only in 1979, there were shifts in solving the problem: the Englishman Keith Jessop, who was a professional diver, proposed a technology for raising gold bars. Two years later, the Soviet Union and Great Britain signed an agreement on a joint operation, after which underwater work began. First, we determined the exact coordinates of the cruiser, its location at the bottom and the depth.

Then the gold itself was raised to the surface. In 1981, 431 ingots were removed from the ship. In 1984, after a second operation, another 29 gold bars were raised. Due to the difficulty of access, it has not been possible to lift five ingots to this day. The gold mined in this way was distributed as follows: 45% of the cost was received by the company, whose divers participated in the work; two-thirds of the ingots went to the Soviet Union, the rest was received by Great Britain.

Mutual assistance between the USSR and the allies went on throughout the war. And even when after her the relationship deteriorated, there were still cases of mutual assistance. So Soviet fisherman during the Cold War rescued American pilots in an 8-point storm.

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