It’s 7:35 a.m., July 1st, 1940 and a shipment of fish has arrived in Halifax. Labelled “Top Secret,” it was the culmination of almost a year of planning and preparatory work. It’s one of the war’s best kept secrets—and certainly one of the most interesting.
The Bank of Canada was about to become a key, if secret, player in the Second World War, and truthfully, the story doesn’t involve a single fish at all. It involved gold. A lot of it—thousands of pounds that needed to move across an ocean to protect the future of Europe.
Imagine it’s 1940—war has broken out across the world. Germany has already annexed Austria and Czechoslovakia and invaded Poland. Within a few months, it will crush the armies of Denmark, Norway, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg. By May, the Germans have reached the French channel coast, surrounding close to 400,000 allied soldiers and sailors at Dunkirk.
The United Kingdom could be the next to fall, so Churchill has developed plans to install his government in Montréal and continue to lead the Commonwealth from Canada. The Bank of England has also begun preparing for the worst—putting in motion plans to run a “shadow bank” headquartered in Ottawa.
Since the Munich Agreement of 1938, it has been increasing its gold reserves in Canada as a precautionary measure. Now, with Germany at their doorstep, Churchill accelerates the process—devising Operation Fish, a plan to move England’s entire gold reserve overseas to Canada.