WWII, British Crown Jewels and Fort Knox

During WWII the British Crown Jewels and the Manna Carta were kept in Fort Knox. How did the Allies get the stuff there? With all of the German U-boats wasn’t it just as dangerous to ship across the Atlantic as keeping something in England?

Before delving into the mode of transport, can you provide a cite that these items were transferred to Fort Knox, rather than being kept in Britain?


For something small and important, I can picture moving it north by train to Scotland, then flying it to Newfoundland, then Kentucky. This would put it well out of reach of German airplanes and ships.

I don’t minimize the hazards of crossing the Atlantic in WWII, but…

Even if they didn’t go by air it wouldn’t be all that risky. U-boats stuck pretty much to the North Atlantic convoy route where the targets were.

A fast, long range, ship like a cruiser using a southerly route and running at high speed would be in little danger. Submerged, WWII U-boats did well to make 8 knots and they couldn’t sustain even that for very long. This excerpt of Britannica outlines U-boat performance before the snorkel U-boat was developed late in the war.

" In the Atlantic the principal German U-boat was the VII type, a relatively small but effective craft when properly employed. The Type VIIC variant was 220.25 feet long, displaced 769 tons on the surface, and was powered by diesel-electric machinery at a speed of 17 knots on the surface and 7.5 knots submerged. … these submarines had a surface endurance of 6,500 miles at 12 knots, but, when they were submerged, their batteries would remain active a little less than a day at four knots."

They wouldn’t engage a warship on the surface and when submerged would have difficulty maneuvering to intercept a fast and zigzagging cruiser. All of the large, fast liners used as transports crossed the Atlantic unescorted many times without incident (except when the Queen Mary rammed and sank a British cruiser). I went over on the Ile de France which maintained at least 25 knots the whole way (we asked, that’s how I know). We went way south of the convoy route, took 11 days, and saw nothing but ocean from the Narrows to the entrance to the Irish Sea.

Hehe. Apparently the Fort Knox website is broadcasting what is still secret British information.

From royal.gov.uk:

Well, Britain’s official secrets can be pretty silly. The location of this structure was considered officially secret for many years - may still be for all I know, though you can now find it on a map of … well, just in case, I shall call it the city of Lndn.

(You can click on the link, but then I’d have to kill you.)

The question of where the Crown Jewels were hidden during the Second World War was discussed in this tread earlier this year.


The obvious objection to any theory that they were removed abroad remains the fact that it would have been illegal to do so. The story has the feel of an invented rumour propagated to magnify the self-importance of the people at Fort Knox.

The statement that ‘The Gold Vault was also used to store and to safeguard…the Magna Carta’ is also not quite as impressive as it sounds. Magna Carta is not a single document but rather four different documents held by three different archives. All that Fort Knox held was one of the four, namely the copy owned by Lincoln Cathedral. I suspect that this was little more than a publicity stunt. The British had copies to spare.

I think it’s been common knowledge for years now that all this stuff spent the war years in a bunker at the bottom of a disused mineshaft in North Wales.

No, what’s been public knowledge for years now is that the most important paintings from the Royal Collection, the National Gallery etc spent the war years in a bunker at the Manod Quarry in North Wales. What remains uncertain is whether they also included the Crown Jewels. The paintings were in fact much more difficult things to hide and the whole point about the Manod Quarry bunker was that it had been specially designed to provide museum-standard storage conditions. The Crown Jewels could easily have been hidden elsewhere and probably were. Moreover, as I pointed out in the previous thread, there may have been some doubt as to the legality of removing them specifically from England.