This is my fifth and final blog post on Operation Remorse, the secret Second World War operation for the Special Operations Executive (SOE) that earned millions for Britain. Read the entire series.
As the Second World War passed into its final year, Operation Remorse showed no sign of limiting its activities in China. Their lucrative black market currency dealings in Chinese National Dollars (CND) expanded to include Indian Rupees and Indo-Chinese Piastres. They also traded and smuggled more goods than ever – apart from designer watches, pearls and diamonds smuggled in for bribing Chinese officials, Remorse also traded in medical drugs, indigo, and cigarette paper. They even bought silkworm eggs for the Kashmir silk industry, to make parachute silk (HS 1/135, 4 Apr. 1945).
With Remorse’s increasing reach and power came increasing worries for SOE. They found Remorse’s enthusiastic and volatile leader, Walter Fletcher, ‘hard to control’, and Remorse’s use of its (already illegal) financial operations for bribery was highly sensitive and fraught with political difficulties. SOE decided to promote Fletcher to ‘Fin.W’, responsible for ‘Special Financial and Economic Operations’. By doing this they were putting him on a shorter leash, gripped tightly by John Venner, SOE’s long-suffering head of Finance (HS 9/519/5, 17 Jan. 1945). Meanwhile, Remorse in the field was run by a board of four officers: Lionel Davis (Remorse’s field commander), Alexander Anderson and Bernard Purser (Remorse’s senior accountants), and Edward Wharton-Tigar (one of Remorse’s senior officers).