It was ‘the biggest currency black market in history’, 1 a secret operation under the auspices of the Special Operations Executive (SOE), Britain’s Second World War clandestine warfare organisation. This was Operation Remorse, a deeply imperial venture, dedicated to maintaining the commercial interests and prestige of the British Empire – sometimes acting in direct competition with its allies. 2 Most significantly, it was a dramatic success. It returned over 15 times the money invested, 3 a return totalling £77,741,758 at the time – about £2.5 billion today. 4 It achieved this feat by smuggling valuable luxury items, trading wartime goods, and most profitably by manipulating exchange rates in illicit currency transactions on the Chinese Black Market. The money financed several British operations and organisations in China.
- 1. Cruickshank, C., SOE in the Far East (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1983), p.217. ^
- 2. Bickers, R. ‘The business of a secret war: Operation ‘Remorse’ and SOE salesmanship in Wartime China’, Intelligence and National Security (2001 16:4), pp. 26-29. See, for example, protectionism for British druggists against American manufacturers, or the economic punishment of the French Military Mission for trying to play the same field as Remorse. ^
- 3. Bickers, SOE salesmanship in Wartime China, p. 29. ^
- 4. Ogden, A., Tigers Burning Bright: SOE Heroes in the Far East (London: Bene Factum Publishing Ltd., 2013), p. 249. For the calculation at the time, see HS 1/292, ‘History of Mickleham and Remorse’, 2 Jan. 1946, p. 5. ^