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New Money for Old in Greece

by Rutland Memories

Contributed by 
Rutland Memories
People in story: 
M.E. 'Griff' Griffin
Location of story: 
Greece
Background to story: 
Army
Article ID: 
A3566900
Contributed on: 
24 January 2005

2nd Battalion at the Victory Parade in Athens, 1945

As told by Mr Griffin to Rutland Library Service.

I joined the 2nd Battalion of the Leicestershire Regiment soon after Dunkirk, and sailed with them out of Liverpool after Christmas 1942. I was abroad with B Company Transport all the time until the beginning of 1946.

We saw a lot of activity in North Africa — the Leicesters lost 300 officers and men in one night there. We were on the victory parade in Tunis. We also invaded Italy at Solerno — we had to waterproof all the vehicles in the battalion, but as long as you could keep your head above water you could keep driving.

Meanwhile they were kicking the Germans out of Greece and they flew us over there. We were fighting civilians who were using German guns — it was terrible there. Eventually we were ready to take all the transport back to the sea. An Intelligence Officer took me to one of the ships moored in a bay off Athens. He said to me, “This ship has got Red Cross supplies on board — but there are also 85 sealed boxes of money for the Greek Government under cover.” This was to replace the money the Germans had printed which was useless now. In fact the Greek civilians were using gold sovereigns issued by the British Government, and we were paid with notes issued by the British military authority for 5 shillings, half crowns and 1 shilling. The civilians would also accept these notes but they would charge you 5 shillings for a tin of corned beef!

I was aboard the ship over Christmas 1944 — I had to keep a low profile because we didn’t want anyone to know we were there. About a week afterwards an officer turned up and said he was going to start taking the cases to the bank in Athens. After all the money had gone the officer told me we would have to go to a court of inquiry at Cairo because they were one box short, but by the next day they had recounted it and it was all there.

After the war I wrote to the newspapers to see if I could find out how much money was involved — but only one replied and said that the Bank of England denied all knowledge of it.

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