Special Collections

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A Comprehensive Collection of ‘Operation Bernhard’ Notes

A Comprehensive Collection of ‘Operation Bernhard’ Notes


Prior to 1939 the Bank of England was the most important financial institution in the world and would, as always, have a crucial role to play in the event of war. Contingency plans included the leasing of extra printing facilities in the country and changes in colour for new issues of Ten Shilling and One Pound notes. In Germany, however, officials looked closely at the white notes produced by the Bank and what consequences forging these might have. Eventually, part of a concentration camp at Sachsenhausen was sectioned off for the specific purpose of reproducing notes of Five Pounds and higher denominations and Operation Bernhard was born. The Operation continued for most of the War. Some of the original notes are not too difficult to detect but problems reproducing the watermark, the quality of paper and the ageing of notes were gradually solved and overcome. Significant progress was also made with confirming the correct dates of printing and allocating the correct prefixes to those dates. Large numbers of notes in this collection have the correct prefix and date combination; in cases where they were misaligned the sequence was quickly corrected. Nevertheless, the procedure was not entirely perfect and within the group is a 1930 note bearing a 'Peppiatt' signature. The collection has been listed by denomination, to highlight prefix and date runs. As part of the ageing process most notes were handled, folded, flattened and pin holed before despatch from Sachsenhausen; the majority of the notes described below were treated in this way.

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