Great Britain Bernhard Forgery of 1935 London 5 Pounds Peppiatt B# 241 good VF
Printed by prisoners of war during WWII as part of Operation Bernhard.
During World War II, a large number of British banknotes were counterfeited by Jewish prisoners of war who were under instructions by their German captors in the Sachsenhausen concentration camp outside Berlin - the project was codenamed "Operation Bernhard".
The design of the Bank of England’s higher denominations (from £5 up to £1,000) had remained unchanged for almost a century, so over time, the Germans were able to produce counterfeit notes that were exceptionally deceiving.
Almost 9 million notes with a face value of £134 million were printed, which equated to more than 10% of the total notes then in circulation in the UK. Had those notes been issued into circulation, they could certainly have had a devastating impact on the British economy. An expert in banknotes that was employed by the Bank of England described them as being "...the most dangerous ever seen".
Although there are records that indicate the notes were used in several transactions by the German intelligence agencies, the vast majority of the notes were dumped into two Austrian lakes at the end of the war.
Enough "Bernhard" notes went into general circulation that the Bank of England stopped releasing new notes, the next series of notes issued after the war had completely different designs.
The whole story of Operation Bernhard makes for great reading - click this link for just one of the websites that covers the background to these incredible counterfeits.
An Austrian movie on the story of the prisoners of war involved was made into a feature film in 2007 and won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Film.
Identifying a Bernhard forgery is quite difficult, but not impossible to do if you have a genuine note to compare it against. The detail on the Bernhard forgeries is poor under magnification, especially in the eyes of Britannia. The engraving is delicate (and appears sharp) on the genuine notes, and is thicker and less detailed on the forgeries. This web page has more excellent information on how to identify a Bernhard forgery.
This is an excellent example of these historic notes, and would be perfect for any collection focused on the history of World War II.
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