Wednesday, February 14, 2018 

Joseph A. Williams will talk about his latest book, The Sunken Gold: A Story of World War I Espionage and the Greatest Treasure Salvage in History. In 1917, the “HMS Laurentic,” with 44 tons of Allied gold on board and bound for the United States, was sunk by German mines off the coast of Ireland. The struggle to recover the treasure by Royal Navy divers and their spy work of breaking into sunken U-boats for secret documents helped win the war. Today, there is still gold in the wreck waiting to be discovered. Unfortunately, no gold will be present at his talk, but attendees will be treated to a thrilling tale of determination, persistence and patriotism. A librarian, archivist and historian, Joseph received a bachelor’s degree in political science and history at SUNY Geneseo and a master’s degree in American history from Queens College. For six years, he was head of collections and assistant director of the State University of New York Maritime College’s Stephen B. Luce Library, which specializes in nautical research. His first book, Four Years Before the Mast, is a history of the Maritime College, the nation’s oldest maritime training school. His second book, Seventeen Fathoms Deep, is an action-packed narrative of the 1927 submarine S-4 disaster. He is deputy director of the Greenwich Library. He lives with his wife and two children in Ridgefield.

Arranged by John Wolcott


On January 25, 1917, HMS Laurentic struck two German mines off the coast of Ireland and sank. The ship was carrying 44 tons of gold bullion to the still-neutral United States via Canada in order to finance the war effort for Britain and its allies. Britain desperately needed that sunken treasure, but any salvage had to be secret since the British government dared not alert the Germans to the presence of the gold. Lieutenant Commander Guybon Damant was the most qualified officer to head the risky mission. Wild gales battered the wreck into the shape of an accordion, turning the operation into a multiyear struggle of man versus nature. As the war raged on, Damant was called off the salvage to lead a team of covert divers to investigate and search through the contents of recently sunk U-boats for ciphers, minefield schematics, and other secrets. The information they obtained, once in the hands of British intelligence, proved critical toward Allied efforts to defeat the U-boats and win the war. But Damant had become obsessed with completing his long-deferred mission. His team struggled for five more years as it became apparent that the work could only be accomplished by muscle, grit, and persistence. Using newly discovered sources, author Joseph A. Williams provides the first full-length account of the quest for the Laurentic?s gold. More than an incredible story about undersea diving adventure, The Sunken Gold is a story of human persistence, bravery, and patriotism