Friday, June 5, 2009

The Sea Sunk Notes of Indian Paper Money

Indian Bank Notes – India Paper Money – India Currency

British India

There have been four instances where Ships that were carrying Indian Banknotes which sunk.  The salvage from these ships is literally a “Treasure”.  These notes are hard to get and rare to find.

The Banknotes were printed in England on handmade watermark paper made by Portals and were shipped to India.  These banknotes were shipped unsigned for reasons of safety.  Once they arrived to India, the signature on the banknotes was added and then issued for circulation.  The only banknote that was pre-signed and shipped was the King George V, Rupee 1 of 1917.

The ships that sank carrying Indian Money were:

·      S.S.Camberwell – Rs.10 - Uniface.

·      S.S.Shirala – Re.1 KGV 1917, Uniface - Rs.5 & Rs.10.

·      S.S.Egypt – Hyderabad.

·      S.S.Breda – Blank Watermark Paper.


S.S. Camberwell


In 1917, S.S. Camberwell was carrying the Rupees 10 Uniface dated 25th November 1916, Circle ‘C’, Unsigned banknotes . The ship was the target in the First World War and was sunk by the German Torpedos near the Isle of Wight.  The salvaged notes from SS Camberwell have disintegrated in a circular manner and only a circular portion of the note remains.

Uniface Rs.10 - Unsigned note dt. 25 Nov 1916 - disintegrated in a circular manner

Uniface Rs.10 - Unsigned note dt. 25 Nov 1916 - entire serial number visible



During the First World War, July 1918, S.S. Shirala carrying unsigned Uniface banknotes of Rupees 5 and Rupees 10 and signed notes of King George V Rupee 1 was sunk by the Torpedos of the German Submarine in the English Channel.  The KGV Rupees 1 is the only instance where a signed note that was carried in a ship got sunk on its way to India from England.  The details of the consignment that was sunk are:


King George V 1917 :

·      Rupee 1 Prefixes are not known.


Uniface Notes:

·      Rs.5 was dt. 02-Feb-1915 Circle ‘A’.

·      Rs.5 was dt. 08-Apr-1915 Circle ‘B’.

·      Rs.10 was dt. 28-Mar-1916 Circle ‘R’.

·      Rs.10 was dt. 07-Jun-1918 Universalised.


Some of these notes were salvaged or could have been washed ashore.  There have been reported cases of attempts to encash the salvaged notes in India in 1920.


King George V - 1917 - Rupee 1 - Prefix 'A'

Uniface - Rs.5 - Circle 'A' (Cawnpore) dt. 2 February 1915 - Unsigned

Uniface - Rs.10- Circle 'R' (Rangoon) dt. 2 February 1918 - Unsigned

S.S. Egypt


During the First World War, S.S. Egypt collided with a cargo steamer in thick fog north-west of France in May 1922.  The Ship sank to a depth of 400 feet.  It had in its cargo Gold valued at One Million Pounds.  Lure of this bullion made treasure hunters attempt salvage operations.  There were many instances of bounty hunters who attempted to salvage this gold and failed.  One such group of salvage or treasure hunters formed a Company called ‘SORIMA’.  They hired a cargo ship called ‘Artiglio’ with the sole purpose of salvaging the One Million Pound worth of Gold in SS Egypt.


In 1933, a team of divers on board the cargo ship ‘Artiglio’, were able to salvage the gold and along with it the unsigned notes of Hyderabad in denominations of 5, 10 & 100.  There were a total of 1,65,000 notes of which after protracted negotiations through his advocates with ‘Sorima’, the Nawab of Hyderabad bought back 1,28,000 notes in July 1939.  These bank notes were burnt in London.  The remaining 37,000 notes are either with collectors or are missing under the sea.   These notes were printed by Waterlow & Sons.


 Rs.5 Hyderabad Salvage Note - Unsigned - Obverse

Black Seal reads:

“This note is of no monetary value.  It was recovered in June 1932 by the Italian salvage vessel Artiglio from the bullion room of the liner Egypt sunk off Ushant on May 20, 1922 in a depth of 400 feet.”


 Rs.5 Hyderabad Salvage Note - Reverse

 Rs.10 Hyderabad Salvage Note - Unsigned

Blue Seal reads:

“This note is of no monetary value.  It was recovered in June 1932 by the Italian salvage vessel Artiglio from the bullion room of the liner Egypt sunk off Ushant on May 20, 1922 in a depth of 400 feet.”


 Rs.10 Hyderabad Salvage Note - Unsigned - Without Seal

 Rs.10 Hyderabad Salvage Note - Unsigned

"SORIMA" seal with manuscript seal

 Rs.10 Hyderabad Salvage Note - Unsigned

Autographed by salvage team of "ARTIGLIO" 

 Rs.100 Hyderabad Salvage Note - Unsigned

SS Breda


SS Breda, a Dutch ship, on its way to India from England, came under the cross-fire of two German Heinkel Bombers during the Second World War.  It was December 1940 when the German Bombers sank SS Breda at Badebbeck in Scotland.  This ship carried 30 boxes of uncut blank watermark paper of King George VI in sheets made by Portals.  It was being transported to Nasik Press in India for printing. The sheets were for notes of denominations Rs.5 & Rs.10.  Each sheet contained blank watermark for 36 – 40 notes.  These were salvaged by Tralic Bay Diving Club in the 1990s’.

King George VI - Rs.5 - Blank Watermark Paper 

King George VI - Rs.10 - Blank Watermark Paper 


Vivek said...

Excellent information.I was not aware about the 1917 one rupee being sunked.
Would like to know why previously printed notes (unsigned) but later only the water marked blanks were sent?Was it that by that time the Nashik Printing press was ready?And if so then why the trouble to import the water marked paper only;As shipment would have cost the same-either one send the printed notes or blank paper.

Plz do add some historical backgrond on Nashik Printing Press.

Unknown said...

Very Informative articles glad to see i am the luckiest one to have such 10 rupee king george uniface note, i am holding this note for last 7 years but to day only i got to know the history of my note .

Pete Williams said...

I was diving on the SS Breda in 1986. Before the salvage company even started diving on her. I have several 10 Rupee Reserve Bank Of India sheets. Those you see on ebay have been destroyed by cutting, into notes, which obviously would not happen prior to printing. Each sheet has roughly 36 watermarked notes with King George VI shown clearly. They are in superb condition, with some fraying to the edges. The quality of the paper is a testament to the workmanship and materials used. They have been stored since I dived on the wreck in 1986, in a sealed tube, away from sunlight. I would be interested to hear from anyone wishing to purchase one or all sheets.

Unknown said...


Pete William, I am willing to buy

Email me :