The date : 15 March 1916. The place : the North Sea. A German torpedo strikes and sinks the "Tubantia", a 140-meter Dutch ocean liner that happened to be hauling a cargo of gold hidden in cheese wheels.
This treasure which was the property of the Kaiser, had been stowed away by William II who, unsure of the outcome of the German conflict was trying to transport it to South America.
Fast forward to 1921 ; a shipwreck survivor chats in a Hamburg tavern. The man, a Royal Air Force fighter, having just heard the story of the Tubantia and its cargo, immediately began a search for the means to out go and hunt down the treasure.
By the next year, 1922, this Englishman came knocking at the doors of SNM (National Maritime Society), a private company -– in an attempt to convince the resident ship magnet Paul Truck and Francois Hestier, the President of SNM about all this. He told them the story of the shipwrecked Tubantia and all its fabulous treasure. Francois Hestier, became convinced by the Englishman and sent his colleague Paul Truck to locate and identify ship.
By May 1922, the wreckage had been spotted by the company diver, proving that the old castaway had indeed been telling the truth. It took long months of investigation into the wreckage before the lowering of the final partition to the cold storage room enabled Paul Truck to extract the Tubantia’s mysterious cargo of cheese, within which was hidden 2.5 tons of Gold in bindings and 3 cases packed with precious stones.
Our unfortunate English Air Force aviator, Major Sippé, despite uncovering all this information at the famous Hamburg tavern, was unable to touch a kopeck of it ; he had been suffering from sea-sickness and could not even get there !
Meanwhile François Esthier, after having secret talks with the company accounts department, began to fall out with his colleague ; reproaching him for his excessive and luxurious life style. The latter was to die in squalor in a small bedroom in a modest hotel having been reduced to a working as a fish wholesaler after squandering his immense fortune on a love of card gambling and extreme generosity towards women.
François Esthier on the other hand, while he managed to keep a cool head over all this, mysteriously put an end to his life and that of his wife Odette Journet at their "La Brise" residence just before the arrival of the Germans in 1940. The factors that pushed him to do this still remain a mystery. Given his rather reasonable lifestyle, one may still wonder today what became of his treasure, did he hide it ? The question mark still hangs over La Brise ...