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RUDOLPH HESS - his "flight" to England

Thursday 11 September 2003

At 5.45pm on Saturday May 10,1941 a twin engined Me110 registration VJ-OQ took off from the Meserschmitt aircraft company’s private runway at Augsburg in south-east Germany and headed off into the late afternoon sun. But this was no production-line model of the powerful fighter: the cockpit had been adapted to allow the plane, normally crewed by three, to be flown by a single pilot, and the fuselage had been lengthened to carry an inflatable dinghy. Furthermore, the aircraft was fitted to carry hundreds of gallons of extra fuel and was heading northwards, directly into hostile airspace - a tempting target for RAF patrols. Yet, remarkably, the Messerschmitt was unarmed. There was no ammunition on board and the cannons and machine-guns were packed with grease.
Post puzzling of all was the identity of the man at the controls. He was not some bold young Luftwaffe officer ut a 46-year-old veteran of World war I. his name was Rudolf Hess, Hitler’s right-hand man and Deputy Fuhrer of Nazi Germany. As he roared away towards the enemy, alone and unprotected, it was not just his ground crew who were baffled by his behaviour.
That warm spring day, following a siesta and afternoon tea with his family, the second most important man in the Reich set in train an extraordinary sequence of events. His purpose has remained a source of mystery and conjecture ever since.
Hess’s doomed flight to Scotland, apparently with a harebrained scheme for an armistice with Britain, is one of the great conundrums of World War II.
At the heart of the matter is a simple question. Was he acting alone, from some naive or crazed belief that he could alter the course of the war singlehanded? Or was he part of some far greater, more complex and sinister plot?
Martin Allen, the latest of a great many authors lured by the subject, manifestly belongs in the latter camp. In his new book The Hitler-Hess Deception, he argues that not only did the Fuhrer know and support what his deputy was up to, but so, in deadly secrecy, did Winston Churchill.
The episode, he claims, was one of the most audacious plans ever concocted by the British security services in a bid to destabilise the Fuhrer.
The conspiracy theorists diverge wildly in their explanations of what happened and why. But about the basic.factsof the flight, there is little disagreement. Guided by radio beacons, Hess’s Messerschmitt soon left Germany, crossed occupied Holland and flew out over the North Sea.
After three hours he was off the north-east coast of England, where he circled for a further hour, waiting for dusk. Then he dropped the nose of the Me-110 and streaked towards land at low level, flying at 36Omph.
In the control room of RAF Turnhouse, near Edinburgh, the lone aircraft had already been spotted and given the code ’42J. Three Spitfires were scrambled but failed to make contact. Hess was now flying below radar cover, across the Scottish border.
At about 10.45pm a single fighter plane was heard over Dungavel House, the Lanarkshire home of the Duke of Hamilton, part of which was being used by the International Red Cross. This was almost certainly Hess’s intended destination, not least because the flying enthusiast Duke had his own private airfield but also, Allen suggests, because the Duke was central to the plot. But despite having navigated himself 900 miles to within a short distance of his target, Hess must have missed the house in the dark.
After blundering about in the skies for a while longer and with his fuel exhausted, Hess decided to bail out. So it was that at 11.09 on that Saturday night, Rudolf Hess landed on Scottish soil, in a field about 14 miles from Dungavel House. He had broken his ankle but was otherwise unharmed. According to one report, he was found by a local farm worker, who gave him a cup of tea. According to another, it was by a sergeant in the Royal Signals.
At any event, the very grand figure of the Deputy fuhrer of the Nazi Reich quickly found himself being bundled unceremoniously into a scruffy scout hut in a Glaswegian suburb, where he was held captive by the local Home Guard untill he he was moved to Maryliffi Barracks, in the north of the city, at 2am on the Sunday. At first,. Hess insisted his name was Alfred Horn. But he dropped the pretence when he eventually got his wish to see the Duke of Hamilton.
There are scant records of the interview that followed and the interrogations that took place at later dates. But there is no doubt about the general drift of Hess’s rambling disclosures: he had flown to Britain on a mission to discuss an Anglo­German peace settlement.
The war between their two nations was a dreadful mistake, he insisted. The real enemy lay to the east, in the shape of the communist Soviet Union. He wished to convey this message if not to King George VI himself, then to some sympathetic faction less obdu­rate than Churchill.
When the news reached Churchill himself at Ditchley Park, the Prime Minister’s wartime country retreat in Oxfordshire, he summoned the Duke of Hamilton to fly down from Scotland that very night, bearing a photograph of the mysterious prisoner.
It certainly looked rather like Hitler’s deputy, Churchill agreed. But then, apparently dismissing the supposed one-man peace mission as an act of meaningless folly, he growled: ’Well, Hess or no Hess, I am going to see the Marx Brothers’, and retired to Ditch­ley Park’s private cinema where his weekend house party was waiting.
In Germany Hitler was equally quick to blame his chief henchman’s bizarre behaviour on insanity, and promptly arrested Hess’s closest aides.
If the two national leaders had indeed known in advance about Hess’s flight and placed weight on its outcome, as Martin Allen maintains, then the manner in which they distanced themselves from the venture was curiously swift and effective.
From then on, both governments did their best to consign Hess to oblivion. He spent the rest of the war incarcerated at various places in Scotland, England and Wales, including a spell in the Tower of London.
At his trial in Nuremberg in 1946, Hess appeared to confirm the official view that he was suffering from some sort of mental disorder as he swayed about in the dock and stared glassily at the ceiling.
This may have saved him from the hangman, but he was sentenced to life imprisonment and spent the next 41 years, until his death, in Berlin’s Spandau jail. For half that time, he was the building’s only inmate. Not once during that long, solitary confinement did the old man say a thing to illuminate his strange wartime venture or implicate anybody else.
Yet his silence merely spurred those historians who found the accepted explanations for his actions too simplistic to be true.
They refused to acknowledge that Hess was insane. Nor would they believe the other chief hypothesis: that he was so desperate to retrieve his standing with Hitler, who had begun to favour Martin Bormann as his closest confidant, that he risked everything in a solo attempt to fulfil his leader’s ambition of Making peace with Britain, leaving Germany tree to establish an eastern empire.
Whatever the merits of such argu­ments, the unanswered questions were just too tantalising, as Martin Allen demonstrates.
For example, how was it that an enemy aircraft, loitering off the Eng­lish coast for an hour before making its run-in, managed to reach Lanarkshire without being shot down, without an air-raid warning being sounded, and with such pinpoint accuracy?
Why was it that, according to one account, two Czech Hurricane pilots who intercepted a lone Messerschmitt heading towards the’Firth of Clyde on the evening of May 10 were told not to attack it. Why did a member of the Womens Auxiliary air Force, stationed that night at Dungavel House, remember the landing lights on the Duke’s private airstrip being on, shortly before Hess’s plane crashed, despite blackout regulations?
There were other witnesses to the events that night who had the impression that Hess’s arrival was expected. The Duke of Kent, the King’s younger brother, was said to have been one of Hess’s intended reception party. Indeed, he was involved in a motoring accident with a coal lorry the very next morning not far from Dungavel House.
Intriguingly, his passenger was the Duke of Buccleuch, a senior aristocrat well known for his anti-war, pro-German sentiments prior to 1939.
Could all these oddities be mere coincidence - or did they add UP to a highly secret, ca fully-planned plot which appare fell ap at the last minute?
Martin Allen believes there was indeed a plot, but a far more cunning one than has previously been proposed. It was he says the brainchild of S01, the political warfare branch of the Special Oper­ations Executive, established by Churchill in July 1940 with the task of ’setting Europe ablaze’.
B the autumn of 1940 it was eviaent that Britain was losing the war. Most of Western Europe was under Nazi control and the Luftwaffe was causing havoc in British cities.
Churchill’s only hope, so long as America hung back from war, was for Hitler to do what everyone expected him to sooner or later: open a second front to the east. That would split his forces and give Britain a respite.
Despite Germany’s non-aggression pact with the Soviet Union, Hitler had made no secret of his burning ambition to establish an empire embracing Eastern Europe and Russia which would give the Germanic peoples lebensraum -living space. Hence his repeated clandestine approaches to make peace with Britain, whose defiance was dis­tracting him from his real war aim to the east.
Every one of these approaches was rejected. But in Hitler’s evident desire to shake the British bulldog off his ankle, S01 spotted an opportunity that was ripe for exploitation.
The gist of the plan was simple: to persuade Hitler as subtly as possible that a faction in Britain supported the idea of a peace deal and would be in a position to replace the warmongering Churchill with someone more sympathetic to a truce.
If Hitler could be deceived into believing this was so, and that Britain was no longer a threat, he would turn his tanks eastwards and open the second front. This, of course, was Churchill’s dearest wish. The key figure in this deception, according ro Martin Allen, was Rudolf Hess’s foreign policy adviser, an academic called Albrecht Haushofer. He was a keen Anglophile with a great many friends in Britain. If he could be bluffed into participating, he would be the ideal man to persuade Hitler, via Hess, that there was a powerful peace party in Britain with whom the Germans could do business.
The hook was very cunningly baited in the form of a letter to Haushofer’s father from an old family friend in England, Violet Roberts. It seemed to be inviting some sort of Anglo-German rapprochement and suggested that a reply might be sent to her’c/o Postbox 506, Lisbon, Portugal’.
According to Martin Allen it was no coincidence that Mrs Roberts’s nephew worked for SOE - or that ’Postbox 506’ was in fact a drop address used by British intelligence in neutral Portugall.
One of Haushofer’s British friends was Douglas, Duke of Hamilton. He had written to the Duke just weeks before the outbreak of war, urging him to make every effort to ’promote’a British peace plan. ’
Now, in late September of 1940, Haushofer wrote to him again via Mrs Roberts and her Portugese postbox. With Hess’s full approval, he told his’Dear Douglo’ there were ’some things I could tell you that might make it worthwhile for you to try a short trip to Lisbon... as to myself, I could reach Lisbon any time.’Haushofer - and Hess - had taken the bait.
In Martin Allen’s account of the S01 deception, there followed a sequence of clandestine meetings between Hess and a senior British diplomat, Sir Michael Hoare, in Switzerland and Spain. Things were hotting up, and got hotter still when the Germans insisted that they meet with’a close representative of the man of influence on neutral territory’.
Who was this mystery British figure ? Did they hope the King himself might being to negotiate a deal? Allen thinks so, and that within weeks senior gn Office officials had with the King’s younger brother, the Duke of Kent, to the middle man in the deception.
From Alien’s evidence, it appears the Duke agreed to take part in some sort of subtefuge. Thus, by the end of April 1941, the main elements of a meeting were In place - one which could be used to string along the Germans in thinking Britain was eager to end hostilities.
For what happened next, one must rely on conjecture. The Duke of Hamilton’s estate would have been cho­sen not only because of its airstrip and his association with Haushofer but because the part of the house that had been assigned to the Red Cross could have counted as’neutral territory’. So far, so plausible. The mystery is why it was Hess himself who a eed to embark on such a high risk venture. The consequences of failure - or ., capture would be grave.
Perhaps it was a personal bid to win favour in Hitler’s eyes by pulling off the coup of bringing Britain to negotiation table. Or pehaps Hilter was party to Hess’s plan along, calculating that the sending of such a senior emissary would show the British he meant business.
When Hess visited Hitler at the Reich Chancellery on May 5, the last time the two men were to meet, they talked together for four hours.
An aide reportedly overheard the name Hamilton and two significant snippets of conversation. At one point Hess supposedly said said’no problem at all with the aero­. plane’, and at another, ’have me simply declared insane’.
Yet it is hard to believe Hitler would really have sent his deputy on such a desperate mission, knowing that the news of Hess’s presence in Britain would reach Churchill within hours of his arrival. So, even after Martin Allen’s energetic sleuthing we are left, as always in this story, with a jigsaw from which vital bits are miss­ing.
It is quite likely that British intelligence did indeed deceive Hitler into thinking he could hope for a peace treaty with an anti-Churchill faction. It is certainly possible that Hitler’s fateful invasion of Russia was influenced by the false hope of an imminent truce with Britain.
But it is a good deal harder to credit that the climax of such artful deceptions was to be a gathering of dukes on a Scottish hillside to hoodwink the Fuhrer’s emissary into believing that an armistice was nigh.
Whatever the truth of the matter, whether there was a plan or whether there wasn’t on that May night, Hess bungled it. With his plane smashed to pieces and his arrival witnessed by so many, there was little hope of completing his mission successfully,
He may have been the victim of an elaborate SOE deception. It is more likely the would-be Nazi peace­maker had simply deceived himself.

The Hitler-Hess Deception by Martin Allen (HarperCollins, £19.99) is published on February 17. To order a copy, telephone 0870 161 0870.

Another book, by Alfred Smith, gives a similar view of the situation but goes on to the end of Hess’s life.

After the war started in Sept 1939, there was six months of phoney war, not a shot was fired, Hitler wanted peace with Britain so he could attack and defeat Russia and extend Germany to, the east and destroy Communism. During the six months of phoney war there was extensive and very active negotiations between the Foreign Offices in many european countries to try and broker a peace deal between Germany and Britain, for there was in Britain a a strong peace movement amongst the aristocracy and the elite establishment who control this country, they wanted no change to disturb their wealth, power, and privilege, and they feared Communism far more than Germany and Hitler, whom they admired is a leader-

Hitlers peace offer was to leave Britain alone with her empire intact, if they would leave him a free hand to attack Russia, but could Hitler be trusted ?, so it all dragged on and came lo nothing in the end and the war started up in April/ May, 1940.

In MAY 1940, CHURCHILL became Prime Minister, he knew of the peace movement and was dead against it and vowed to fight on. After Dunkirk and the Battle of Britain during 1940, then the winter bombing of London and other cities, takes us up to Spring 1941.

The Duke of Hamilton was one of the leaders of the peace movement, and he and HESS knew each other very well from meetings in the pre war years.

At that time in 1941, HESS, who was Deputy leader, in agreement and in collaboration with Hitler, agreed on a last fling to achieve peace with Britain, with HESS to fly over. to Scotland, meet up with Hamilton, and the peace supporters to dislodge Churchill from office. HESS was to land his aircraft. on Hamiltons private air strip, it was all pre arranged. HESS was unarmed, but he was never attacked or shot at, they knew he was coming.
He came in over the wrong sector, lost his bearings, run out of petrol, had to bale. out, landing in the wrong place, and was eventually picked ap by the army, and put in a Police station over night.

He did see Hamilton the next day, and they.spoke together in private. That same day, Hamilton was ordered to fly. down to. meet Churchill, and Churchill, to dis associate himself from the Peace planners plot, had HESS shut away, they said he was deranged to make such a futile, journey of his own accord, and nothing of detail was revealed to the press, or public, and HESS was forgotten until the war was over and the war crimes trials began HESS had revealed that if his peace plan failed then he told Churchill that Hitler would in any case attack Russla, and he did, in June 1941, and Hitler would then settle the Jewish problem with the HOLOCAUST, and that was the secret that HESS carried with him, he had told Britain in advance about the holocaust, when Britain always denied knowing anything about it, and that’s why Britain kept HESS shut away in prison for the of his life. Always blaming Russia for not agreeing, to his release, then in 1987, when Russia agree to the release, Britain had to silence HESS for good.
Two S A S members entered the prison, normally HESS was never left alone at all but that ,;afternoon the guard was called away to answer the telephone, he was away only a few minutes, when he returned, HESS was on the floor, dead, how strange, yet so convenient,

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