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What Was the Real Story of the Escape of Rudolph Hess the Number Three Man in the Nazi Hierarchy to Britain in 1941

MG is a military specialist having spent quality time in the Indian Air Force. He is also an alumnus of the Defence Services Staff College.


Rudolf Hess

Rudolph Hess has now gone into the dustbin of history after suffering almost 40+ years of imprisonment at Spandue. His story is bizarre and yet even after 3 decades of his death, the entire truth is not known. In May 1941 Hess took a Messerchimit of the Luftwaffe and flew to Scotland. Why? this has never been revealed officially. There are many reasons for it but basically, Winston Churchill and Franklin Delano Roosevelt, believed that no useful purpose could be served by the telling.

Today, many historians have concluded Churchill pledged Britain to continue fighting as a full ally of the newest victim of Nazi duplicity-the USSR. Even if the proposal made by Hess was genuine Churchill was not ready to accept it.

Seven decades after the end of this war, it has now become clear that British intelligence and many top-flight officials knew the background behind the escape off Rudolph Hess. It is one of the most fascinating tales of intrigue in the annals of international relations. It was a British coup that shattered the pride of the Nazis and their Secret Service. Considering intelligence as a domain, one can safely state that the Hess incident was a defeat equivalent to Stalingrad in the military domain.

Now we know that Rudolph Hess did not escape from Germany but went with the full knowledge of the hierarchy. There are many who conjecture that he came with the blessings of Adolf Hitler. Another fact is, the arrival was expected by a limited number of Britishers who knew about it in advance.


A possible reconstruction

By the beginning of 1941 Hitler, in disregard of the advice of some of his generals, had decided to invade Russia. He had failed to subdue Britain and he thought that it was better to complete his mission in the east. He was well aware of the danger of fighting a two-front war and at the back of his mind, he wanted an understanding with Great Britain to leave him free on the Eastern front to smash Russia. He however committed a fatal mistake in assessing the character of Churchill as he based his assumptions on the way Chamberlain and Daladier had reacted at Munich.

Hitler authorized a feeler in January 1941, in the form of an inquiry regarding the British attitude to direct negotiations. It was not made to Churchill but to a group of influential Britishers, among them the Duke of Hamilton, who belonged to the Anglo-German Fellowship Association. Unknown to Hitler the entire correspondence was now being handled by British intelligence. Hitler sent a message that he was prepared to send a diplomat to England for discussions. It was a sign of his warped thinking.

A man named Ernst Wilhelm Bohle, Gauleiter of all Germans abroad was selected but Hitler vetoed his name.

The Führer then had one of his brainwaves. He wanted that a really big Nazi would go. He must be one, said Hitler, who would represent him as well as a man whose sincerity was unquestionable. The choice fell on Walter Richard Rudolf Hess, Nazi Number Three, who had grown up in the English quarter of Alexandria and spoke fluent English.

Hitler transmitted his final offer-to send his own Deputy and closest friend directly to England. The proposal stunned the British. They took some time to reply but finally an acceptance of the proposal came. On May 10, Hess flew into the twilight.

The Germans were fooled. They were not aware that they were not negotiating with the British government but which the agents of the British Secret Service. It was using the names and even the handwriting of the Duke of Hamilton and other members of the Anglo-German Fellowship Association! The Germans swallowed the British bait hook line and sinker. However, Hitler did denounce the escape of Rudolph Hess because he realized much earlier than Hess, that the British were not going to be cowed down.


The events

British radar tracked an unknown German fighter approaching the Scottish Coast. Two fighters of the Royal Air Force were scrambled to intercept the plane but with instructions not to shoot it but to force it to land. The plane however was short on fuel and Rudolph Hess abandoned the plane and parachuted down. The plane crashed in the fields and Rudolph landed in a ditch and slightly injured his ankle. Many Scottish home guards and farmers reached the site quickly. Seeing the aggressive crowd, Hess kept on repeating that his name was Alfred Horn and he wanted to meet the Duke of Hamilton. Unknown to Hess, Duke of Hamilton did not even know anything of this event as the entire correspondence had been handled by the Secret Service.

The military soon reached the spot and took Hess in custody. He was driven to Maryhill Barracks near Glasgow. There he confessed he was Rudolf Hess and his visit was expected by influential Englishmen. He was later taken to the hospital for treatment of his injured ankle. All the time he was asking to meet the duke of Hamilton who he claimed was aware of his coming.

Winston Churchill was a very shrewd man. He detailed Ivone Kirkpatrick, an astute super-spy in World War I and Councillor at the Berlin Embassy during the intervening years, to meet Hess. Hess at this stage was still convinced that he was dealing with the Fellowship intermediaries. Kirk Patrick made out a report and forwarded it to Churchill. Hess's tone throughout was arrogant as if offering a reprieve to a foe who would be defeated.

Hess announced that the proposals made by him had the approval of Hitler. He offered a complete cease-fire in the West. Hitler offered to withdraw from Western Europe, except for the two French provinces and Luxembourg. Rudolph Hess continued making his proposals for two days and throughout these days he came up with a number of proposals that included even exchange of operations and the north African campaign. He repeatedly emphasized that the danger in the east was very great and that was the reason Hitler was prepared to make some concessions to a defeated British. Throughout these two days, the tone of Rudolph Hess was not only arrogant but showed his superiority complex over the British, who he assumed would be completely defeated if they continued the war with Germany. He however did not drop any hints regarding Hitler's invasion of Russia towards the end of June 41.

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The proposals were conveyed to Churchill who in turn conveyed it to Roosevelt. His answer was a big no. At the same time, both Churchill and Roosevelt warned Stalin of an impending attack. Stalin ignored the warning thinking that it was a ploy to trick him into a war with Germany.

After a couple of days when Rudolph Hess did not receive any reply, he realized that he had been tricked and the British had no plan to accept his proposal. The Duke of Hamilton and his sympathizers never knew a word of what was going on.

When Hess realized that he had been the subject of a big trick he was considerably deflated and demanded that he be sent back to Germany. This he claimed was as per the principles of war where an emissary was always sent back. Churchill was not going to agree to it and sent a message that the British government had not asked for an emissary and as such the conditions did not apply to him. The Nazi leader was now to rot in prison for the next 45 years till his death.


The Coup of British intelligence

The decoy and capture of Rudolph Hess is a feather in the cap of British intelligence. It is a wonder how the British intelligence latched on to the top echelon of the Nazi leadership and fed them fake stories on behalf of the Duke of Hamilton, who in any case did not know what was going on. They duplicated his signature and handwriting and fooled the German intelligence, so much so, that the third top leader of the Nazi hierarchy was enticed into the net of the British.

This was not the first time England hammered the Germans by audacious Secret Service work. There were rumors floating in Berlin that the signature of Admiral Raeder was duplicated by British intelligence to scuttle the Graf Spee. We do not know whether it is true or not but it could have been part of the big game. The achievements of the Secret Service and the Hess episode stand out with glory, as one of the great espionage events of all times.


MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on January 11, 2021:

Thanks, Tom, Kirkpatrick had a big connection with India and was born in 1897 in Wellington,Madras presidency India. His father was Colonel Ivone Kirkpatrick (died–1936) of the South Staffordshire Regiment, and his wife, Mary Hardinge (d. 1931), daughter of General Sir Arthur Edward Hardinge, later Commander-in-Chief, Bombay Army, and Governor of Gibraltar.

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on January 11, 2021:

John, you are welcome.

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on January 11, 2021:

Chitra, Thank you for reading and commenting.

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on January 11, 2021:

Thank you Pamela you are so right politics is the same even now.

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on January 11, 2021:

Thank you Sankhajit for commenting.

Sankhajit Bhattacharjee from MILWAUKEE on January 11, 2021:

interesting to read...

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on January 11, 2021:

This is an interesting acccount of Rudolph Hess, MG. Jumping out of the plane saved his life, but he was tricked.

It seems like politics hasn't changed. Thank you for sharing this story as I always learn something from your articles.

Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on January 11, 2021:

An interesting and informative article. Your war times stories are always interesting to read. Thank you for sharing another wonderful one.

John Hansen from Gondwana Land on January 11, 2021:

What an interesting tale of war time espionage. Thank you for sharing, MG.

tom on January 11, 2021:

ivone rtd as permanent foreign under secretary

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on January 11, 2021:

Tom, I have read the book by James Leasor. Entrapping Hess was great deception and achievement. Britain intelligence had cracked the enigma code on the Germans. Yes, Ian Fleming, the writer of the Bond series took his inspiration from his experience during World War II and created the James Bond character.

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on January 11, 2021:

Tom, nice comment. He must give credit to Hess that he was a daredevil. It required guts to fly to Scotland in the thick of World War II. The problem was he implicitly trusted Hitler and that was his downfall. The allies also should have paroled him but they kept him in solitary confinement till I think he committed suicide. There was a lot of cloak and dagger going on in World War II but in this mayhem, I must give credit to Winston Churchill, who like the warrior Arjuna never lost sight of his principal aim that is the destruction of Germany. I remember reading one of his articles in which he had said in 1941 that Britain must ensure that Germany never rises again but unfortunately Germany rose from the ashes after World War II and dominated the EU and Britain is the one which left the Eu.

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on January 11, 2021:

LIZ, thanks a lot for commenting on the article, I really value what you write.

Liz Westwood from UK on January 11, 2021:

This has long been a fascinating mystery of World War 2. It seems now that the full truth behind it will never come to light. Your article has covered it well and gives an interesting insight.

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