10th May 1941

Rudolf Hess flees to Scotland

Rudolf Hess was Adolf Hitler’s trusted deputy, but he fled to Scotland in 1941 on an unauthorised flight in an effort to negotiate peace during the early years of the Second World War.

Despite being Deputy Führer, Hess wasn’t Hitler’s direct successor. In the case of the leader’s incapacity or death, Hermann Goring would step in. If neither of them was able to act, it would be Hess who took over. Nonetheless, Hess would have been aware of everything that the Nazi Party was doing, and he authorised many of the laws that would enable the Holocaust.

Hess flies to Scotland

When it looked like Hitler was about to open a second front in the war – with Russia – Hess had a plane adapted for long-range use and placed on standby. Then, on the early evening of 10 May 1941, he took off from Augsburg in Bavaria and headed for Britain. His intention was to secure a meeting with the Duke of Hamilton, who Hess believed had the ear of the king. He also believed that both men – Hamilton and the king – were against the war and would negotiate peace with Germany.

He crossed the British coast at Northumberland and flew as low as 50ft from the ground in the hope it would help him evade detection, although by then he had already been spotted by radar. Once over Scotland, he increased his altitude to several thousand feet and parachuted out, which saved him having to find somewhere to land. His plane crashed, and he came down at Floors Farm in Waterfoot, where he was discovered by David McLean. McLean contacted the Home Guard, which took Hess to Busby, then to Giffnock.

Hess’s defection revealed

German radio announced Hess’s defection, so there was no reason for British authorities not to allow the same to be done in Britain. The Dundee Courier of 13 May included the official announcement from Downing Street that “on the night of Saturday, the 10th, an Me. 110 was reported by our patrols to have crossed the coast of Scotland and to be flying in the direction of Glasgow. Since an Me. 110 would not have the fuel to return to Germany, this report was at first disbelieved. Later on am ME.110 crashed near Glasgow with its guns unloaded. Shortly afterwards a German officer who had bailed out was found, with his parachute, in the neighbourhood, suffering from a broken ankle. He was taken to a hospital in Glasgow, where he at first gave his name as Horn, but later on he declared he was Rudolf Hess.”

The German version of events stated that Hess had been ill for some years and that a letter he’d left behind suggested he was suffering a mental disorder.

Hess got his meeting with the Duke of Hamilton and told him that Hitler wanted to make peace with Britain, but he didn’t get the peace conference he was after.

Germany in denial

The Northern Wig of 14 May included comments issued by the National Socialist (Nazi) party which insisted that “nothing has been changed by this act in the prosecution of the war against Britain, forced upon the German people. It will be continued, as the Führer announced in his last speech, until the British leaders have been overthrown or are ready for peace.”

He was taken into custody and held until the end of the war, during the remainder of which he became increasingly paranoid and, at one time, attempted suicide.

He stood trial at Nuremberg for crimes against humanity and was sentenced to live in prison. He served his sentence at Spandau Prison in Berlin, eventually succeeding in a suicide attempt at the age of 93, after which the prison was demolished, and the site used for the construction of a shopping centre.



Other events that occured in May

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