The Rudolph Hess Mystery – 10 April 2018

Retired headmaster and Strathaven Rotarian, Ian Valentine, related to us, in humorous fashion, the strange tale of Rudolph Hess and his mystery visit to Scotland in 1941.

Ian began by identifying three key characters in Hess’s wartime life: Hess himself was born in Egypt in 1894 and, in 1914, joined the German army in Munich and fought on the Italian front before training to be a pilot. After the war he enrolled at Munich university to study geopolitics and fell under the influence of the charismatic Prof. Karl Haushofer, thus beginning down the road to Nazism and his eventual rise to Deputy Fuhrer. The second person in Ian’s story was George, Duke of Kent, an amiable, but flawed, right wing libertine who was a British air commodore in 1940; he had met Haushofer at the 1939 Berlin Olympics. The third principal in the story was Douglas, Duke of Hamilton, who was prominent in opposition to the government and Churchill.

On the night of 3 May 1941 Hess flew to Scotland and with the aircraft running out of fuel parachuted to safety, landing at Floors Farm, Eaglesham. He told his captors that he had an important message for the Duke of Hamilton and the local Home Guard unit escorted him to their headquarters in Busby, East Renfrewshire. He was next taken to the police station at Giffnock and after interview there, was taken under guard firstly to Maryhill Barracks in Glasgow and then to Buchanan Castle. From there he was moved to secure premises south of the border. When the war ended Hess was charged at the Nuremberg trials and found guilty of crimes against peace. He spent the rest of his life in Spandau prison, Berlin, where he died by hanging himself on 17 August 1987 at the age of 93.

As to the reason for Hess’s journey to Scotland, Ian asked us to consider four possibilities:

  1. Hess was mad (as Hitler claimed)
  2. He had been duped by MI6
  3. He had come in secret to meet Churchill
  4. He had come to an arranged meeting with anti-Churchill establishment figures in order to broker a peace.

The last theory has some credence in that Dungavel House, the summer retreat of the Duke of Hamilton, was only 12 miles from the crash site of Hess’s plane. Churchill himself said in a radio broadcast that “it is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma”.

Colin Vooght gave the vote of thanks and complimented Ian on his witty delivery.