After a couple of months at Craiglockhart they recommended that he should be discharged as medically unfit. Whether the fact that the war was clearly coming to an end influenced that decision I donít know. I donít think I mentioned earlier that Mumís baby died at or soon after birth so sheíd had a terrible year. First she had become pregnant and obliged by the social mores of the day to marry the father. Then she lost the baby and her husband ended up in a mental asylum.
Turning now to World War 2, he volunteered for an emergency reserve of officers and actually went in April 1940. Iíve mentioned earlier that he was posted to the Home Defence battalion of the South Staffordshire Regiment. When the immediate risk of invasion passed those units were phased out. He went on a course to learn about Prisoner of War duties. Then a message came to his unit to report to the Military Police at Camp Z in Aldershot for guard subaltern duties.
Camp Z was actually one of the most secret places in Britain at that time because it was where they were keeping Rudolf Hess. I guess even presentday readers donít really know who he was or why he was so important. He was Adolf Hitlerís deputy in Germany and a very big shot indeed. In 1941 he flew to Scotland, ran out of fuel and landed by parachute. The authorities have never released documents concerning his trip. I had hoped that when the Queen Mother died they might feel that they could make them available but theyíve probably got a 100 year embargo on them which means that I will be long gone before the secrets are revealed.
Why the desire to sit on these documents? There have been many conspiracy theories. It is a well known fact that the former King Edward VIII, who abdicated and became the Duke of Windsor, was a traitor. British Intelligence learned that heíd had meetings with the Germans in Spain and had agreed to be restored to the throne after the inevitable defeat of England. Winston Churchill could hardly clap the kingís brother in the Tower of London so he appointed him the Governor of the Bahamas and that kept him out of the way for the rest of the war. Why did Hess come to England? I asked Dad and he said that the Germans sent a message that the biggest threat was Russia, and that Britain and Germany should unite to counter that menace. I didnít really push Dad for information because it was wartime and he was bound by the Official Secrets Act. Had he lived until I got home in 1946 Iíd have asked more questions but he didnít.
I saw an interesting documentary about Hess a few months ago. It seems that he had a long meeting with Hitler just before he left with nobody else present. What was discussed at that meeting has never been disclosed but he was such a loyal follower that it was unlikely he would fly to England without Hitlerís approval. After heíd been captured Hitler publicly disowned him and said he must have gone mad. Dad said he was far from mad. When he landed Hess asked to see the Duke of Hamilton whom heíd met in Berlin during the 1936 Olympics. In the documentary Hessís son said his father got permission from his friend Willi Messerschmidt to learn how to fly his latest plane. But he never learned how to get out of the plane in an emergency and when he decided to jump he had difficulty leaving the cockpit. That suggests that he hadnít expected to have to use his parachute and was planning to land somewhere.
Two workers from the Duke of Hamiltonís estate near to where Hess bailed out said that the landing lights on his private air strip were on for a couple of hours that night. They commented at the time that if there were any German bombers around that would be a perfect target. Another estate member said that a number of very high level VIPs arrived in great secrecy and were hidden in an outhouse. They included the Duke of Kent whom he recognised. He was a well-respected peace activist and not a ratbag like his elder brother. He served in the air force and was the only member of the British royal family to be killed in the war. So the conspiracy theory is that the whole thing was set up by British intelligence.
There were definitely a number of members of the British aristocracy who were pro-Nazi and Hess may have been deluded into thinking that the Germans could set up a Fifth Column who would be willing to do a deal. They didnít include the Duke of Hamilton who wasnít at home that night because he was serving with the air force in a different part of Scotland.
So itís been said that the reason for the continuing secrecy is that they would reveal damaging things about the Duke of Windsor and the Queen Mother was his sister-in-law. But he was the present Queenís uncle and the royal family is enough on the nose as it is. Hess was also kept in prison in Germany long after he should have been released on humanitarian grounds. The British have always maintained that he was kept there because of the Russians but I donít think they wanted him out where he could have talked to the media, written a book etc. At a great age he finally committed suicide and his secrets died with him.
Dad got on well with him. Hess was never left alone and Dad and another officer were with him at all times. next