It is now permitted to be stated that Rudolf Hess flew to Scotland in an attempt to visit the Duke of Hamilton, whom he is said to have met on several occasions before the war in connection with matters of sport, which they were both interested. According to a semi-official statement issued in Berlin last night, Hess was desirous of bringing the war to a close in order to prevent the destruction of Britain, and "thought that Hamilton and his colleagues in Britain had the necessary influence."
Hess himself is reported to have spoken, while at the farm cottage to which he was taken after landing, of the hardships now being experienced in Germany, and of the great distress that prevails among the people there over the bombing by the RAF of the towns and of the sufferings of the civilian population.
When a representative of The Scotsman interviewed David McLean, he said that Hess told him he was "fed up with the war and with life in Germany." He said he had a message of great importance to deliver to the Duke of Hamilton, with whom he had been previously associated, and who shared his interests in ski-ing and flying over Mount Everest he was particularly interested.
He said that when the Duke was Marquess of Douglas and Clydesdale he knew him well, and that he had flown to Scotland and made his estate his objective, as he had valuable information to the Duke.
He stated that he had made the most painstaking preparations for his flight from Germany. This statement was borne out by maps he had used for navigation, on all of which the Duke’s estates were marked.
It can also be disclosed now that Hess had succeeded in communicating with the Duke of Hamilton by letter some months ago. The Duke immediately placed the letter in the hands of the security authorities, and a reply was made to Hess.
It has, of course, already been stated in authoritative circles in London that Hess did not arrive with any peace overtures, that he is not on a mission or carrying any message, that his flight is an escape, and that he has come in defiance of authority.
Hess’s destination was Dungavel, the Duke of Hamilton’s home, which is about six miles south of Strathaven, in Lanarkshire, near the border of Ayrshire. He landed near the Renfrewshire village of Eaglesham, which is about 12 or 14 miles north-west of Dungavel.
It says much for his ability as a navigator that, after a flight of approximately 800 miles in an aircraft to which he was unaccustomed he should have landed within a few miles of his destination.
As was reported in The Scotsman yesterday, Hess had a map on which his route from Augsburg, South Germany, was marked in the pencil. The line ended at Dungavel, which was ringed in blue pencil.
Renfrewshire, some eight miles from Glasgow, the first thing he asked Mr David McLean, the ploughman who assisted him out of his parachute harness, was the way to Dungavel. He had mistaken a large house he had sighted as the mansion he was seeking, and, failing to find a suitable landing ground, decided to descend by parachute. Despite the injury to his ankle, he wanted to be taken to the Duke’s house, which he thought was nearby. The Duke, who is on active service with the Royal Airforce, was not in Dungavel.
PENDING the further statement on the Rudolf Hess sensation, some display of impatience on the part of the general public is quite naturally to be expected. But that impatience may be substantially diminished if and when people realise the actual meaning of the strange and dramatic escapade of last weekend. The Deputy Fhrer of Germany is a prisoner in the hands of the British military authorities. He is talking freely, and every word he utters is of the utmost importance to us. Obviously it is not in our interests to tell the world - including Germany - how much he has said. There is abundant evidence of anxiety in Berlin as to his talkativeness, and all the efforts of Dr Goebbels to portray him as a semi-crazy idealist in search of peace will not bring conviction in the circumstances. We do not need - even if we wished to do so - to depict this prisoner as a convert to democracy, or as anything but the full-blooded Nazi which he has been. The fact remains that Hess is here, and that Hess is telling us many things that this friends and leader would be most anxious to conceal.
I have reason to believe that the freedom with which Rudolf Hess is speaking to his captors extend to the military as well as to the political sphere. It is true that as a prisoner of war Hess would remain in the care of Army personnel, but I gather that the members of the War Office Intelligence branch are very much in the picture.
It is quite clear from their strange silence on a n issue which has staggered the rest of the world that both Italy and Soviet Russia are puzzled and perplexed. Mussolini, of course, could dread nothing more than the disclosure to his own people that the Nazi regime, which alone still upholds the Fascist regime in Italian eyes, is a monster with feet of clay. Moscow’s silence, however, is far more remarkable. It may be due to a desire not to say anything disparaging or insulting about Nazidom at the moment when Stalin is so obviously in quest of an understanding with Berlin. Or it may be that Moscow’s incredible self-restraint is a symptom of Soviet uneasiness about the possibility of a Nazischism over the Ribbentrop policy of a Nazi-Soviet rapprochement. That is, perhaps, one of the most fascinating and difficult speculations of the hour. In this connection it is not inopportune for those who possess the "Polish White Book" on the diplomatic conversations between Berlin and Warsaw that preceded the outbreak of the present war, to look up the violent diatribes against Soviet Russia indulged by Hitler and Gring against Stalin and his regime in their talks with Colonel Beck and other Polish statesmen of that period. Gring in particular expressed the sentiment which Hess is now eredited with having stressed - that the Nazi regime could never come to an understanding with Soviet Russia or it would falsify its whole basic creed. The Soviet Secret Service is probably better aware than any other of the extent to which the old Nazi prejudice against Bolshevism still persists in certain high circles in the Reich.
I have seldom seen the House of Commons so roused to anger as it was by Mr Eden’s disclosure today, that the French authorities in Syria are, in contradiction to the terms of the Armistice with Germany and their solemn undertakings to this country, allowing enemy aeroplanes to use Syrian aerodromes as a "half-way house" for flights to Iraq. The words were scarcely out of the Foreign Secretary’s mouth when there loud cries of "Shame", and his further statement that our Government have given full authority for action to be taken against German aircraft at these Syrian bases was most emphatically cheered. Mr Eden has in the last few day shown vigour and determination in his answers which has reassured members who have sometimes wondered if he possessed the touch of ruthlessness necessary to deal with the sort of situation which so often confronts the holder of his office in these times. After today’s demonstration, he can be in no doubt as to what the members of the Commons expect him to do. In all parties there is a strong desire that the only reply to treachery and betrayal should be prompt and effective military action to the limits of our resources.
It looks as if the Red Sea were going to provide the acid test between Berlin and Washington. Hitler threatens to sink any American supply vessel in the non-combat zone proclaimed by President Roosevelt. This threat may be mere bluff designed to facilitate the task of the president’s isolationist and other critics. On the other hand, it may be seriously meant, although how it is to be implemented is a little difficult to see. No doubt, the Germans could fly a few long-range bombers from Libya to the Red Sea, but our own fighters could deal with these. The Red Sea is too much of a blind alley for German surface naval raiders. But if the German Navy possesses some secret submarine bases on islands in the South Atlantic or the southern approaches to the Indian Ocean, a few U-boats may soon be lurking in Red Sea waters. The question whether Germany will really endeavour to sink American supply vessels may depend in the first instance on whether these are or are not "convoved" or at any rate watched over by American naval patrols. I fancy that the Nazis will hesitate before trying to torpedo a merchant vessel or a warship flying the Stars and Stripes. Incidentally President Roosevelt’s determination to defend at any cost American merchantmen navigating in a non-combat zone is of tremendous interest and importance to ourselves. It constitutes a revival in a modified form of the traditional United States doctrine of the freedom of the seas for neutrals, which we mistakenly combated even after the last war, without realising its potential, benefits to Great Britain by reason of our insular position and of our dependence on sea-borne supplies.
It has been decided that at an early sitting of the Commons, a secret session on a vote for the Ministry of Supply should be held, so that the House may be given in confidence the latest and fullest details regarding our production and the ever-growing assistance we are receiving from the United States. No one will quarrel with the Prime Minister’s contention that the facts and figures cannot, for security reasons, be divulged in public, but it is possible, while admitting this, to have some sympathy with those who feel that some kind of general statement might have been made in open session, so as to give the public an authoritative view of the position, however vaguely that statement might have to be framed Mr Churchill thinks that MP’s are hearing the Ministerial reports given to them in secret session will be able, without divulging information of value to the enemy, to give their constituents a comforting reassurance as to the progress that is being made, but such a reassurance would be doubly effective if it was given by a responsible Minister. If it cannot be done in Parliament, a broadcast might surely be arranged. Nothing would hearten the country more than to hear that we are still advancing steadily towards the peak of our war effort despite all attempts to stop us.
On Saturday Norwegians all over the world - with the exception, perhaps, of those in Norway - will celebrate Independence Day. It was on May 17, 1814, at the Norwegian Storting assembled at Eidsvold, 40 miles north of Oslo, declared Norway an independent kingdom, and drew up the most advanced democratic constitution known in Europe at that time. I had the pleasure today of meeting some of the leading members of the Norwegian community in London, including the Foreign Minister, Mr Trygve Lie, and could not be but impressed by their fortitude in exile. Each is animated by the conviction that the return to their own country will not be long delayed, and they derive much support from the fact that a passive war against the German invaders is waged without intermission in their country. The powerful weapon of social ostracism is being used with great effect, I am told, and great risks are being taken to demonstrate to the Nazis that they are detested interlopers. One example of the spirit of the Norwegians may be given. A Nazi officer entered a large store in Oslo, and addressing one of the girl assistants, said "Heil Hitler! Which is the way to the gentleman’s department?" She replied, "God save the king! Second turning to the left."
When the National Association for the Employment of Regular Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen holds its annual meeting tomorrow, attention will be directed to the continuation of work which it is not generally realised is needed in war time as in peace. Thousands of men are discharged from the Services annually, and the Association is maintaining an organisation capable of the expansion bound to be necessary after the war. Its annual report deals with some interesting facts. Until the middle of last year the majority of men seeking help to find employment were those who had lost their work as a result of war conditions. The occupations chiefly affected were the building trade, the entertainment profession, garages, one-man business, and industries not concerned with export trade or munitions. Later, with the readjustment of industry and commerce to war needs, the number of men requiring assistance declined, but those discharged from the Services on account of sickness increased in number and became the principal object of attention. During the past 12 months regular jobs have been found for over 5000 members of the Association. A new scheme has the co-operation of several hundred factory surgeons for the assistance of men discharged from the Navy, Army and air Force on account of wounds. These surgeons have agreed to advise either without fee or at a nominal charge as to the extent and type of work which a man’s disability will allow, and how soon he can start work again without retarding his recovery.