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A Daring Venture

Rudolf Hess and the Ill-Fated Peace Mission of 1941

Peter Raina

At the height of the Second World War, Hitler’s Deputy, Rudolf Hess, made a dramatic solo flight to the British Isles. His arrival there was sensational news – and it baffled everyone. Why had he come?
Hess claimed he had flown to Britain entirely of his own initiative and was on a personal mission of peace. But so unlikely was the success of such an appeal in Churchill’s entrenched Britain that historians continue to wonder at his motives.
In this book, Peter Raina publishes, for the first time, complete texts of Hess’s ‘peace proposals’ and a treatise he wrote in captivity outlining how he saw Nazi Germany’s role in Europe. These texts throw considerable light on Hess’s mission and also on how the Nazi leadership saw their programme of expansion and their relations with Britain.
Disconcertingly single-minded and an unashamed disciple of Hitler, Hess was at heart an idealist. His friend and confidant Albrecht Haushofer was an idealist of a different kind, and joined the German Resistance Movement. The frame story of this book relates how the two men moved to their tragic ends.
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Chapter 1: A Magnificent Sight


← Xiii | 1 → CHAPTER ONE

A Magnificent Sight

‘The North Sea was illuminated by evening light of unearthly loveliness, as is found in the far north’. So began the letter Rudolf Hess wrote to his son sometime later when he was permitted to contact his family. ‘It was utterly lonely. But how magnificent! A multitude of small clouds far below me looked like pieces of ice floating on the sea, clear as crystal; the whole scene was tinged with red. Then the sky was swept clean – alas, much too clean! There was not a trace of the “dense carpet of clouds at about five hundred metres” predicted in the weather report, and where I had thought to take shelter in case of need’.

The need for concealing clouds was critical. It was the late afternoon of 10 May 1941. During the previous two nights, German bombers had been indiscriminately ravaging the city of London, and the Spitfires of the Royal Air Force were keeping a watchful eye on any enemy aircraft that might appear. But then Hess had a ‘stroke of luck’. A veil of mist, he wrote, ‘hung over England. Its surface shone so much in the evening light that nothing down there could be seen from above’. Hess was actually flying over Scotland. He then took shelter, flying ‘with the throttle full out and coming slap down from a height of two thousand metres towards the coast at a truly terrific speed’. This...

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