Hess escapade amuses Britain

The Home Guard on dawn patrol, 'somewhere in Britain'. As the weather improved during the spring an invasion was still widely expected.

The arrival of Nazi Deputy Rudolf Hess became the major topic of conversation and was widely noted by diarists. This was two days after London had suffered a devastating raid with 1,212 killed and 1,769 seriously injured.

Tuesday 13 May
There can be only one topic of conversation in all the country today and that’s the amazing, almost unbelievable, event of last Saturday, the 10th. At 6 p.m. that day, Rudolf Hess, the third man in Germany and Hitler’s deputy, started from Augsburg in a Messerschmitt 110 and later landed in Scotland. It has now been established that he is here definitely as a refugee and the rumours which immediately sprang up, that he had brought peace proposals, are denied.

See Mr Brown’s War: A Diary from the Home Front

Tuesday, 13th

Woke to hear the great news of the arrival of Rudolf Hess in Scotland. Cannot take it in – seems too good to be true. When I heard the German announcement that he had disappeared, of course, I believed them, and thought the world was the richer by the loss of one more Nazi! No further explanations have come to light – only the meeting with the old Scotswoman, and the man who arrested him. Their conversation was largely unintelligible. The other News represents a lull.

See Vere Hodgson: Few Eggs and No Oranges

A Nazi leader, catapulting down onto a Scottish moor, succeeded for sevral days last week in shifting the war into the key in which war rightly belongs — that of large-scale lunacy. The debt which the nation owed to Herr Hess showed in relaxed, smiling faces everywhere. After the strain and anxiety of recent events, people were glad to open their morning papers and find headlines that weren’t tragedy but pure comic opera, with a libretto which might have been better if it hadn’t been a trifle farfetched.

The subsequent twist, the report that the unexpected visitor had hoped to tumble in on a duke, amused everyone – except, presumably, the duke in question, whose picture, snapped by the photographers, showed him shielding his face with a newspaper. A columnist in the Express told his readers, “Your Hess guess is as good as mine,” and put forward one to the effect that Hess, a sick man, had come over because he knew that all the best German doctors were in this country as refugees.

A London cinema audience roared when a newsreel commentator, anticipating further Nazi monkey business, said that even the arrival of Goring wouldn’t surprise anyone, and added, “But I hope he brings his ration card.”

See Mollie Panter-Downes: London War Notes 1939-1945

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