Daily Mail (London), July 11, 2000 | Go to article overview
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QUESTION Will we ever discover the real reason why Rudolf Hess flew to Britain during World War II?

RUDOLF HESS, Hitler's deputy, flew to Britain in a specially converted Messer-schmitt Bf 110 fighter-bomber on May 10, 1941. Parts of this aircraft are on display in the Imperial War Museum, London.

He had come with a peace offer which he intended to deliver initially to the Duke of Hamilton, who he believed was in favour of coming to terms with Germany and had great influence in British ruling circles.

Knowing that Hitler intended to invade Russia the following month, Hess hoped to get Britain to sign a peace with Germany, allowing Hitler to concentrate all his forces against the Soviet Union.

Germany was to have a free hand in Europe while guaranteeing the integrity of the British Empire, which Hitler professed to much admire.

Most historians believe Hess made his flight without Hitler's prior knowledge or approval and he soon became a 'non-person' in the Third Reich, with the Nazi propaganda machine saying that he suffered from hallucinations.

Hess was interviewed by, among others, Lord Beaverbrook, a member of Churchill's War Cabinet, but there is no evidence to suggest that the offer Hess brought was ever taken seriously, and his mission became a joke both in Britain and in Germany.

Comedian Arthur Askey recorded a song, Thank You Mr Hess For Dropping In, and in Germany the riddle was asked: 'Why are we now a 100-year Reich instead of a 1,000-year Reich? The answer was one zero less (one "nothing" less).'

Hess stayed in British custody as a VIP prisoner of war until 1945, when he was sent to Nuremberg to stand trial as a major war criminal. He was sentenced to life imprisonment and remained in Spandau prison, (after 1966 as the only inmate), until his suicide in August, 1987.

Some British Government papers on Hess remain closed to scholars, helping to fuel a number of bizarre theories concerning his flight, including one claim that it was not Hess who flew to Scotland at all, but a double.

Terry Charman, Historian, Imperial War Museum, London.

QUESTION Is Westward Ho!

the only place name with an exclamation mark?

THE exclamation mark behind the Devon resort town of Westward Ho!

makes the town unique, as no other town in the world has a similar ending.

The town is also the only English town to be named after a book. Westward Ho!, published in 1855, was a historical romance written by the 19th-century Anglican clergyman, teacher and novelist, Charles Kingsley, best remembered for his Christian children's fable, The Water Babies (1863).

The novel has been praised as an excellent representation of Elizabethan England and the Spanish Main, though it has been criticised by some for its anti-Catholic fervour.

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