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February 3

The flight, [Adjutant Karlheinz] Pintsch writes, occurred "by prior arrangement with the English". Hess's mission, he adds, was to "use all means at his disposal to achieve, if not a German military alliance with England against Russia, at least the neutralization of England" ~ Dan Friedmann and Klaus Wiegrefe writing in Das Spiegel.

Birth of a blue-blooded traitorin 1903, on this day the 14th Duke of Hamilton was born in Pimlico, London. He was then educated at Eton and Balliol College, Oxford where he represented the university in rowing and boxing.

A keen aviator, he would become world famous for flying over Everest before attending the Games of the XI Olympiad. And at a reception in Berlin he would meet two fellow aviators, Deputy Führer of the Nazi Party Rudolf Hess and American Charles Lindbergh2, an act of fate that would set the stage for the extraordinary events of May 1941.

Hess departed from Germany after giving a letter to his adjutant Karlheinz Pintsch informing Adolf Hitler of his intentions to open peace negotiations with the British via his friend the Duke of Hamilton. However his flight to Scotland ended in tragedy. Tracked by the RAF and forced to fly at low altitutde he had to eject1 from his plane and was hung from his parachute in the grounds of Dungavel House, the residence of the Duke of Hamilton. And the treasonous letters contained on the body would forever damn the reputation of the Duke as a "blue-blooded anti-war opposition leader".

Whether Hess was delusional and there was no conspiracy is still a matter of conjecture. At worst, the Duke probably feared that the war would destroy both the British Empire and the Class System. But it was of course impossible to cover-up such an event and Lord Beaverbook convinced Churchill to obtain the maximum propaganda value from it. Meanwhile Hitler had read the letter and let loose an outcry heard throughout the entire Berghof. He sent for a number of his inner circle concerned that a putsch might be underway. But in fact the danger to Hitler came not from Hess, but as a result of Churchill's propaganda which revealed Nazi plans to strike Soviet Russia. Hitler purged many of his senior officers on the 12th May not realizing that the Soviets were about to launch Operation Icebreaker, their own pre-emptive invasion of Western Europe.

Unfortunately for the USSR the Red army at this point in time was ineffectual as evidenced during the Winter War with Finland. Consequently, the Russian forces were swallowed up in East Germany long before Christmas 1941. This military disaster gave Nazi Germany four months until the Wehrmacht counterattacked in April 1942 leaving plenty of time to take Moscow by October.

Author's Note: in reality (1) Lindbergh was not there and (2) he survived although injured from his landing at Floors Farm, Eaglesham, south of Glasgow, which he would later describe as "achievement to be the proudest moment of his life".