Polish troops 'had plan to kidnap Hess in Hampshire'

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The Independent Online
FEARS that Rudolf Hess might be kidnapped by Free Polish troops from his detention centre at Mytchett Place, near Farnborough in Hampshire, produced mild paranoia in the British government in the summer of 1942, it emerged yesterday with the release of the balance of the Hess papers held at the Public Record Office in Kew.

The papers include the texts of both letters Hess wrote to King George VI in late 1941 protesting at his treatment, which he described as 'a most sinister scheme for tormenting a man and perhaps damaging his health for the rest of his life'. The King did not reply to either.

By this time, Hess's captors had decided that his propaganda value was 'zero'. But, as a Foreign Office memorandum said: 'It would clearly be impossible to let him return to Germany. We must therefore avoid putting ourselves in a position in which he should have some difficulty in avoiding a return.'

An Army psychiatrist had reported that Hess was certifiably insane, and there were moves to despatch him to a Welsh asylum. But if the neutral Swiss authorities had found out, this could have led to Hess's repatriation. The official's memo continued: 'I am somewhat doubtful of the wisdom of putting him in an asylum. His whereabouts could not be concealed from the Swiss minister.'

Fears of a kidnap attempt were expressed in a memo in June 1942 by Anthony Eden, the Foreign Secretary. 'The primary reason for such a large guard (six mental orderlies, three officers and 20 other ranks) is that, improbable as it may sound, we have more than one piece of hard evidence that certain members of the Allied forces stationed in this country were hatching a plot to raid the camp and kidnap the prisoner. The maintenance of a large guard has not therefore been to keep Hess in, but to keep wild men out.

'When Hess landed, he was potentially the most valuable informant about Germany and German plans who has fallen into our hands since the beginning of the war,' he wrote.

Parallel evidence indicates that MI5 may have tipped off Mr Eden that the Poles were planning such a plot. Major-General E C Jepp, the War Office's director of prisoners of war, told the Foreign Office: 'Fears have been expressed about the location of Hess as he is in the invasion area.'

He said that Mytchett Place was within easy reach of London 'where men of the Allied forces come for leave. And certainly a number could be got together to do a snap raid on 'Camp Z'.' He added that he had been tipped off by MI5 that there was a strong possibility of this happening.

There are several memoranda signed 'C', the code for Sir Stewart Menzies, head of MI5. A memorandum from him to the Prime Minister, signed 'with C's compliments', said that any attempt to raise the question of Operation Barbarossa with Hess met with the complaint that he was too tired to pursue the subject.

'C' said: 'He has requested to be provided with evidence of our contention that atrocities have been committed in the concentration camps. He denies hotly that anything of the sort has taken place. The Foreign Office is producing the necessary documents.'

This memo in 1941 pre-dates the previously first-known references to the horrors of the concentration camps.

Although the files do not disclose details of Hess's reported 'peace plan', they do include a memorandum he sent in September 1941 to Lord Beaverbrook, who, he had some reason to believe, might have given him a sympathetic hearing. He says: 'The desire of Germany to avoid all causes of friction with the British is evidenced by her refusal to strive for world domination, and this has often been emphatically declared by the Fuhrer. Germany needs these powers in the East where her future lies.'

(Photograph omitted)