“Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth.” Arthur Conan Doyle
Playing Rudolf Hess is a fascinating story about one of the greatest mysteries of the Second World War and is based on the true story of Hess’ incarceration in Britain, his faked amnesia and his bombshell revelation at Nuremberg. Solid historical research went into writing the book which drew on the journals of some 18 warders, W. Hugh Thomas’ The Murder of Rudolf Hess, David Irving’s Hess: the Missing Years 1941-45 and numerous books on the German double agent network run by MI5.
The heart of the story is the surgical evidence presented by Dr. W. Hugh Thomas in his excellent book which created quite a stir in 1979. Thomas was the doctor at Hess’ medical checkup in 1973 at the British Military Hospital in Berlin. Dr Thomas had studied Hess’ medical file from the First World War. Hess had been wounded twice, once in 1916 on the Western Front and later in Romania. The Romanian wound was very serious, a life-threatening chest wound and would have left major scars. The bullet had entered the man’s chest from the front and exited in the back.Thomas was an expert on wounds caused by high-velocity bullets after serving in the British Army in Ireland during the troubles.
So in September 1973 at the Allied meeting of medical professionals (Soviet Union, France, Britain and the US) at the British military hospital, Dr. Thomas had the chance to observe Hess’ naked chest after the x-ray examination. Thomas helped Hess into his hospital gown and was speechless seeing the evidence. According to the good doctor, there was no trace of any bullet wound in the chest area.
Further support for Thomas’ theory came from Dr. J. Gibson Graham, a Lieutenant-Colonel of the Royal Army Medical Corp who examined Hess on May 13, 1941. Hess was complaining of an injured ankle and back pain after jumping out of his plane. After the physical examination and the x-ray of the man’s chest, Gibson Graham reported finding no chest scars or any sign of earlier damage to the lungs. His comment was “the lung fields are clear, save that in the right upper zone there is a small calcified area” (due to tuberculosis). Thomas mentioned in great detail in his book that: “when the lung heals, the dead matter is replaced by fibrous tissue. Both these and the pneumonic consolidation of the surround part of the lung show up clearly on x-rays”. So the soft-tissue tracks of a bullet would inevitably show up on an x-ray.
In 1987 on the death of Hess in Spandau prison in Berlin, two independent post-mortem examinations of his body were made, one by a leading British pathologist and one by a German, and both men concluded that there was not a trace of a bullet wound to the chest area.
The British government has remained silent about the Hess affair. They had locked up the man in 1941, delivered him to the Nuremberg trials in 1945 and helped jail him at Spandau. Why the silence? The results of the MI6/MI5 interrogation of the fugitive Hess have never been revealed.
So who was this man? Was he an imposter? I tend to believe surgical evidence when provided by competent medical doctors and, as we all know, scars are very difficult to hide without plastic surgery. Our bodies are a roadmap of scars, bumps and bruises.
Can anyone offer a reasonable explanation after listening to the surgical evidence? If you have an explanation, please share it in the comments section below.
My editor Doug Sutherland has just completed his review of the book. Here are his comments:
“I think you’ve done a great job on this – very plausible and entertaining. Anybody with more than a passing interest in Second World War history and the Hess legend would find it worthwhile.”
The editing is now complete and the pdf file is going to my publisher. Next week we will give you a peek preview of the novel.