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The Aviator - Douglas Douglas-Hamilton


Born on this day in 1903, Douglas Douglas-Hamilton, the 14th Duke of Hamilton, was a pioneering aviator.

One icy flight would make him famous. One crash landing would make him notorious. His courage and leadership during the Second World War would earn him mentions in Dispatches.

Douglas-Hamilton enjoyed sports, and was interested in flying from an early age. He became the youngest Squadron Leader of his day, commanding 602 (City of Glasgow) Squadron from 1927 to 1936.


1933, the first flight over Mount Everest. Lord Clydesdale, as Hamilton was then known, is piloting the Westland PV-3 biplane shown in this image from Wikimedia Commons.

The Houston-Mount Everest expedition was an ambitious aeronautical flight. It was the first detailed and scientific survey of the Himalaya region. The unpleasant experience of unpressurized conditions at Everest heights led to the pressurization of aircraft.

In 1940, Hamilton became the 14th Duke. When the Second World War began, he left the House of Commons, where he had served as MP since 1930, and threw his energies into leading the aerial defence of Southern Scotland and Northern England.

In May, 1941, Rudolf Hess, Deputy Fuhrer of Nazi Germany, crashed his plane near Eaglesham. Using a false name, he pretended to be a friend of the Duke's.

Hamilton, who had attended the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, and had met some of the Nazi leaders, apparently while he conducted espionage for Britain, had never met Hess before. Meeting him at his hospital bed, he learned his true identity and his claim to have a secret peace plan for Britain and Nazi Germany.

Uninterested in Nazis or any man pretending to be his friend, the Duke took the information straight to Winston Churchill.

Hamilton came under suspicion, but his name was cleared. It's interesting that so many people who have done real wrong get on swimmingly, winning new jobs and bigger paychecks, while the innocent are traduced.

The Duke went back to work defending Britain.

He was the eldest of four brothers who made military history when all four simultaneously held the rank of Squadron Leader, or above, at the outbreak of the war.

After the war, the Duke served for years as Chancellor of the University of St Andrews and Director of Scottish Aviation.

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