Douglas Douglas-Hamilton, 14th Duke of Hamilton

Air Commodore His Grace
The Duke of Hamilton
Member of Parliament
for East Renfrewshire
In office
28 November 1930  16 March 1940
Preceded by Alexander Munro MacRobert
Succeeded by Sir Guy Lloyd
Personal details
Born 3 February 1903
London, England
Died 30 March 1973 (aged 70)
Edinburgh, Scotland
Political party Unionist
Awards Air Force Cross
Mentioned in Despatches
Military service
Allegiance  United Kingdom
Service/branch  Royal Air Force
Years of service RAuxAF 1927–1936
RAF 1939–1945
Rank Air Commodore
Commands No. 602 Squadron RAF, Air Training Corps

Air Commodore Douglas Douglas-Hamilton, 14th Duke of Hamilton and 11th Duke of Brandon KT GCVO AFC PC DL FRCSE FRGS (3 February 1903 – 30 March 1973) was a Scottish nobleman and pioneering aviator who, together with D.F. McIntyre, was the first man to fly over Mount Everest.

He was the eldest of four brothers who were to make military history by all being at the rank of Squadron Leader or above simultaneously at the outbreak of World War II.

Early life

Hamilton was born in Pimlico, London. He was the son of Alfred, 13th Duke of Hamilton and his wife Nina (née Poore). He was educated at Eton and Balliol College, Oxford, where he gained a Blue in boxing, this in turn, led to his winning of the Scottish Amateur Middleweight title. He also represented the university in rowing.

Styled Marquess of Douglas and Clydesdale before he succeeded his father as the Duke of Hamilton and Keeper of Holyroodhouse in 1940, he had been a prominent Unionist Member of Parliament (MP) for East Renfrewshire from 1930 until he succeeded to his titles. He was appointed the honorary colonel of the 7th battalion of the Highland Light Infantry in July 1931.[1] In 1935 in order to experience the life of the employees in his family's mines, he joined a Trades Union and worked for a time at the coal face, as plain 'Mr. Hamilton'.

Air force career and flight over Everest

He became interested in flying at an early age and served in the Royal Auxiliary Air Force (RAuxAF). He was commissioned in the 602 (City of Glasgow) Squadron as a pilot officer on 4 July 1927, with subsequent and rapid promotions to flying officer (4 January 1929) and to flight lieutenant (15 January 1930).[2][3][4] On 6 May 1931, aged only 28, the Marquess became the youngest squadron leader of his day, commanding the squadron from 1931 to 1936.[5]

He was involved in one of the more ambitious aeronautical flights of the early twentieth century, sponsored by Lucy, Lady Houston, the Houston-Mount Everest Flight Expedition. Flying in formation higher than any before; Lord Clydesdale, as he was known, was chief pilot on the first flight over Mount Everest in 1933, flying a Westland PV-3 biplane. The extremity endured by the crews of these aeroplanes helped demonstrate the need for pressurised cabins in modern aircraft. It was also the first detailed and scientific survey of the Himalaya region. Indirectly, the expedition resulted in the formation of Scottish Aviation Ltd (now part of BAE Systems). A film, Wings over Everest, by Ivor Montagu and Geoffrey Barkas, was made of the record-setting flight.

In recognition of his role in the expedition, he was decorated with the Air Force Cross in the 1935 New Year Honours.[6] As a pioneering early aviator, he was regarded in much the same heroic way as the astronauts a generation later.

On 2 September 1936, he relinquished command of his squadron, receiving a promotion to wing commander.[7]

World War II, the Hess Affair, and after

Wreckage of Hess' plane, Eaglesham, Scotland

Hamilton had attended the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin. A keen sportsman, he had flown his own plane to Germany where he was a member of a multi-party parliamentary group which had been invited to Berlin to observe the games by the German government.

In Berlin, he attended numerous functions, including a grand dinner for the British contingent hosted by Joachim von Ribbentrop, the German ambassador to Britain and later Foreign Minister, where he was introduced to Hitler and other leading members of the National Socialist government. Hamilton had previously met Ribbentrop in London as the Ambassador to the Court of St. James's. Hamilton was invited by Hermann Göring to inspect the newly reinstated Luftwaffe, for his professional interest in aviation. It has been suggested that Hamilton either through his own initiative or under instruction indulged in some minor espionage during these occasions. He claimed not to have met the deputy Führer Rudolf Hess while in Germany, although did attend a dinner party in Berlin also attended by the deputy Führer. As both were highly competent pilots with an avid interest in aviation there is speculation as to the reliability of this assertion.

Whilst in Germany Hamilton had met the Geopolitician Albrecht Haushofer, son of the distinguished Geopolitical academic Professor Karl Haushofer. The younger Haushofer had studied alongside Hess at Munich University. On Hess's rise to prominence within the Nazi Party, Haushofer became his advisor on foreign affairs. There is speculation that deputy Führer Rudolf Hess communicated with the Duke via Haushofer after the outbreak of war.

In 1940, upon his father's death, Hamilton succeeded to the Dukedom. As an RAF officer, he was also responsible for the aerial defence of his sector of Southern Scotland and Northern England and was Mentioned in Dispatches for his war service. At the outbreak of World War II, he resumed his commission with the honorary rank of Air Commodore. He was responsible for air defence in Scotland and took command of the Air Training Corps. He was promoted to temporary group captain on 1 June 1941.[8]


On 10 May 1941, Hess parachuted into Scotland; the reason for his doing so was ostensibly to meet with the Duke and plot a secret peace treaty that would lead to the supremacy of Germany within Europe and the reinforcement of the British Empire without.

Hess crash landed at Floors Farm near Eaglesham at 10:34pm and gave his name as "Alfred Horn", a friend of the Duke of Hamilton;[9] Hess however, was taken to hospital for injuries sustained during his descent. Hamilton was informed of the prisoner and visited him whereupon he revealed his true identity. Hamilton immediately contacted Winston Churchill and informed him of the Deputy Führer's arrival.[10] Hess was imprisoned by the British authorities until the end of the war and the subsequent Nuremberg trials.

Hamilton came under pressure from the press to explain his role in the affair, with suspicions being raised that he might have been in prior contact with Hess. Questions were asked in the House of Commons. On 22 May, Sir Archibald Sinclair, the Secretary of State for Air, gave this statement to the House:

When deputy Führer Hess came down with his aeroplane in Scotland on 10 May, he gave a false name and asked to see the Duke of Hamilton. The Duke, being apprised by the authorities, visited the German prisoner in hospital. Hess then revealed for the first time his true identity, saying that he had seen the Duke when he was at the Olympic games at Berlin in 1936. The Duke did not recognise the Deputy Führer. He had however, visited Germany for the Olympic games in 1936, and during that time had attended more than one large public function at which German ministers were present. It is, therefore, quite possible that the deputy Führer may have seen him on one such occasion. As soon as the interview was over, Wing Commander the Duke of Hamilton flew to England and gave a full report of what had passed to the Prime Minister, who sent for him. Contrary to reports which have appeared in some newspapers, the Duke has never been in correspondence with the Deputy Führer. None of the Duke's three brothers, who are, like him, serving in the Royal Air Force has either met Hess or has had correspondence with him. It will be seen that the conduct of the Duke of Hamilton has been in every respect honourable and proper.[11]

Sir Harry Lauder

At the end of February 1950, the Duke led the funeral procession, on foot, through Hamilton for his friend Sir Harry Lauder, said to be the largest funeral ever held in the town, and read the Lesson during the service, describing Lauder as "a Great Scot".

Offices and positions held

He was appointed Privy Counsellor and Lord Steward of the Household, holding the latter office until 1964.

He served as Chancellor of the University of St Andrews from 1948 to 1973. He was admitted to the Order of the Thistle in 1951. He was also a member of the Royal Company of Archers, the Sovereign's bodyguard for Scotland.

He served as Lord High Commissioner to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland four times, in 1953, 1954, 1955 and 1958.

In 1963 the Duke was made honorary President of the Boys Brigade; he had been the treasurer since 1938. He was the President of the Air League from 1959 to 1968.

The Duke served as President of the Hamilton Academy FP (former pupils) Rugby Club, 1946–1955.

Business positions held


The Pilots' book of Everest - with Flight Lieutenant D.F. McIntyre. Hodge, London, 1936.

Marriage and issue

In 1937, he married the Lady Elizabeth Ivy Percy, daughter of Alan Percy, 8th Duke of Northumberland, and had five sons:[12]

See also


Notes Bibliography

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Alexander MacRobert
Member of Parliament for Renfrewshire East
Succeeded by
Guy Lloyd
Political offices
Preceded by
The Duke of Buccleuch and Queensberry
Lord Steward
Succeeded by
The Duke of Westminster
Academic offices
Preceded by
The Earl Baldwin of Bewdley
Chancellor of the University of St Andrews
Succeeded by
The Lord Ballantrae
Peerage of Scotland
Preceded by
Alfred Douglas-Hamilton
Duke of Hamilton
Succeeded by
Angus Douglas-Hamilton
Peerage of Great Britain
Preceded by
Alfred Douglas-Hamilton
Duke of Brandon
Succeeded by
Angus Douglas-Hamilton
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