The Kaiser’s Dawn

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In midsummer 1918, the outcome of World War I was still finely balanced. A top-secret mission, which has remained classified information for a century, was set in motion to kill Kaiser Wilhelm II. It was felt that by killing their head of state and commander in chief it would serve as a mortal blow to the German forces causing them to collapse quickly after the assassination.

In 2002 one of the participants on a battlefield tour sent a CD-ROM to the guide and author, Col. John Hughes-Wilson. Included on the disc it was an historical treasure trove containing a Royal Flying Corps log book and photographs of service with 25 Squadron. Included among the effects of Lt A R Watts MC, of the newly formed Royal Air Force, was the breath-taking claim that he had taken part in a secret British mission to kill the Kaiser.

This extraordinary secret was confirmed by further research at the RAF museum and the RAF Historical Branch. This startling but never-before revealed story was true. On 2 June 1918, at the height of the final German attack of World War I, the British RAF tried to assassinate the Kaiser when he was visiting a château near the front.

The facts are borne out in never-before published notebooks, maps and pilot flying records, kept secret for a hundred years. Copies of these records are in the author’s possession and are backed up by details tucked away in 25 Squadron’s records. The implications of this secret attack raise many new – and explosive – questions, including.

  • Exactly who ordered an attack to kill the Kaiser?
  • Was the attack sanctioned by the Commander-in-Chief, Sir Douglas Haig?
  • Was the attack ordered By the War Office, however unlikely this may seem?
  • Was the King informed of the attempt to kill his royal cousin?
  • Was the Prime Minister, David Lloyd George, asked for sign-off in advance of the attack?

We do not know the answers to these questions, but someone in London must have sanctioned the assassination attempt.

The Official History makes no mention of any attack, public records say nothing and even the RAF Museum has no official record; but the attack really did take place, of that there is no doubt. Other documents and various 25 Squadron log books prove it. Someone did give an order to kill the Kaiser. But who?

John Hughes-Wilson has woven an exciting and well-paced historical novel to mark this centennial event from his research on discovering the existence of this mission. The story, based on true events, looks at this long-hidden secret and puts it into the context of the time. It explores areas rarely examined: secret service operations in 1914-18; dirty, undercover intelligence work; the very real political intrigues between Whitehall and the generals; and the heroics of the aircrew of the day, whose life expectancy at one point in 1917 was only 11 days in action.

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Book reviews

‘The Allied mission to kill the Kaiser has never been revealed until now. Although there have been occasional hints that such a sortie may have taken place, the truth has finally emerged in a novel based on the factual mission written by a former colonel in the British Army Intelligence Corps, John Hughes-Wilson’ Daily Mail

‘Remarkable unpublished evidence has revealed that, in the final year of World War I, Britaiattempted to kill Germany’s leader, Kaiser Wilhelm II. The secret mission failed – but only just. The story is partly revealed in a new book by Colonel John Hughes-Wilson.’ The Independent

Reader reviews

‘This is a fascinating book, half-thriller, half-real history, based on the true story that the Brits really did try and assassinate the German Kaiser towards the end of WW1. Think The Day of the Jackal meets John le Carré. Great read, excellent characters and twists all the way. The author’s question – who really gave the order to kill the Kaiser? – remains one of the great secrets of WW1. He obviously knows his stuff. Excellent book.’

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