I grew up with tales of war and derring-do. The exploits of soldiers, sailors, aviators, explorers and mountaineers. Captain Scott, Hillary and Tenzing, Lawrence of Arabia, the Desert Rats and the Dambusters. This was the stuff of my boyhood.

The summers were always hot then and the winters snowy. Those sweltering days that would melt the tarmac on pavements had me and my pals re-enacting the exploits of British Long Range Desert Group commandos blowing up Rommel’s fuel depots.

In our case, it happened to be the Gibson Bakery across the road from my tenement home in Hamilton. A successful operation was almost always rewarded with a cream doughnut – still warm – liberated from the trays that sat on trolleys waiting to be uplifted by delivery men.

In winter our roll-call of heroes would shift with the season, all of us becoming Norwegian resistance fighters. Armed with sticks for Sten guns and running around the snow in our wellies, we were hell-bent on stopping the Nazis getting a nuclear bomb, just as Richard Harris and Kirk Douglas had done in the movie The Heroes of Telemark.

I read voraciously about such adventures. My insatiable appetite was further fuelled by the stories told by my father, grandfather, uncles and their friends. These were men of a different generation. Men’s men, which for a 10-year-old boy was all that mattered at that time. Many a night I would sit on the floor by our coal fire utterly riveted as they shared their stories, usually with a dram in hand. And what stories they were too.

There was my father’s account of being taken prisoner by Arabs in Sinai and held for weeks while in the army in the 1950s. Then their was my grandfather’s friend Auld Alec, who had been a tail gunner aboard a Lancaster bomber during the Second World War. Forced to bale out of his blazing plane over Germany he went on the run before finally being captured.

Not to be outdone, my uncle, a merchant navy engineer, whose letters and postcards from far-flung places I eagerly awaited, told of his time as part of a volunteer crew aboard an oil tanker that ferried fuel up the Mekong River to Saigon at the height of the Vietnam War.

All this was the real deal. True-life tales to match those of my fictional heroes who populated my favourite comics such as Victor, Hotspur and Commando.

There was one story, however, that all these men, born and bred in Lanarkshire, knew about. A tale that time and again they would return to during those story-telling sessions and one that I would become obsessed with as a youngster.

It was the story of Nazi deputy Fuhrer Rudolf Hess’s infamous flight to Scotland.

It was 75 years ago this week that Hess, second only to Adolf Hitler in the Nazi Party, fell to the ground by parachute in Eaglesham just south of Glasgow. It was a mission that to this day remains obscure, controversial and sits up there with the assassination of US President John F Kennedy in terms of conspiracy theories.

“Tell me again about Hess,” would be the constant request to my father and his friends during these gatherings. Though each had made their contribution countless times, they seemed always able to add that something else to their accounts.

It mattered little to me that their accounts would often be embroidered to the point of myth. Each knew the kernel of the story and what they added was no more creative licence than that of "official accounts" of the Hess tale that appeared in seemingly endless books.

For my father the story of Hess’s mission had a resonance. A tradesman plasterer and slater, he was often employed on the estates owned by the then 14th Duke of Hamilton, Douglas Douglas-Hamilton. This same duke was a pioneering aviator and the man who fellow accomplished flyer Rudolf Hess flew to Scotland to meet, with or without Hitler’s blessing, on the night of May 10, 1941.

Hess hoped that through the duke he would be able to persuade other British leaders that it was madness for Britain and Germany to fight each other. Instead he wanted to convince them that they should unite against the Soviet Union.

My dad told me of meeting the duke. “I saw him on the estate a couple of times. The boys and I were having our tea-break one day and his car pulled up and he got out to spend a few minutes chatting,” he recalled.

“Some of the lads got to their feet and doffed their bunnets, but myself and a few others just sat where we were,” he continued. “The gaffer gave us hell for it later though.”

The Hamilton dukedom is the third oldest in the United Kingdom. It is surpassed only by those of Norfolk and Somerset, and is the senior title in Scotland, dating from 1643. None of this, however, made much of an impression on my father, a lifelong socialist. Dad was a man who had “nae time for toffs”.

It is said that Douglas-Hamilton, in order to experience the life of manual workers and the employees in his family's mines, reputedly worked for a time at the coalface, when he was known simply as Mr Hamilton. Whenever this questionable curio was put to my father his response was as direct as ever. “Aye, but he could leave any time.”

Such class scepticism aside, my dad’s respect for those who played their part in the fight against Nazism knew no bounds.

Douglas-Hamilton’s re-enlistment in the RAF on the outbreak of war serving as Air Commodore, responsible for air defence in Scotland, provided some mitigation against him being a “toff” in my father’s eyes.

What it never did was eradicate his suspicion, shared by many, that there was much more to the Hess/Douglas-Hamilton connection than met the eye. It was a view many subsequent biographers and historians researched, but one that James Douglas-Hamilton, the duke’s son, in his book Motive for a Mission did his best to refute.

The more I learned about the Hess flight the more I wanted to know. My uncle, the same one who served in the merchant navy, was a keen amateur military historian. One day on the train from Hamilton into Glasgow to visit the city’s Argyle Model Arcade my uncle told me again of the events of that night back in 1941.

By the time we left the arcade, a veritable palace of wonder for a boy of my interests, I had in my proud possession three Airfix model kits. The first was of a Messerschmitt Bf 110, the plane in which Hess made his flight. The other two were a Spitfire and a night fighter Boulton Paul Defiant, the two aircraft scrambled when Hess’s plane was picked up on radar.

The models completed and painted, they hung by threads from the ceiling above my bed. Often I would lie asleep, the moonlight shining through the windows, thinking of the night when Hess took off from the Messerschmitt works at Ausburg. I imagined him over the North Sea – his destination Dungavel House, home of Douglas Hamilton, the duke.

I could see the Spitfires and Defiant scrambled in the dark after radar picked him up at 15,000 feet on what was known as a single aircraft operation or Raid 42. I envisaged the dramatic hunt by the British warplanes and Hess’s search in the dark for Dungavel House at low altitude running short of fuel. As the Defiant closed in Hess would bale out over Bonnyton Moor, falling to the ground where he injured his ankle.

Time and again I would play out the Hess story with pals, wearing my ubiquitous pilots' goggles – in reality welder’s goggles liberated from the Ravenscraig Steel Works by a friend of my dad. “What had made Hess decide to come, and why to meet the duke?” I asked my uncle, not realising that historians had been pondering this for years.

On the most superficial level at least the duke and Hess shared a passion for flying, my uncle told me, showing me pictures of that day in April, 1933 when the duke set an aviation record. Climbing into the cockpit of his Westland PV-3 biplane with Col Stewart Blacker as observer, he took to the skies over Nepal in an attempt to fly over the world’s highest mountain, Everest.

Newspaper accounts of the time made much of the duke’s daring passage through Everest’s famous ice plume, barely clearing ridges, and the failure of the oxygen supply of a crewman in an accompanying plane. The duke himself was to write subsequently of how they cleared the mountain “ by a more minute margin than he cared to think about, now or ever”.

Like the duke, Hess too had set aviation records over the Alps. Both too had been at the 1936 Berlin Olympics, the duke having been invited by the German government. Here he became friendly with Albrecht Haushofer, a foreign policy adviser to Hess.

Despite much research there is no evidence to suggest the duke and Hess actually met in Germany, though they most likely attended some of the same functions. Hess himself was later to say it wasn’t until he was in Scotland that he met face to face with the Duke of Hamilton.

As my boyhood interest reached near obsession my father would take me to the very spot nears Floors Farm in Eaglesham where Hess, still struggling with his parachute, was apprehended by local pitchfork-wielding ploughman, David McLean. Identifying himself as Hauptmann Alfred Horn, Hess said he had an important message for the Duke of Hamilton.

After the interview Hess was taken under guard to Maryhill Barracks in Glasgow, where his injuries were treated. Though he continued to use the name Horn his captors already suspected his true identity. The Duke as Wing Commander at RAF Turnhouse was on duty the night Hess arrived and his station had been one of those that had tracked Hess’s flight.

At Maryhill Barracks the next morning he met alone with the prisoner before making arrangements through the Foreign Office to meet with Prime Minister Winston Churchill. It's in these corridors of power that the true story of the Duke of Hamilton’s connection with Hess lies, and which have given rise to the acres of words and theories expounded on the controversy. Suffice to say the conspiracy theories remain even if historians are closer to agreeing on Hess’s own "peace envoy" motive.

At that time there were leading Germans who thought there was sufficient support in Britain for a compromise peace. Hess was one of them. When he arrived in Scotland he carried a list of prominent British leaders who he was convinced would be sympathetic. The Duke of Hamilton, he evidently believed, was a sympathetic ear and a conduit to others.

But as author and historian Phillip Knightley has pointed out, imagine the impact if those names had become known at that stage of the war. "President Roosevelt badly needed to know how strong Britain's stomach was for the fight," wrote Knightley some years ago. "How would he have reacted if he had learnt that the Germans believed – rightly or wrongly – that some of Britain's leaders were ready for peace? What would such a revelation have done to his chances of persuading Congress to enter the war?"

Knightley has a point. How curious it is that some time later, when briefed by Churchill on the Hess affair, Roosevelt would say, "I wonder what is really behind this story?"

Today for almost every version of the Hess story there is an alternative one. Hess’s subsequent trial at Nuremberg, incarceration at Berlin's Spandau Prison and controversy over his death as either a result of suicide or murder only added to the conspiracies.

Even now, 75 years after he landed in Scotland, British records remain sealed until the end of this year, after official secrecy rules covering the file were extended from 30 to 75 years back in the 1970s.

As Hess himself wrote in a letter in 1945, “History is not ended. It will sooner or later take up the threads apparently broken off for ever and knit them together in a new pattern."

For a boy growing up in Hamilton with a lust for adventure, the Hess story had it all.

It was to me what Indiana Jones movies would be to a future generation. A story full of Nazis, conspiracy, secret agents, crashing planes, the remote Himalayas and night-time parachute jumps. And all this culminating in an event on my doorstep. What a cracking tale the man who fell to Eaglesham is.