William Joyce

William Joyce
William Joyce

Joyce shortly after capture, 1945
Born William Joyce
24 April 1906(1906-04-24)
Brooklyn, New York City, United States
Died 3 January 1946(1946-01-03) (aged 39)
Wandsworth Prison, London, England
Cause of death Judicial execution (hanging)

American [1] British

Irish German
Other names Lord Haw-Haw
Education Birkbeck College, University of London
Known for Broadcasting German propaganda in World War II
Political party National Socialist German Workers' Party (NSDAP)

William Joyce (24 April 1906 – 3 January 1946), nicknamed Lord Haw-Haw, was an Irish-American fascist politician and Nazi propaganda broadcaster to the United Kingdom during the Second World War. He was hanged for treason by the British as a result of his wartime activities, even though he had renounced his British nationality and become a naturalised German. His British nationality was obtained by fraud, as he had lied about his place of birth on his application for a British passport. He claimed to have been born in Galway, even though he was born in New York.


Early life

Joyce was born on Herkimer Street in Brooklyn, New York [2] to a Protestant mother and an Irish Catholic father who had taken United States citizenship. A few years after his birth, the family returned to Galway, Ireland. Joyce attended the Jesuit St Ignatius College in Galway from 1915 to 1921. Unusual for Irish Roman Catholics, both Joyce and his father were strongly Unionist. Joyce later said that he had aided the Black and Tans during the Irish War for Independence and had become a target of the Irish Republican Army.[3][4]

Following what he alleged to be an assassination attempt in 1921 (which supposedly failed because he took a different route home from school), he left for England where he briefly attended King's College School, Wimbledon on a foreign exchange. His family followed him to England two years later. Joyce had relatives in Birkenhead, whom he visited on a few occasions. He joined the Royal Worcester Regiment in 1921 but was discharged when it was discovered that he had lied about his age.[5] He then applied to Birkbeck College of the University of London and to enter the Officer Training Corps. At Birkbeck he worked hard and obtained a First Class degree.[6] He also developed an interest in fascism, and he worked with (but never joined) the British Fascisti of Rotha Lintorn-Orman.

In 1924, while stewarding a Conservative Party meeting, Joyce was attacked and received a deep razor slash that ran across his right cheek. It left a permanent scar which ran from the earlobe to the corner of the mouth. Joyce was convinced that his attackers were "Jewish communists". It was an incident that had a marked bearing on his outlook.

British Union of Fascists

In 1932 Joyce joined the British Union of Fascists (BUF) under Sir Oswald Mosley, and swiftly became a leading speaker, praised for his power of oratory. The journalist and novelist Cecil Roberts described a speech given by Joyce:

Thin, pale, intense, he had not been speaking many minutes before we were electrified by this man ... so terrifying in its dynamic force, so vituperative, so vitriolic.[7]

In 1934 Joyce was promoted to the BUF's director of propaganda and later appointed deputy leader. As well as being a gifted speaker, Joyce gained the reputation of a savage brawler. His violent rhetoric and willingness to physically confront anti-fascist elements head-on played no small part in further marginalizing the BUF. After the bloody debacle of the June 1934 Olympia rally, Joyce spearheaded the BUF's policy shift from campaigning for economic revival through corporatism to a focus on antisemitism. He was instrumental in changing the name of the BUF to "British Union of Fascists and National Socialists" in 1936, and stood as a party candidate in the 1937 elections to the London County Council. In 1936 Joyce lived for a year in Whitstable, where he owned a radio and electrical shop.[8][9]

Between April 1934 and 1937, when Mosley sacked him, Joyce also served as Area Administrative Officer for the BUF West Sussex division. Joyce was supported in this role by Norah Elam as Sussex Women’s Organiser, with her partner Dudley Elam taking on the role of Sub-Branch Officer for Worthing. Under this regime, West Sussex was to become a hub of fascist activity, ranging from hosting Blackshirt summer camps to organising meetings and rallies, lunches etc. Norah Elam shared many speaking platforms with Joyce and worked on propaganda speeches for him. One area of particular concern that Joyce had her work on was the government's India Bill (passed in 1935), designed to give a measure of autonomy to India, allowing freedom and the development of limited self-government. Joyce harboured a desire to become Viceroy of India under a Mosley administration should he ever head a BUF government, and is recorded as describing the backers of the bill as "feeble" and "one loathsome, fetid, purulent, tumid mass of hypocrisy, hiding behind Jewish Dictators".[10]Unlike Joyce, the Elams did not escape detention under Defence Regulation 18B; both were arrested on the same day as Mosley in May 1940. The relationship between Joyce and Norah Elam was evidence of the strange bedfellows that politics can bring together. Elam's father had been an Irish Nationalist, while Joyce had been a Unionist and supporter of the Black and Tans. In later life, Elam reported that although she disliked Joyce, she believed that his execution by the British in 1946 was wrong, stating that he should not have been regarded as a traitor to England because he was not English, but Irish.[10]

Joyce was sacked from his paid position when Mosley drastically reduced the BUF staff shortly after the 1937 elections. Joyce promptly formed a breakaway organisation, the National Socialist League. Unlike Joyce, Mosley was never a committed antisemite, preferring to exploit antisemitic sentiment only for political gain. After 1937, the party turned its focus away from antisemitism and towards activism, opposing a war with Nazi Germany. Although Joyce had been deputy leader of the BUF from 1933 and an effective fighter and orator, Mosley snubbed him in his autobiography and later denounced him as a traitor because of his wartime activities.

Lord Haw-Haw

In late August 1939, shortly before war was declared, Joyce and his wife Margaret fled to Germany. Joyce had been tipped off that the British authorities intended to detain him under Defence Regulation 18B. Joyce became a naturalised German in 1940.

In Berlin, Joyce could not find employment until a chance meeting with fellow Mosleyite Dorothy Eckersley got him an audition at the Rundfunkhaus ("broadcasting house").[11] Eckersley was the former wife or second wife[11] of the Chief Engineer of the British Broadcasting Corporation, Peter Eckersley. Despite having a heavy cold and almost losing his voice, he was recruited immediately for radio announcements and script writing at German radio's English service.

The name "Lord Haw-Haw of Zeesen" was coined by the pseudonymous Daily Express radio critic Jonah Barrington in 1939,[12] but this referred initially to Wolf Mittler (or possibly Norman Baillie-Stewart). When Joyce became the best-known propaganda broadcaster, the nickname was transferred to him. Joyce's broadcasts initially came from studios in Berlin, later transferring (due to heavy Allied bombing) to Luxembourg and finally to Apen near Hamburg, and were relayed over a network of German-controlled radio stations that included Hamburg, Bremen, Luxembourg, Hilversum, Calais, Oslo and Zeesen. Joyce also broadcast on and wrote scripts for the German Büro Concordia organisation, which ran several black propaganda stations, many of which pretended to broadcast illegally from within Britain.[13] His role in writing the scripts increased as time passed, and the German radio capitalized on his public persona. Initially an anonymous broadcaster, Joyce eventually revealed his real name to his listeners, and would occasionally be announced as "William Joyce, otherwise known as Lord Haw-Haw".[14] Urban legends soon circulated about Lord Haw-Haw, alleging that the broadcaster was well-informed about political and military events, to the point of near-omniscience.[15]

Although listening to his broadcasts was officially discouraged (but not illegal), they became very popular with the British public. At the height of his influence, in 1940, Joyce had an estimated 6 million regular and 18 million occasional listeners in the United Kingdom.[16]

The German broadcasts always began with the announcer's words "Germany calling, Germany calling, Germany calling" (because of a nasal drawl this sounded like "Jairmany calling"). These broadcasts urged the British people to surrender, and were well known for their jeering, sarcastic and menacing tone. There was also a desire by civilian listeners to hear what the other side was saying, since information during wartime was strictly censored and restricted and at the start of the war it was possible for German broadcasts to be more informative than those of the BBC. This was a situation which was reversed towards the middle of the war, with German civilians tuning (usually secretly) to the BBC.[citation needed]

Joyce recorded his final broadcast on 30 April 1945, during the Battle of Berlin.[17] Rambling and audibly drunk,[18] he chided Britain for pursuing the war beyond mere containment of Germany, and warned repeatedly of the "menace" of the Soviet Union. He signed off with a final defiant "Heil Hitler and farewell".[19] There are conflicting accounts as to whether this last programme was actually transmitted, despite a tape being found in the Apen studios.[20] The next day Radio Hamburg was seized by British forces, who on 4 May used it to make a mock "Germany calling" broadcast denouncing Joyce.[21]

Besides broadcasting, Joyce's duties included writing propaganda for distribution among British prisoners of war, whom he tried to recruit into the British Free Corps. He wrote a book Twilight Over England promoted by the German Ministry of Propaganda, which unfavourably compared the evils of allegedly Jewish-dominated capitalist Britain with the wonders of National Socialist Germany. Adolf Hitler awarded Joyce the War Merit Cross (First and Second Class) for his broadcasts, although they never met.

Scripts and the microphone used by Joyce were seized by soldier Cyril Millwood and have now come to light following the ex-soldier's death.[22]

Capture and trial

At the end of the war, Joyce was captured by British forces at Flensburg, near the German border with Denmark. Spotting a dishevelled figure while resting from gathering firewood, intelligence soldiers - including a Jewish German, Geoffrey Perry (born Horst Pinschewer), who had left Germany before the war - engaged him in conversation in French and English. After they asked if he was Joyce, he reached for his pocket (actually reaching for a false passport); believing he was armed, they shot him through the buttocks, leaving four wounds.[23]

Two intelligence officers then drove him to a border post, and handed him to British military police. Joyce was tried at the Old Bailey, London on three counts of high treason:

  1. William Joyce, on the 18th of September, 1939, and on other days between that day and the 29th of May, 1945, being a person owing allegiance to our Lord the King, and while a war was being carried on by the German Realm against our King, did traitorously adhere to the King's enemies in Germany, by broadcasting propaganda.
  2. William Joyce, on the 26th of September, 1940, being a person who owed allegiance as in the other count, adhered to the King's enemies by purporting to become naturalized as a subject of Germany.
  3. William Joyce, on the 18th of September, 1939, and on other days between that day and the 2nd of July, 1940, being a person owing allegiance to our Lord the King, and while a war was being carried on by the German Realm against our King, did traitorously adhere to the King's enemies in Germany, by broadcasting propaganda.[24]

The only evidence offered that he had begun broadcasting from Germany while his British passport was valid was the testimony of a London police inspector who had questioned him before the war while he was an active member of the British Union of Fascists and claimed to have recognised his voice on a propaganda broadcast in the early weeks of the war (Joyce had previous convictions for assault and riotous assembly in the 1930s).

During the processing of the charges Joyce's American nationality came to light, and it seemed that he would have to be acquitted, based upon a lack of jurisdiction; he could not be convicted of betraying a country that was not his own. He was acquitted of the first and second charges. However, the Attorney General, Sir Hartley Shawcross, successfully argued that Joyce's possession of a British passport, even though he had mis-stated his nationality to get it, entitled him (until it expired) to British diplomatic protection in Germany and therefore he owed allegiance to the king at the time he commenced working for the Germans. It was on this basis that Joyce was convicted of the third charge and sentenced to death on 19 September 1945.


His conviction was upheld by the Court of Appeal on 1 November, and by the House of Lords (on a 4–1 vote) on 13 December.

In the appeal, Joyce argued that possession of a passport did not entitle him to the protection of the Crown, and therefore did not perpetuate his duty of allegiance once he left the country, but the House rejected this argument. Lord Porter's dissenting opinion was based on his belief that whether Joyce's duty of allegiance had terminated or not was a question of fact for the jury to decide, rather than a purely legal question for the judge.

Joyce also argued that jurisdiction had been wrongly assumed by the court in electing to try an alien for offences committed in a foreign country. This argument was also rejected, on the basis that a state may exercise such jurisdiction in the interests of its own security.


He went to his death unrepentant and defiant:

In death as in life, I defy the Jews who caused this last war, and I defy the power of darkness which they represent. I warn the British people against the crushing imperialism of the Soviet Union. May Britain be great once again and the hour of the greatest danger in the West may the standard be raised from the dust, crowned with the words – you have conquered nevertheless. I am proud to die for my ideals and I am sorry for the sons of Britain who have died without knowing why.

Joyce was executed on 3 January 1946 at Wandsworth Prison, aged 39. He was the penultimate person to be hanged for a crime other than murder in the United Kingdom. The last was Theodore Schurch, executed for treachery the following day at Pentonville.[citation needed] In both cases the hangman was Albert Pierrepoint. In spite of pleadings from the hospital chaplain, Joyce chose to die in his mother's faith, that of the Church of Ireland.[25]

It is said that the scar on Joyce's face split wide open because of the pressure applied to his head upon his drop from the gallows.[26]

As was customary for executed criminals, Joyce's remains were buried in an unmarked grave within the walls of HMP Wandsworth. In 1976 they were exhumed and reinterred in the Protestant section of the New Cemetery in Bohermore in County Galway, Ireland. A Roman Catholic Tridentine Latin mass was celebrated at his reburial.[27]

Joyce's family

Joyce had two daughters by his first wife, Hazel, who went on to marry Oswald Mosley's bodyguard, Eric Piercey. One daughter, Heather Piercey (m. Vincenzo Iandolo 1955–1972), has spoken publicly of her father.[28]

In popular culture

"Lord Hee-Haw, Chief Wind-Bag" from the 1943 animated propaganda film Tokio Jokio
  • Joyce was the inspiration for the character Howard W. Campbell in Kurt Vonnegut's novels Mother Night and Slaughterhouse Five.
  • As black comedy antihero Lord Horror, Joyce appeared in the highly controversial works of British novelist and comic scriptwriter David Britton. The British government banned the novel Lord Horror and Britton served a jail sentence following a trial deciding that the comic Meng and Ecker, in which Lord Horror appears, violated the Obscene Publications Act.
  • The film Sherlock Holmes and the Voice of Terror (1942) has elements of the "Lord Haw Haw" broadcasts to England in the plot.
  • The propaganda cartoon Tokio Jokio (1943) includes a monocled anthropomorphic donkey named "Lord Hee Haw" reading a radio broadcast.

See also

Dämmerung über England (Twilight over England), 3rd edition, Berlin 1942


  1. ^ "Joyce Apellant; and Director of Public Prosecutions". House of Lords. 1946. pp. 1. http://www.uniset.ca/nold/1946AC347.pdf. Retrieved 2009-09-20. 
  2. ^ Christenson, Ron (1991). Ron Christenson. ed. Political trials in history: from antiquity to the present. Transaction Publishers. ISBN 9780887384066. http://books.google.com/books?id=wBdOvs2THGEC&pg=PA233&dq=%22William+Joyce%22++born+Brooklyn. Retrieved 22/June/2009. 
  3. ^ Lord Haw-Haw and the Black and Tans, Axis History Forum.
  4. ^ Joyce, William; Imperial War Museum (Great Britain). (1992). Twilight over England, (Issue 5 of Facsimile reprint series ed.). Imperial War Museum, Department of Printed Books. pp. Introduction (x). ISBN 9780901627728. http://books.google.ie/books?id=-mxnAAAAMAAJ&dq=%22william+joyce%22+%22black+and+tans%22&q=%22black+and+tans%22#search_anchor. Retrieved 2009-09-21. 
  5. ^ A.N. Wilson, "After the Victorians", Hutchinson, London, 2005, p. 421
  6. ^ A.N. Wilson, "After the Victorians", Hutchinson, London, 2005
  7. ^ Selwyn, Francis (1987). Hitler's Englishman: the crime of Lord Haw-Haw. Taylor & Francis. pp. 61. ISBN 9780710210326. http://books.google.com/?id=6t0OAAAAQAAJ&pg=PA61&lpg=PA61&dq=%22he+had+not+been+speaking+many+minutes+before+we+were+electrified%22#v=onepage&q=%22he%20had%20not%20been%20speaking%20many%20minutes%20before%20we%20were%20electrified%22&f=false. Retrieved 2009-09-21. 
  8. ^ "North West Wales Blaenau Ffestiniog — Coed-y-Bleiddiau". BBC. http://www.bbc.co.uk/wales/northwest/sites/blaenau/pages/hawhaw.shtml. 
  9. ^ "1900–1950". Canterbury. http://www.canterbury.gov.uk/buildpage.php?id=2431. 
  10. ^ a b McPherson, Angela; McPherson, Susan (2011). Mosley's Old Suffragette - A Biography of Norah Elam. ISBN 978-1-4466-9967-6. http://www.oldsuffragette.co.uk. 
  11. ^ a b 45/25728/244. CAB 98/18. Simpson 135-6. Thurlow, the 'Mosley Papers' and the Secret History of British Fascism 1939–1940, K/L, 175. Reporting statement from the Mail on 14.3.40
  12. ^ Hall, J. W. (1954). "William Joyce". In Hodge, James H.. Famous Trials. 4. Penguin Books. p. 80. "Usually, the inventor of popular nicknames is unidentifiable, but the ‘onlie begetter’ of Lord Haw-Haw was undoubtedly Mr Jonah Barrington, then of the Daily Express…" 
  13. ^ "Black propaganda by radio: the German Concordia broadcasts to Britain, 1940–1941". Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television (Find Articles at BNET.com). http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m2584/is_n2_v14/ai_15588719/pg_1. [dead link]
  14. ^ Nazi Wireless Propaganda: Lord Haw-Haw and British Public Opinion in the Second World War, Edinburgh University Press, 2000, page 13
  15. ^ David Suisman, Susan Strasser, Sound in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, University of Pennsylvania Press, 2009, pages 55-56
  16. ^ Axis Sally: The Americans Behind That Alluring Voice, HistoryNet, November 23, 2009
  17. ^ "The last Broadcast of Lord Haw Haw, 1945". http://eyewitnesstohistory.com/vohawhaw.htm. 
  18. ^ An excerpt from the broadcast can be heard in the episode on Joyce of the 1990s documentary TV series Great Crimes and Trials of the 20th Century.
  19. ^ "Lord Haw Haw’s Last Broadcast" (MP3). http://www.earthstation1.com/WWIIAudio/Germany/HawHaw'sLastBroadcast.mp3. 
  20. ^ [1]
  21. ^ "excerpt from Mock ‘German Calling’ broadcast" (WAV). http://www.earthstation1.com/WWIIAudio/Mock_'Germany_Calling'_broadcast.wav. 
  22. ^ "Microphone used by Lord Haw Haw to be sold at auction". Daily Mail. 2009-08-26. http://www.mailonsunday.co.uk/news/article-1209142/Microphone-used-Lord-Haw-Haw-broadcast-Nazi-propaganda-UK-goes-sale.html. Retrieved 2009-08-26. 
  23. ^ Phillips, Martin (2009-04-24). "Geoffrey Perry". London: The Sun. http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/features/article2395729.ece?offset=4. Retrieved 2009-04-24. 
  24. ^ "Chapter 4: The Trial and Death of Lord Haw-Haw". http://www.safran-arts.com/42day/history/h4jan/03hawhaw.html#haw4 
  25. ^ A.N. Wilson, op. cit., p 420
  26. ^ Seabrook, David (2002). All the devils are here. Granta. pp. 97. ISBN 9781862074835. http://books.google.ie/books?id=c-AWAQAAIAAJ&q=%22spine+snapped+and+the+scar+burst%22&dq=%22spine+snapped+and+the+scar+burst%22. Retrieved 2009-09-20. 
  27. ^ Wilson op cit
  28. ^ Beckett, Francis. "'My father was a traitor but he was kind and loving to me'", The Guardian, December 5, 2005.
  • Wharam, Alan (1995). Treason: Famous English Treason Trials. Alan Sutton Publishing. ISBN 0-7509-0091-9 

Further reading

  • The Trial of William Joyce ed. by C.E. Bechhofer Roberts [Old Bailey Trials series] (Jarrolds, London, 1946)
  • The Trial of William Joyce ed. by J.W. Hall [Notable British Trials series] (William Hodge and Company, London, 1946)
  • The Meaning of Treason by Dame Rebecca West (Macmillan, London, 1949)
  • Lord Haw-Haw and William Joyce by William Cole (Faber and Faber, London, 1964)
  • Hitler's Englishman by Francis Selwyn (Routledge and Kegan Paul Ltd, London, 1987)
  • Renegades: Hitler's Englishmen by Adrian Weale (Weidenfeld and Nicholson, London, 1994)
  • Germany Calling — a personal biography of William Joyce by Mary Kenny (New Island Books, Dublin, 2003)
  • Haw-Haw: the tragedy of William and Margaret Joyce by Nigel Farndale (Macmillan, London, 2005)

External links

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