Nick Name: Lord Haw-Haw
Birthday: April 24, 1906
Died At Age: 39
Sun Sign: Taurus
Also Known As: William Brooke Joyce
Born Country: United States
Born in: Brooklyn, New York, United States
Notorious As: Politician
political ideology: National Socialist German
Spouse/Ex-: Margaret Cairns White (m. 1937), Hazel Barr (m. 1927–1936)
Died on: January 3, 1946
place of death: HM Prison Wandsworth
Founder/Co-Founder: National Socialist League
education: Birkbeck College, University of London
Who was William Joyce?
William Brooke Joyce, also known as “Lord Haw-Haw,” was an American-born British fascist politician who served as a ‘Nazi’ propaganda broadcaster to the British audience during the Second World War. Joyce got introduced to fascism as a student and later became involved with Oswald Mosley’s ‘British Union of Fascists.’ He also launched the short-lived political party called the ‘National Socialist League.’ An American citizen by birth, Joyce obtained a British passport and went to Berlin, Germany. There, he appeared on the radio show ‘Germany Calling’ as part of Joseph Goebbels’s ‘Reich Ministry of Propaganda’ and evolved as a hit broadcaster in spreading ‘Nazi’ propaganda in Britain. He was elevated to the position of chief commentator of the English language service. The sneering character of his speeches earned him the name “Lord Haw-Haw.” After the outbreak of the Second World War, Joyce’s broadcasts became less entertaining and more violent and anti-British, highlighting the military strength of Germany and advising the British to surrender. These were perceived by the British citizens as legitimate threats to Britain and other ‘Allied’ nations. He was later captured by the British forces. He was then tried, convicted of one count of high treason, sentenced to death, and executed.
Childhood & Early Life
William Brooke Joyce was born on April 24, 1906, in Brooklyn, New York City, New York, U.S., to Michael Francis Joyce and Gertrude Emily Brooke. His father was an Irish Catholic who attained U.S. citizenship on October 25, 1894.
When Joyce was a few years old, his family returned to Ireland and settled permanently in Salthill, Galway. There, he studied at the Jesuit school ‘Coláiste Iognáid’ in Galway from 1915 to 1921.
He was inducted as a courier for ‘British Army’ intelligence in Galway by Capt. Patrick William Keating during the Irish War for Independence. In December 1921, he escaped a murder attempt made by the ‘Irish Republican Army’ after it became known that Joyce had spent time with the ‘Black and Tans’ at ‘Lenaboy Castle.’ Following this, Capt. Keating aided him to get enlisted into the ‘Worcester Regiment,’ so that he could move out of Ireland to avoid any further threat. He was, however, discharged from the regiment a few months later, when he was found to be underage.
Joyce then studied at ‘King's College School’ in Wimbledon as a foreign exchange student for a while. A couple of years later, his family also relocated to England. Joyce then attended the ‘Officer Training Corps’ in ‘Birkbeck College’ of the ‘University of London’ and earned a “first-class honours” degree in English. He started working as a teacher after getting rejected for a ‘Foreign Office’ job. Meanwhile, he began developing an interest in fascism and worked with the ‘British Fascists’ of Rotha Lintorn-Orman. However, he never joined them.
On October 22, 1924, he was attacked by communists. His right cheek was slashed by a deep razor while he was attending a meeting in support of the ‘Conservative Party’ candidate for Lambeth North, Jack Lazarus, before the 1924 United Kingdom general election. The cut left a permanent scar on his face.
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Early Fascist Career
Joyce became part of the ‘British Union of Fascists’ (BUF), newly formed by Sir Oswald Mosley in 1932. Soon, his oratory skills led him to emerge as a leading speaker. He was made the director of propaganda of the party in 1934 and its deputy leader later. The party’s focus on antisemitism increased over 1934–1935, due to the growing influence of Joyce and other ‘Nazi’ sympathizers within the party, including John Beckett.
In 1936, Joyce played a significant role in changing the name of ‘BUF’ to the ‘British Union of Fascists and National Socialists.’ That year, he lived in Whitstable and owned a radio and electrical shop there. The following year, he contested in the elections to the ‘London County Council’ as a ‘BUF’ candidate. He also served as the area administrative officer of the West Sussex division of the ‘BUF.’
Following the 1937 elections, after Joyce was sacked from his paid position, he along with John Beckett and John Angus MacNab, left the ‘BUF’ and formed the ‘Nazi’ political movement in the U.K., called the ‘National Socialist League’ (NSL). The ‘NSL’ started on a healthy note, with Joyce garnering financial support from stockbroker Alex Scrimgeour and launching its newspaper ‘The Helmsman.’ The ideology of the party was based on a document called ‘National Socialism Now,’ published by Joyce, where he praised Adolf Hitler markedly and mentioned that a specifically British ‘Nazism’ was the need of the day. The ‘NSL,’ however, remained short-lived.
Fascism in Germany
The ‘NSL’ shrunk in August 1939. After coming to know that the British authorities wanted to detain him under ‘Defence Regulation 18B,’ Joyce escaped to Germany with his second wife, Margaret. The following year, he became a naturalized citizen of Germany.
While striving to find a suitable job, Joyce happened to meet his friend and ex-colleague from the ‘BUF’ and the ‘NSL,’ Dorothy Eckersley. He bagged an audition at the ‘Rundfunkhaus’ ("broadcasting house") through her. Although he was suffering from heavy cold and his voice was almost choked, he was approached to write scripts and make radio announcements at the English service of the German radio, thus replacing Wolf Mittler.
Joyce’s broadcasts first came from the Berlin studios. However, he was later transferred to Luxembourg and then to Apen due to heavy bombing by the ‘Allied’ forces. The broadcasts were relayed across different German-controlled radio stations, including the ones in Hamburg, Luxembourg, Oslo, Bremen, Zeesen, Calais, and Hilversum. With time, Joyce became a reputed German propaganda broadcaster and earned the name “Lord Haw-Haw of Zeesen.” The nickname was coined by Jonah Barrington, a radio critic of the ‘Daily Express.’ He had initially used the term to refer to either Wolf Mittler or Norman Baillie-Stewart.
Joyce also served the ‘German Büro Concordia,’ writing scripts and broadcasting for the organization that operated different black propaganda stations. Many of those stations pretended that the broadcasts were being made illegally from Britain. He broadcasted anonymously in the beginning and later disclosed his real name. Soon, he began to be introduced as “William Joyce, otherwise known as Lord Haw-Haw.” His broadcasts led to speculations that he was almost omniscient of the political and military events that were happening around him.
Although the broadcasts made by Joyce were not illegal, they were discouraged heavily by the United Kingdom. As wartime information was censored stringently, there was always a curiosity among civilians to understand what the enemy side was saying. The English-language propaganda radio program broadcast by ‘Nazi’ Germany, titled ‘Germany Calling,’ was meant for the listeners of the British Isles and North America at the time of the Second World War. Soon, it became quite popular. In the U.K. alone, Joyce had around 6 million regular audiences and an estimated occasional audience count of 18 million in 1940.
He published the book ‘Twilight over England’ in 1940, shortly after Britain declared war against Germany. In the book, he disparaged Britain, comparing the evils of the capitalist U.K. (dominated by the Jews) with the more commendable ‘National Socialist’ Germany. Although he never met Adolf Hitler, he received the ‘War Merit Cross’ (‘First and Second Class’) for his broadcasts from the latter.
During the winter of 1941–1942, as directed by the ‘Reich Main Security Office,’ Joyce delivered lectures on “English fascism and acute questions concerning the British world empire” at the ‘University of Berlin,’ for ‘SS’ members. In April 1945, when ‘Radio Hamburg’ was seized by the ‘British Army,’ ‘Germany Calling’ ceased its broadcasts. The last broadcast recording of Joyce was made during the Fall of Berlin. It is not known for sure whether this recording was actually transmitted. Joyce had concluded his presentation saying, "Heil Hitler and farewell.”
Joyce also wrote propaganda that were distributed among British prisoners of war (POWs). He also attempted to induct such POWs into the ‘British Free Corps’ of the ‘Waffen-SS’ during the Second World War.
Capture, Trial, & Execution
The British forces captured Joyce on May 28, 1945, in Flensburg. He was taken to London, U.K., and then tried on three counts of high treason at the ‘Old Bailey.’ According to Rebecca West’s book ‘The Meaning of Treason,’ the first words that Joyce had uttered during his trial were “Not guilty.”
After his American nationality came under the spotlight, it was assumed that he would be acquitted of the charges, as one could not be convicted of criminal disloyalty to a state he did not belong to. Attorney General Sir Hartley Shawcross, however, argued that although Joyce had misstated his nationality to obtain a British passport, his possession of the same rendered him qualified (till its expiry) to get British diplomatic protection in Germany. Thus, he owed allegiance to Britain when he started working for Germany.
Joyce was acquitted of the first two charges but was convicted of the third charge and given a death sentence on September 19, 1945. The ‘Court of Appeal’ and the ‘House of Lords’ both upheld his conviction on November 1 and December 13 that year, respectively.
On January 3, 1946, Joyce was executed at the ‘Wandsworth Prison,’ making him the last person in the U.K. who was executed for treason. His remains were interred in an unmarked grave in ‘HMP Wandsworth’ and were later exhumed in 1976 and re-buried in the Protestant section of the ‘New Cemetery’ in Bohermore, Galway, Ireland. His reburial included a Roman Catholic ‘Tridentine Mass’ celebration.
Family & Personal Life
Joyce and his first wife, Hazel, had two daughters. He remained married to his second wife, Margaret, till he died.