Cultural magazine: Nazi propagandist Lord Haw-Haw sentenced to death for high treason

Adriana Lima
By Adriana Lima 8 Min Read
origin 1William Joyce – or Lord Haw Haw – pictured surrounded by armed guards as he arrives on a stretcher at a hospital near Luneberg, Germany ©PNA_Rota/Getty Images

As one of the most infamous and hated men in Britain, perhaps it was only a matter of time before Lord Haw-Haw got his comeuppance.

On September 19, 1945, the infamous Nazi propagandist was sentenced to death after being found guilty of high treason.

Born William Joyce in 1906, the Anglo-Irish broadcaster is ultimately remembered for betraying his country during World War II.

Having moved from his hometown of New York to Galway as a child, Joyce was recruited in 1921 by the British Army during the Irish War of Independence. He was initially suspected of being involved in a murder and of being a possible informer for the Black and Tans.

As a result, he was transferred to the Worcestershire Regiment in England but was soon discharged after being found to be underage.

Returning to school and then enrolling at Birkbeck College in London, Joyce was enraptured by fascism and became heavily involved in right-wing politics.

Following his management of a meeting for Conservative Party candidate Jack Lazarus, Joyce was cut in the face, apparently by Communists, which left him with a permanent scar from his earlobe to the corner of his mouth.

The incident is said to have cemented Joyce’s hatred of communism and his dedication to the fascist movement.

After the attack, he joined Oswald Mosley’s British Union of Fascists in 1932, quickly distinguishing himself as a gifted orator.

origin 1In this undated image, Joyce shows off her infamous Corbis facial scar via Getty Images

He was an active figure until Mosley sacked him following the 1937 London County Council elections.

Joyce immediately founded his own organization: the National Socialist League (NSL).

Significantly more anti-Semitic than the BUF, the NSL’s aim was to integrate German Nazism into British society in an attempt to create a new form of British fascism.

At the outbreak of war in 1939, however, Joyce fled to Germany with his wife Margaret.

After initially struggling to find work in Berlin, he was quickly recruited by Joseph Goebbels’ Reich Ministry of Propaganda and given his own radio show “Germany Calling”.

Goebbels, the Nazi Party’s chief propagandist and Propaganda Minister, needed foreign fascists to spread Nazi propaganda in Allied countries – and Joyce was the ideal candidate.

His broadcasts sought to increase distrust among the British people towards their government and claimed that the British working class was oppressed by the middle classes and Jewish businessmen, who supposedly controlled government ministers.

origin 1Joyce depicted at the height of his infamy circa 1942Keystone/Getty Images

The birth of “Lord Haw-Haw”

In Britain, listening to “Germany Calling” was discouraged but not illegal.

It was a popular broadcast, with approximately six million regular listeners and 18 million occasional listeners in 1940.

During the war information was severely censored by the British government, so many civilian listeners tuned in to see what the enemy was saying.

Joyce’s dramatic and fiery delivery was considered much more entertaining than the dark and rather dull programming offered by the BBC.

In September 1939, Daily Express radio critic Jonah Barrington described Joyce as “moaning periodically from Zeesen [a wartime facility for longwave broadcasting]” who “speaks English like haw-haw, damit-get-out-of-my-way.”

origin 1A vintage postcard depicting a generic Lord Haw-Haw – , the nickname of several announcers on the English-language propaganda radio program Germany CallingPopperfoto via Getty Images

While the nickname was given to several British Nazi radio announcers, Barrington gave Joyce the nickname “Lord Haw-Haw” – and it stuck.

In 1941, Joyce himself began to capitalize on the nickname’s notoriety and began introducing himself as “William Joyce, otherwise known as Lord Haw-Haw”.

During the war, his propaganda-filled broadcasts became even more worrying, and both authorities and British citizens began to see the radio programs as part of increasingly legitimate threats to Britain and its allies.

Joyce recorded his last broadcast on April 30, 1945, as the Battle of Berlin raged and Germany was losing the war. Deemed drunk, he blamed the United Kingdom for taking the war “too far” against Germany and warned of the apparent “threat” from the Soviet Union.

Joyce concluded with a final defiant message, “Heil Hitler and goodbye.”

origin 1Lord Haw Haw, unseen, arrives at the Old Bailey in London, for his treason trial in 1945AP1945

A month later, on May 28, Joyce was captured by British forces in Flensburg, near the German border with Denmark, the last capital of the Third Reich.

He was transported to England and tried at the Old Bailey on three counts of high treason.

Lawyers argued that he was not a genuine British citizen, having been born in the US, but this point was refuted, with the prosecution claiming that he had briefly held a British passport.

origin 1An execution noticeboard for William Joyce alias Lord Haw Haw outside Wandsworth Prison on the eve of his execution for treason, January 1946Mirrorpix via Getty Images

Ultimately, the court concluded that he had betrayed his country and therefore committed high treason.

Following the guilty verdict, Joyce was taken to Wandsworth Prison and hanged on 3 January 1946 at the age of 39.

He was the second last person to be hanged for a crime other than murder in the UK. The last was Theodore Schurch, who was executed for treason the next day at nearby Pentonville Prison.

origin 1A crowd gathers outside Wandsworth Prison to witness the posting of the announcement of William Joyce’s execution by hangingBettmann Archive/Getty

At the gallows, Joyce was unrepentant.

He is alleged to have said: “In death as in life, I challenge the Jews who caused this last war, and I challenge the power of darkness which they represent. I warn the British people of the overwhelming imperialism of the Soviet Union. May Britain be great again, and in the hour of the West’s greatest danger may the banner be raised from the dust, crowned with the words, ‘Yet you have conquered’.”

Share This Article
Leave a comment