Lord Haw-Haw’s South London links

Lord Haw-Haw was the nickname of William Joyce, a former Wimbledon schoolboy who broadcast Nazi propaganda to the United Kingdom from Germany during the Second World War. 

After the war, Joyce was tried and found guilty of high treason. He was the last man in England to be executed for the charge at Wandsworth prison on January 3, 1946.

Joyce was born to an Irish Catholic family in Brooklyn, New York, in 1906, but moved to Ireland when he was three years old.

In 1921, during the Irish War of Independence, he was recruited by the British Army as a courier and was almost assassinated by the IRA on his way home from school. Fearing for his safety, the officer who recruited him sent Joyce to England.

He briefly studied at King’s College School in Southside, Wimbledon, as a foreign exchange student before he continued his education at Birkbeck College, in Malet Street, Westminster. 

Wandsworth prison, where Mr Joyce was executed for treason (Picture: Shirokazan
/ Flickr)

During his studies, Joyce became engrossed with fascism and worked with – but never joined – the British Fascists of Rotha Lintorn-Orman. 

On October 22, 1924, he was attacked while attending a meeting in support of the Conservative Party’s candidate for Lambeth North, Jack Lazarus, before the 1924 general election. 

His right cheek was slashed by a razor, leaving a permanent scar running from his earlobe to the right corner of his mouth.

In 1932 Joyce joined the British Union of Fascists (BUF) under Oswald Mosley and quickly became a leading speaker.

He was sacked by Mosley in the late 30s after standing as a party candidate in the 1937 London county council elections.

Oswald Mosley, who worked with Joyce in the British Union of Fascists (Picture: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons)

Alone, he became even more radicalised. In August 1939, shortly before the Second World War broke out, Joyce and his wife moved to Germany. Within a year he became a naturalised German citizen.

Equipped with speaking and language skills, Joyce was quickly recruited at a German radio’s English service. 

He soon became one of the best-known voices of German propaganda in the UK, with each broadcast starting with “Germany calling, Germany calling”, spoken in a clipped English accent. 

In a newspaper article published on September 14, 1939, the radio critic Jonah Barrington, of the Daily Express, wrote of hearing a man who “speaks English of the haw-haw, damit-get-out-of-my-way variety”.

While Joyce enjoyed relative security living in Germany during the war, he soon found himself at the end of a hangman’s rope.

After the German surrender, Joyce was captured by British forces near the German border with Denmark – the last capital of the Third Reich – on May 28, 1945.

Joyce was hanged on January 3, 1946, at Wandsworth Prison, in Heathfield Road, Wandsworth, aged 39. 

Pictured top: William Joyce after he was captured in Germany in 1945 (Picture: Public Domain/ Wikimedia Commons)

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