Remembering the tales of very witty contributor

A handwritten memoir by the highly witty Fred Roy – a regular letter-writer for the South London Press from the 1920s until the 1950s – lay for 23 years after his death in 1999 in an old captain’s chest.
Finally rescued and transcribed by his daughter, Hazel Roy, as a lockdown project, it is a fascinating glimpse into a vanished world. Born in South London in 1907, to working class parents, Fred crossed swords with the infamous Lord Haw Haw in the 1930s outside Dulwich Library. Here are more of his writing extracts.

On sex
Most teenage girls, fearful of the consequences, were far more cautious and would permit no more than a kiss and cuddle before wedlock.

With far less tolerant parents than today, and with no room or car in which to explore further, opportunity was limited, though the back row of the cinema saw a fair bit of action, and knee tremblers under the railway arches were not unknown.

The sight of the occasional white bottom on warm summer nights rising and falling on Peckham Rye top triangle, known then as The Battlefield and said to be where Blake saw his angels, suggested some were prepared to take the ultimate risk.

Lord Haw Haw
Pam Philips was violently anti-Semitic, a follower of Sir Oswald Mosley and a friend of Bill Joyce, who lived in Dulwich and was often the principal speaker at the Wednesday meetings of the black shirts held outside Dulwich library.

These meetings were stormy ones as we always did our best to break them up.

Pam wisely took off after one such meeting, while the rest of us according to custom repaired to the Queens, where Joyce and some of his fellow storm troopers followed us in.

To them, anyone left of Mosley was ‘scum’ and he was livid with rage. But, outnumbered, they dare not risk a punch up.

He had a scar on his cheek that could have been the result of a razor attack and seemed completely deranged.

He was to become the notorious Lord Haw Haw who broadcast Nazi propaganda to the UK from Germany during the war with an upper class British accent (hence the nickname), having escaped internment at the start of the war by fleeing to Germany.

As an American citizen at the time when that country was neutral, being in Germany was not illegal, even when he was broadcasting as Haw Haw.

At first the press and establishment assumed it was an ex-officer and refused to believe us when we told them we knew it was Joyce.

But holding a British passport when he was captured after the war, he was adjudged British, not American, returned to Britain and hanged for treason which, considering the number of pro-Hitler British peers and politicians guilty of far greater damage than Joyce (whose broadcasts were treated as a joke by most people), it was no more than an act of cheap revenge.

It would have been more just and fitting to leave him in Germany to enjoy the fruits of defeat.

Hannan Swaffer
He was the self declared King of Fleet Street, leading theatre critic and instant pundit on virtually everything.

He regularly informed us he knew every capital city and every crook, politician and monarch in Europe.

He was a lean, aesthetic-looking man, instantly recognisable, who sported an old time cravat rather than a collar and tie.

A highly successful self-publicist, he always contrived to be in the limelight, catching the press and the public eye.

Hannen Swaffer

He was one of my teenage icons and I would quote him as gospel.

In spite of his pretensions and less than profound scribbling, he was to become editor of a national newspaper, The People, but the role of editor did not suit him and he abandoned it after some months.

A proponent of spiritualism and opponent of capital punishment, despite Socialist leanings, he spent most of his life working for right wing newspapers.

Addressing a mass rally in Hyde Park in the 1930s, he made the infantile prattle of more than one leading Labour light sound as if they were still swaddled in their political nappies.

Main Pic: The Arrest of William Joyce (Lord Haw Haw) in Germany in May 1945




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