William Joyce

William Brooke Joyce (24 April 1906 – 3 January 1946), nicknamed Lord Haw-Haw, was an American-born British Fascist politician and Nazi propaganda broadcaster to the United Kingdom during World War II. He took German citizenship in 1940. Joyce was convicted of one count of high treason in 1945 and sentenced to death, with the Court of Appeal and the House of Lords both upholding his conviction. He was hanged on 3 January 1946, making him the last person to be executed for treason in the United Kingdom. Theodore Schurch was hanged the following day, but for the crime of treachery rather than treason.

William Joyce
Joyce shortly after capture, 1945
William Brooke Joyce

(1906-04-24)24 April 1906
Brooklyn, New York City, New York, US
Died3 January 1946(1946-01-03) (aged 39)
Wandsworth Prison, London, UK
Cause of deathExecution by hanging
Resting placeNew Cemetery, Bohermore, Galway, Ireland
53.27692°N 9.03025°W / 53.27692; -9.03025
Other namesLord Haw-Haw
Alma materBirkbeck College, University of London
Known forBroadcasting German propaganda in World War II
Political partyNational Socialist German Workers' Party (NSDAP)

Early life

William Brooke Joyce was born on Herkimer Street in Brooklyn, New York,[2] United States. His father was Michael Francis Joyce (9 December 186619 February 1941), an Irish Catholic from a family of farmers in Ballinrobe, County Mayo, who had taken United States citizenship on 25 October 1894. His mother was Gertrude Emily Brooke, who although born in Shaw and Crompton, Lancashire, England, was from a well-off Anglican Anglo-Irish family of medical practitioners associated with County Roscommon.

A few years after William's birth, the family returned to Salthill, Galway, Ireland permanently. Joyce attended Coláiste Iognáid, a Jesuit school in Galway (from 1915–21). Joyce's mother was strongly Anglocentric, devoutly Protestant, Unionist and hostile to Irish nationalism. There were tensions with her father for marrying a Roman Catholic. Joyce's father bought up houses and rented some to the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC).

During the Irish War for Independence Joyce was recruited by Capt. Patrick William Keating as a courier for British Army intelligence in Galway, then fighting against the Irish Republican Army (IRA).[3] He was known to have hung around with Black and Tans at Lenaboy Castle, which reportedly resulted in the Irish Republican Army dispatching a volunteer, Michael Molloy, to murder Joyce on his way home from school in December 1921, although minors were normally not executed by the IRA, but expelled or ostracised. Joyce reputedly survived only because his father had moved his family to another house on a different route. Capt. Keating arranged for William Joyce to be mustered into the Worcester Regiment soon after, taking him out of the dangerous situation in Ireland to Norton Barracks. A few months later he was discharged when it was found out he was underage.[4]

Joyce remained in England and briefly attended King's College School, Wimbledon, on a foreign exchange. His family followed him to England two years later, having backed the losing side in the conflict in Ireland. Joyce had relatives in Birkenhead, Cheshire, whom he visited on a few occasions. He then applied to Birkbeck College of the University of London, where he entered the Officer Training Corps. At Birkbeck, he obtained a first-class honours degree in English.[5][6] After graduating, he applied for a job in the Foreign Office, but was rejected and took a job as a teacher.[7] He also developed an interest in Fascism, and worked with, but never joined, the British Fascists of Rotha Lintorn-Orman.

On 22 October 1924, while stewarding a meeting in support of Jack Lazarus (the Conservative Party candidate for Lambeth North in the general election),[8] Joyce was attacked by communists 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.[9] While Joyce often said that his attackers were Jewish, biographer Colin Holmes claims that Joyce's first wife told him in 1992 that "it wasn't a Jewish Communist who disfigured him .... He was knifed by an Irish woman".[10]

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.[11]

In 1934, Joyce was promoted to the BUF's Director of Propaganda, replacing Wilfred Risdon (who had expressed concern to Mosley about the use of the spotlights at the Olympia rally in June) 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 Olympia, 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.[12][13]

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 particular concern for Joyce was the Government of 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 should Mosley 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".[14]

Joyce was sacked from his paid position when Mosley drastically reduced the BUF staff shortly after the 1937 elections, after which Joyce promptly formed a breakaway organisation, the National Socialist League. After the departure of Joyce, the BUF turned its focus away from anti-Semitism and towards activism, opposing a war with Nazi Germany. Although Joyce had been deputy leader of the party 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. 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.[14]

In Germany

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 citizen 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").[15] Eckersley was the former wife or second wife[15] 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 scriptwriting at German radio's English service. William Joyce replaced Wolf Mittler.

The name "Lord Haw-Haw of Zeesen" was coined in 1939 by the pseudonymous Daily Express radio critic Jonah Barrington,[16] 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 (because of 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.[17] His role in writing the scripts increased over time, and the German radio capitalized on his public persona. Initially an anonymous broadcaster, Joyce eventually revealed his real name to his listeners; and he would occasionally be announced as "William Joyce, otherwise known as Lord Haw-Haw".[18] 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.[19]

Listening to his broadcasts was officially discouraged, although not illegal, but many Britons listened. At the height of his influence, in 1940, Joyce had an estimated six million regular and 18 million occasional listeners in the United Kingdom.[20] The broadcasts always began with the announcer's words, "Germany calling, Germany calling, Germany 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, as information during wartime was strictly censored.

The Reich Main Security Office commissioned Joyce to give lectures at the University of Berlin for SS members in the winter of 1941–42 on the topic of "English fascism and acute questions concerning the British world empire".[21]

Joyce recorded his final broadcast on 30 April 1945, during the Battle of Berlin.[22] Rambling and audibly drunk,[23] he chided Britain for pursuing the war beyond mere containment of Germany and repeatedly warned of the "menace" of the Soviet Union. He signed off with a final defiant "Heil Hitler and farewell".[24] There are conflicting accounts as to whether this last programme was actually transmitted, although a recording was found in the Apen studios.[25] The next day Radio Hamburg was seized by British forces, and on 4 May Wynford Vaughan-Thomas used it to make a mock "Germany Calling" broadcast denouncing Joyce.[26]

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 of the Waffen-SS. 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 alleged wonders of National Socialist Germany. Adolf Hitler awarded Joyce the War Merit Cross (First and Second Class) for his broadcasts, although he never met Joyce.

Capture and trial

On 28 May 1945, Joyce was captured by British forces at Flensburg, near the German border with Denmark, which was the last capital of the Third Reich. 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 whether he was Joyce, he reached into his pocket (actually reaching for a false passport); believing he was armed, they shot him through the buttocks, resulting in four wounds.[27]

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

  1. William Joyce, on 18 September 1939, and on other days between that day and 29 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 26 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 18 September 1939, and on other days between that day and 2 July 1940 [i.e., before Joyce's naturalisation as a German subject], 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.[28]

"Not guilty" were the first words from Joyce's mouth in his trial, as noted by Rebecca West in her book The Meaning of Treason (as noted by Whittaker Chambers in his 1947 review of that book).[29] 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 misstated 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.

The historian A.J.P. Taylor remarked in his book English History 1914–1945 that "Technically, Joyce was hanged for making a false statement when applying for a passport, the usual penalty for which is a small fine."[30]


His conviction was upheld by the Court of Appeal on 1 November 1945, and by Lords Jowitt L.C., Macmillan, Wright, Simonds, and Porter – although Porter dissented – of the House of Lords on 13 December 1945.[31][32]

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 assumed that the question as to whether Joyce's duty of allegiance had terminated 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.

Joyce's biographer Nigel Farndale suggests on the basis of documents made public for the first time between 2000 and 2005 that Joyce made a deal with his prosecutors not to reveal links he had had to MI5. In return, his wife Margaret, known to radio listeners as "Lady Haw-Haw", was spared prosecution for high treason.[27][33] Of the 32 British renegades and broadcasters caught in Germany at the end of the war, only Margaret Joyce, who died in London in 1972, was not charged with treason.[27]


Joyce went to his death unrepentant:

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 in 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.[34]

Other sources refer to his having said, "may the Swastika be raised from the dust".[35]

Joyce was executed on 3 January 1946 at Wandsworth Prison, aged 38. He was the next to last 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. In both cases the hangman was Albert Pierrepoint. Joyce died "an Anglican, like his mother, despite a long and friendly correspondence with a Roman Catholic priest who fought hard for William's soul".[36] The scar on Joyce's face split wide open because of the pressure applied to his head upon his drop from the gallows.[37]

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, Galway, Ireland. A Roman Catholic Tridentine Mass was celebrated at his reburial.[38]


Joyce had two daughters by his first wife, Hazel, who later married Oswald Mosley's bodyguard, Eric Piercey. One daughter, Heather Iandolo (formerly Piercey: stepfather's surname) has spoken publicly of her father.[39]

See also



  1. "Joyce Appellant; and Director of Public Prosecutions" (PDF). House of Lords. 1946. p. 1. Retrieved 20 September 2009.
  2. Christenson, Ron (1991). Ron Christenson (ed.). Political trials in history: from antiquity to the present. Transaction Publishers. ISBN 978-0-88738-406-6. Retrieved 22 June 2009.
  3. Joyce, William (1992). Twilight over England (Issue 5 of Facsimile reprint series ed.). Imperial War Museum, Department of Printed Books. pp. Introduction (x). ISBN 978-0-901627-72-8. Retrieved 21 September 2009.
  4. A. N. Wilson, "After the Victorians", Hutchinson, London, 2005, p. 421.
  5. A. N. Wilson, After the Victorians, Hutchinson, London, 2005.
  6. Holmes, Colin (2016). Searching for Lord Haw-Haw: The Political Lives of William Joyce. Routledge. p. 28.
  7. Holmes, Colin (2016). Searching for Lord Haw-Haw: The Political Lives of William Joyce. Routledge. p. 31-32.
  8. "Razor Slashing Victim". Daily Mail. 24 October 1924. p. 9.
  9. West, Rebecca (1964). The New Meaning of Treason. Viking Press. p. 25.
  10. Holmes, Colin (2016). Searching for Lord Haw-Haw: The Political Lives of William Joyce. Routledge. pp. 52–53.
  11. Selwyn, Francis (1987). Hitler's Englishman: the crime of Lord Haw-Haw. Taylor & Francis. p. 61. ISBN 978-0-7102-1032-6. Retrieved 21 September 2009.
  12. "North West Wales Blaenau Ffestiniog — Coed-y-Bleiddiau". BBC.
  13. "1900–1950". Canterbury. Archived from the original on 7 August 2011. Retrieved 26 February 2017.
  14. McPherson, Angela; McPherson, Susan (2011). Mosley's Old Suffragette – A Biography of Norah Elam. ISBN 978-1-4466-9967-6. Archived from the original on 13 January 2012. Retrieved 3 January 2012.
  15. 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.
  16. Hall, J. W. (1954). "William Joyce". In Hodge, James H. (ed.). 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
  17. "Black propaganda by radio: the German Concordia broadcasts to Britain, 1940–1941". Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television. Find Articles at BNET.com.
  18. Nazi Wireless Propaganda: Lord Haw-Haw and British Public Opinion in the Second World War, Edinburgh University Press, 2000, page 13.
  19. David Suisman, Susan Strasser, Sound in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, University of Pennsylvania Press, 2009, pages 55–56.
  20. Axis Sally: The Americans Behind That Alluring Voice, HistoryNet, 23 November 2009.
  21. University of Tübingen - Chronologie Schulung und Elitebildung im 3. Reich Schwerpunkt: SS
  22. "The last Broadcast of Lord Haw Haw, 1945". Eyewitnesstohistory.com. Retrieved 27 February 2017.
  23. 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.
  24. "Lord Haw Haw's Last Broadcast" (MP3). Earthstation1.com. Retrieved 27 February 2017.
  25. "Archive – Lord Haw-Haw – Propaganda Broadcast from Germany | Lord Haw-Haw". BBC. Retrieved 27 February 2017.
  26. "Mock 'German Calling' broadcast". BBC. Retrieved 14 May 2017.
  27. Nigel Farndale (9 May 2005). "Love and treachery". Telegraph. Retrieved 14 May 2017.
  28. "Lord Haw-Haw: the myth and reality". Safran-arts.com. Retrieved 14 May 2017.
  29. Chambers, Whittaker (8 December 1947). "Circles of Perdition: The Meaning of Treason". Time. Retrieved 26 March 2017.
  30. Taylor, A.J.P. (1965). "English History 1914–1945". Oxford U P. p. 534.
  31. "Document" (PDF). Uniset.ca. Retrieved 14 May 2017.
  32. "Joyce v. D.P.P." Uniset.ca. Retrieved 14 May 2017.
  33. Farndale, Nigel (2005). Haw-Haw: The Tragedy of William and Margaret Joyce. Macmillan. ISBN 978-0333989920.
  34. Frost, Amber (14 October 2013). "Hear the final (drunk) broadcast of Lord Haw-Haw, Nazi Germany's answer to Tokyo Rose". Dangerous Minds. Retrieved 22 May 2014.
  35. "Topic: WWII shirkers and defectors – Post 659629". Military-quotes.com. Retrieved 14 May 2017.
  36. Kenny, Mary (2008). Germany calling: a personal biography of William Joyce, Lord Haw-Haw. Little Books, Limited. p. 21. ISBN 9781906251161.
  37. Seabrook, David (2002). All the devils are here. Granta. p. 97. ISBN 978-1-86207-483-5. Retrieved 20 September 2009.
  38. Wilson op cit.
  39. Beckett, Francis (5 December 2005). "'My father was a traitor but he was kind and loving to me'". The Guardian. Retrieved 8 June 2019.


  • Wharam, Alan (1995). Treason: Famous English Treason Trials. Alan Sutton Publishing. ISBN 0-7509-0991-9.

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 & Nicolson, London, 1994)
  • Germany Calling: A Personal Biography of William Joyce, Lord Haw-Haw by Mary Kenny (New Island Books, Dublin, 2003) ISBN 9781902602783
  • Haw-Haw: The Tragedy of William and Margaret Joyce by Nigel Farndale (Macmillan, London, 2005)
  • Searching for Lord Haw-Haw: The Political Lives of William Joyce by Colin Holmes (Routledge, Abingdon, 2016)
  • Security Service files on him are held by the National Archives under references KV 2/245 to KV 2/250
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