‘Lord Haw Haw’ to face treason charge 

16 November 2020 tbs.pm/71414


Derby Evening Telegraph masthead

From the Derby Evening Telegraph for 29 May 1945

William Joyce (“Lord Haw Haw”) and his wife have been arrested by the British Second Army, and the Press Association learns that Goebbels’s No. 1 propagandist to Britain will be brought to England and will face a charge of treason. His position is being considered at the Attorney-General’s office. It will be alleged that as a British civilian subject he gave aid and comfort to the enemies of his country.

No details are yet available of the time or place of the arrest of Joyce and his wife, but the capture of “Haw Haw” was the climax of weeks of search in Northern Germany for Joyce, last heard of in Hamburg a few days before Germany surrendered.

The capture narrows down the number of prominent people still at large, chief among whom is von Ribbentrop. Search for these has been intensified.


A man lies in a bed, with three soldiers around him

Joyce, claiming injury, lies in a bunk, watched by three Tommies


Once Mosley’s ‘Right Hand’

Joyce, with his familiar “Jairmany Calling,” had been sought ever since the Allied entry into Hamburg.

All sorts of reports of his whereabouts proved wrong yet no clue was found when British troops went to his studio, where his microphone and papers were found intact.

Joyce was one of Sir Oswald Mosley’s right-hand men before he went to Germany a month before the outbreak of war.

In 1927 he graduated at London University with first-class honours in English.

Face slashed

He was first reported in political life in 1923. In 1924 he had his face slashed with a razor in a fight at a political meeting.

Joyce became Mosley’s “Director of Propaganda,” but in 1937 Mosley dismissed him and Joyce set up his own fascist organisation called the “National Socialist League,” which was disbanded shortly before the war.

Joyce’s father, Michael Joyce, died suddenly in London in February, 1941.

Born in U.S.

Joyce was born in New York in 1906 of an Irish mother and an English father.

He was arrested in 1934, and again in 1938, but not convicted.

His last propaganda broadcast was on April 30, when he spoke in a raucous voice, stuttering, coughing and choking, and at times nearly crying, and trying without avail to show bravado.


Courtesy of Radiografías de la historia


Joyce’s capture comes after that of Baillie Stewart, the “Officer in the Tower” in a pre-war treason case, who claimed to have been the first “Lord Haw Haw.”

Public hearing

Joyce’s name does not appear in any list of international war criminals, writes a Press Association diplomatic correspondent, but legal authorities in London assume that when charges are made against him the hearings would take place publicly in the normal courts.

Pending the hearing of any such charges he would, it is thought, be detained in an ordinary remand prison.

The case of Joyce is regarded as somewhat similar to, although not completely analogous with, that of Laval, who when he is brought to France from Barcelona, will be tried in French courts.


A art deco building

The headquarters of Reichssender Königsberg before the war


A man strides down the road in front of the Brandenburg Gate

Joyce in Berlin just before the outbreak of war

Broadcasts noted

When on March 21, 1944, the Prime Minister was asked in the House of Commons whether note was being taken of broadcasts by British subjects from enemy stations, and whether these men would be brought to trial, Mr. Attlee, replying for Mr. Churchill, said that note was being taken of these broadcasts. He added that these British subjects were not included in the list of war criminals, but would be charged with offences against the British law and brought to trial in the appropriate British court.

How he changed

A member of Reuter’s radio listening staff, whose job it was to listen to Joyce’s broadcasts writes:

Joyce was one of Goebbels’s earliest star radio quislings, and in his heyday he had a great network of powerful radio stations, including Hamburg, Bremen, Calais, and Luxemburg [sic] at his disposal for his hourly broadcasts to Britain.

His principal feature was a daily commentary under the name of “Views on the News,” in which he frequently dealt with political events in this country.

His original venomous sarcasm trying to persuade British listeners of the hopelessness of their situation later changed to a wheedling tone in an attempt to convince his listeners that Germany’s cause was also Britain’s cause, since Bolshevism would engulf the whole of Europe if Germany lost the war.

In his heyday, Joyce’s assumption of omniscience about local affairs in Britain, which could be known only to a few, played into the hands of rumour mongers. The impression created was that Joyce had a superlative spy system at his command.

In fact, he never broadcast any information that was not available earlier to everybody in the newspapers.



❛❛Russ J Graham writes: How popular was ‘Lord Haw Haw’ with the listening public? Because it makes a great story, it’s now implied that almost everybody tuned into Reichssender Hamburg to hear his output.

Mass Observation reports from the time suggest otherwise, as does a BBC survey from 1940, which reported that 15% of people with a radio set listened in regularly, 65% had heard some of his programme at some point, and 25% made a point to never listen – and don’t ask me why these percentages don’t add up to 100. Mass Observation looked at what was driving people to listen, and found that it was mainly a lack of news making them hunt the airwaves for more information. This was during the “Phoney War”, when nothing was happening on land or in the air (plenty at sea, but that was quite remote even for an island people like the British) and therefore news was scarce. Once the war really got going in April and May 1940, the listenership dropped remarkably, suggesting that Mass Observation were right in their deductions.

Of those that did listen after the Fall of France and the start of the Battle of Britain, many reasons were given. Some listeners tuned in for a laugh. Others liked the records he played – mainly jazz, which could be scarce on the BBC. A minority were tuning in because they disbelieved the UK government and the BBC and wanted to hear “balanced” news – in other words, news that fitted with their pre-existing viewpoint. Some things don’t change.

The use of popular music between his insinuations and propaganda outbursts is what sets Joyce apart from most of the clandestine and propaganda broadcasters of the world during the second war – and indeed during the following Cold War.

Most radio stations wanting to influence the populations of other countries did so by putting out news broadcasts, talks and educational material. This is all very well – perhaps even to be encouraged – but it’s not what people freely choose to listen to. Such stations end up speaking almost exclusively to people who already agreed with the ideology of the transmitting state, but rarely got through to new listeners.

Joyce’s jazz records gave people a reason to tune in, even if they were mentally tuning out the tosh he was talking. Radio Luxembourg had realised this as the Nazi tanks rolled through their country. The staff of the international station took their stock of records and music recorded on film and buried it around the grounds of the studios to prevent it falling into the hands of the Nazis and them being able to use people like Joyce to keep the station on air with the old music policy but a very new pattern to the speech output.

You Say

2 responses to this article

Jim Wright Jr 25 November 2020 at 9:12 pm

Being in espionage in any era is a crap shoot, be it in espionage or proganda.

Comrade VladimirJughashvili 17 March 2022 at 7:12 pm

“but it’s not what people freely choose to listen to.”

Exactly so — as also exemplified by the popularity in the USSR and the other socialist countries of Eastern Europe of the capitalist imperialist Voice of America “Jazz Hour” presented by Willis Connover, which was broadcast for more than 40 years.

Jazz writer Gene Lees claimed that

“Willis Conover did more to crumble the Berlin wall and bring about collapse of the Soviet empire than all the Cold War presidents put together.”

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