William Joyce lies in an ambulance, under armed guard, after capture by British Forces, 1945

William Joyce lies in an ambulance, under armed guard, after capture by British Forces, 1945

Germany Calling

Radio audiences in Great Britain in 1939 were greeted with the funny, upper-class voice of a man saying “Jermainy Calling! Jermainy Calling!” It was the traditional opening of the show Germany Callinga tool of the Reich Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda.

Intention to Demoralize and Discourage

The program aimed to discourage and demoralize British, American, Australian, and Canadian troops, as well as the British citizens within listening range. When a shooting down of Allied aircraft or a sinking of an Allied ship took place, you can bet the targeted audience would hear of it on Germany Calling.  The Nazis gleefully provided reports of high losses and casualties of Allied forces. Although the broadcasts were known to be from the enemy and as such, were deliberately worded to cause despair in the listeners, it was often the only way to know what happened to friends and relatives who never returned from bombing raids over Germany.

Origination of the Name Lord Haw-Haw

The name Lord Haw-Haw is believed to have originated with one German announcer saying, “So you English believe you can defeat superior German forces, haw haw!” Before the war ended several propaganda broadcasters were given the name by the listening public.One story particularly stands out to Americans; William Joyce.

William Joyce was born in Brooklyn, New York on April 24, 1906.  His father, Michael, an Irish Catholic, became an American citizen in October of 1894.  A few years after William’s birth, the family returned to Galway,  Ireland.

In 1921, William Joyce moved to England, attending King’s College School, Wimbledon for a brief time. He enlisted in the Worcestershire Regiment but was discharged for lying about his young age. He then applied and was accepted to Birkbeck College of the University of London. He entered the Officer Training Corps and received a First Class Honors Degree and began his interest in Fascism.

In October of 1924 while hosting a meeting supporting Jack Lazarus, a Conservative Party candidate for Lambeth North, he was attacked by Communists and received a razor slash across his right cheek, leaving a permanent scar across his right cheek, from the earlobe to the corner of his mouth. Even then, he was anti-Semitic and said his attackers were Jews.

In 1932 Joyce joined the British Union of Fascists, under Sir Oswald Mosley,  becoming a leading speaker. He rose quickly through the ranks, finally receiving a paying position. He became Director of Propaganda for the organization. He was powerful in his influence on others as well as physically threatening. He had no qualms about brawling with anti-Fascists. However, he began to take the BUF in another direction away from the economic field to focus on anti-Semitism. Eventually the head of the BUF fired him as a move to drastically reduce its numbers after the 1937 elections. After that, Joyce formed his own organization; the National Socialist League. For himself, Mosley turned his organization to activism and opposed war with Nazi Germany.

In 1939 Joyce and his wife fled to Germany because they got word that the British authorities were ready to detain him under a defense law that allowed the internment of suspected Nazi sympathizers. Joyce then became a naturalized German citizen in 1940.

After WWII broke out, there were broadcasters all over Germany, Italy and Japan, spewing propaganda about how poorly the Allied Armies were performing against the mighty Axis armies. If you believed what these radio voices said, you’d be sure that at any moment, all Allied forces would be captured or killed. The names of of the most famous of these were Axis Sally and Tokyo Rose, but there was another well known for his deceitfulness and persuasive skills, and that was Lord Haw-Haw.


After an audition for the Rundfunkhouse, William Joyce was hired for radio announcements and script writing for German radio’s English service, replacing Wolf Mittler. He became quite popular, eventually revealing his real name. His introduction was usually “William Joyce, otherwise known as Lord Haw-Haw.”  The broadcasts jeered at the Allied troops and the English people, often descending into sarcastic, menacing messages.

But as time went on, the war was not going well for Nazi Germany, and Joyce recorded his final broadcast on April 25, 1945 during the Battle of Berlin, signing off with a drunken, “Heil Hitler and Farewell.” On May 28, 1945 Joyce was captured by British forces at Flensburg near the German border with Denmark. Intelligence soldiers spotted him and asked if he was Joyce, and he reached into his pocket. Thinking he was reaching for a weapon, they shot him twice in the buttocks. It was discovered he was actually reaching for a false passport.

Joyce was then handed over to British Military Police, taken to London by ambulance and tried at the Old Bailey on three counts of High Treason, with the following violations cited:

  • William Joyce, on the 18th of September, 1939, and on other days between that day and the 29th of 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.
  • William Joyce, on the 26th of 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.
  • William Joyce, on 18 September 1939, and on other days between that day and the 2 July 1940, 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

It was brought to the court’s attention by the defense that the only evidence that he was broadcasting Nazi propaganda before becoming a German citizen was offered by the testimony of a London police inspector who had questioned him while he was still a member of the BUF, having recognized his voice on a propaganda broadcast.

During the trial Joyce’s American citizenship came into question, since it would make him ineligible to be tried under High Treason to the Crown. But his possession of a British passport, although he’d lied to get it, entitled him to diplomatic protection in Germany, and therefore his allegiance was owed to the King. On September 19, 1945, he was found guilty of one charge of treason and sentenced to death. The prosecution of his wife, known as Lady Haw-Haw was waived on compassionate grounds.

William Joyce was executed by hanging on January 3, 1946 at Wandsworth Prison. His remains were buried in an unmarked grave within the walls of the prison, but were exhumed in 1976 and reburied in the Protestant section of the New Cemetery in Galway, Ireland.

Questions still remain as to whether he was given his fair rights, since he was actually an American citizen. What’s your opinion?