Lord Haw-Haw

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William Joyce, who was "Lord Haw-Haw" to British wartime listeners, now silenced and under arrest, lies in an ambulance under armed guard before being taken from British Second Army Headquarters to a hospital.

Lord Haw-Haw was the nickname of several announcers on the English-language propaganda radio programme Germany Calling, broadcast by Nazi German radio to audiences in Great Britain on the medium wave station Reichssender Hamburg and by shortwave to the United States. The programme started on 18 September 1939 and continued until 30 April 1945, when Hamburg was overrun by the British Army. This nickname, Lord Haw-Haw, generally refers to William Joyce, who was German radio's most prominent English-language speaker and to whom it gradually came to be exclusively applied.[1] However, it was also applied to other broadcasters, mostly in the early stages of the war.



Through such broadcasts, the Reich Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda attempted to discourage and demoralize British, Canadian, Australian and American troops and the British population within radio listening range, to suppress the effectiveness of the Allied war effort through propaganda, and to motivate the Allies to agree to peace terms leaving the Nazi regime intact and in power. Among many techniques used, the Nazi broadcasts prominently reported on the shooting down of Allied aircraft and the sinking of Allied ships, presenting discouraging reports of high losses and casualties among Allied forces. Although the broadcasts were widely known to be Nazi propaganda, they frequently offered the only details available from behind enemy lines concerning the fate of friends and relatives who did not return from bombing raids over Germany. As a result, Allied troops and civilians frequently listened to Lord Haw-Haw's broadcasts in spite of the sometimes infuriating content and frequent inaccuracies and exaggerations, in the hopes of learning clues about the fate of Allied troops and air crews. Mass Observation interviews warned the Ministry of Information of this and as a result more attention was given to the official reports of British military casualties.[2]

Origin of the name

Radio critic Jonah Barrington of the Daily Express applied the phrase in describing a German broadcaster,[3] in an attempt to reduce his possible impact: "He speaks English of the haw-haw, dammit-get-out-of-my-way-variety".[4][5] In practice, the name was applied to a number of different announcers and even soon after Barrington coined the nickname, it was uncertain exactly which German broadcaster he was describing. Some British media and listeners just used "Lord Haw-Haw" as a generic term to describe all English-language German broadcasters, although other nicknames, like "Sinister Sam", were occasionally used by the BBC to distinguish between obviously different speakers. Poor reception may have contributed to some listeners' difficulties in distinguishing between broadcasters.[6]

In reference to the nickname, American pro-Nazi broadcaster Fred W. Kaltenbach was given the moniker Lord Hee-Haw by the British media.[7] The Lord Hee-Haw name, however, was used for a time by The Daily Telegraph to refer to Lord Haw-Haw, generating some confusion between nicknames and broadcasters.[8]

Announcers associated with the nickname

A number of announcers could have been Lord Haw-Haw:

William Joyce

William Joyce replaced Mittler in 1939. Joyce was American-born and raised in Ireland and as a teenager he was an informant to the British forces about the IRA rebels during the Anglo-Irish War. He was also a senior member of the British Union of Fascists and fled England when tipped off about his planned internment on 26 August 1939. In February 1940, the BBC noted that the Lord Haw-Haw of the early war days (possibly Mittler) was now rarely heard on the air and had been replaced by a new spokesman. Joyce was the main German broadcaster in English for most of the war, and became a naturalised German citizen; he is usually regarded as Lord Haw-Haw, even though he was probably not the person to whom the term originally referred. He had a peculiar hybrid accent that was not of the conventional upper class variety. His distinctive pronunciation of "Jairmany calling, Jairmany calling", which could be described as a "nasal drawl", may have been the result of a fight as a schoolboy that left him with a broken nose.[17]

Joyce, initially an anonymous broadcaster like the others, eventually revealed his real name to his listeners. The Germans actually capitalized on the fame of the Lord Haw-Haw nickname and came to announce him as "William Joyce, otherwise known as Lord Haw-Haw".[1]

Later history and aftermath

After Joyce took over, Mittler was paired with the American-born announcer Mildred Gillars in the Axis Sally programme and also broadcast to ANZAC forces in North Africa. Mittler survived the war and appeared on postwar German radio, and occasionally television, until his death. Baillie-Stewart was sentenced to five years' imprisonment. Joyce was captured by British forces in northern Germany just as the war ended,[18] tried, and eventually hanged for treason on 3 January 1946. Joyce's defence team, appointed by the court, argued that, as an American citizen and naturalised German, Joyce could not be convicted of treason against the British Crown. However, the prosecution successfully argued that, since he had lied about his nationality to obtain a British passport and voted in Britain, Joyce owed allegiance to the king.

The decision to hang him was made perhaps because of the fear his alleged omniscience had inspired.[19] As J. A. Cole has written, "the British public would not have been surprised if, in that Flensburg wood, Haw-Haw had carried in his pocket a secret weapon capable of annihilating an armoured brigade". This mood was reflected in the wartime film Sherlock Holmes and the Voice of Terror starring Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce, in which Joyce's broadcasts are shown to predict actual disasters and defeats, thus seriously undermining British morale.

Other contributors

Other British subjects willingly made propaganda broadcasts, including Raymond David Hughes, who broadcast on the German Radio Metropole, and John Amery, while others, like P. G. Wodehouse, were tricked into doing so. An MI5 investigation published after Wodehouse's death found no evidence of treachery.[20]

In popular culture

"Lord Hee-Haw, Chief Wind-Bag" from the 1943 animated propaganda film Tokio Jokio

See also


  1. ^ a b c d Doherty 2000, p. 13
  2. ^ Freedman, Jean R. (1999). Whistling in the dark: memory and culture in wartime London. Lexington, Ky: University Press of Kentucky. p. 47. ISBN 0-8131-2076-4.
  3. ^ Hall, J. W. (1954). "William Joyce". In Hodge, James H.. Famous Trials. 4. Penguin Books. p. 80. "Usually, the inventor of a popular nickname is unidentifiable, but the ‘onlie begetter’ of Lord Haw-Haw was undoubtedly Mr Jonah Barrington, then of the Daily Express…"
  4. ^ Freedman (1999: 43)
  5. ^ Farndale, Nigel. Haw-Haw: The Tragedy of William and Margaret Joyce, 2005 (ISBN 0-333-98992-9)
  6. ^ a b c Kenny, Mary (2004) Germany Calling - A Personal Biography of Lord Haw-Haw, William Joyce [1]
  7. ^ Goebbel’s Iowan: Frederick W. Kaltenbach and Nazi Short-Wave Radio Broadcasts to America, 1939–1945, Clayton D. Laurie, Annals of Iowa, 1994
  8. ^ Lord Haw-Haw & William Joyce: the full story, Faber & Faber, 1964, page 126
  9. ^ Germany calls again as Lord Haw-Haw goes online, The Irish Times, February 4, 2010
  10. ^ Doherty 2000, p. 10
  11. ^ Kultur as Bayern.
  12. ^ "Programm vom Dienstag, den 29. März 1960". Tvprogramme.net. http://www.tvprogramme.net/60/1960/19600329.htm. Retrieved 2011-04-06.
  13. ^ Doherty 2000, p. 7
  14. ^ Doherty 2000, pp. 11–12
  15. ^ Doherty 2000, p. 11
  16. ^ page 152 of Mary Kenny's biography on Lord Haw Haw "Germany Calling" http://mary-kenny.com/germany_calling_lord_haw_haw.htm. Furthermore [ref. page 192] "Dorothy Eckersley...a [Fascist] political radical... with her connections got William Joyce hired by German Radio". As for her son [ref. page 192] "...James Clark had a teenage enthusiasm for Adolf Hitler, and also worked at the Rundfunk as a newsreader..."
  17. ^ Wharam 1995, p. 166
  18. ^ "THE OCCUPATION: Renegade's Return". TIME XLV (24). June 11, 1945. http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,775821,00.html.
  19. ^ David Suisman, Susan Strasser, Sound in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, University of Pennsylvania Press, 2009, pages 55-56
  20. ^ Iain Sproat, ‘Wodehouse, Sir Pelham Grenville (1881–1975)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, Sept 2004; online edn, Oct 2007
  21. ^ ""Nasti" News from Lord Haw Haw". British Pathé historical archive. London: British Pathé. 25 January 1940. http://www.britishpathe.com/record.php?id=24396. Retrieved 8 March 2011.
  22. ^ "Irish Playography". Irish Playography. 1986-02-03. http://www.irishplayography.com/search/play.aspx?la=en&play_id=690. Retrieved 2011-04-06.
  23. ^ Russell, William Howard (1895). The Great War with Russia. London: Routledge. p. 177. OCLC 758948288.
  • Farndale, Nigel (2005). Haw-Haw: The Tragedy of William and Margaret Joyce. Macmillan ISBN 0-333-98992-9
  • Biggs, Stanley Champion (2008). As Luck Would Have It in War and Peace. Trafford Publishing
  • Cole, J. A. (1965). Lord Haw-Haw & William Joyce: The Full Story
  • Doherty, M. A (2000). "Organisation of Nazi Wireless Propaganda". Nazi wireless propaganda: Lord Haw-Haw and British public opinion in the Second World War. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. ISBN 0-7486-1363-3.
  • Wharam, Alan (1995). Treason: Famous English Treason Trials. Alan Sutton Publishing. ISBN 978-0-7509-0991-4

External links