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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:

  • Wolf Mittler was a German journalist. Mittler spoke near-flawless English, which he had learned from his mother, who had been born of German parents in Ireland. His persona was described by some listeners as similar to the fictional aristocrat Bertie Wooster.[9] Reportedly finding political matters distasteful, he was relieved to be replaced by Norman Baillie-Stewart, who stated that Mittler "sounded almost like a caricature of an Englishman".[10] It has been speculated that it was Mittler's voice which Barrington described; if so it would make him the original Lord Haw-Haw.[1] In 1943, Mittler was deemed suspect and arrested by the Gestapo, but he managed to escape to Switzerland.[11] After the war, he worked extensively for German radio and television.[12]
  • Norman Baillie-Stewart was a former officer of the Seaforth Highlanders who was cashiered for selling secrets to Nazi Germany. He worked as a broadcaster in Germany for a short time in 1939. He was jailed for five years by the British after the war. For a time he claimed that he was the original Lord Haw-Haw. He did have an upper-class accent, but he later decided that it was probably Mittler whose voice Barrington had heard. He may have been the broadcaster the BBC referred to as "Sinister Sam".[1]
  • Eduard Dietze, a Glasgow-born broadcaster of a mixed German-British-Hungarian family background,[13] is another possible, but less likely, candidate for the original Lord Haw-Haw.[6] He was one of the English-speaking announcers with an "upper-crust accent" who were heard on German radio in the early days of the war.[14]
  • James R. Clark was a young English broadcaster and a friend of William Joyce.[6] Clark and his pro-Nazi mother, Mrs. Dorothy Eckersley, were both tried for treason after the war.[15] Dorothy Eckersley was born Dorothy Stephen in 1893. She later married Edward Clark, a musician, and had a son, James Clark, who was born in 1923. She divorced her first husband and was married to Peter Eckersley, a senior figure working in the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). After ten years of marriage to Peter Eckersley, Dorothy's increasing interest in German National Socialism and Fascism led her to move to Germany with her son, enrolling him (by then aged 17 years) in a German school. Following this move, "...Dorothy Eckersley came to play a key role in William Joyce's fate in Berlin..." [16]

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.

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.[19]

In popular culture

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

  • In the 1940s, actor Geoffrey Sumner played Lord Haw-Haw for laughs in a series of Pathé Gazette short subjects named "Nasti" News From Lord Haw-Haw.[20]
  • The 1942 feature film Sherlock Holmes and the Voice of Terror combines elements of the Arthur Conan Doyle story "His Last Bow" and loosely parallels the real-life activities of Lord Haw-Haw.
  • The 1943 propaganda cartoon Tokio Jokio has a scene with an anthropomorphic donkey (wearing a suit and a monocle in one eye) reading a radio broadcast. The sign on his desk reads "Lord Hee Haw, Chief Wind-Bag".
  • In various scenes in the 1949 World War II film Twelve O'Clock High, they have Lord Haw Haw broadcasts, playing to "General" Gregory Peck and his bomber group. It was a vocal recreation by Barry Jones (uncredited) for the film.[citation needed]
  • In the RKO feature, Passport to Destiny (1944), Gavin Muir plays Herr Joyce / Lord Haw, although he is constantly referred to as Lord Haw, rather than Lord Haw-Haw.
  • The 1966 World War II film The Dirty Dozen includes a propaganda broadcast by an English-accented person said to be Lord Haw-Haw.
  • Joyce's radio broadcasts and the relationship with his wife were dramatised in the 1983 stage play Double Cross, by Thomas Kilroy. Stephen Rea played the role of Joyce.[21]
  • In Flashman at the Charge, one of a series of historical novels by George MacDonald Fraser, the main character Harry Flashman refers to James Brudenell, 7th Earl of Cardigan, who led the disastrous Charge of the Light Brigade, as "Lord Haw-Haw" due to his tendency to sprinkle his conversation with the phrase "haw-haw". The Earl was noted as using the phrase in real life.[22]
  • In the 1997 radio series On The Town with The League of Gentlemen, local radio presenter of dubious morality Bernice Woodall plays an early recording of herself mimicking a broadcast by Lord Haw-Haw.

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 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. 6.0 6.1 6.2 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". 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" 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". June 11, 1945.,9171,775821,00.html. 
  19. Iain Sproat, ‘Wodehouse, Sir Pelham Grenville (1881–1975)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, Sept 2004; online edn, Oct 2007
  20. ""Nasti" News from Lord Haw Haw". British Pathé historical archive. London: British Pathé. 25 January 1940. Retrieved 8 March 2011. 
  21. "Irish Playography". Irish Playography. 1986-02-03. Retrieved 2011-04-06. 
  22. Russell, William Howard (1895). The Great War with Russia. London: Routledge. p. 177. OCLC 758948288. 
  • 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. 
  • Farndale, Nigel (2005). Haw-Haw: The Tragedy of William and Margaret Joyce. Macmillan ISBN 0-333-98992-9
  • Wharam, Alan (1995). Treason: Famous English Treason Trials. Alan Sutton Publishing. ISBN 978-0-7509-0991-4. 

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