A personal biography of William Joyce / Lord Haw-Haw by Mary Kenny
In the pantheon of Dulwich notables one name stands out for being notable for all the wrong reasons - William Joyce, "Lord Haw-Haw", the last man to be hanged for treason in Britain. But Dulwich should not be too ashamed since he did not live here for very long. A new biography by distinguished journalist and leading Irish feminist, Mary Kenny, not only digs deeply into Joyce and the motivation behind his embracing Nazism rather than democracy but also into the rather seedy world of British fascism in the 1930s.
Joyce's father, Michael, an extremely law abiding citizen, despaired of the lawlessness in his native Ireland in the 1880s. He was, unusually, fervently pro-British, but not wishing to join the Catholic Irish in England (where they were considered the lowest of the low) he emigrated to the United States in 1888, and, as so many Irish immigrants had done before and since, went into the building trade. In 1905 he married an Englishwoman, with Ulster Protestant connections, and in 1906 William was born.
The Irish had controlled a good deal of New York but soon the contracts began to dry up. A tide of immigration from Eastern Europe had changed the demography and soon the businessmen dominating the trade associations were Jewish. Times became harder and it may have been his father's resentment at this trend that sowed the seeds of William Joyce's violent anti-Semitism. Michael, though, had already made a reasonable amount of money and when William was three years old the family returned to Ireland where Joyce senior ran a pub in Galway and became involved in the transport business. His son went on to be educated at a Jesuit school and educated very well. He was an extremely bright boy, and very good at languages. As he grew up the fight for Irish independence increased. The start of the War of Independence in 1920 made life very difficult for an outspoken loyalist in a Catholic school. He had a fight with another boy, which resulted in a broken nose - an injury that probably gave him his notorious nasal broadcasting voice. He was seen to hang around with the "Black and Tans" who considered him a nuisance but it made him a target for Sinn Fein. It was said, possibly erroneously, that he had been implicated in the murder of a priest by the Black and Tans so the fifteen year old was sent to England, at first to stay with his mother's relations in Oldham.
Mary Kenny has gone into much more detail of Joyce's Irish roots than previous biographers, but this is a weakness as well as a strength; although he was the antithesis of an Irish patriot she sees his later anti British behavior as a redeeming feature of a flawed and evil man.
Having left Ireland, and briefly serving in the British army (although very much under age) Joyce began his journey into extreme right wing politics and notoriety. He came to London, took digs in Battersea and attended Battersea Polytechnic but already his extreme views were giving rise to criticism from his teachers. At that time Battersea had Britain's first black mayor, and it was during a meeting organised by the mayor's Tory opponent that Joyce received his trademark facial scar. This he blamed on "Jewish Communists", thus reinforcing his prejudice. The rest of the family came to England and in 1923 moved to 7 Allison Grove. College dropout William was reunited with his family, ironically only a few hundred yards from where both the prosecutor at his trial, Hartley Shawcross and another man who broadcast from wartime Germany, however innocently, PG Wodehouse, were educated.
Joyce was an intelligent man but was something of a misfit. While living at home with his parents he had time to devote to his studies and he enrolled at Birkbeck College, where he gained a first class honours degree in English. He had already joined the "British Fascisti", an organisation based on Mussolini's party in Italy and had ambitions of being an M.P. In 1927 he married and left Dulwich for a small flat in Chelsea. Having failed to be nominated as a Tory candidate he tried to get into the Foreign Office. In spite of support from a former Tory candidate for Dulwich, and the Foreign Office accepting that he had American nationality, he was rejected, largely because the Head of Battersea Poly informed the FO that Joyce held "extreme views and upheld the use of violence in political action"
He scraped a living from teaching and in 1933 found his place in the world as a leading orator and sometime Director of Propaganda in Oswald Mosley's British Union of Fascists. He was an acknowledged star of the movement, but lost his wife to another member of the party but was soon to marry yet another fascist who was to share his life to the end.
He tried to arouse interest in Fascism in Dulwich, but was refused the hire of St. Barnabas Hall by the Vicar, the Reverend Wilfred Brown. He managed to organise a couple of meetings at Dulwich Library, but he was on far from fertile ground. He had idolised Mosley "There is no greater man that God has created" but the idol proved to have feet of clay. Factional infighting within the BUF was intense, support was dwindling and during a funding crisis in 1938 Joyce was expelled. He tried to form a new party but without much success. His bitterness at being rejected by the country he had tried to embrace knew no bounds, and fearing internment if a war was to come, he and his wife, Margaret, fled to Germany.
At first it was difficult to find work. Life was hard, but after a few months he was put in contact with German radio and he became a star of the airwaves. His sneering, nasal tones gave him the soubriquet "Lord Haw-Haw" (although the description was originally of another broadcaster). He was listened too during the earlier part of the war, more for amusement than enlightenment. His anti-British sentiment went down much better in Ireland than over here. Interestingly, he was not allowed to broadcast on Berlin Radio's Irish Service.
Joyce's significance is greatly over-rated by Kenny. She describes him as a brilliant broadcaster, but as someone who has spent a lifetime in broadcasting and has heard some of the few remaining tapes, I would disagree. He wrote well, but not necessarily for the voice. He was a good polemicist, but he was not a natural at the microphone. He aimed at the British working classes; telling them that they were oppressed by the capitalist system and the "International Jewish financiers". His life in Berlin was at times dissolute; he drank to excess and had affairs. His wife had a long affair with a German officer; there was a divorce followed by a reconciliation. Additionally, he had uneasy relationships with his broadcasting colleagues and superiors, but he continued to broadcast.
Kenny is at her weakest in this part of the book. Her German is not perfect and she should have quoted more from the transcripts of his broadcasts to give the reader more of a sense of what he was about. She reveals how the Nazis were pleased to employ paranoid inadequates like Joyce, who was often violent, coarse in manner and certainly unstable. Nevertheless there is always some implied sympathy for him in Kenny's book. In fairness the American Correspondent, William Shirer, wrote "if you can get over the initial revulsion at his being a traitor, you find an amusing and even intelligent fellow."
He was caught by British soldiers near Flensburg in Schleswig - Holstein and was brought to trial for treason. The defence was that he was an American, because of his birth and his father's adopted nationality, and had since become German. He had had a British passport since the 1930s but this had been obtained by a false declaration. Sir Hartley Shawcross conducted a spirited prosecution and at 3.37 p.m. on September 20th. 1945 the jury retired. At 4p.m they returned a verdict of guilty. The Judge, Mr Justice Tucker donned the black cap. At the end of October Joyce's appeal was rejected. An appeal to the House of Lords followed. This, too, was turned down and he returned to Wandsworth prison to await execution. He was hanged on January 3rd 1946. There has always been doubt about the legality of the verdict; although morally culpable in law he had never been British. A J.P Taylor said that he had been hanged for a false declaration on a passport form, the usual penalty for which was two pounds.
After his death there were floods of letters of condolence from Ireland. Many people said that this was judicial murder. Perhaps they were right, certainly Kenny takes that view. Her summation of her subject is charitable to say the least "He had beenhhorrid, nasty, selfish, arrogant and unforgivably prejudiced" but adds "there was something redemptive about his walk to the gallows." Not all her readers would agree. The man prostituted his talents on behalf of one of the most evil regimes and most misguided ideologies in history. His life scarcely merited such a sympathetic and readable biography.
Germany Calling by Mary Kenny is published by New Island, Dublin £17.99
Thanks to information which has come our way from Tom Chissell, a diver from Basingstoke, we are reminded, if we ever knew, that the village of Dulwich has lent its name to at least two steamships. Residents ignorant of the village's connections with the sea may be disappointed to learn that neither vessel was particularly glamorous. No frigates, battleships or aircraft carriers here.
Both ships graced with the name S.S. Dulwich were workaday colliers with the Merchant Navy. As such, of course, they performed a vital supply function. Sadly, both came to tragic ends.
One of them lies over 100 feet down on the seabed off the Normandy coast. It has been there ever since it was sunk by a German submarine in the First World War with the loss of two lives. The steamship was reported as being torpedoed on February 15, 1915, by German U Boat U16. At the time it was six miles from Cape d'Antifer carrying a cargo of coal from Hull to Rouen. Whether it was armed or not is unclear.
We know it is there not least because Chissell, a member of the British Sub-Aqua Club, has seen it there. When he is not working as a Microsoft engineer, he will very likely be found submerged in the English Channel. "I have done numerous dives in French waters off the Normandy coast from a charter vessel operating from the British coast," he says. "The area is littered with wrecks from both world wars".
It may surprise some to hear that, according to Chissell, visibility off the coast is generally very good, often approaching ten metres, while in mid-English Channel, it is even better with visibilities of fifteen metres.
Chissell says the wreck of the S.S. Dulwich, which was 330ft long with a gross tonnage of 3,290 tons is upright, standing some three metres from a gravel bed but is "fairly broken". Intrigued by its fate, he did some research into its origins and found that it was built by the shipbuilders Ropner and Son at their yard at Stockton-on-Tees in 1893 and was owned by the Watts shipping company. Attempts to obtain a photograph of the ship from this and other sources failed. In the process Chissell discovered that there was a second S.S. Dulwich, also a collier and owned by the South Metropolitan Gas Company of London. A smaller ship measuring 240ft in length with a gross tonnage of 1,460, it was built by the Dublin Dockyard Company in 1916.
It didn't last long. While sailing from Seaham Harbour in County Durham to London with a cargo of coal on June 10, 1917, it struck a mine laid by German submarine UB 12 and sank in the North Sea seven miles north of the Shipwash Lightvessel and about four miles off the coast of Aldeburgh in Suffolk. Five lives were lost.
In parallel with this 20mph zone, the council and the Dulwich Estate are collaborating on measures to reduce traffic danger on College Road south of the South Circular and on Fountain Drive. These roads have experienced several bad crashes in recent months. The proposed measures should slow traffic and improve safety. If the scheme is approved by the Board of Trustees it will then by discussed with residents living in the College Road area.
Several of the crashes in these roads have involved motor cycles, the numbers of which are increasing rapidly across London in response to the congestion charge on cars. We have suggested to the Estates Trustees that motor cyclists should be charged for going through the Toll Gate.
Red Post Hill Residents have long complained about traffic speeds. The growing numbers of pupils attending the Charter School add to the need for traffic calming. A pupil was recently injured by a car near the school entrance on the brow of the hill above North Dulwich Station. The Society assisted the recently-formed residents' committee to arrange an open meeting to discuss the problems and possible solutions. The meeting was well attended by local people, by local Councillors and representatives of the Charter School. News came through just before the meeting that a bid by Southwark Council to Transport for London for funds for safer routes to the group of schools in North Dulwich, including the Charter School, had been successful.
The meeting formulated a petition, which has gained support from over a hundred households. We look forward to working with the council, the schools and Transport for London to achieve improvements both for the schools and for residents.
Gallery Road The Old College Tennis Club, the Picture Gallery and other frontages need car parking on Gallery Road for their members and visitors. We have worked with them and with Southwark Council to design parking arrangements which will also slow traffic and preserve the road's rural character. We hope the new layout will be in place shortly and will live up to the expectations of all those who have been party to the discussions.
Car parking for West Dulwich Station The last Newsletter carried a questionnaire on the idea of controlled access to Belair car park after dark via a barrier in Gallery Road. We wanted to assess potential demand. A small number of readers have responded, almost all positively. In the light of this, we will be discussing the matter further with the council. If you did not respond, please do so; it's not too late.
Cycling Southwark Council will be installing about 100 new cycle parking stands throughout the borough this spring. We have identified locations for about 20 in the Dulwich area. Please give us suggestions for more.
Chair, Traffic and Transport Committee
Tel. 020 8693 2168
Poor Mobile 'Phone Reception Within The Dulwich Area
With the increasing use of mobile 'phones and changes in technology, various mobile 'phone operators are actively pursuing the possibility of installing new masts to improve signal quality within certain areas of the Dulwich Estate.
Operators have approached the Dulwich Estate to this end, and its Board of Trustees has decided that it would be in the best interests of the Charity, and of the Scheme of Management in Dulwich, to take a proactive rather than reactive stance in dealing with these contacts. The Board's policy is that it will not permit masts to be erected on the Estate within close proximity to residents' homes. There are, however, unpopulated sites in elevated positions, which might be able to accommodate a mast without adverse impact on the amenity of the Estate.
The mobile 'phone providers (with the Estate's consent and, where appropriate, its tenants' consent) will be carrying out surveys to see whether the sites are in fact suitable. In permitting the surveys, it does not imply that the Board will ultimately agree to the installation of any masts. However, the Board considers it is better to examine the alternatives now, rather than to be faced with a fait accomplis should local authorities or other land owners decide to locate masts on property over which the Estate has no control, such as roadways, or other land in close proximity to the Estate and its residents. Any proposed structure would, of course, be subject to review and approval by the Scheme of Management Committee, in accordance with the Estate's usual policy.
Territorial Army Centre, Lordship Lane
The first phase of the redevelopment of High Wood Barracks, the former TA site in Lordship Lane, the construction of a smaller TA centre, is underway. The remainder of the site has been sold to Laing Homes and the Dulwich Society understands that they are currently in negotiation with Southwark Council about the percentage of social housing to be included within their scheme. The preliminary design of the flats shows several free standing blocks and we hope that they will be of a better architectural quality than those recently constructed behind the Harvester public house near the new development.
33 Alleyn Park
This property has recently been purchased by a builder/developer who has made an application to the Dulwich Estate to demolish the existing house and build a new one. The Society has no objection in principle, in this particular case, but the current proposal is totally unacceptable being completely out of scale with the surroundings. We understand that Southwark Planning have similar reservations and we trust that the application will be rejected.
Fairfield, 9 Dulwich Village
Fairfield is a large 1920's house located next door to Dulwich Village Infants' School. It has recently been extensively refurbished (an article about it appeared in the Architects' Journal at the end of January) and the owner has also submitted a planning application to Southwark Council to build a further house in the rear garden. This has caused considerable anguish to many Sulwich Society members who live in Gilkes Crescent overlooking the site. The first proposal was withdrawn before Christmas and a second application for a smaller house submitted during January.
This proposal demonstrates one of the major problems in Dulwich. Many residents have enjoyed extensive rural aspects over other people's gardens for some years. Unfortunately there is no right to a view, and, as long as individual owners conform to basic planning constraints on overlooking and rights to light, they are entitled to extend and/or rebuild their properties without consideration of their neighbours.
In this particular case there are other considerations such as infill and safe access and no doubt Southwark Planning will take these into account in their deliberations. It has also been rumoured that a similar proposal is under consideration on the other side of Dulwich Village.
1 Fountain Drive
The Dulwich Estate's proposal to develop two new houses in the garden of this mid-Victorian property was rejected by Southwark Council on the grounds that the development would have an unacceptable impact on existing trees and wildlife.
Sainsbury's, Dog Kennel Hill
Sainsbury's have produced a consultation leaflet for local residents on their proposal to extend the existing supermarket and build a new block of flats on Dog Kennel Hill. There will be a reduction in the number of parking spaces and the Dulwich Hamlet football ground will remain in its present location. The flats appear to be of an acceptable design and thirty per cent are earmarked for key workers. No application has been made as yet and the Dulwich Society will reserve its position until they see the actual detailed proposals.
However what is definitely a first is the startling record by Bill Bradbeer of a Merlin taking prey of a small unidentified brown bird in his garden. Merlins are pretty rare and most usually seen on moorland; so Bill Bradbeer's record is exceptional. Those of you who have bird tables may well have had visits by Sparrow Hawks of which the larger brown backed female is more obvious. The male, whose back is slaty blue rarely soars above tree level and has a skulking habit and is more difficult to see, particularly as its visits are short and sharp. It may be distinguished from a Merlin by transverse stripes on its chestnut red under parts where the Merlin's stripes are longitudinal.
Bill also reported a Woodcock foraging in a garden in Court Lane during the autumn. They are seen occasionally in Dulwich woods as winter visitors but do, from time to time, stray into our gardens, perhaps taking cover in the undergrowth beside railway lines, though I suspect this bird was on migration as there have been no more records.
Although winter started mildly, the very cold spell with a snowfall which has us in its grip as I compile this report should bring garden visitors to those of us who put out feed, unless they too have had to put up with the competition of a bread-eating fox as in my garden. The main feature so far was an enormous influx of Redwings and a few Fieldfares over the Christmas period and at the New Year there were 150 Redwings feeding on the Herne Hill velodrome. In fact, five species of Thrush were also there, feeding on the supply of worms disturbed by football games. Nearby was a Kestrel which was also taking worms from the ground, demonstrating why the Dulwich Kestrels rarely need to hover. The Scandinavian Thrushes seem now largely to have departed leaving just a few Redwings but we may see them again in late winter.
We now have an active birdwatching fraternity based in Brockwell Park and providing regular records backed up by spectacular photographs by Suzy Hogarth. The most interest comes from records of Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers, a red listed endangered species which may have originated from a breeding pair in Dulwich last year. There is also a resident Little Owl in the park.
My plea for Bat records has borne fruit. The water loving Daubenton's Bat has a large flying population over Dulwich Park lake and Pipistrelles are alive and well in the ruins of All Saints Church, Rosendale Road. So we still have bats in our belfries!
Wildlife Recorder (tel 020 7274 4567)
Until 1995 the almshouses were administered by the Estates' Governors as part of Alleyn's College of God's Gift at Dulwich. Following a restructuring of the Foundation, the former Eleemosynary branch became The Dulwich Almshouse Charity, a separate charity in its own right, whose objects are to relieve beneficiaries in cases of need, hardship or distress by the provision and maintenance of almshouses and otherwise as the Trustees think fit.
The Dulwich Almshouse Charity, as a beneficiary, retains very close links with The Dulwich Estate, which funds its operations as well as providing administrative support.
Edward Alleyn had decreed that the almshouse residents should be drawn from the parishes in which he had lived and worked. The original "colledgiantes" from 1616 were chosen from the parishes of St Giles', Cripplegate (the site of the Fortune Playhouse), St Botolph's, Bishopsgate (the Founder's birthplace), St Saviour's, Southwark (where the Founder lived for many years) and Camberwell (in which his Manor lay). These parishes largely correspond to the "area of benefit" under the Charity Commission Scheme establishing the new Charity in 1995 and it is still a requirement that prospective almshouse residents are inhabitants of the area of benefit. Four of the Charity's Trustees are appointed from these parishes and The Dulwich Estate appoints two.
The almshouses today comprise fourteen flats and two bed-sitting rooms and the Charity is careful to ensure that they are maintained and steadily improved to meet the changing needs of the residents, providing comfortable homes. Walk-in baths have been provided (reflecting the residents' wishes) and consideration is now being given to installing stair lifts.
To qualify as a resident, and in addition to being an inhabitant of the area of benefit, an applicant must be at least 60 years of age and in "need, hardship or distress", and of modest financial means. Residents must be able to look after themselves; the Warden makes daily calls on each resident and a home help service is offered, but the Charity does not offer medical assistance or other forms of care. A number of residents have care packages provided by the local authority.
Applications can be made through the nominating bodies (the parishes) or direct to the Estate Office. A home visit will be arranged followed by an interview with two of the Trustees, after which, a decision will be made on whether the applicant meets the requirements of the charity.
Residents pay a weekly maintenance contribution which, (since 1996) is related to the "fair rent" and a share of the costs of the services provided by the Charity. This maintenance contribution qualifies for Housing and Social Security Benefit.
The Charity also offers assistance to other local residents in their houses through visits by the Warden, Carol Wilson, under its Outreach Scheme. Mrs Wilson also arranges monthly coffee mornings and regular outings, which from time to time are attended by the outreach beneficiaries. In this way the Charity is extending its work in areas where there is a clear need for help, such as St Botolph's, Bishopsgate, where parts of the parish are characterised by acute deprivation.
Further information can be obtained from The Dulwich Estate's Office (Mrs Veronica Edwards, telephone 020 8299 1000
There are almost one hundred listed structures in that part of Dulwich which is situated in the Borough of Southwark, others, in Lambeth include the Grade 1 listed but derelict All Saint's Church, Rosendale Road by G.H. Fellowes Prynne. Dulwich also has six starred Grade 2 buildings. These are St Paul's Church, Herne Hill (G.E. Street); Bell House, College Road; Dulwich College (C. Barry Jnr); Six Pillars, Crescent Wood Road ( A.H. Harding, Tecton Partnership), Dulwich Picture Gallery (Sir John Soane) and The Half Moon P.H., Herne Hill.