JOYCE, William (‘Lord Haw Haw’) 1906-46. Traitor and the last person in the country to be hanged for high treason. Joyce was born in Brooklyn, New York, of Irish-American parents, and moved with them as a child to Ireland and in 1923 to Allison Grove, Dulwich. A year later, at the age of 18, Joyce joined the British Union of Fascists (BUF), attracted at first, it is thought, by the Blackshirts’ uniform. He soon came to the notice of Sir Oswald Mosley and was appointed to his staff, eventually becoming Director of Propaganda in 1933.
In 1937, Joyce broke away from the BUF to found the National Socialist League (NSL). He was disenchanted with Mosley, blaming him for the decline of the movement through his failure to win the support of the country. His new organisation was anti-communist and virulently antisemitic. It had an active branch in Dulwich. In the first issue of the NSL’s newsletter, The Helmsman, it was claimed the party’s meetings at Dulwich Library were very successful, and attracted the largest crowds ever seen at open-air meetings in the district. Open-air meetings were also regularly held on the pavement at the corner of Dulwich Village and Calton Avenue, where Joyce would address the audience from a soap box. The St Barnabas Church parochial church council refused to allow him to hire the Parish Hall for meetings.
Following his marriage to Margaret Cairns, a fellow BUF member, Joyce and his wife moved to Farquhar Road. It was on the evidence of an application for a British passport, from this address that the prosecution successfully obtained a guilty verdict to the charge of high treason.
Both Joyces left for Germany on 25 August 1939, with the intention of William, in his words, ‘playing what humble part I could in working for her (Germany’s) victory in the war which I knew to be inevitable’. Joyce began broadcasting in 1940. His broadcasts were treated more as a joke by the British, because of his odd speech in the introduction, which began ‘Jairmany calling, Jairmany calling’, and earned him the nickname of ‘Lord Haw Haw’. Joyce embraced the name. The broadcasts were made with the intention of undermining British morale, an exercise his wife also tried to carry out in separate broadcasts to women listeners. While he announced news of Allied reverses in the war or trivial observations of everyday life in Britain, his wife would extol the domestic benefits of the German social system.
William Joyce was captured in 1945 and sent for trial in England. His wife meanwhile was detained in Belgium but was not prosecuted because of the danger of making them both martyrs. William was hanged in 1946. There are two unusual coincidences in connection with Dulwich and the Joyces. The Joyce family home in Allison Grove was the first to be destroyed by German bombs. The chief prosecutor at William Joyce’s trial was Sir Hartley Shawcross, an old boy of Dulwich College, and later the chairman of its governors.