I have just finished reading “Germany Calling” by Mary Kenny. Published by New Island Press, it is a biography of William Joyce, popularly known as Lord Haw Haw, who broadcast in English on German Radio during the Second World War. He was captured shortly after the end of the war in hiding near the Danish border and was the last person ever to be executed for treason in Britain.
Mary Kenny has done really detailed research, visiting all the places where Joyce lived and interviewing everyone who knew him or even had good second hand recollections of him. This is a fascinating book about a man who was highly intelligent, but unbalanced and volatile.
By any standard he was a contrarian and an extremist.
As a 15 year old in 1922, he had to flee to England from Galway, where he had been brought up in a relatively prosperous family, because he was at risk of being assassinated because he was informing the British forces of the whereabouts of local republicans. His father, though a Catholic, opposed Irish separation from the United Kingdom and the young Joyce took that opinion to extremes. The family eventually followed him to England as some of their Irish properties were burned during the Irish Civil War.
In England, he became, at first, a fanatical British patriot and anti Semite. He was prominent in various Fascist movements. He even formed a breakaway party of his own. But the British people rejected his ideas and he became disillusioned.
Then, within days of war breaking out in autumn 1939, Joyce got a tip off that he was about to be interned because of his pro German agitation. He and his wife then took, what was probably one of the last, trains to Germany before hostilities closed all transport links, and arrived in Berlin just as Britain declared war.
Almost by chance, he got a job in the English speaking service of German Radio. He was a natural broadcaster, witty and sarcastic, and acquired a big following in the early years of the war. His broadcasts were also popular in Ireland where there was some pro German feeling.