Lord Haw-Haw

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1945: William Joyce lies in an ambulance under armed guard before being taken from British Second Army Headquarters to a hospital.

Lord Haw-Haw was a nickname applied to William Joyce and several other people who broadcast Nazi propaganda to the United Kingdom from Germany during the Second World War. The broadcasts opened with "Germany calling, Germany calling," spoken in an affected upper-class English accent. The same nickname was also applied to some other broadcasters of English-language propaganda from Germany, but it is Joyce with whom the name is overwhelmingly identified.

Aim of broadcasts[edit]

The English-language propaganda radio programme Germany Calling was broadcast to audiences in the United Kingdom on the medium wave station Reichssender Hamburg and by shortwave to the United States. The programme began on 18 September 1939 and continued until 30 April 1945, when the British Army overran Hamburg. The next scheduled broadcast was made by Horst Pinschewer (also known as Geoffrey Perry), a German-Jewish refugee serving in the British Army who announced the British takeover. Pinschewer was later responsible for the capture of William Joyce.[1]

Through such broadcasts, the Reich Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda attempted to discourage and demoralise American, Australian, British, and Canadian troops, and the British population, 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 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 well 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 despite the often inflammatory content and frequent inaccuracies and exaggerations, in the hope of hearing clues as to the fate of Allied troops and air crews.[2] Mass-Observation interviews warned the Ministry of Information of this; consequently, more attention was given to the official reports of British military casualties.[3]

Origin of the name[edit]

In a newspaper article of 14 September 1939, the radio critic Jonah Barrington of the Daily Express wrote of hearing a gent "moaning periodically from Zeesen" who "speaks English of the haw-haw, damit-get-out-of-my-way variety".[4] Four days later, he gave him the nickname 'Lord Haw-Haw'. He wrote scathingly:

I imagine him having a receding chin, a questing nose, thin yellow hair brushed back, a monocle, a vacant eye, a gardenia in his buttonhole. Rather like PG Wodehouse's Bertie Wooster[5]

The voice Barrington heard is widely believed to be that of Wolf Mittler, a German journalist, whose almost flawless English accent sounded like that of a caricature of an upper-crust Englishman. However, Mittler made just five or six broadcasts and was quickly replaced by other speakers, leading to uncertainty over whom Barrington had meant. Some British media and listeners used the name "Lord Haw-Haw" for all English-language German broadcasters, although other nicknames, such as "Sinister Sam", were occasionally used by the BBC to distinguish among obviously different speakers.[6][page needed][7] Poor reception may have contributed to some listeners' difficulties in distinguishing between broadcasters.[6][page needed] By the end of 1939, when Joyce had become the most prominent and regular broadcaster of English-language Nazi propaganda, the name was applied exclusively to him. Indeed, the Germans soon capitalised on the publicity generated in Britain and began announcing Joyce's talks as by "William Joyce, otherwise known as Lord Haw-Haw".[8]

In reference to the nickname, an American pro-Nazi broadcaster, Fred W. Kaltenbach, was nicknamed Lord Hee-Haw by the British media.[9] The Lord Hee-Haw name was also used for a time by The Daily Telegraph to refer to Lord Haw-Haw, causing some confusion between nicknames and broadcasters.[10]

Announcers associated with the nickname[edit]

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

  • Wolf Mittler is widely believed to be the voice that Jonah Barrington originally wrote about, thus making Mittler the original 'Lord Haw-Haw'. Mittler, who was a German journalist, spoke almost 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.[11] It was said that he found broadcasting political matters distasteful and that he was happy to be replaced. One of those who replaced him, Norman Baillie-Stewart, stated that Mittler "sounded almost like a caricature of an Englishman".[12] Mittler told the BBC in 1991 that it "can't have been more than five or six times" that he made the broadcasts "because I remember quite distinctly that these two chaps, Stewart and Joyce, popped up and relieved me of the job".[13] In 1943, Mittler was deemed suspect and arrested by the Gestapo, but he managed to escape to Switzerland.[14] After the war, he worked extensively for German radio and television.[15]
  • 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 for the German broadcaster RRG between August and December 1939. He was imprisoned 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 concluded that it was probably Mittler whose voice Barrington had heard. He may, however, have been the broadcaster the BBC called "Sinister Sam".[8]
  • Eduard Dietze, a Glasgow-born broadcaster of a mixed German–British–Hungarian family background.[16]

William Joyce[edit]

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 members during the Irish War of Independence. 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 October 1939, the Fascist newspaper Action identified "one of the subsidiary announcers" on German radio, "with a marked nasal intonation", as one of its former members and distanced itself from him as a "renegade", whose broadcasts were "likely only to rouse the fighting ire of the average Briton".[17][18]

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 first so called. He had a peculiar hybrid accent that was not of the conventional upper-class variety. His distinctive nasal pronunciation of "Germany calling, Germany calling" may have been the result of a fight as a schoolboy that left him with a broken nose.[19]

Joyce, initially an anonymous broadcaster like the others, eventually revealed his real name to his listeners. The Germans capitalised on the fame of the Lord Haw-Haw nickname and came to announce him as "William Joyce, otherwise known as Lord Haw-Haw".[8]

Later history and aftermath[edit]

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,[20] tried, and eventually hanged for treason on 3 January 1946.[21] 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.

In Haw-Haw: The Tragedy of William and Margaret Joyce,[22] the author Nigel Farndale presents evidence that shows that, during his trial, Joyce may have agreed not to reveal his pre-war links with Maxwell Knight, the head of the MI5 section B5(b), as part of a deal to spare his wife Margaret, a Germany Calling broadcaster known as Lady Haw-Haw, from prosecution for treason.

As J. A. Cole has written, "the British public would not have been surprised if, in that Flensburg wood [where he was captured], 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 (1942), starring Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce, in which Joyce's broadcasts are shown to predict actual disasters and defeats, thus, according to the storyline, seriously undermining British morale.

Other British subjects who broadcast[edit]

Other British subjects willingly made propaganda broadcasts, including Raymond Davies Hughes, who broadcast on the German Radio Metropole, and John Amery. P. G. Wodehouse was tricked into broadcasting, not propaganda, but rather his own satiric accounts of his capture by the Germans and civil internment as an enemy alien, by a German friend who assured him that the talks would be broadcast only to the neutral United States. They were, however, relayed to the UK on a little-known channel. An MI5 investigation, conducted shortly after Wodehouse's release from Germany, but published only after his death, found no evidence of treachery.[23]

In literature and the arts[edit]

"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.[24]
  • The 1942 film Sherlock Holmes and the Voice of Terror concerns a sinister radio broadcaster delivering propaganda and fake news, apparently from Germany. He turns out to be an impostor working within the inner British Council, given away only by the nature of his facial scar.
  • The 1943 animated propaganda cartoon Tokio Jokio has a brief sequence with an anthropomorphic donkey wearing a monocle, seated at a desk with a sign reading "Lord Hee Haw, Chief Wind Bag", as he reads from a script into a microphone.
  • The 1944 film Passport to Destiny features a character played by Gavin Muir as Herr Joyce/Lord Haw, based on William Joyce as Lord Haw-Haw.
  • In the movie Twelve O'Clock High (1949), American bomber commanders listen to a Lord Haw-Haw broadcast.
  • In the movie The Dirty Dozen (1967) a brief portion of a Lord Haw-Haw broadcast is heard.
  • In the movie The Thousand Plane Raid (1969) a fictitious Lord Haw-Haw broadcast is heard in which Haw-Haw reveals details of the titular raid before it takes place.
  • In the movie Sardar Udham (2021), a Lord Haw-Haw broadcast announces the assassination of Michael O'Dwyer.



  • A comedy revue, Haw-Haw!, produced by George Black with sketches by Max Miller and Ben Lyon, opened at the Holborn Empire theatre in London on 22 December 1939.[29]
  • Joyce's radio broadcasts and his relationship with his wife were dramatised in the stage play Double Cross (1983), by Thomas Kilroy. Stephen Rea played the role of Joyce.[30]
  • Jim Blythe's stage play, Haw Haw: A Very British Betrayal opened at Hope Street Theatre, Liverpool on 1 November 2023. Produced by Matter of Act Theatre Company, the play starred Toby Harris as William Joyce, and Simon Futty as Gerald Slade KC. The play was directed by Dave Baxter.

See also[edit]


  • Smith, John (2020). Smith's Book. 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.[31]
  • James R. Clark was a young English broadcaster and a friend of William Joyce.[6]: 202–203  Clark and his pro-Nazi mother, Dorothy Eckersley, were both tried for treason after the war.[32] 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. After this move, "Dorothy Eckersley came to play a key role in William Joyce's fate in Berlin".[33][34]


  • 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.


  1. ^ "Churchill's German Army. Geoffrey Perry". natgeotv.com. National Geographic. Archived from the original on 21 June 2013. Retrieved 3 June 2022.
  2. ^ Smith 2020, p. 25
  3. ^ 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.
  4. ^ Barrington, Jonah (14 September 1939). "Radio is So Wonderful". Daily Express. p. 3.
  5. ^ Barrington, Jonah (18 September 1939). "Lord Haw-Haw". Daily Express.
  6. ^ a b c d Kenny, Mary (2004). Germany Calling – A Personal Biography of Lord Haw-Haw, William Joyce (2 ed.). New Island. ISBN 9781904301592.
  7. ^ Kenny, Mary. "Mary Kenny Author and Journalist of Germany Calling, a personal biography of Lord Haw-Haw, William Joyce". mary-kenny.com. Archived from the original on 21 February 2010. Retrieved 21 April 2010.
  8. ^ a b c Doherty 2000, p. 13
  9. ^ Laurie, Clayton D. "Goebbel's Iowan: Frederick W. Kaltenbach and Nazi Short-Wave Radio Broadcasts to America, 1939-1945". Traces.org. Archived from the original on 10 November 2017. Retrieved 18 October 2018.
  10. ^ Cole, J. A. (1964). Lord Haw-Haw & William Joyce: the Full Story. Faber and Faber. p. 126.
  11. ^ "Germany calls again as Lord Haw-Haw goes online", The Irish Times. Dublin. 4 February 2010.
  12. ^ Doherty 2000, p. 10
  13. ^ 'Germany Calling - The Voice of the Nazi', BBC Archive, originally broadcast 16 May 1991.
  14. ^ Kultur as Bayern Archived 19 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine.
  15. ^ "Programm vom Dienstag". 29 March 1960. Retrieved 6 April 2011 – via tvprogramme.net.
  16. ^ Doherty 2000, p. 7
  17. ^ "German Radio Announcer". Action. 12 October 1939. p. 8.
  18. ^ "German Radio". Action. 19 October 1939. p. 8.
  19. ^ Wharam 1995, p. 166
  20. ^ "THE OCCUPATION: Renegade's Return". Time. Vol. XLV, no. 24. 11 June 1945. Archived from the original on 21 December 2011.
  21. ^ "World War II German propaganda radio broadcaster 'Lord Haw Haw' was born in US". pressandguide.com. 15 July 2020.
  22. ^ "Lord Haw-Haw: The traitor executed for helping the Nazis". The Telegraph. 3 January 2016.
  23. ^ Sproat, Iain (September 2004). Wodehouse, Sir Pelham Grenville (1881–1975) (online ed.). Oxford University Press.
  24. ^ ""Nasti" News from Lord Haw Haw". British Pathé historical archive. London: British Pathé. 25 January 1940. Archived from the original on 18 January 2013. Retrieved 8 March 2011.
  25. ^ Russell, William Howard (1895). The Great War with Russia. London: Routledge. p. 177. OCLC 758948288.
  26. ^ Farrell, Susan. "American Fascism and Mother Night". thedailyvonnegut.com. Retrieved 3 November 2022.
  27. ^ Brand, Christianna (1944). Green for Danger. London: The Bodley Head.
  28. ^ "Lord Ha-Ha". marvunapp.com.
  29. ^ Haw-Haw!, theatre programme. Holborn Empire theatre, December 1939.
  30. ^ "Double Cross". Irish Playography. 3 February 1986. Retrieved 3 November 2022.
  31. ^ Doherty 2000, pp. 11–12
  32. ^ Doherty 2000, p. 11
  33. ^ Kenny, Mary (2004). Germany Calling – A Personal Biography of Lord Haw-Haw, William Joyce (2 ed.). New Island. p. 152. ISBN 9781904301592.
  34. ^ Kenny, Mary (2004). Germany Calling – A Personal Biography of Lord Haw-Haw, William Joyce (2 ed.). New Island. p. 192. ISBN 9781904301592. Dorothy Eckersley...a [fascist] political radical... with her connections got William Joyce hired by German Radio

Further reading[edit]

  • Biggs, Stanley Champion (2007). As Luck Would Have It in War and Peace. Trafford Publishing. OCLC 230986018.
  • Cole, J. A. (1965). Lord Haw-Haw & William Joyce: The Full Story. Farrar, Straus, & Giroux. OCLC 318091.

External links[edit]