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. The nickname generally refers to William Joyce, who was the German radio's most prominent English language speaker, but was also applied to other speakers.
Through such broadcasts, the Third Reich
attempted to discourage and demoralize British 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.
Origin of the name
The term "Lord Haw-Haw" was originally the nickname of James Brudenell, 7th Earl of Cardigan
, a 19th century British general, and the man who led The Charge of the Light Brigade
at the Battle of Balaclava
. The pseudonymous
radio critic Jonah Barrington
of the Daily Express
was the first to use the epithet to describe a German broadcaster, in an attempt to reduce his possible impact: "He speaks English
of the haw-haw, dammit-get-out-of-my-way-variety". However, the history of the name is somewhat confused; it was actually applied to a number of different announcers. Even soon after Barrington coined the nickname, it was uncertain exactly which German broadcaster he was describing. Some people just used "Lord Haw-Haw" as a generic term to describe all English-language German broadcasters. Poor reception may have added to some people's difficulties distinguishing between broadcasters.
Announcers using the pseudonym
A number of announcers could have been Lord Haw-Haw:
- Wolf Mittler was a German national with a British education who spoke as the caricature of an upper-class Englishman. His persona was described by some listeners as similar to the fictional aristocrat Bertie Wooster. Most people who have examined the issue have concluded that it was probably Mittler whose voice Barrington described. Under Mittler, the program reached its greatest popularity in Britain and Ireland, with over six million listeners.
- Norman Baillie-Stewart was a former officer of the Seaforth Highlanders who was cashiered for selling secrets to Germany. He worked as a broadcaster for the Germans 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, which supported his original claim; however, he later came around to the view that it was probably Mittler whose voice Barrington had heard.
- Eduard Dietze, a broadcaster of mixed German-British-Hungarian family background, is another possible, but less likely candidate for the original Lord Haw-Haw.
- William Joyce replaced Mittler in 1939. Joyce was American-born and raised in Ireland. Although a Catholic, as a teenager he informed on the IRA rebels to the British forces during the Anglo-Irish War. He was also formerly a senior member of the British Union of Fascists, and fled England when tipped off about his planned internment on August 26, 1939. He 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 can be described as a "nasal drawl," may have been the result of a broken nose.
Later history and aftermath
After Joyce took over, Mittler was paired with the American-born announcer Mildred Gillars in the Axis Sally program and also broadcast to ANZAC forces in North Africa. Mittler survived the war and appeared on postwar German television. Baillie-Stewart was sentenced to five years' imprisonment. Joyce was captured by British forces in northern Germany just as the war ended, tried, and eventually hanged for treason on January 3, 1946. Joyce's defense team, appointed to him by the court, argued that, as an American citizen and naturalised German, Joyce could not have been convicted of treason against the British Crown. However, the prosecution successfully argued on the basis of a technicality that having lied about his nationality to obtain a British passport and to vote, Joyce owed allegiance to the King.
The decision to hang him was made perhaps because of the fear his alleged omniscience had inspired. 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."
- Biggs, Stanley Champion. As Luck Would Have It in War and Peace (Victoria, Canada: Trafford Publishing, 2008)
- Cole, J.A. Lord Haw-Haw & William Joyce: The Full Story (New York, 1965)