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Church group probes wartime Nazi propagandist Lord Haw Haw’s local links

14 July 2017


End of the road: crowds gathered outside the gates of HMP Wandsworth, after William Joyce's execution, in January 1946

End of the road: crowds gathered outside the gates of HMP Wandsworth, after William Joyce's execution, in January 1946

A CHURCH history group has re­­ceived Heritage Lottery funding to investigate claims of local connec­tions to Hitler’s wartime propa­ganda broadcaster William Joyce.

Joyce, better known as “Lord Haw-Haw” for his affected upper-class English accent, was a supporter of the British fascist leader Sir Oswald Mosley. He was infamous for his transmissions from Nazi Germany, scorning the British war effort. He was hanged as a traitor in 1946.

As part of a wider historical pro­ject about the area’s involvement in both World Wars, the group at St Matthew’s, Renishaw, in north-east Derbyshire, want to follow up anec­dotal stories that Joyce visited and had contacts in the area in the early 1930s. The Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) has awarded them £31,700 for the whole scheme.

The project leader, Richard God­ley, said: “I had the stories from my father, and he had them from his father. People in the surrounding villages have all heard those stories, and sometimes there is no smoke without fire.”

They follow two persistent themes. One holds that Joyce, who was born in Brooklyn in 1906 of Irish immigrant parents, and edu­cated at a Jesuit school in Ireland, had visited the Jesuit college at Mount St Mary’s in Spink­hill. The story maintained that in his broadcasts Joyce advised the priests to put a light in the bell-tower so that Luftwaffe bombers who were raiding Sheffield would avoid hitting the building.

The other suggests that Joyce was a regular visitor to Renishaw Hall, the home of the writer Sir Sacheverell Sitwell, who had been a prominent supporter of Mosley in the early 1930s.

“We are trying to see if we can dig a bit deeper,” Mr Godley said. “We just don’t know what the truth is behind the story, but there does seem to be some substance to it.”

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