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.”