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Lord Haw-Haw was a nickname applied to the Irish-American William Joyce, who broadcast Nazi propaganda to Britain 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 now overwhelmingly identified. There are various theories about its origin.
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 (aka Geoffrey Perry), a German refugee serving in the British Army who announced the British takeover. Pinschewer was later responsible for the capture of William Joyce.
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 sometimes infuriating content and frequent inaccuracies and exaggerations, in the hopes of learning clues about the fate of Allied troops and air crews. Mass Observation interviews warned the Ministry of Information of this; consequently, more attention was given to the official reports of British military casualties.
Radio critic Jonah Barrington of the Daily Express applied the phrase in describing 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". In practice, the name probably came from the announcers using such verbiage as "So you English believe that you can defeat the superior German forces! Haw, Haw," a low-brow putdown obviously meant as a discouragement to the opposition. The "Haw, Haw" name reference was then applied to a number of different announcers and, even soon after Barrington coined the nickname, it was uncertain exactly which specific German broadcaster he was describing. Some British media and listeners just used "Lord Haw-Haw" as a generic term to describe all English-language German broadcasters, although other nicknames, like "Sinister Sam", were occasionally used by the BBC to distinguish between obviously different speakers. Poor reception may have contributed to some listeners' difficulties in distinguishing between broadcasters.
In reference to the nickname, American pro-Nazi broadcaster Fred W. Kaltenbach was given the moniker Lord Hee-Haw by the British media. The Lord Hee-Haw name, however, was used for a time by The Daily Telegraph to refer to Lord Haw-Haw, generating some confusion between nicknames and broadcasters.
A number of announcers could have been Lord Haw-Haw:
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.". 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 to whom the term originally referred. 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.
Joyce, initially an anonymous broadcaster like the others, eventually revealed his real name to his listeners. The Germans actually capitalised on the fame of the Lord Haw-Haw nickname and came to announce him as "William Joyce, otherwise known as Lord Haw-Haw".
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, tried, and eventually hanged for treason on 3 January 1946. 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.
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". 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 seriously undermining British morale.
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 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.
Usually, the inventor of a popular nickname is unidentifiable, but the 'onlie begetter' of Lord Haw-Haw was undoubtedly Mr Jonah Barrington, then of the Daily Express…