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Haw-Haw: The Tragedy of William & Margaret Joyce: The Tragedy of William and Margaret Joyce Hardcover – Unabridged, 15 May 2005
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Farndale shows both sympathy and understanding for this difficult subject' -- Selina Hastings, Sunday Telegraph
'Exciting and endlessly fascinating' -- Craig Brown, Mail on Sunday
'masterful use of source material' -- Scotland on Sunday
'racy..poignant' -- Daily Telegraph
'well researched and fast-paced' -- Sunday Times
Haw-Haw is fascinating, and is as well and fluently written as you would expect a book by Nigel Farndale
to be. -- David Starkey
William and Margaret Joyce - Lord and Lady Haw-Haw - became one of the most ridiculed, feared and mythologized partnerships of the Second World War. His 'Germany Calling' broadcasts delivered in an upper-class drawl, and her lesser known, though no less insidious, pro-Nazi wireless talks, were part of the very fabric of the Home Front. Yet when they were captured in May 1945, only he was charged with high treason - a fact even more surprising when it became apparent that, unlike Margaret, William was not a British subject...Authorized by William Joyce's daughter, Heather, and based on new interviews and previously unpublished archives, including letters, diaries and recently declassified Security Service files, Haw-Haw is the meticulously researched and vividly written biography of this most complex and eccentric couple. Margaret was flirtatious and nonchalant, William was droll and intellectual, both were bloody minded. Fuelled by alcohol, their relationship was tempestuous but also surprisingly tender.On the 60th anniversary of their capture, Nigel Farndale recreates their lives together for the first time: from the shadows of Oswald Mosley's British Union of Fascists in London, to Josef Goebbels' Ministry of Propaganda in war-ravaged Berlin. Hubris, bigotry and sexual intrigue followed them across Europe until the end of the war when they were arrested - immediately creating a political furore. The establishment wanted Joyce executed, but the evidence against him was inconclusive and resulted in a sensational trial that many legal minds felt was 'a blot on the British justice system'. Furthermore, Margaret was never prosecuted. Was this an act of mercy on behalf of the government, or had William secured her life by agreeing not to reveal his links to MI5? Nigel Farndale has written a compelling and evocative study of two people whose passions overrode everything they did and which eventually led to William becoming the last civilian to be hanged for treason in England, and to Margaret drinking herself to death. This is an extraordinary book about an extraordinary marriage. See all Product description
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Joyce’s political life began in earnest when he became a follower of Sir Oswald Mosley, who welded various British fascist factions into a cohesive political movement. In the 1930’s the rise of Mussolini and Hitler saw fascism become a major force in European politics and, when Mosley founded the British Union of Fascists, Joyce was immediately attracted to the party. With his excellent speaking qualities, he quickly rose to prominence, applying for a British passport in order to visit Germany in 1933 and attend the Nuremberg Rally (there are pictures of him standing within the same shot as Unity Mitford).
After the Battle of Cable Street, when British communists managed to force Mosley from turning around, when he intended marching through a predominantly Jewish area; the BUF – and Mosley – never recovered from the defeat. Joyce turned his hero worship of Mosley toward Hitler and, after being expelled from the party, started the National Socialist League. However, reports of Kristallnacht in 1938, and fears of approaching war, made the public less tolerant and by 1939, Joyce is considering leaving for Germany, along with the young woman who became his second wife, Margaret Cairns White (who started as a sort of fascist ‘groupie’, following Joyce around to hear him speak).
Britain declared war within a week of the Joyce’s arrival and there was the possibility that they could have been interned. However, fate played a part and the couple found themselves working in radio – with Joyce’s familiar voice soon broadcasting propaganda to the British. In the beginning of the war, most people in England saw the quickly nicknamed, Lord Haw-Haw, as comical, rather than frightening. However, when the BBC were asked to carry out a survey and it was found that he had nine million listeners every day, the government were concerned. In Germany, it was illegal to listen to the BBC, but it was felt that to ban the Haw-Haw broadcasts would make them appear credible and it was better to treat them as a joke. While Mosley, and others, were interned, the Joyce’s took German citizenship and gained material wealth and worldwide celebrity.
The war years of this book are certainly the most interesting. There is the Joyce’s tempestuous and passionate marriage, which saw Margaret have several affairs and the couple both divorce and re-marry while in Germany, William Joyce’s more chilling broadcasts during the blitz (which turned much public opinion from laughter to hatred) and, of course, the dawning realisation by Joyce that he had backed the losing side. Although this is a biography of both William and Margaret Joyce, and the portrait of the Joyce’s marriage was interesting, I found that I was far less interested in Margaret than William himself. William Joyce certainly did his best to protect her and, his obvious love for his wife, did help you look beyond the politics and into the personal.
The capture of Joyce after the war, his trial and execution are covered in depth here. Was his trial fair and should he, in fact, have even been charged – let alone found guilty? Certainly, the government were possibly less than concerned with legal precedents and Joyce himself accepted his fate bravely. It is, in fact, hard not to feel some sympathy with Joyce himself – despite the fact he was openly racist, a braggart, a cuckold and a man who could change allegiance so easily. However, in his own way, he was honest with himself and stood by his own warped set of beliefs. Certainly, this is an interesting portrait of the man whose voice everybody knew during those war years – who caused endless rumour, speculation, fear and often humour – and who the government were determined to bring to justice.
The book is sympathetic to Joyce but that's not necessarily a weakness - Joyce was indeed a fascinating character and the book quite rightly focuses on the man's sheer force of character and sense of destiny. Farndale steers clear from Joyce's darker side though there are hints that it existed: the author, for example, briefly muses on how Joyce would have acted in the wake of a Britain under nazi-occupation.
By far the most successful part of the book is the damming indictment of post war bloodlust - responsible for who knows how many injustices similar to that of Joyce himself. The novel unapologetically portrays Joyce as a somewhat fanatical romantic - at times an almost childlike figure of naivety, while Margaret too is portrayed as an innocent caught up in a game she doesn't truly understand. Mr Farndale just about gets away with these portrayals, but at times teeters on the edge whimsy.
This book will leave you with very uneasy feelings about the nature of 'justice' and those who purport to wield it. Overall a story that must be heard and hopefully lessons learnt. If nothing else this book is a lesson in how evil flourishes when good men do nothing
Farndale tells a very good story, filling the plot with many interesting and infamous characters and finally also questions (quite rightly) the legitimacy of Joyce's execution and Margaret's culpability yet eventual freedom due to Matters of State.
A cracking read and well worth five stars.
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