This week’s entry from the RedState Department of History heads overseas — stopping upon one of the last two men, and the last civilian, ever executed by the British Empire for treason. Today is the 72nd anniversary of the capture of “Lord Haw-Haw”.

You might be familiar with the name of William Joyce, but if you’re a student of World War II you know him better as “Lord Haw-Haw”, the man who broadcast Nazi propaganda to Britain during the war.

Joyce was born in the United States and was of Irish and German descent. He was Deputy Leader of Oswald Mosley’s British Union of Fascists, but was sacked after elections in 1937 when Mosley reduced the staff size of the party, which was plummeting in support. Joyce founded the National Socialist League immediately afterward and then fled to Germany in August 1939, an act for which Mosley himself later denounced him as a traitor in his memoirs.

Joyce began broadcasting for the Germans in 1940 and eventually had an audience estimated at six million. His broadcasts ended one week before the Third Reich did — his last message, likely slurred from alcohol, was delivered on April 30, 1945. Listen to Joyce’s last broadcast here.

Joyce was captured in Flensburg on May 26, 1945, and later stood trial for high treason on three counts:

  1. William Joyce, on 18 September 1939, and on other days between that day and 29 May 1945, being a person owing allegiance to our Lord the King, and while a war was being carried on by the German Realm against our King, did traitorously adhere to the King’s enemies in Germany, by broadcasting propaganda.
  2. William Joyce, on 26 September 1940, being a person who owed allegiance as in the other count, adhered to the King’s enemies by purporting to become naturalized as a subject of Germany.
  3. William Joyce, on 18 September 1939, and on other days between that day and 2 July 1940, being a person owing allegiance to our Lord the King, and while a war was being carried on by the German Realm against our King, did traitorously adhere to the King’s enemies in Germany, by broadcasting propaganda.

Joyce’s defense was based on his American birth — he could not be a traitor to a country not his own. But lead prosecutor Sir Hartley Shawcross, who was also the chief British prosecutor at the Nuremberg war crimes trials, successfully argued that Joyce’s British passport, which he misrepresented his nationality to obtain, meant he was under British diplomatic protection until he became a naturalized German citizen in July 1940.  Joyce was acquitted on the first two counts but convicted on the third – for broadcasts made between his arrival in Germany and his naturalization.

To this day, there are those who believe Joyce was convicted on a technicality and those who believe he wasn’t even the first “Lord Haw-Haw”. Most experts agree that had Joyce simply kept his American citizenship and not traveled to Germany on a British passport, he could not have been prosecuted for treason in Britain. He was hanged by the master executioner Albert Pierrepoint at Wandsworth Prison on January 3, 1946.

Other anniversaries on this date:

May 28. 1754 – 21-year old Lieutenant Colonel George Washington leads troops for the first time in a skirmish at Jumonville Glen in what is now western Pennsylvania. This was the first engagement in what would soon become the French and Indian War. Washington commanded about 150 men in an engagement that killed the French commander, Joseph Coulon de Villiers, Sieur de Jumonville. A month later, after Washington’s troops were defeated in the Battle of Fort Necessity, Washington was made to sign a declaration that his men had assassinated Jumonville — giving the French a casus belli to declare war.

Have a great day, everyone, and as always, enjoy today’s open thread!