On this day in history….3rd January 1946

On this day in history : 3rd January 1946 – The execution for treason of William Joyce – the Nazi propaganda broadcaster, known to the British public as ‘Lord Haw-Haw’….

Photograph of Joyce taken some time between 1939 & 45 – No known copyright restrictions – Archives of the Law Society via Flickr

‘Haw-Haw’ was a term first coined by Jonah Barrington of the Daily Express…. It actually referred to a number of announcers, with their exaggerated English accents, broadcasting during WW2 to the United Kingdom from the German radio station ‘Reichssender’, in Hamburg…. However, in time the name was to become primarily associated with Joyce….

Broadcasts would always start with “Germany calling, Germany calling”…. The aim was to attempt to break the morale and spirit of the British people – along with that of the allied troops…. Inaccurate reports of the sinking of ships and the shooting down of aircraft…. Urging the British to surrender – attacking the government and the British way of life…. Of course, most people knew it was propaganda – but at a time of heavy censorship it was often used as a way to try and find out information as to what may have become of a missing loved one…. Whilst not illegal to listen to the broadcasts it was discouraged – despite this some 18 million people in Britain are believed to have listened on occasion….

From the collections of the Imperial War Museums

So, how did the likes of Joyce come to be working for the Germans during the war? To understand this it is necessary to learn more about the background of the man….

William Brooke Joyce was born on the 24th of April 1906, in Brooklyn, New York…. He was the son of immigrants – his father was Irish and his mother Anglo-Irish…. When Joyce was 3-years-old the family returned to live in Galway, Ireland….

In 1921, during the Irish War of Independence, Joyce was recruited as a courier by Captain Keating of British Army Intelligence, in the fight against the IRA…. After an attempted assassination on him Joyce was taken to England for his safety…. He was recruited into the Worcester Regiment – but soon discharged after it was discovered he was underage….

Joyce remained in England and finished his education at Kings College School, Wimbledon…. He then studied at Birkbeck College – part of the University of London – graduating with a first-class honours in English…. After being turned down for a position with the Foreign Office he took a job as a teacher….

He began to take a keen interest in Fascism…. It was on the 22nd of October 1924, whilst attending a meeting for Jack Lazarus, Conservative candidate for North Lambeth, that Joyce was attacked by Communists…. He received a deep razor slash across his right cheek, leaving him with a prominent scar from his ear lobe to his jaw….

Joyce took a paid job in the British Union of Fascists (BUF), under Sir Oswald Mosley – and in 1934 he was made Director of Propaganda…. It was after being sacked by Mosley in 1937 that he joined a splinter group, the National Socialist League…. On learning that the British authorities intended to arrest him Joyce fled with his wife in August 1939 to Germany – just before the outbreak of WW2…. He became a naturalised German citizen in 1940 and managed to get a job at the Rundfunkhaus (the German equivalent of Broadcasting House)…. Here he made radio announcements and wrote scripts – but he was to go on to become the best-known of the propaganda broadcasters….

Still frame from 1943 – Allied propaganda cartoon – ‘Tokio Jokio’ – depicting Joyce as Lord Haw-Haw – ‘Lord Hee-Haw, Chief Windbag’

His final broadcast was made on the 30th of April 1945, during the Battle of Berlin…. He finished the broadcast with “Heil Hitler and farewell” – the following day Radio Hamburg was seized by the British – but Joyce had managed to make his escape….

Nearly a month later, on the 28th of May, Joyce was captured at the German/Danish border by British intelligence officers…. During his arrest he was shot through the buttocks – as he had gone to his pocket to produce his false passport but the officers had believed him to be armed….

THE CAPTURE OF WILLIAM JOYCE, GERMANY, 1945 (BU 6910) William Joyce lies in an ambulance under armed guard before being taken from British 2nd Army Headquarters to hospital. He had been shot in the thigh at the time of his arrest. Copyright: � IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205192927

Initially it was thought that due to his American nationality Joyce would have to be acquitted – it was reasoned that he could not be convicted of treason against a country that was not his own…. However, at his trial it was successfully argued that since he had obtained a British passport, by not revealing his true nationality, he had in fact had allegiance to the King and country whilst the passport was valid – and this happened to be the period of time during which he was working for Germany…. Joyce was convicted and sentenced to death on the 19th of September 1945….

The sentence was upheld on the 1st of November 1945 after an appeal – and he was executed at Wandsworth Prison on the 3rd of January 1946 by hangman Albert Pierrepoint…. As he went to the gallows Joyce was unrepentant – as he fell the pressure from the drop split the old scar on his face wide open….

Joyce was buried in an unmarked grave within the prison walls but – after a long campaign by his daughter – in 1979 his body was reinterred in Galway, Ireland….

On this day in history….14th December 1959

On this day in history : 14th December 1959 – The shortest murder trial in British legal history takes place at Winchester Assizes….the proceedings take just 30 seconds….

Brian Cawley pleaded and was found guilty of the murder of Rupert Poole Steed – he was later sentenced to life imprisonment….


Cawley, a 30-year-old council worker lived, along with his wife and three children, rent free in a house owned by Rupert Steed, in New Road, Basingstoke…. Steed, a 43-year-old retired grocer’s manager and batchelor, had befriended the family – helping them out financially and buying them presents….

However, Cawley started to drink and as a consequence lost his job…. His wife left him, taking the children with her…. One night Cawley returned home….and for no explicable reason beat Steed to death…. After pleading guilty – at his 30 second trial – he began his life sentence….img_4845

On this day in history….13th September 1902

On this day in history : 13th September 1902 – Burglar Harry Jackson is the first man to be convicted in Britain using fingerprint evidence….


The 41-year-old labourer had broken into a property in Denmark Hill, London and had stolen a set of billiard balls…. The investigating officer noticed a set of fingerprints on the newly painted windowsill – and had called in the newly-formed Metropolitan Police Fingerprint Bureau…. On searching their files they came across Jackson’s prints – as he had recently served a prison term for another burglary…. He was arrested, tried at the Old Bailey and sentenced to 7 years imprisonment….

Whilst fingerprinting became recognised as a valuable forensic tool in the identification of criminals, there were those in the beginning who disapproved…. A letter to The Times, signed by ‘A Disgusted Magistrate’ said “Scotland Yard, once known as the World’s finest police organisation, will be the laughing stock of Europe if it insists on trying to trace criminals by odd ridges on their skins”….

Fingerprint livescan.Birmingham central custody suite.
Fingerprint livescan. Birmingham central custody suite – West Midlands Police – CC BY SA 2.0

On this day in history….19th August 1975

On this day in history : 19th August 1975 – Headingley Cricket Ground, Leeds, is vandalised by campaigners calling for the release of robber George Davis from prison….img_3734

34-year-old East London mini-cab driver, George Davis, had been jailed for 20 years for his part in an armed robbery in Ilford, Essex – a police officer had been shot and injured…. However, it was claimed Davis was a case of mistaken identity – he had not been involved in the pay-roll robbery…. Since his imprisonment in Albany Prison on the Isle of Wight a series of marches, petitions and fund-raising events had been organised…. Even a 7 hour roof top demonstration on St. Paul’s Cathedral had been held by his brother-in-laws, Jim and Colin Dean….

Campaigners had gained entrance to the Headingley ground, had dug holes on the cricket pitch and had poured oil over one end of the wicket…. They had painted slogans on the walls demanding Davis’s release…. The damage was discovered by head groundsman, George Cawthray – and the final match of the series between England and Australia had to be abandoned…. This meant a draw was declared and England did not have the chance of winning back the Ashes….

Police travelled from London to Leeds to investigate – and four people were brought to trial…. Three received suspended sentences whilst the fourth, Peter Chappell, was given an 18 month prison sentence….

Image credit : sarflondondunk via Flickr

Following the incident an internal inquiry was set up to look into the handing of the Davis case…. In conclusion Home Secretary Roy Jenkins expressed serious doubt as to Davis’s identification, which had been based on the evidence of two police officers…. In May 1976 Davis was released from prison….

However, in July 1978 Davis was jailed for 15 years after pleading guilty to taking part in a bank robbery…. He was freed in 1984 – but three years later was to receive a further 18 month sentence for attempting to steal mailbags….

On this day in history….28th July 1865

On this day in history : 28th July 1865 – Scotland’s last public execution takes place…. A crowd of reportedly 100,000 watch as Dr Edward Pritchard is hanged for the murder of his wife and mother-in-law….

Public domain

Pritchard, born on the 8th of December 1825 in Southsea, Hampshire was the son of a sea captain….and claimed to have studied at King’s College Hospital, London, graduating in 1846…. How much truth is in this is unclear – but he did manage to secure the position of assistant surgeon onboard HMS Victory – and went on to serve on various other ships, which enabled him to travel the world….

On returning to Portsmouth he met Mary-Jane Taylor, the daughter of a wealthy silk merchant from Edinburgh…. The couple were married in 1851 and went on to have five children….

Pritchard took a job in Yorkshire as a GP…. During this time he wrote several books on his travels whilst in the Navy…. He also wrote about ‘water cure’ – or hydrotherapy….and had numerous articles published in The Lancet…. In 1859 he moved his family to Glasgow – it seems with his reputation tarnished as it appears some kind of ‘incident’ had occurred….

On the 5th of May 1863 a fire broke out in the family home at 11, Berkeley Terrace, Glasgow…. It started in the room of 25-year-old servant Elizabeth McGrain…. Strangely she made no attempt to escape – which would suggest she was unconscious or perhaps even already dead…. No charges were ever brought but there were those who had their suspicions….

The family moved to a new address in Glasgow, 131 Sauchiehall Street….and in early 1865 Pritchard’s wife, Mary, became ill…. Pritchard, aided by his colleague Dr Paterson,treated her at home…. On the 10th of February 70-year-old Jane Taylor arrived to nurse her sick daughter – but on the 28th of February she herself was to unexpectedly die…. Just over three weeks later, on the 18th of March, 38-year-old Mary-Jane also passed away….

Paterson, his suspicions aroused, refused to sign the death certificates, although he did not go to the authorities…. Pritchard however, had no such qualms at signing…. The death certificates recorded that Jane had died from paralysis and apoplexy – and his wife from gastric fever…. Both were buried at Grange Cemetery in Edinburgh….

Although Paterson had not publicly reported his suspicions the authorities did however receive an anonymous letter…. The information in contained was enough to prompt an order for the bodies to be exhumed…. Both were found to contain the poisons tartanised antimony, aconite and opium…. It appears Pritchard had been poisoning the food of his wife and mother-in-law….

The trial of Dr Edward William Pritchard – wood engraving, 1865 – Credit : The Wellcome Collection CC-BY

Pritchard’s five day trial took place in Edinburgh in July and was presided over by Lord Justice Clerk, Lord Glencorse…. He was found guilty and sentenced to hang…. Following his conviction Pritchard wrote a confession but claimed innocence at the murder of Jane Taylor….

He described how he had been having an affair with servant Mary McLeod…. It had begun in the summer of 1863 and in 1864 she had become pregnant…. Pritchard helped ‘produce a miscarriage’…. He claimed his wife knew of the affair – but his mother-in-law had caught the pair together in his consulting room…. He also implicated that McLeod was an accomplice in the murder of his wife….

However, nine days before his execution date Pritchard made a further confession, exonerating McLeod saying he alone was responsible for both of the murders…. At 8am on the 26th of July at North Prison, Saltmarket, Glasgow – in front of a crowd of possibly 100,000 – Pritchard met his executioner….one Mr William Calcraft….


William Calcraft c.1870 – Wheaton (New York) – Public domain

Read more … William Calcraft…. 45 years a hangman….