William Brooke Joyce, also known as “Lord Haw-Haw,” holds the distinction of being the last man ever to be hanged for high treason by the British Crown. Joyce was born an American and grew up in western Ireland. He was hanged for high treason by the British Crown at Wandsworth Prison, London, in the early morning of January 3, 1946. His offense was that he had given “aid and comfort to the King’s enemies” and assisted Germany “in her war against our country and our King” by making pro-German radio broadcasts during World War II. By the end of the war Joyce was, after Adolf Hitler, the most detested man in Britain. This article discusses the life and career of William Joyce, and whether he should have been hanged for high treason after World War II.
William Joyce was born in Brooklyn, New York on April 24, 1906. Joyce spent only a short time in Brooklyn, with his family soon moving to County Mayo in Ireland. The Joyce family moved again in 1913 to Galway, Ireland. Joyce attended the Convent of Mercy School before enrolling in 1915 at the Jesuit-run St. Ignatius’s school. His teachers were impressed with his academic performance, and Joyce became proficient in Latin, French and German. Jesuit schoolmasters at St. Ignatius’s regarded Joyce as a bright boy to be encouraged in his cleverness. Joyce, however, also had a penchant for physical combat, and his nose was broken during a fist-fight with another boy. Because Joyce kept quiet about this injury, his nose was never properly set, resulting in a slight deformity which left his voice with a nasal drawl.
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