BBC Archive reveals effect mysterious Lord Haw-Haw had on Britain
* A selection of the original broadcasts made by a notorious Nazi propagandist now available online for the first time
* Eleven previously unreleased documents and letters shed new light on how the BBC dealt with the infamous Lord Haw-Haw
* Panic in Peterborough – documents released by BBC Archive reveal which parts of the country were most affected by Lord Haw-Haw’s propaganda broadcasts
A new online collection from BBC Archive reveals how the BBC turned to satire and news programmes to counteract the Nazi propaganda that was broadcast from Germany across the UK at the beginning of the Second World War.
Fifteen radio recordings and eleven previously unreleased internal BBC documents have been digitised and made available online for the first time, offering a unique insight into the fascinating story of William Joyce, the infamous Nazi broadcaster, Lord Haw-Haw.
One internal audience report from the BBC states that six million people a week were listening to Lord Haw-Haw’s broadcast from Hamburg, and a handwritten note details selected areas of the country that were most affected by propaganda rumours, including Peterborough, Bristol and Cambridge.
Julie Rowbotham, Executive Producer, BBC Archive, says: “These recordings and documents paint a captivating portrait of how the country and the BBC were reacting to this new form of propaganda. This was the first time that the radio had been used as a weapon during war and there was a lot of pressure on the BBC to ensure Lord Haw-Haw’s efforts were unsuccessful.”
In a broadcast from 1940, Lord Haw-Haw mocks Churchill’s tribute to HMS Cossack, the British ship that rescued prisoners from a German vessel in the famous Altmark Incident.
“One would describe as the height of cynicism the tribute sent to the captain of the British destroyer Cossack congratulating him on his gallant rescue efforts. Only a person with Mr Churchill’s mentality could congratulate anybody, first on shooting unarmed men and secondly on flagrantly violating Norwegian neutrality”. (In the Altmark Incident the Navy rescued 299 British prisoners of war who had been captured by the Germans).
Another letter in the collection shows the extent to which Lord Haw-Haw’s broadcasts alarmed the country. Members of the public were so concerned by rumours started by Haw-Haw – that the Cadbury factory was now a target for attack from Nazi bombers – that they asked the BBC if they could confirm their fears. At the time, the BBC was manually recording over 250 foreign bulletins a day (around 500,000 words) to monitor the propaganda being broadcast around Europe.
In a further broadcast from the same year, Lord Haw-Haw claims that the “British Ministry of Mis-Information are raising fear amongst woman and children regarding the danger of splinters from German bombs”. He suggests that women are now requesting their “spring and summer hats to be made of very thin tin plate which is covered with silk, velvet or draping material.”
William Joyce, originally born in America to British and Irish parents, falsely declared his place of birth to be Galway, Ireland, to obtain a British passport, allowing him to work with Oswald Mosley and the British Union of Fascists in the early Thirties. Joyce then defected to Germany and under Goebbels, the German Propaganda Minister, began broadcasting Nazi propaganda. For the next six years his unique accent broadcast a mixture of threats and misinformation which both frightened and fascinated his intended UK audiences.
This collection is the latest in a series to be released online which explore the cultural and political developments that shaped the 20th century.
Lord Haw-Haw: The Nazi Broadcaster Who Threatened Britain is available from 31 January and can be viewed by going online to bbc.co.uk/archive.
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