Posts Tagged ‘Germany’

Two Perfect Women – the meeting of Prunella Stack and and Gertrud Scholtz-Klink in 1939

Saturday, December 3rd, 2011

Gertrud Scholtz-Klink and Prunella Stack meet in March 1939

On March 7 1939, a few months before the beginning of the Second World War, and just nine days before Germany invaded Czechoslavakia, a German woman called Gertrud Scholtz-Klink arrived at Croydon Airport. Described by Hitler as ‘the perfect Nazi Woman’ she was met at the aeroplane by the wife of the German Ambassador Frau von Dirksen. A few hours later Scholtz-Klink was introduced to Lady Douglas-Hamilton, more well-known as Prunella Stack, who, as leader of the 200,000 strong Women’s League of Health and Beauty, was at the time one of the most famous women in Britain. Coincidentally the 25 year old Prunella Stack was also known as perfect and called ‘Britain’s Perfect Girl’.

They were both at a dinner at Claridges organised by the Anglo-German Fellowship who had invited Scoltz-Klink over to London, ostensibly, “to study the work done by and for English women” but in reality to publicise the connections and similarities between the two nations, despite an almost certain war approaching.

Lord Halifax, the Duke of Saxe Coburg Gotha, and Joachim von Ribbentrop at the Anglo-German dinner.

Lord Halifax, the Duke of Saxe Coburg Gotha, and Joachim von Ribbentrop at the Anglo-German dinner.

Gertrud Scholtz-Klink, Himmler and Hess, three weeks before Gertrud travelled to London to be greeted by the Anglo-German Fellowship

The Anglo-German Fellowship, of which Prunella Stack’s husband Lord David Douglas-Hamilton and brother-in-law Douglas Douglas-Hamiton MP were both members, was an upper-class and it would be fair to say a predominately right-wing organisation. In fact many of the fellowship were almost unashamedly pro-Nazi and anti-semite.

It’s worth noting that this particular dinner was held five months after Kristallnacht, the Night of Broken Glass, when during the night of 10/11 November 1938 and with sickening violence, the Nazis burnt over 1000 synagogues and destroyed 7,000 Jewish businesses throughout Germany and Austria. Ninety-one people were killed by the Stormtroopers and for the first time Jews were arrested on a massive scale and about 30,000 Jewish men were sent to the Buchenwald, Dachau, and Sachsenhausen concentration camps. The Times, the day after Kristallnacht, wrote:

No foreign propagandist bent upon blackening Germany before the world could outdo the tale of burnings and beatings, of blackguardly assaults on defenceless and innocent people, which disgraced that country yesterday.

Jews arrested during Kristallnacht line up for roll call at the Buchenwald concentration camp. November 1938

Jews arrested during Kristallnacht line up for roll call at the Buchenwald concentration camp, November 1938.

Nazi Rally with Gertrud Scholtz-Klink

Getrud Scholtz-Klink was the head of the National Socialist Women’s Union and in 1939 considered the most important woman in Germany. Her main task was to promote both male superiority and the importance of child-bearing to the 40 million women of which she was in charge. She once wrote:

The mission of woman is to minister, in the home and in her profession, to the needs of life from the first to last moment of man’s existence.

Considering she was a leading Nazi the Fellowship was utterly unembarrassed making sure Scholt-Klink was made particularly welcome. The day after she arrived she again met the 25 year old Prunella Stack who, with photographers present, was taking an evening class of the Women’s League of Health and Beauty at the League’s headquarters at the Mortimer Halls in Great Portland Street.

During the remainder of her three-day stay, the German woman leader visited the headquarters of the Mothercraft Training Society at Highgate, the Lapswood Training School for girls at Sydenham Hill and the South London Hospital for Women near Clapham Common.

Mother of six ,Gertrud Scholtz-Klink at a nursery in Kensal Rise

Gertrud and Prunella at a Women’s League of Health and Beauty 1939

Nine months before Gertrud Schlotz-Klink’s visit to London, during the summer of 1938, five thousand enthusiastic members of Prunella Stack’s Women’s League of Health and Beauty had performed in front of a huge crowd on the bright green grass of the fifteen year old Empire Stadium in Wembley. The finale of the ‘Empire Pageant’ was meant to feature an impressive Greek-influenced athletic dance with women in white tunics carrying swords, shields and javelins.

At one point during the Pageant’s Finale grecian-style chariots emerged from the Wembley tunnel drawn by horses that were meant to gallop around the cinder athletic track that surrounded the famous turf. Instead the horses charged across the pitch scattering performers in every direction completely upsetting the careful choreography of the event. Realising that flaming torches were involved, Mr Herbert, Wembley’s overweight manager, stood with arms outstretched shouting “For God’s sake, Ladies! For God sake, take care!”

Prunella Stack leader of the Women’s League of Health and Beauty rehearsing at Wembey Stadium

Women’s League of Health and Beauty rehearsals in 1937

Order was eventually restored and 24 year old Prunella Stack – the woman that the Daily Mail had only recently described as ‘the most physically perfect girl in the world’ – climbed to the top of a thirty feet high column and raised her burning torch high above her head.

On the pitch below, utterly in awe, the five thousand rank and file members of the League of Health and Beauty looked up at her and soon waves of applause that echoed around the twenty-five year-old stadium.

Prunella at rehearsals in Liverpool

Mary Bagot-Stack the founder of the Women’s League of Health and Beauty

The original Bagot-Stack Dancing Academy dancing at Clacton 1928. The dancers were apparently ‘in harmony with the rhythm of the wavelets lapping the sand and with the vibration of the sunlight on sea and shore. Every movement was an object lesson in the expression of the strength and health and passionate joyousness of pulsing natural life.” I totally agree.

The Women’s League of Health and Beauty had been started in 1930 by Prunella Stack’s mother – Mary Bagot-Stack – a First World War widow who believed, not unreasonably, that rigorous exercise would help get a nation fitter.

Mary once wrote how she would start each day at 6.45am:

I jumped out of bed, said my prayers, had a cold bath, opened my windows, stripped off my clothes, and set going on my gramophone the gayest jazz tune I could find, and I exercised around my bedroom in physical bliss.

She also wrote:

This ‘skin-airing’ should be practised daily with nothing on..I like the goal of beauty, and beauty is unself-conscious,“ she imagined a world where the women are so beautiful that they are an inspiration rather than a temptation – a joy to themselves and everyone else.

The League’s motto was Movement is Life and its aim was ‘Racial Health’. This didn’t mean, apparently, that they were concerned with racial purity or superiority, but with a harmony between ‘beauty and peace.’ Mary wrote:

Women are the natural Race Builders of the world.

The ‘classlessness’ of the League was stressed at all times and this was helped by members exercising in the same uniform of rather daring satin knickers and a sleeveless white blouse. Members were advised to shave under their arms, use a deodorant, and make sure they always had a clean handkerchief stuffed up their left knicker leg.

The WLHB led by 16 year old Prunella at their first open air demonstration at Hyde Park in 1930

The Women’s League Of Health And Beauty exercising during their second, much larger, exhibition at Hyde Park

To attract publicity the League quickly began to perform at public events and in 1935 two and a half thousand women performed at a huge event in the Grand Hall at Olympia in West London. It was less than a year after Oswald Moseley’s British Union of Fascists had their infamous rally at the same location where the violent behaviour of the BUF stewards caused the Daily Mail to drop support of the party.

Prunella Stack 1933

Prunella at a rally in Hyde Park in 1935

In that same year, 1935, Mollie Bagot Stack died of cancer and her 20 year old daughter took over the organisation and within three years Prunella was leading the League’s biggest-ever exhibition at Wembley. The seventy-year old journalist and ex-editor of the Sunday Express, James Douglas was watching from the, then uncovered, stands. Douglas was famous at the time for his occasional idealised paeans to British womanhood but also for his moral stance on lesbianism. He was partly responsible for the banning of DH Lawrence’s The Rainbow and Radclyffe Hall’s novel The Well of Loneliness about which he wrote: ‘I would rather give a healthy boy or a healthy girl a phial of prussic acid than this novel.’

At Wembley Stadium Douglas was almost overwhelmed by the sight of the healthy Miss Stack:

The queen of this wonderful spectacle was Miss Prunella Stack. Nothing more exquisite could be imagined than her beauty and her glamour – beyond the dreams of Hollywood.

If Douglas was impressed with the young leader another nameless journalist in the Daily Express writing on 1 April 1938 described the Women’s Health and Beauty dancers as ‘Stormtroops’ and Prunella Stack as – a radiant, strapping, 23-year-old Nordic, with excellent teeth” and captioned a photograph of her at Wembley – ‘Fuhrer Stack’.

The journalist also playfully wrote:

She studied new methods of physical training last year in Berlin and ‘she’s frightfully keen on anything German’ I was told.

Prunella Stack – “Nothing more exquisite could be imagined than her beauty and her glamour.” Or “Fuhrer Stack” which ever you prefer.

A worrying Government report in 1935 had estimated that over 90 per cent of boys between fourteen and eighteen years of age never engaged in any form of physical activity whatsoever and after a very disappointing performance in the Berlin Olympics a delegation from the Board of Education had gone to Germany to have a look at how physical education was being taught there.

The delegates particularly admired the ‘excellent work’ of the Kraft durch Freude (Strength Through Joy) movement. The KdF started in 1933 and was started with the aim of breaking down the class-divide by making middle-class pursuits available to the masses.

It provided affordable leisure activities such as concerts, plays, day-trips and holidays and for this large specially-built cruise ships such as the Wilhelm Gustloff (named after the assassinated Swiss Nazi leader whose wife was once Hitler’s secretary) were built.

Wilhelm Gustloff

The League of German Maidens

The League of German Maidens.

Bund Deutscher Madel or BDM was the girls’s wing of the Nazi Party youth movement.

What impressed the Board of Education delegates, however, was the provision of free or cheap physical education and gymnastic classes. After their trip the British delegation concluded that the KdF was:

Certainly the most agreeable and possibly the most instructive phenomenon of the Third Reich.

Following their return Neville Chamberlain, then Chancellor of the Exchequer, said:

In the matter of attention to physical development we may surely learn something from others. Nothing made a stronger impression on visitors to the Olympic games in Germany this year than the splendid condition of German youth.

In 1937 Prunella had been invited to join the board of the National Fitness Council which had been put together to oversee the government’s Physical Training and Recreation Act, that was intended to transform the non-splendid condition of British youth and ‘to make Britain an A1 nation’. A ‘Keep Fit’ campaign was a low-key attempt by the Government to discreetly prepare for a war that they knew, even if the Anglo-German Fellowship hoped otherwise, was certainly approaching.

On the 15th October 1938 Prunella married a Scottish Laird, Lord David Douglas-Hamilton the youngest son of the 13th Duke of Hamilton. At their first meeting, at the opening of a swimming pool, he impressed her that he was keen to start a fitness summer school in the Highlands. As he said goodbye, he took her hand and examined her fingernails. “I’m glad you don’t paint them,” he said, “I hate artificiality.”

The Laird and the un-artificial Lady Douglas-Hamilton

Douglas Hamilton had German and Austrian friends (his best man was Prince Ernst August of Hanover) and before their wedding they went on  holiday just days after the 8th Army of the German Wehmacht had marched into the Austria to be greeted by cheering Austrians with cheers, Nazi flags and salutes. Prunella, in her auto-biography, described Bands of Hitler Youth marching through the streets shouting ‘Jeder Deutsche stimmt mit ‘ja’. Nur ein Schwein stimmt mit ‘Nein’. (Every German votes with ‘yes’. Only a swine votes with ‘no’.)

Prunella also visited Germany in the summer of 1938 after the League had been invited to participate that summer in a Physical Education Congress sponsored by Kraft durch Freude. It was reported in the British press that at one point she gave a Nazi salute. Prunella and the rest of the League women stayed on the Wilhelm Gustloff from which they watched mass demonstrations of German physical culture and folk-dancing.

The British Women’s League of Health and Beauty performed twice – “their neat black and white uniforms and slim figures contrasted with the generous build of the blonde German girls,” Prunella later wrote. On the ship she was introduced to the Reichsportsfuhrer, Herr von Tschammer und Osten, Dr Ley, the leader of Kraft durch Freude and even Himmler.

The Wilhelm Gustloff in Hamburg

A few months after the Anglo-German dinner at Claridges in September 1939 Germany invaded Poland and the Second World War began. The League’s impressive pre-war membership started to plummet when many of it’s women were called up or had no time for classes. Now pregnant, Prunella moved to Dorset while her husband, as all his brothers did, joined the RAF.

In May 1941 Rudolf Hess, the deputy Nazi leader, flew to Scotland in the supposed hope that he could broker an amazing diplomatic victory by securing peace between the Germany and Britain. After parachuting from his plane and captured by a local farmer Hess said he had come to meet the Duke of Hamilton whom, he insisted, he had met in Berlin in 1936. Indeed Douglas, Prunella Stack’s brother in law and who had only just become the Duke after his father had died, had been in Berlin during the summer Olympics as part of a multi-party parliamentary group.

While in Berlin Douglas-Hamilton met Hitler and Goring at a grand dinner hosted by Von Ribbentrop – the German ambassador to Britain. The Duke of Hamilton always said that he had never personally met Hess and indeed sued anyone who suggested otherwise.

Neville Henderson the British Ambassador to Germany watches the football match between England and Germany (who had just incorporated the useful Austria team) in Berlin in 1938. Behind him are Hitler’s deputy Rudolf Hess and von Tschammer und Osten. The England team, including Stanley Matthews, gave the Nazi salute but won handsomely 6-3.

On 30 January 1945 the Wilhelm Gustloff, by now a floating army barracks, was sunk in the Baltic sea by three Soviet torpedos. The former luxury cruise-liner was bringing back refugees, military personnel and Nazi officials from East Prussia after they were surrounded by the Red Army. It has been estimated that 9400 men, women and children died after the ship sank in just 45 minutes, making it the worst maritime disaster ever.

The previous year in 1944 Prunella’s husband Lord David Douglas Hamilton died after his Mosquito plane crashed with engine failure just short of the runway at RAF Benson. Like her mother, Prunella was widowed at the age of just thirty.

After the war she remarried and moved to South Africa with her second husband but returned for the Queen’s Coronation in 1953 accompanied by a controversial (in South Africa) multi-racial group of League members. Three years later she returned to London with her two sons for good.

At end of the war, in the summer of 1945, Scholtz-Klink was briefly detained in a Soviet prisoner of war camp but quickly escaped. With her third husband, SS officer August Heissmeyer, she went into hiding but was caught three years later and imprisoned until 1953. She died in 1999 still an avid supporter of National Socialist ideology.

Scholtz-Klink an unashamed Nazi until the day she died

The Women’s League of Health and Beauty continues to this day although now with the more modern sounding name of the The Fitness League. Prunella died in December 2010 at the age of 96 outlasting by seven years the old Wembley Stadium where she had performed with her Women’s League of Health and Beauty so memorably sixty-five years before.


The Execution of Lord Haw Haw at Wandsworth Prison in 1946

Saturday, February 20th, 2010

William Joyce

William Joyce, the man with the famous nickname ‘Lord Haw Haw’, is Britain’s most well-known traitor, of relatively recent times anyway. He had a catchphrase as famous as any comedian’s and to cap it all he had a facial disfigurement in the form of a terrible scar that marked him as a ‘villainous traitor’ as if the words themselves were tattooed across his forehead. Saying all that, a lot of people have argued that he shouldn’t have been convicted of treason at all, let alone be executed for the crime.

On the cold and damp morning of 3 January 1946 a large but orderly crowd had formed outside the grim Victorian prison in Wandsworth. The main gates of London’s largest gaol are situated not more than a few hundred feet from the far more salubrious surroundings of Wandsworth Common in South West London.

Some people had come to protest at what they considered an unjust conviction, while others, ghoulishly and morbidly, wanted to be as close as they could, to what would turn out to be, the execution of the last person to be convicted of treason in this country.

Wandsworth Prison

William Joyce had woken early that morning and although he ate no breakfast he drank a cup of tea. At one minute to nine, an hour later than initially planned, the Governor of Wandsworth Prison came to the condemned man’s cell to inform him that his time had come.

The walk to the adjacent execution chamber was but a few yards but there was just enough time for Joyce to look down at his badly trembling knees and smile. Albert Pierrepoint, the practiced and experienced hangman, said the last words that Joyce would ever hear: ‘I think we’d better have this on, you know’ and placed a hood over the condemned man’s head followed immediately by the noose of the hanging rope.

A few seconds later the executioner pulled a lever which automatically opened the trap door beneath Joyce’s feet. Almost instantaneously Joyce’s spinal cord was ripped apart between the second and third vertebrae and the man known throughout the country as Lord Haw-Haw, was dead.

The gates of HMP Wandsworth around the time of William Joyce's execution

At about the same time as the hangman pulled his deadly lever a group of smartly dressed men in winter coats stepped away from the main crowd outside the gates of the prison and behind some nearby bushes, almost surreptitiously, were seen to raise their right arms in the ‘Heil Hitler!’ salute.

At eight minutes past nine a prison officer came out and pinned an official announcement that the hanging of the traitor William Joyce had taken place. At 1pm the BBC Home Service reported the execution and read out the last, unrepentant pronouncement from the dead man;

In death, as in this life, I defy the Jews who caused this last war, and I defy the power of darkness which they represent. I warn the British people against the crushing imperialism of the Soviet Union. May Britain be great once again and in the hour of the greatest danger in the west may the Swastika be raised from the dust, crowned with the historic words ‘You have conquered nevertheless’. I am proud to die for my ideals; and I am sorry for the sons of Britain who have died without knowing why.

The official declaration of William Joyce's execution pinned on the gates of the prison

The official notice of execution being pinned on the gates of Wandsworth Prison

William Joyce had actually been born in Brooklyn, New York forty years previously to an English Protestant mother and an Irish Catholic father who had taken United States citizenship. A few years after the birth the family returned to Galway where William attended the Jesuit St Ignatius College from 1915 to 1921. William had always been precociously politically aware but both he and his father, rather unusually for Irish Catholics at the time, were both Unionists and openly supported British rule.

In fact Joyce later said that he had aided and ran with the infamous Black and Tans, the notoriously indisciplined and brutal British auxiliary force sent to Ireland after the First World War in an attempt to help put down Irish nationalism. Joyce actually became the target of an IRA assassination attempt in 1921 when he was just sixteen.

For his own safety William immediately left for England, and after a short stint in the British army (he was discharged when it was found he had lied about his age) he enrolled at Birkbeck College of the University of London where he gained a first but also developed an initial interest in Fascism.

In 1924, while stewarding a Conservative Party meeting at the Lambeth Baths in Battersea, a seventeen year old Joyce was attacked by an unprovoked gang in an adjacent alley-way and received a vicious and deep cut from a razor that sliced across his right cheek from behind the earlobe all the way to the corner of his mouth. After two weeks in hospital he was left with a terrible and disfiguring facial scar. Joyce was convinced that his attackers were ‘Jewish communists’ and the incident became a massive influence on the rest of his life.

The bandage was covering twenty six stiches, he remained in hospital for two weeks

In 1932 Joyce joined Oswald Mosley’s British Union of Fascists and within a couple of years he was promoted to the BUF’s director of propaganda and not long after appointed deputy leader. Joyce was a gifted speaker and for a while became the star of the British fascist movement. He was instrumental in moving the union towards overt anti-semitism – something of which Mosley had always been relatively uncomfortable.

Joyce’s career with the British Union of Fascists only lasted five years when, with membership plummeting, a devastated Joyce was sacked from his paid position in the party by Mosley in 1937.

William Joyce, on the far left, with Oswald Mosley in 1934

In late August 1939, shortly before war was declared and probably tipped off by a friend in MI5 that he was about to be arrested, Joyce and his wife Margaret fled to Germany. Joyce struggled to find employment until he met fellow former-Mosleyite Dorothy Eckersley who got him recruited immediately for radio announcements and script writing at German radio’s English service in Berlin.

Crucially this was at a time when his British passport was still valid (although born in New York and brought up in Ireland Joyce had lied about his nationality to obtain a British passport – complications and niceties such as proving one’s identity with a birth certificate weren’t needed at the time) ostensibly to accompany Mosley abroad in 1935.

Dorothy Eckersley

The infamous nickname of ‘Lord Haw Haw’, associated with William Joyce to this day, was coined by a Daily Express journalist called Jonah Barrington. It’s not widely known but the title was actually meant for someone else completely – almost certainly a man called Norman Baillie-Stewart who had been broadcasting in Germany from just before the war. The nickname referenced Baillie-Stewart’s exaggeratedly aristocratic way of speaking. Barrington had written:

A gent I’d like to meet is moaning periodically from Zeesen [the site in Germany of the English transmitter]. He speaks English of the haw-haw, dammit-get-out-of-my-way variety, and his strong suit is gentlemanly indignation.

Norman Baillie-Stewart - the real Lord Haw Haw

Baillie-Stewart had already been convicted as a traitor by the United Kingdom for selling military secrets to Germany in the early thirties. He had the dubious distinction of being the last person in a long line of infamous people to have been imprisoned in the Tower of London for treason.

Late in 1939 when William Joyce had become the more prominent of the Nazi propaganda broadcasters, although at the time no one knew who he was, Barrington swapped the title over to Joyce.

Listening to Lord Haw Haw’s broadcasts (which famously always began with the words “Germany Calling, Germany Calling”) was officially discouraged, although incredibly about 60% of the population tuned in after the BBC news every night. The BBC’s output at the beginning of the war was said to have been exceedingly dreary (plus ca change) and the British public seemed to prefer being shocked rather than bored.

Lord Haw Haw’s over-the-top and sneering attacks on the British establishment were really enjoyed, but in an era of state censorship and restricted information, there was also a desire by listeners to hear what the other side was saying. At the start of the war, simply because there was more to brag about, the German news reports were considered, by some people, to contain slightly more truth than those of the BBC.

William and Margaret Joyce in Germany

As the tide turned in the latter stages of the war Joyce and his wife moved to Hamburg. On the 22nd April 1945 he wrote in his diary:

Has it all been worthwhile? I think not. National Socialism is a fine cause, but most of the Germans, not all, are bloody fools.

Eight days later, and on the very day that Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun committed suicide in their Berlin Bunker, Joyce made his last drunken broadcast – the remains of his Irish accent can be heard through his slurring voice.

The actual microphone and a script used by Joyce for his German broadcasts

At the end of the war William and his wife Margaret fled to a town called Flensburg near the German/Denmark border and it was there, in a nearby wood, that Joyce was captured by two soldiers. They, like Joyce, were out looking for firewood. Joyce stopped to say hello and one of the soldiers asked “You wouldn’t by any chance be William Joyce, would you?”. To ‘prove’ otherwise, Joyce reached for his false passport and one of the soldiers, thinking he was reaching for a gun, shot him through the buttocks, leaving four wounds.

The arrest was utter poetic justice. The soldier who had shot the infamous broadcaster was called Geoffrey Perry, however, he had been born into a German jewish family as Hourst Pinschewer and had only arrived in England to escape from Hitler’s persecutions. So in the end a German Jew, who had become English had arrested an Irish/American who pretended to be English but had become German.

The Woods near the German/Denmark border where Joyce was shot and arrested

Margaret Joyce at her arrest in 1945

A well-guarded William Joyce after his arrest in Germany 1945

Back in London, he was charged at Bow Street Magistrates court and in the dock he quietly stated “I have heard the charge and take cognisance of it.” He was subsequently driven to Brixton Prison in a Black Maria and on arrival, he said “So this is Brixton.” “Yes,” retorted his guard, “not Belsen.”

The trial of William Joyce began on 17 september 1945 and for a short period of time, when his American nationality came to light, it seemed that he might be acquitted. “How could anyone be convicted of betraying a country that wasn’t his own?” It was argued. However, the Attorney General, Sir Hartley Shawcross, successfully argued that Joyce’s possession of a British passport (even if he had misrepresented himself to get it) entitled him to diplomatic protection in Germany and therefore he owed allegiance to the King at the time he started working for the Germans.

It was on this contrived technicality that Joyce was convicted of treason on 19th September 1945. The penalty of which, of course, was death.

Sir Hartley Shawcross, he later said that the trial of William Joyce was not one of which he was especially proud

A sizeable minority of the population were uncomfortable with the verdict mainly because of the nationality issue but also because he was alway seen as a bit of a joke-figure rather than someone trying to bring the country down. On Christmas day 1945 an accountant named Edgar Bray wrote to the King:

I know nothing about Joyce, and nothing about his Politics. I don’t know much about Law either, but I do know enough to be firmly convinced that we are proposing to hang Joyce for the crime of pretending to be an Englishman which crime, so far as I am aware, in no possible case carries a Capital penalty. It happens to be just our bad luck, that Joyce actually WAS an American, (and now IS a German subject), but that is no reason to hang him, because we are annoyed at our bad luck.

The historian AJP Taylor made the point that Joyce was essentially hanged for making a false statement on a passport – the usual penalty for which was a paltry fine of just two pounds.

Interior of Wandsworth Prison

A cell in Wandsworth Prison in the late 1940s

Albert Pierrepoint

Not long after Albert Pierrepoint’s expert execution and with the blood from Joyce’s scar, that had burst open during the hanging, still dripping onto a spreading red stain on the canvas floor, the body was taken to the prison mortuary. A coroner pronounced that the death was due to “injury to the brain and spinal cord, consequent upon judicial hanging”.

There were specific rules pertaining to the burial of executed prisoners at the time, and William Joyce’s body was treated as any other. True to the normal rules he was buried within the Wandsworth Prison walls, in an unmarked grave, and was allowed no mourners. The body was dumped in the middle of the night, literally unceremoniously, on top of the remains of another man, a murderer called Robert Blaine who had been hanged five days previously.

In total 135 people were hanged at Wandsworth Prison during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, with the final execution taking place when Henryk Niemasz was hanged on 8 September 1961 for murder of Mr and Mrs Buxton in Brixton.

Incidentally the gallows at Wandsworth were not dismantled until 1993, 29 years after the last execution in this country and 24 years after the death penalty was abolished for murder. Incidentally the death penalty still existed for treason until 1998.

The condemned cell is now used as a television room for prison officers.

Lord Haw Haw pontificating

Germany Calling Germany Calling – Lord Haw-Haw broadcast on 27th February 1940