Posts Tagged ‘prison’

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

Brixton Prison and Mick Jagger

Thursday, September 4th, 2008

“Just groovin’ on, the same as usual” – Mick Jagger
Jagger, handcuffed and on the way to HMP Brixton

Jagger, handcuffed and on the way to HMP Brixton

On the evening of 29th June 1967 a relatively sober-suited Mick Jagger was taken handcuffed in a white police van to Brixton Gaol. Earlier that day in Chichester Judge Leslie Block had said to him “Michael Philip Jagger, you have pleaded guilty to possessing a highly dangerous and harmful drug (actually just four amphetamine tablets)…You will go to prison for three months”. According to the Daily Telegraph, “Jagger almost broke down and put his head in his hands as he was sentenced. He stumbled out of the dock almost in tears.”
Brixton Prison today

Brixton Prison today

A couple of months earlier, Mick Jagger, rather pretentiously it has to be said, told the Daily Mirror:
Teenagers are not screaming over pop music any more, they’re screaming for much deeper reasons. We are only serving as a means of giving them an outlet. Teenagers the world over are weary of being pushed around by half-witted politicians . . . they want to be free and have the right of expression, of thinking and living without any petty restrictions.
Weary teenagers

Teenagers weary of half-witted politicians or on a drug comedown - you decide.

More weary teenagers waiting outside court.

More weary teenagers waiting outside court.

It seemed that the great majority of young people at the time were particularly unconcerned about Jagger’s lot, indeed 85 per cent of 21 to 34 year olds thought the sentence was deserved, and 56% thought it should have been more severe. It was a survey result that had the slightly stoned and youthful sounding Pirate DJ John Peel on his show “The Perfumed Garden” bemoaning:

“It’s very sad that there are people that actually feel that way…anyway this is Donovan with a song dedicated to Mama Cass called ‘The Fat Angel…”

Pirate John Peel in 1967

Pirate John Peel in 1967

Not everyone was unconcerned, and William Rees-Mogg, the new-ish editor of the Times, wrote about ‘Mr Jagger’ in his famous editorial with the headline “WHO BREAKS A BUTTERFLY ON A WHEEL”. It’s worth noting that he Times in 1967 ( and pre-Murdoch) would have been seen by most people almost at one with the Establishment. The slightly misquoted line (it’s ‘upon’ not ‘on’) comes from Alexander Pope’s poem “Epistle to Dr Arbuthnot” and means putting too much effort into achieving something minor – the wheel meant a torture device over which someone was stretched over. Rees Mogg wrote that the case was “as mild a drug case as can ever have been brought before the courts”. It appeared that that the ‘establishment’ was almost turning in on itself over this matter.
William Rees-Mogg in 1967

William Rees-Mogg in 1967

Mick jagger, along with Keith Richards (who was sentenced at the same trial for 12 months) had ended up in court when, after a tip-off by the News Of The World, the police had infamously raided Richards’ house in Redlands in West Sussex. During the search they had found a small amount of drugs – but enough to arrest the relevant parties. However, a rumour quickly spread (one that is still heard today) that the police who raided the property found a naked Marianne Faithfull loosely wrapped in a large fur rug using a Mars Bar in a way that wouldn’t have placated her hunger. Marianne wrote about the incident in her autobiography:

The Mars Bar was a very effective piece of demonizing. Way out there. It was so overdone, with such malicious twisting of the facts. Mick retrieving a Mars Bar from my vagina, indeed! It was far too jaded for any of us even to have conveived of. It’s a dirty old man’s fantasy… a cop’s idea of what people do on acid!

Incidentally Marianne may noticed that in 2002 Mars decided to change their famous slogan “A Mars a day helps you work, rest and play”. They replaced it with “Pleasure you can’t measure”. Mars, apparently, wanted to increase its treat appeal to the female market.

Jagger and Richards at Redlands in 1967

Jagger and Richards at Redlands in 1967

Marianne at Redlands, look closely at the newspaper headline.

Marianne at Redlands, look closely at the newspaper headline.

The police gave a sparse account of the raid at the initial proceedings. At the full trial at Chichester, however, last-minute witness statements were submitted by the police, mainly to suggest that Richards had known that Marianne Faithfull (during the court case she was anonymously known as Miss X) had smoked cannabis on the property. The police maintained that this ‘got rid of her inhibitions and embarrassment’. Detective Sergeant Stanley Cudmore, the senior CID officer involved in the raid wrote:

As we approached I heard loud strains of pop music. When I entered the room there was a television on but the pop music drowned the sound of the television. There were nine people, two of whom I thought were women. Jagger and a woman were sitting on a couch some distance away from the fire. The woman had wrapped around her a light-coloured fur rug which from time to time she let fall showing her nude body. Sitting on her left was Jagger, and I was of the opinion he was wearing make-up. Sitting on her right was a person I now know to be male but at the time I had thought was a woman. He had long fairish hair and was dressed in what would best be described as a pair of red and green silk ‘pyjamas’. I searched him and this was all he was wearing. I formed the opinion he too was wearing make-up. All the time I was in the house there was a strong, sweet, unusual smell in all rooms.

Mick Jagger, in the end, spent only one night at Brixton Prison although he purportedly wrote lyrics to the songs We Love You and 2000 Light Years From Home whilst there. It was apparently at Brixton when he heard from another inmate about the rumour about Marianne and the Mars Bar for the first time. On the morning of the 30th June 1967 he was released on £7000 bail, pending an appeal, and was picked up by a green Bentley which drove to Wormwood Scrubs where he picked up Keith Richards. They both subsequently had a celebratory pint in a pub off Fleet Street.

Jagger and Richards at Chichester 10th May 1967

Jagger and Richards at Chichester 10th May 1967

Marianne at Chichester 29th June

Marianne at Chichester 29th June

Outside the courthouse at Chichester

Outside the courthouse at Chichester

Mick Jagger at he Appeals Court 31st July 1967

Mick Jagger at he Appeals Court 31st July 1967

Marianne and her Mini outside the court 1st August

Marianne and her Mini outside the court 1st August

A month later on the 31st July the Appeals Court quashed both Jagger and Richard’s sentences. The Lord Chief Justice Parker told Jagger that “You are, whether you like it or not, the idol of a large number of the young in this country. Being in that position, you have very grave responsibilities.” The Lord Chief Justice also said that Judge Block should have warned the jury that there was only tenuous evidence that the girl, dressed only in a rug, smoked cannabis resin and that Mr Richards must have known about it.”

Later that day jagger was picked up by helicopter and whisked off to appear on a special edition of World In Action broadcast by Granada Television that evening. The helicopter wasn’t really needed but it was thought that it would look good ruffling Jagger’s long hair and loose fitting shirt. Jagger was joined on the programme, amongst others, by the Times editor William Rees-Mogg and the Bishop of Woolwich Dr John Robinson to discuss the great moral and cultural divide between the generations. The programme turned out to be rather limp and didn’t come to any particular interesting conclusion. However it did accelerate like a rocket the career of the researcher on the show – a young John Birt.

Jagger on his way to the World In Action show by helicopter.

Jagger on his way to the World In Action show by helicopter.

Mick Jagger on Granada's World In Action

Mick Jagger on Granada's World In Action

John Birt posing for the camera. The Frost/Nixon interview just a glint in his eye.

John Birt posing for the camera. The Frost/Nixon interview just a glint in his eye.

When asked at a press conference the same day how it felt to be free? Jagger said that it felt lovely to be sure of freedom…I’m not celebrating tonight. Just grooving on, the same as usual.” While Keith Richards put the Mars Bar Redlands myth straight by saying “The fur rug – yes. The Mars Bar no. We were out of Mars Bars.”
Rolling Stones performing in 1967

Rolling Stones performing in 1967

Jagger, now free as a butterfly.

Jagger, now free as a butterfly.

On the 18th August the Rolling Stones released We Love You which was considered a ‘thank you’ to their fans for their support. It actually features Lennon and McCartney on backing vocals. The Stones made a film to go with the song where they parodied the trial of Oscar Wilde. However the BBC thought it unsuitable and it was banned from Top Of The Pops.