William Joyce Manuscripts

Scope and Content

A collection of documents related to William Joyce and Cecil Courtney Lewis, 1932-1933,together with documents and photographs relating to the British Union of Fascists; also included is a photograph of Joyce following his capture in 1945

Administrative / Biographical History

The collection appears to have belonged to Cecil Courtney Lewis, and is noteworthy in that it contains five letters to Lewis in the hand of William Joyce, together with extensive annotations to Lewis's manuscript 'exercises' on matters of current political interest also by Joyce, from the years 1932-1933.. It also includes early copies of The Blackshirt, and photographs of eminent members of the British Union of Fascists. In addition, the collection includes a photograph of Joyce shortly after his capture by British troops in 1945.

William Joyce (1906-1946) was born in Brooklyn, New York and was thereby an American citizen, although his father was born in Ireland and his mother in England. His father became a naturalised American citizen in 1894. In 1909 the family moved to Ireland. In December 1921 William Joyce came to England, followed shortly after by his parents, where he entered London University, being awarded a first-class honours degree in 1927. In 1922 he joined the OTC of the University, falsely claiming to be 'of pure British descent' and a British citizen. From 1923 to 1925 he was a member of the British Fascists. In 1933 he applied for, and was granted, a British passport, claiming to have been born in Galway. From 1933 to 1937 he was a member of the British Union of Fascists, but during a financial crisis he and others were dismissed by Oswald Mosley, a move which Joyce resented bitterly. Joyce then left the B.U.F. and founded his own organisation, the National Socialist League. A renewal of his passport was granted on 24th August 1939, and three days later he dissolved the NSL, leaving with his wife at some point prior to the outbreak of war to Germany. A fortnight later he began the propaganda broadcasts on behalf of the Nazis which led ultimately to his trial for treason.

His broadcasts, and the distinctive voice in which they were made, led to his being known as 'Lord Haw-Haw' by the British population, at whose morale they were aimed. At the end of the war, on the 28th May 1945, he was shot in the leg in an encounter with 2 British officers near Flensburg on the Danish border with Germany. Although not in fact a British subject he was brought to trial in England charged with high treason, and was convicted on the debatable grounds that by carrying a British passport he thereby owed allegiance to the British Crown. He was convicted and sentenced to death. Despite two appeals the verdict was upheld by the House of Lords and execution by hanging was carried out on 3rd January 1946.

Cecil Courtney Lewis, a former Indian Army officer who retained use of the title 'Captain', was the original editor of Blackshirt. He was a solicitor, who acted as Oswald Mosley's legal adviser, and the author of two books. His Fascist convictions were acquired during a lengthy stay in Italy, and he accompanied Mosley on the latter's second visit to Rome in 1933 where the British party of fascists were welcomed by Mussolini. The Joyce letters relate to a course Lewis took run by the Institute of Political Secretaries, London, where 'Professor' Joyce was a tutor, and to ambitions in the political field which Lewis considered. He remained in the B.U.F. until 1937, the year Joyce left it.


By category

Conditions Governing Access

Available to all researchers, by appointment

Acquisition Information

Purchased 1992


Description prepared by Lawrence Aspden

Other Finding Aids


Conditions Governing Use

Copyright: Variously according to document

Related Material

John Beckett Collection; Blackshirts in Kingston Project; British Union Collection; F.T. Cooper Collection; Robert Saunders Papers