They seemed such nice boys…
Photo shoot for Haw Haw poster.
Photos (c) 2016 by Adam Beason
William Joyce was captured a Flensburg, near the German border, on 28th May 1945.
That’s the prosaic description.
Truth with Joyce was always convoluted, and the nature of his capture was no exception. He was stopped by two off-duty soldiers as they collected firewood. Joyce was supposedly in hiding but had stormed out after yet another argument with Margaret over her affair. (Long story, different play).
They had no idea who they were dealing with, until this strange man in the woods started to give them a long and excited description of the various trees that surrounded them. Ever the polymath, ever the show-off, ever the mouth on legs, Joyce couldn’t stop himself from talking. Finally they recognised the voice. Lt. Geoffrey Perry shot him through the buttocks when, having been challenged, Joyce seemed to go for a gun. In fact, he was trying to show the soldiers his fake papers.
Yup, through the buttocks. Both cheeks. One shot.
If this wasn’t humiliating enough, Geoffrey Perry was in fact Horst Pinschewer, a German Jew who had fled the Nazis and ended up joining the British army. He ended up being one of the main founders of Die Welt newspaper.
So an Anglo Irish American who broadcast for Hitler was brought to trial by a German Jew with an assumed name. Perry/Pinschewer was also the first Allied soldier to broadcast from Hamburg. And the gun he shot him with. German. Confiscated from a prisoner a few days earlier.
At one point, we thought of making part of the play about Pinschewer
But who’d believe it?
Are you sitting comfortably?
After a hiatus brought on by all sorts of reasons far too dull to go into, we finally made it to Mulligans, that fine Irish hostelry in Bexhill.
Pictures of Spike everywhere. And there we are, to be sure…
Now the eagle-eyed among you will notice we’re sat down for this one.
Except when Ross is standing.
This is due to the fact that Devaney managed to give himself second degree burns that morning in the world’s most middle-class accident.
Scolded himself with a cafetiere.
Still, a revised script; a nice wee audience, many of whom could still stand (unlike Doug) by the end of the evening and Haw Haw managed to go on.
The even more eagle-eyed will note this was our third performance. “Where’s the other two, lads?”, we hear you ask. Now that’s all part of the grand scheme as we go back to the…well, past…
I am Irish. Well, half-Irish. Dad from County Clare. Ross is English, as English as they come. William Joyce, as Wikipedia has noted, was Anglo-Irish. But his was a curious mix. For one thing, he always saw himself as English. To be Anglo-Irish was hardly the thing of glamour it is today, let alone being Irish.
Instead, the land of Joyce’s youth was riven by revolution. the 1916 uprising – taking place when William was a mere 10 years old – saw murder and counter murder on a frightening scale. Joyce was only a lad when he saw a policeman dead in the street. Now William had always been a contrary child. Arguing with the Bishop over whether or not his own (English) mother was gong to hell. Trying to hypnotize his schoolmates. Marching up and down in the playground.
So when it came to deciding a side, as indeed he had to, naturally this contrary child painted his colours red white and blue rather than green white and gold. He was an Anglo in Ireland. His carefree (careless?) hanging out with the Black and Tans immediately marked him out among his schoolmates and so when a local priest was assassinated, the rumour went out that it was William who had set him up for the shooting.
Thus it was that a 16 year old boy on his way home from school was the target for an IRA sniper. Only William went a different way home.
Of such things histories are made.
He may have avoided the bullet, but he was still exiled. The IRA made it clear that young William wouldn’t get a second reprieve and so off he headed to hs beloved, idealised England.
“England on the Lea” he called it, on the plane coming back from Germany as he faced the death penalty. The England of Milton, Keats and Dryden.
Thing was, in England, he was an Irishman among the Anglos.
For me, being half Irish is something of pride. Everyone’s a Mick on the 17th March – Guinness have seen to that. But it also means memories of the ’70s. Of thick Paddy jokes. Of pub bombings and suspicion. Of no blacks, no dogs, no Irish. Of not fitting in.
For Ross, being English is a matter of not having to care about such things. He simply is.
So guess who’s playing Haw Haw?
Spot the Difference