Project to discover if notorious Second World War fascist Lord Haw Haw plotted from north Derbyshire

William Lord Haw-Haw Joyce giving pre-World War Two speech.
William Lord Haw-Haw Joyce giving pre-World War Two speech.
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A notorious fascist who taunted wartime Britain with Nazi propaganda may have been plotting in a north east Derbyshire village.

Lord Haw Haw - real name William Joyce - broadcast from inside Nazi Germany during the Second World War hoping to sap British morale.

After the war, American-born Joyce was captured and hung as a traitor but rumours of his Derbyshire links have circulated for decades.

Now, Renishaw’s St Matthew’s Church Group has won Heritage Lottery Fund support to help prove if William Joyce was resident in this area in the inter-war years.

Richard Godley, project spokesperson, said: “I’ve heard multiple people talk about him being resident in the area down the years.

“It’s going to be interesting to confirm if one of the most notorious figures of the war was here and, if he was, what he was actually doing here.”

Joyce - who moved to Germany just hours before the outbreak of war in September 1939 - was a prominent member of the British Union of Fascists in the 1930s.

He won high praise from Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels for his broadcasts which were designed to depress and demoralize UK listeners.

‘Lord Haw-Haw’s’ nightly ‘Germany Calling’ broadcasts from the very heart of the Third Reich amassed UK audiences of up to nine million.

Anne Joule, secretary of the group, said: “We are thrilled to have received Heritage Lottery Fund support.

“We are confident the project will support young people and visitors to the area by making them more aware of the history and its connection to returning WW1 and 2 servicemen, reserved services and stories of Lord Haw-Haw that has been spoken about for generations in the area.”

St Matthew’s Church Group – which will be working in partnership with local schools and churches – received a £31,700 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) for the project.

Founded in 2015 to look at researching wartime stories of the villages and its inhabitants, all three local churches – Immaculate Conception Church in Spinkhill, Renishaw Methodist Church will be co-ordinated by the St Matthew’s Church Group to help deliver research and activities.

As well as Lord Haw Haw, the group will also explore local family connections to the First World War - whether that be to soldiers or to those in reserved occupations - and look in detail at the lives of the men whose names appear on local memorials.

The project - which is expected to last 18 months - was officially launched at St Matthew’s Church Hall on Tuesday.

To find out more about the project or to get involved, email renishawspinkhillproject@gmail.com or call Anne Joule on 01246 433497.