View Full Version : Lord Haw Haw & the Officers Mess Clock Myth

15th Sep 2008, 06:50
I was reading 'Combat Crew' by John Comer - a story about a B17 crew based in England during WW2. He tells the story that Lord Haw Haw, on his German radio broadcast,mentioned their Bombardrment Group (351st?) and told them that the clock in the Officers Mess was 5 minutes slow - which it was.

Naturally this added to the fear of German spies being all over the place.

However this story is repeated exactly in 'Fall of Fortresses' by Elmer Bendiner about his Group and his Officers Mess clock...

I also believe the story was repeated in the film 'Twelve O'Clock High'.

Were all the 8th airforce clocks faulty or was this an urban myth?

15th Sep 2008, 11:13
There were lots of rumours of this kind during the war and there is a whole file about them at the National Archives.The BBC carefully monitored the Germans' broadcasts to Britain and elswhere but did not find even a single example of such a reference.

I think these rumours must be put down, in most cases, to the agitated emotional state many people were in during the war and, perhaps, in a few cases to deliberate scares spread by Fifth Columnists.

There is also another possibility. Another file in the National Archives reports that MI5 were investigating whether malicious people in this country with access to radio transmitters were broadcasting these messages themselves. However, no real evidence of this was ever discovered.

17th Sep 2008, 07:07
I think you may be right. I read that Lord Haw Haw was also rumoured to have told the listeners that a certain town square clock was 5 minutes late - so maybe a rumour about that caused all the other rumours and this was exagerated and eventually got back to the airbases. One GI telling the story to another until it became an established fact.

17th Sep 2008, 08:59
I also believe the story was repeated in the film 'Twelve O'Clock High'.

Load Haw Haw does feature in the film. I have a copy. He mentions that 5 aircraft were lost from the Bomb group early on in the film. No mention of the clock!

18th Sep 2008, 14:26
Or maybe just a comment on the accuracy of clocks in them days - which would make him sound scarily accurate.

Rather like I was once told by a fake fortune teller/mind reader bloke that he would tell chaps (after suitable brow-furrowing etc) that they had scars on their right knee .... as apparently 80% of blokes do!

21st Sep 2008, 17:42
I once flew a veteran of the 398th bomb wing around his old base in a 172, during a reunion visit.

He told a story about the day they arrived at their operational base (Nuthampstead), they were ushered into their billet to gather around the heating stove, and listen to Lord Haw Haw's evening broadcast from Germany.

He welcomed newcomers to the ETO, urged them not to get too comfortable, as they wouldn't last long, suggested they ask who had slept in their bunk last, and to ask where he was now, and then read out over the radio the tail number of the new aeroplanes arriving "in theatre" that day.

He included the tail number of their B-17, and the name on the nose. As well as mentioning it's arrival at Nuthampstead with the 398th.

He said it spooked the bejeebers out of them, and their new squadron mates who had just welcomed them into the base, enjoyed their discomfort.

A few weeks later, he said they were doing it themselves to newly incoming crews.

As far as he knew, the information came from spies operating locally.

Didn't someone recently write a book about Joyce? Anyone know of it or able to recommend it?


p.s I must be a 20%er - my LEFT knee is scarred!