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William Joyce is best known for his involvement in the British Fascist Party during World War II and immigrating to Nazi Germany.
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Also in that year, on July 4, Joyce set in motion a chain of events that would prove his eventual undoing; he falsely claimed to be a British citizen, and obtained a British passport.
Despite his successful oratory, his appetite for brawling and willingness to confront anti-fascist agitators caused Mosley embarrassment,
and he was forced to distance himself further from Joyce when his anti-Semitic rhetoric threatened to override the party's political direction. Although Mosley used anti-Semitic sentiment as a political tool when it was expedient, he never shared Joyce's virulent hatred of Jews, which seemed to increase with every passing year.
Joyce was divorced in 1936, and he married Margaret Cairns White, in London, on February 13, 1937. When, in the same year, the BUF performed disastrously in the polls, Mosley dismissed Joyce as a salaried party member, and Joyce left to form his own political party, the National Socialist League, with his new wife Margaret as treasurer. Over the next two years the small but vocal party was involved in a number of skirmishes, which resulted in court appearances on assault charges, although Joyce was never convicted. He made no secret of his support for Adolf Hitler, and had contact with suspected German agents within the U.K.
Given his political allegiance, Joyce's correspondence was subjected to regular interception by the British Secret Service, and in July 1939 a letter to a suspected German spy revealed that he intended to travel to Germany, given the imminence of war. The British security services, MI5, decided that he would be detained as soon as war was declared. In August 1939, in the days immediately prior to the declaration of war, Joyce dissolved the National Socialist League, and renewed his British passport for another year.
According to one of Joyce's biographers, Nigel Farndale, Joyce developed a relationship with an intelligence division within MI5, known as section B5(b), which was responsible for infiltrating extremist political groups, during his time in England. Given his close connections to Ireland, it seems plausible that he might have been very valuable in this regard, and Farndale claims to have discovered documents, recently released under freedom of information legislation, backing up this connection.
Whether he provided any useful intelligence to B5(b) is unclear, but the strength of this relationship was sufficient that the head of MI5, Maxwell Knight (who was the inspiration and basis of the Ian Fleming character 'M' in the James Bond books), apparently tipped Joyce off about his imminent arrest. Joyce and his wife fled to Berlin on August 26, 1939, with Knight's assistance, just days before war was declared. When Special Branch agents arrived to arrest Joyce on September 1, he had already left the country using his British passport.
Joyce's pre-war profile was sufficient to secure work for both himself and his wife as broadcasters for the Reichsrundfunks Foreign Service, the German equivalent of the BBC, based in Charlottenburg.
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