Pip, nicknamed Pipsqueak but Squeak for short, is five and living with his grandparents in a small village in Shropshire. It’s December 1941 and Squeak’s mother is a nurse in the Eighth Army. His father is a soldier somewhere. Squeak has no idea where, nor do Grandpa Tubs and Grandma Pud; the Joyce family are fond of nicknames. Squeak’s grandparents are normally genial but at odds about listening to ‘Lord Haw Haw’ on the radio. Squeak sits on Pud’s knee as Tubs turns on the radio.
An upper class English voice shouts, Germany calling! Germany calling!
Squeak stares at the fabric covered speaker of the radio from which the shouting comes.
Bloody toff, Pud moans. Why do you keep listening to that rubbish, Tubs?
What’s a toff? Squeak asks.
I only want to know what the enemy is up to, Tubs says
God forbid, this boy’s mum and dad might be laying down their lives to save us from Hitler’s fascists.
They’re not dead, Tubs says. You shouldn’t say such things in front of Pip; he may be small but he’s not stupid.
I’ll tell you what, that Haw Haw needs doing away with, put down like a sick collie; no use to man nor beast.
Let’s just listen, Tubs says.
In November alone, the German forces sank … Haw Haw continues
I just hope that …
Shush! Tubs says.
Don’t tell me to shush! That William Joyce needs to be shot.
Is that him in the radio? Squeak asks.
The Royal Navy is too weak. The Royal Air Force is too weak, Joyce continues.
What’s he saying, Gran?
The British people is too weak …
Shouldn’t that be are not is? Pud asks.
And as yet, the common sense of the British people … Joyce continues.
The broadcast ends.
Why do you keep listening to him, love?
You know why, Pud. He shares my name; he’s a Joyce. When I go in the pub they all shout Germany calling! Tubs turns off the radio.
They know you’re not really related, Pud says. Why go on listening?
If I don’t listen, I can’t say he’s a liar and a traitor. The paper says he has six million regular listeners; some might be them in the pub.
Do you hear that, Squeak? Pud asks. There’s your mum and dad fighting the Nazis and there’s millions listening to that traitor. Someone needs to stop him.
Later that night Pip tiptoes down the stairs and into the kitchen. Very quietly he removes a carving knife from a drawer, stands on a chair, and is hacking the fabric speaker cover of the radio to pieces when the kitchen light is switched on.
What are you doing, Squeak? Pud asks.
Why isn’t the nasty man in the radio, Gran?
Its’ all right, Squeak.
It’s not. I wanted to kill the nasty man, like you said.
You’ll need a new nickname. You’re not a pipsqueak anymore.
[The quotations in this story are from the transcript held in the archives of the Imperial War Museum of a broadcast by William Joyce in 1941.]
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© Phil Cosker 2021
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