Heather Iandolo, teacher whose life was overshadowed by her infamous father William Joyce, better known as ‘Lord Haw-Haw’ – obituary

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Heather Iandolo with a photograph of her father - Mike Gunnill/Shutterstock
Heather Iandolo with a photograph of her father - Mike Gunnill/Shutterstock

Heather Iandolo, who has died aged 93, devoted much of her life to atoning for the sins of her father, William Joyce, known as “Lord Haw-Haw”, who broadcast for Nazi Germany and was the last man to be hanged for treason, in 1946.

Born Heather Brooke Joyce, she went to some pains to support organisations of Jewish-Christian reconciliation, and to make amends for her father’s anti-Semitism. For some years, she attended synagogue on Saturdays in Chatham, Kent, saying she went “as an act of atonement for what had been done”. She also visited Israel for the same purpose.

Yet, all her life she retained a filial affection for William Joyce’s memory. She remembered him as a fond father, and good fun, who told her stories from the classical world and sang Irish ballads and Wagnerian opera to the young child. Until her eighties, she journeyed to Galway every few years to visit his grave in Bohermore Cemetery at Salthill. Perhaps significantly, she would bring cleaning materials and scrub the gravestone clean.

Joyce’s body had been interred at Wandsworth prison, in abject conditions in the prison yard; but, in 1976, Heather obtained permission from the Home Office, under the stewardship of Roy Jenkins, to have his remains returned to Galway, where he grew up (although he was born in America).

She was not supported by family members, who advised her to “drop the subject”: but she felt compelled to remove his remains to consecrated ground. She sold letters from Joyce’s second wife to pay for the headstone; she was also helped by an anonymous donor with the costs of transport and reburial.

William Joyce in 1939, shortly before leaving Britain for Germany - Mike Gunnill/Shutterstock
William Joyce in 1939, shortly before leaving Britain for Germany - Mike Gunnill/Shutterstock

Heather was born in London on 30 July 1928, the first child of William Joyce and Hazel (née Barr), the High Anglican daughter of a Canterbury dentist. At this time, William Joyce was teaching and pursuing academic research into Old Norse, and dabbling – somewhat disastrously – in Conservative politics in Kensington and Chelsea.

Although Joyce wrote, in 1932, “I adore my eldest little girl” (there was also a second daughter, Diana, who chose to distance herself from her father’s life), the marriage with Hazel grew stormy and broke up after he became involved with a young woman, Mary Ogilvy, at the Kensington Tories.

Heather parted from her father when she was seven, although she saw him episodically at weekends. Subsequently, her mother remarried Eric Hamilton Piercy, a “handsome Blackshirt” who had been a bodyguard to Oswald Mosley in the British Union of Fascists. Three children were born to the couple, and the two Joyce girls became part of the new family.

The Hamilton Piercy surname provided a shield in Heather’s schoolgirl years: she and her sister were anxious about being identified as daughters of William Joyce, then sometimes called “the most hated man in Britain”. On the day of her father’s execution, she kept the secret to herself when meeting a friend, but she never forgot the chilling feeling she experienced when she heard the radio announcement that he had been hanged.

William Joyce, front row, far right, with Oswald Mosley (centre), shortly after joining Mosley's British Union of Fascists in 1932 - Mike Gunnill/Shutterstock
William Joyce, front row, far right, with Oswald Mosley (centre), shortly after joining Mosley's British Union of Fascists in 1932 - Mike Gunnill/Shutterstock

She became a committed opponent of the death penalty, and took part in demonstrations against the execution of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg for Soviet espionage – although she did not support their cause, she considered the death sentence brutal.

Like her father, Heather became a teacher, mainly of French and history, and enjoyed the work. Even after retirement, she gave private tutorials, for modest sums, or sometimes free, to pupils preparing for examinations.

She was slight of stature and precise of speech, with a dry humour.

In 1955 she married an Italian, Vincenzo Iandolo, a captain in the Italian police force, whom she had met in Italy. In England, he opened a hairdressing salon in Gillingham, Kent, where the couple settled. They had four children, but later they separated, and he predeceased her. He was uncomfortable that the Iandolo name had been publicised by the reburial of William Joyce.

Heather’s mother and stepfather had converted to Catholicism and Heather became a Catholic herself when spending time in France. She was a devout and frequent Mass attender at her local church of Our Lady of Gillingham. She also sang in the choir. In her retirement she worked voluntarily for a Catholic missionary charity.

One of her sons predeceased her.

Heather Iandolo, born July 30 1928, died July 8 2022