A History of the Ministry of Information, 1939-46

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5th February, 1942 .


1. At Whitsun 1941, at the request of the Ministry of War Transport, a campaign to curtail holiday travelling was carried out by the Ministry of Information. The media used were B.B.C. announcements, editorial support, and press advertising.

In fact, passenger travel increased in varying amounts (minimum 12% in the case of the L.P.T.B.; maximum 58% in the case of the G.W.R.). The increase was greater in the North than in the South. War Transport considered that this did not necessarily indicate a failure of propaganda since:-

a. In 1940, there was no Whitsun holiday, and the national situation was sufficiently serious to discourage holiday travel.

b. There were fewer troops in the country and leave was probably restricted.

c. Evacuation was probably less extensive.

Further, 50% of persons travelling from 2 main London Stations (Euston and St. Pancras) were members of the Forces.

2. In view of the opinions of War Transport, and at their request, the Ministry of Information carried out a similar campaign to try to curtail holiday travelling at August Bank Holiday weekend, 1941.

Once again, there was a big increase in passenger travel.

This was attributed to announcements by the railway companies of the arrangements which would be made if people did in fact travel.

Following this, the Ministry of Information advised the Ministry of War Transport that publicity without administrative action to prevent travel was always likely to fail, and that special trains to resorts should not be run at holiday times (this fact to be advertised widely).

3. At Christmas, 1941, the Ministry of War Transport took administrative action and publicised the fact.

a. Special holiday leave for the services was stopped.

b. No extra holiday trains were run.

4. Full figures of the effects of this action have been promised by War Transport as soon as they have been received from the railway companies. As an interim report seemed desirable, railway officials at Euston, King's Cross, Waterloo and Charing Cross were interviewed. They were unanimous about “the noticeable and remarkable lessening” in travelling during Christmas week this year, as against 1940.

Owing to the embargo on travelling by the Forces in Christmas week, however, the real rush of Christmas travelling took place the week before Christmas, and from the point of view of assessing the public's response to appeals, that week and the Monday following (Dec. 29) were thought to be the more indicative periods.

During the preceding week, passenger traffic at Waterloo was reported to be about 20% “up” on 1940, although even so at least 50% “down” on pre-war figures. On all lines interviewed the rush on Monday, December 29, when both troops and civilians returned to London, was said to have been very heavy.

5. Factors Decreasing Travel .

  1. The embargo on Christmas travelling by the Forces was thought to be by far the greatest. The Southern Railway estimated that at all times the Forces formed 70% of all passengers travelling; L.N.E.R. put the figure at 60%, and L.M.S. at 50%. This proportion was cut off at Christmas, apart from civilian travellers.

  2. Among civilians many who would normally have travelled long or short distances, were unable to do so this year by being obliged to work over Christmas.

  3. The Southern Railway Charing Cross service was further out down by the fact that it serves a number of “restricted areas” (the Kent coast etc.) where the public is not allowed.

As against this; in 1940, Charing Cross had suffered heavily around Christmas from air raid damage which had mitigated against travelling, owing to stations closed, delays etc.

Taking all this into account, all officials contacted were strongly of opinion, nevertheless, that the civilian public had responded widely to appeals not to travel and had stayed at home.

6. Individual Stations .

A. Southern Railway :

  1. Charing Cross . The Christmas rush was said to be “definitely much less”. The decrease was estimated roughly at 10% under 1940, which in turn was “at least 40% under pre-war days”. Not counting the regular season ticket holders, approximately 24,000 people were handled at Charing Cross in 1941, as against 30,000 in 1940. In normal times, it was instanced, a group of trains running between 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. (say, every hour) would be run in three or four extra parts each. In 1940 only one extra part was run for each train and a number of people had to be left behind. This Christmas no extra parts were run, and no passengers were left behind, with the exception of twenty to thirty people who missed connections on Christmas Eve.

  2. Waterloo . “The slackest Christmas ever known” was the report of the station master, who declared he had worked there forty-nine Christmases and had “never seen anything so dull.” A heavy rush of traffic had however taken place the previous week, and on December 29 it had been necessary to run nineteen extra trains to cope with the people returning to London, including eight trains, for troops only, from Devon and Cornwall.

In pre-war days Christmas trains such as those to the Isle of Wight, had been run in as many as six parts. In 1940 the extra trains were very few and this year, nil.

It was the opinion of the station master that people of leisure got away the week before Christmas and that working people on the whole stayed at home.

B. L.N.E.R.

King's Cross . The public was thought to have responded very well to the appeals, although there was a heavy rush the last three days of the previous week.

Normally, hundreds of thousands of people travelled over the Christmas period. This year the number was halved, and on Christmas Eve the figure fell much lower still and the trains were reported to be almost empty. Pre-Christmas bookings in 1941 were given as 3,700, as against 6,400 in 1940.

C. L.M.S.

Euston It was thought that the public had undoubtedly heeded appeals. “Any ordinary weekend was heavier than Christmas week”. Here again the bulk of the rush had been the previous week. No figures were available.

D. G.W.R.

Paddington . No particulars could be obtained.

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