A History of the Ministry of Information, 1939-46

296 298 3 301 6 302 7 303


13th February, 1942 .


A report based on visits to 57 factories and depots in the London and Slough area, Jan. 12th - Feb. 4th, 1942.... and conversations with managements and workers.

(1) A large majority of managements - 53 out of 57 - approved of the campaign in general. Some were enthusiastic, others faintly critical of the Ministry publicity in poster form. 8 were sceptical or abusive of the whole thing and refused to display the posters. Although the Observer was received by them with hostility and suspicion[Text Missing], this was soon overcome and they spoke as freely as the favourable managements of their opinions and difficulties, and finally expressed a wish that the Government should consult them more often and receive suggestions from them before planning such a campaign in remote offices in Whitehall.

(2) The majority of the workers contacted, including foremen, on the transport and dispatch sides, expressed downright disapproval of the campaign posters. The difference in attitude of managements and men was therefore most striking. The workers showed resentment at being exhorted to turn-round more quickly when speed was their aim, and generally, their pride. Drivers especially, expressed annoyance at the delays they encountered elsewhere and stated that better organisation was needed to overcome them, not posters. Many of the posters were defaced. Either torn or scrawled across:- “Give us a bonus”, “Sez you”, “Not at Callard and Bowser's” were examples seen. Foremen reported jokes - unrepeatable jokes mostly - being cracked at them. One packer said to Observer: “I had to look at it several times before I got what it was after. Encouraging us to go to the dogs and all!” This was, of course, a joke, but it was marked how the men resented or mocked at the cartoon posters. They did not mind the text poster “This is a Battlefield” as much; none were defaced. Those who were articulate about their preference said it gave a reason for hurrying, whereas the cartoon posters treated them as children and gave them no reason.

(3) An outstanding point was that all managements and most workers thought their own dispatch and transport as good as it could be, having regard to certain difficulties - lack of labour, call-up of key or strong men, lack of vehicles, petrol troubles, lack of spare parts, inadequacy of loading bays or too few drives-in for their expanded wartime factory, but that those of other factories were not. It was always the outgoing and never the incoming traffic that was held up. Where these “elsewhere” delays occurred they were reported to be caused by faulty organisation and poor facilities and would need a surgeon's knife to cure them rather than the mild homeopathy of appeals to patriotism - “the realistic, rather than the idealistic approach.”

(4) It was suggested over and over again that the Ministry of War Transport would do far more to achieve a quicker turn-round if it could deal drastically with the following bottlenecks - railways, docks, Royal Ordnance Works, R.A.F. Maintenance Depots, large aircraft factories such as Napier's and Armstrong Vickers. More power for Group Organiser was asked for and a pooling of local transport (already mooted) to be ready to deal with rushed work. This latter would help small firms especially. “The Government should use its full power more” and “should put it's own house in order first. It's in Government controlled places that the worst hold-ups occur.”

(5) Complaints of the call-up taking key transport or loading men were numerous. It was pointed out that the substitution of women for the latter work would be useless in many firms owing to the heavy nature of the goods to be turned-round. In this connection it was most striking that while complaining of the call-up of such workers, the managements were themselves full of young men under 35 or 40 about when apparently there was no question of being called up. Could all of them be key men was a question the Observer could not help asking herself.

(6) The slowing down of transport, dispatch and production was complained of in all but 10 factories owing to the new Income Tax on overtime and bonuses. Men would not work overtime or put the extra effort into their job that would mean speeding up the war effort. They were reported not to mind Income Tax on their ordinary wages, but only on their extra pay. This was especially true, stated many managements, of workers who had come in since the war and had been unemployed before. “They are almost unemployable” was the expression used most commonly. The women, especially drivers and packers, received praise in the firms which had taken them on. If their shopping could be arranged and their families cared for they were proving conscientious and thorough. Several contacted by Observer were most intolerant of delays they met with “elsewhere”.

(7) Complaints of bad time-keeping and absenteeism holding up the turn-round were fairly frequent. However, two factories having Workers' Councils (Chrysler Motors and Acton Bolt [Text Missing]ine Threads) reported that since co-operating fully with the workers through their shop stewards both these troubles had largely been cured, the workers themselves insisting on severe monetary penalties being imposed on offenders. They had also accepted the Income Tax position as the shop stewards had explained it fully. Production and turn-round had improved in consequence.

(8) Some factories and works gave Observer the strong impression of being “sour”. This was observed on the transport as well as production side. Their managements usually complained bitterly that “the British workman isn't pulling his weight”, “the workers don't care about the war”, “you have to be chasing them all the time or they won't do a thing”, “they're not doing a thing more than they can help”, and “time is being wasted and lost to dodge Income Tax”. A quick walk-through revealed sulky-looking and off-hand workers. It was noticeable that such managements did not encourage Observer to speak to the workers as requested in her official letter. Typical factories of this kind: Wreschner's; Smith's Accessories; Vauxhall Motors; British Oxygen; Standard Motors.

(9) The importance of a good personality for Transport Manager was evident over and over again. Some said they could not get their drivers in in time in the mornings; others that they would not go out again at 5 p.m. for a short run because of the impending blackout. Others said they could get them out at any time and that they would drive through the night or anywhere at any time if asked to do so. Drivers are said to be more individualistic than workers inside the factories as they spend so much time alone on the road. Therefore the personal touch of the Transport Manager or foremen counted more than anything else in the turn-round. “They don't take notice of anything outside” (transport and loading bay foreman of Horlick's) “they only take notice of their money, their conditions and of what I say”.

(10) In spite of transport revealing itself to be a domestic affair and dependent on good organisation within each factory or depot, it is evident from the statements of managements, foremen and workers, that they do not yet realise fully their vital importance in the chain of war production. Much is said in press and on radio about the arms worker, and the man making aircraft or shells can feel he is directly helping to defeat the enemy and shorten the war. But the transport worker is one stage removed. He is doing his old peacetime job, in most cases, under wartime restrictions and handicaps. If his self-esteem could be bolstered up; if he were convinced of the equal urgency of his job with that of the munitions maker or serviceman, he would have a greater sense of responsibility and be still more intolerant of delays and do his own share irrespective of discomforts such as the blackout, poor food on the road, etc.

(11) Several firms had used “Quick Turn-round” posters inside their shop or works to encourage all workers. The indoor workers contacted - [Text Missing]men at lathes or on the bench - were less resentful of them than the transport and loading staffs. Chrysler Motors reported that the transport workers said on seeing one in their bay: “Give one to the metals department; they're the ones who need it”.

(12) The difficulty of getting empties away is troubling many firms, especially small ones. Their limited storage space is growing cluttered up with packing cases, reels of wire and so forth. They report that the railways won't take them now. One firm (Rombold's) stated that the railways will take them if they tip the railway van drivers.

(13) There was much praise for Carter Paterson's service, but complaint of the railways.


Pyrene (drivers) “Should be some in Royal Ordnance Factories; no need here. You go in with a load and there's no-one to tell you where to go to be unloaded. Waste a couple of hours there before you're done”.

Gramophone Co . (drivers) “No need here. Should be in Royal Ordnance Factories. So many delays when we're being unloaded; also at private shops”.

Hawker's Aircraft (drivers and dispatch workers) “Should be applied at Brooklands; can't unload there after blackout”. “Held up by paper work - can't get on with the job”.

George Cohen (12 workers, three foremen) “Some look, some don't”. “Should alter arrangements at Napier's and Armstrong's, Weybridge. You go in and get in a string of lorries and you have to wait until they even look at you. It's hours before they trouble to unload you. Gets on my nerves. They're the people who need talking to”. (woman driver). “Should get food on road improved. Catch me going to Gloucester if I can help it. Nothing to eat. You'll hear other drivers saying the same. Improve the food and we'll turn-round quicker all right”. “Quicker turn-round? What's the good? It's not our war anyway”. “Why should we hurry? The Government takes our money away if we do. It doesn't pay to get a move on”. “Tell them to get people to unload us in their dinner-hour. We go in and have to wait because there isn't a soul in the place”. “Get us spare parts and we'll turn-round all right”. “The snag's petrol; how can we do a rushed job if we've run out and can't get it quickly?” “Should be plastered all over Woolwich Arsenal. Get held up there overnight sometimes; it's a disgrace”.

Addressograph and Multigraph . “Me and my mates had to look several times before we got the point” (greyhound poster) “then we laughed. ‘You're telling me’ we said”.

Horlick's . “Waste of time, money and paper”.

Chrysler Motors . (loaders, also mechanics working unloading and loading crane) “You wait till you see the way we turn-round; reckon it's an insult, that poster. 5 minutes and the lorry's unloaded. You tell them to mind their own business”.

C.W.S . (Preserves and Pickles) (several drivers, loaders and foremen) “And you tell us to save our paper! ‘Save it yourselves,’ I say.” “More holding up of the war effort, that's what it is”. “Tell the Government not to muddle, like the day they sent us all them lorries full of oranges and we couldn't unload them and we couldn't use them, vans standing all round the side streets they were .... and our other factory at Reading which they passed to get here couldn't get an orange. The Manager'll tell you. We had 1500 cases in two days; snowed up with oranges we was, and we had to keep the lorries waiting a whole day before we sent them back to Bristol. That was scandalous, that was. A proper Government muddle. And then you tell us to turn-round faster!”.

Presswork Products (woman foreman) “I like that poster” (Battlefield) “brightens the place up”.

National Stone and Granite Paving . Men tore the cartoon poster down as soon as it was put up.

British Oxygen . “Who's holding up the war effort now, I'd like to know?” “What's the good of them things; it's where we gets unloaded that we gets held up”.

Kingston Partners . “Blimey, they want to see our transport turn-round!”.


Group A . Those who considered the campaign necessary gave it wholehearted support and approved of the poster publicity. Posters well displayed - 21.

Group B . Those who approved of it in a general way and while considering their own arrangements for dispatch and transport could not be bettered or speeded-up found the publicity useful to reinforce their arguments to the workers and most definitely needed elsewhere. Posters displayed - 23.

Group C . Those who, while approving of the campaign, could not display posters as owing to internal circumstances they would have done harm - 8.

Group D . Those who, considered the campaign and posters a waste of time, effort and money, not to speak of paper. Posters not displayed - 4.

Group E . Those who had not received posters or heard of the campaign - 1.

Group A . Of this group few managements would confess to their own turn-round being unsatisfactory. Further conversation, however, revealed delays:-

(1) “Drivers returning early will not go out again for short run because of blackout, in spite of the fact that a night shift may be idle for want of an important load. A not uncommon occurrence”. (Hawker's Aircraft, Transport Manager).

(2) “Lorries sometimes arrive together in a bunch at lunchtime and can't be unloaded. Our men won't give up their dinner hour”. (Transport Managers, London Distillers, Millwall Leadworks, Pakcel, Callard & Bowser).

(3) “The complicated clerical work to be got through sometimes holds up a load of finished goods”. (Hawker's Aircraft and Park Ward & Co).

(4) “Loading bay and drive-in too restricted for volume of goods and traffic owing to expansion of firm for war production” (Brookside Metal Co. Romac Industries, Pyrene).

(5) “Lack of labour and the call up make loading staffs inadequate” (C.W.S. Preserves and Pickles, Lathom's, Western Margarine, British Oxygen, Park Ward, Transport and Dispatch Managers).

(6) “Drivers won't come in in time in the morning” (George Cohen)

(7) “40% of the men engaged on the turn-round don't pull their weight” (Vauxhall Motors, Standard Motors, George Cohen, Gramophone Co. John Kidd, Works and Transport Managers).

(8) “Contracted drivers who don't know the ropes when they take loads to large factories or depots waste a lot of time there” (Pyrene). (Other factories in this group, Rumbold's; Ministry of Supply Depot, Isleworth; Metropolitan Dyers and Cleaners). Most works in this group are large concerns.

Group B . In this group managements and workers were emphatic that their turn-round could not be bettered. It was in their own interest to keep things moving quickly. Good turn-round depended on their experience in having a first-rate Transport and Dispatch Manager, good foremen, good relations with the men, proper consideration and treatment of the men and an incentive scheme of pay. Poster publicity was therefore, in their opinion, not necessary or effective. Posters were displayed, however, to “strengthen the management's arguments”, to “brighten up the place” or because “they can't do harm and might do good”. Most agreed that serious delays occur elsewhere and either a drastic reform of the system was needed or posters in the following places:-

(1) Railhead. Complaints of delays on railways, loading, collecting and transporting, were very numerous. Small firms engaged on war production were especially upset by these delays, which often ended in loss. Lack of co-operation and courtesy on the part of rail officials was also complained of. (Berry's Electric; A. Wright; Horlick's; G.E.C.; Brookside Metal Works; C. Kinnell; National Stone and Granite Paving; Lamson Engineering; Western Margarine; Beethoven Electric Equipment).

(2) Holds up in delivering goods and raw materials to large concerns, Royal Ordnance Factories; R.A.F. Maintenance Stations; Napier's, Armstrong Vickers; (Pyrene, British Oxygen, Gramophone Co., George Cohen, Works and Transport Managers).

(3) Delays and muddles at the dockside. (C.W.S. Preserves and Pickles, Berry's Electric, Chrysler Motors).

(Other firms in this group, Henry Telfer; A. Rowland; Brown Bros. Aircraft; Trico-Folberth; Brillo; London Co-op. Dairy Dept.; Strachan's Successors; Wreschner's; Lathom's; Acton Bolt & Fine Threads; Presswork Products). The firms in this group tended to be on the small side.

Group C . Managements favourable but could not display posters owing to special internal circumstances:-

Wyndham Hewitt's Lagonda Works, (Gen. Man.) “No need for them so would not risk upsetting the men by displaying them”. Bryce White, (Gen. Man.) “Excellent posters, but can't use because owing to chronic lack of labour, lorries stand idle for hours at wharf waiting to be loaded. Men upset by this and would be more upset if quicker turn-round were suggested”. De Havilland, (Office and Transport Mans.) “No need; special arrangements for transporting large-size commodities; internal publicity better if need for quicker turn-round”. Standard Motors (London Man.) “Excellent where would apply. No need here”. Park Ward, (Works Man.) “Would upset men as work goes so well”.

Group D . Disapproving managements were almost abusive about the campaign and posters: Allan Taylor (Gen. Man.) “Waste of paper. Didn't put them up. Men would only pull them to pieces. You can only make men make a double effort if you supply us with the spare parts we need”. Wagner & Brandon: (Director and Works Man.) “Too many posters; stop Government muddles first before criticising us. Should save paper”. Please take off the list for receiving posters”. Smith's Motor Accessories: (Gen. Man.) “Men are driven to death as it is; would be furious if posters were displayed. It's up to us to make them work. You should save money and paper”. Kingston Partners: (Castle Laundry) (Manager) “Badly designed posters; not intelligible to working man. Laughed at when put up, so we took them down at once. You should let us keep our key transport man and then we'll carry on with our quick turn-round”.

Group E . Norton & Gregory (Manager) stated they had not received posters or heard of the campaign. Expressed approval of them, especially Battlefield poster when Observer showed them, and would like some sent for displaying.


Many managements expressed their opinion that posters were too vague and general in appeal to be the right thing for the campaign. They stressed the value of radio publicity, especially talks after the news when workers were at home and would not suspect that they were “being got at by the managements”. Press publicity and a personal message such as Lord Beaverbrook's cable of congratulation to Ministry of Supply factories at Christmas, were more effective.

Type of poster . 15 managements liked both cartoon and text posters and considered that they supplemented each other and would appeal to different types of worker. 10 preferred cartoon posters, 20 Battlefield poster (text).

Cartoon posters . Reasons for preference :- “Catch the eye”; “appeal to the men”; “don't preach but can't help being seen”.

Criticisms . “Men make jokes about them; don't take them seriously”; “scrawl rude remarks”; “meaningless”; “bad psychological approach, too oblique”; “some intellectual pandering to the workers' interests. Actually men won't make extra efforts unless given a good reason. Hence Battlefield poster much better”; “silly”.

Battlefield posters . Reasons for preference :- “More serious appeal” “tells its story”; “gives good reason for quicker turn-round”; “reminds workers there's a war on”. Transport Man. of Bronnley's:- “Before I read that poster I had never thought that keeping a driver waiting for his load might mean a serious hold-up. Now I see that everything turns round quickly and that everything is packed up in the morning so that no-one has to wait now”.

Criticisms . “Men don't trouble to read anything”; “too long and involved”; “heading excellent, but text too long and involved; should be snappier”.


These were considered by most managements impossible to gauge. But it was apparent that the majority of Works Managers, Transport and Dispatch Managers, foremen on loading bays, drivers, loaders and unloaders were now aware of the slogan “Quicker Turn-round”, and that though many were nettled by it and resented an implied criticism, they were in some measure aware of the need for turning round without delay. Whether this is carried out in practice is another matter and outside the scope of this report, except in so far as remarks made during the interviews revealed some hard cores of delay and bad organisation.

RECOMMENDATIONS (by the Observer)

(1) That only a far wider campaign for quicker turn-round on a national basis, using the media of press, radio and film as well as posters is likely to be successful. It should endeavour to impress on transport and dispatch workers the vital importance of their function in the war effort.

(2) That the cartoon posters are scrapped, and new ones designed to illustrate the above point. Instead of vague exhortations they should show that the aeroplane or shell are useless until they are actually in action and that the transport and dispatch workers are a vital link in the chain of effort from raw material to the serviceman who uses them against the enemy. If his sense of responsibility and self-esteem are roused, this class of worker is likely to respond as he is a good type on the whole and intelligent and independent-minded.

(3) Congratulatory messages by means of a radio talk by Lord Leathers after the 9 p.m. news, or personal letters on the lines of Lord Beaverbrook's [Text Missing]ables from U.S.A., should be sent to all transport and dispatch workers, managers and foremen, on the splendid way they are organising and keeping the goods turning round in spite of difficulties. A welcome should be extended to suggestions from the workers as to how speed-ups can be obtained.

(4) That Income Tax on overtime and bonuses should be explained over and over again, not only by John Hilton, who is found to be only moderately popular, but rather by workers, on the radio. The fact must be dinned into the workers that by earning £1 overtime they are still 13/- odd to the good. This fact they cannot or will not grasp.

(5) That a lucid and frank explanation of the railways' problems should be given to managements, so that the delays in railway transport are understood. Now the hostility and resentment at what seem to them unwarrantable slackness and muddle are embittering many managements.

(6) That the Ministry of War Transport should examine concrete evidence of delays and grievances before planning the further lines of the campaign, should consider whether it would not be possible to give Group Organisers more power and a badge so that they can look into all local problems, help drivers, stop engines running when vans are standing still and thus wasting petrol, form local pools of transport, and devise a plan to help firms in the locality to get rid of their empties.

(Sgd.) Winifred Holmes.

(a list of factories and depots visited is appended).


John Kidd & Co. Ltd., Bow.

A. Rowland & Sons Ltd., E.C.l.

Romac Industries Ltd., Hendon.

Chas. P. Kinnell & Co. Ltd., Southwark.

Wreschner Ltd., Edmonton.

Locke Lancaster & W.W. Johnson & Sons Ltd., Millwall Leadworks, Millwall.

Callard & Bowser, Ltd., Western Avenue.

Park Ward & Co. Ltd., Willesden.

Metropolitan Dyers and Cleaners Ltd., Southfields.

Lathom & Co. Ltd., Hackney.

L.A. Rumbold & Co. Ltd., Kilburn.

Air Ducts, Ltd., Great West Road.

Wagner and Brandon, Ltd., Tottenham.

London Co-operative Society Ltd., (Dairy Dept.) Manor Park.

The de Havilland Aircraft Ltd., Edgware.

Ministry of Supply Depot, Isleworth.

Co-operative Wholesale Soc. Ltd., Preserve & Pickle Works, Acton.

Brillo Mfg. Co. Ltd., North Circular Road.

Pakcel Ltd., Hammersmith.

Acton Bolt & Fine Threads Ltd., Park Royal.

The British Oxygen Co. Wembley.

Trico-Folberth Ltd., Great West Road.

National Cash Register Ltd., Marylebone.

Wyndham Hewitt's Ltd., Lagonda Works, Staines.

Beethoven Electric Equipment Ltd., Park Royal.

Western Margarine Ltd., Western Avenue.

Brown Bros. Aircraft, Greenford.

Henry Telfer Ltd., Hammersmith.

Vauxhall Motors Ltd., N.W.9.

Norton & Gregory Ltd., Westminster.

Berry's Electric Ltd., Wembley.

The Distillers Co. Ltd., Hammersmith.

Kingston Partners Ltd., (Castle Laundry) Wandsworth.

Allan Taylor (Motors) Ltd., Wandsworth.

Lamson Engineering Co. Ltd., Willesden.

Addressograph-Multigraph Ltd., Cricklewood.

Horlick's Ltd., Slough.

Hawker Aircraft Ltd., Perivale.

Bradbury Agnew & Co. Ltd., Mount Pleasant.

Chrysler Motors Ltd., Kew.

London Co-operative Soc. Ltd., (Dairy Dept.) Willesden.

Elizabeth Arden Ltd., Acton.

The Vacuum Brake Co. Ltd., Westminster.

Bryce, White & Co. Ltd., Langley, Slough.

G.E.C. (Coldair) Wembley.

George Cohen, Sons, Co. Ltd., Park Royal and Wood Lane. (two visits)

Strachan's Successors Ltd., North Acton.

Standard Motor Co. Ltd., Park Royal.

A. Wright & Co. Ltd., S.W.1.

H. Bronnley & Co. Ltd., Acton.

National Stone & Granite Paving Co. Ltd., Wembley.

The Pyrene Co. Ltd., Great West Road.

The Gramophone Co. Ltd., Hayes.

Presswork Products, Park Royal.

S. Smith & Sons (Motor Accessories) Cricklewood.

Brookside Metal Co. Ltd., Stanmore.

Gas, Light & Coke Co. Ltd., Willesden.

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