A History of the Ministry of Information, 1939-46



15th May, 1942


The following memorandum summarises reports from Regional Information Officers on the public's reactions to proposals recently made on the German wireless for a bombing truce. The general tone of these reports suggests that the British public's feeling of ruthlessness towards the German people is increasing.


Few people seem to be [Text Missing] aware of any such proposals.

The majority appear to be delighted with the R.A.F's present continental offensive and are convinced that the damage being inflicted upon Germany is “more severe than anything they have been able to let us have in return. Consequently, the public is in no mood to welcome a bombing truce”.

None of the recent blitzes has affected towns in this Region. In Durham, however, during the week before last, “many people had their bags packed” and were ready to evacuate in anticipation of their city being “next on the list”. At the same time, “it might also be said that people (there) are a little disappointed that their standing in Baedeker has not been confirmed”.


A “considerable body of the public” are said not to have heard of the proposals for a truce. Among contacts who included businessmen, schoolmasters, university students and “good-class working men”, the feelings about such a truce are described as “not merely negative but hostile. The feeling is strong that we should show no mercy now that we have the means to hit the enemy”. Indeed, it is suggested that “any weakness on the part of the Air Ministry towards Germany might result in the Government being turned out of office”.

The proposals are said to be interpreted in two ways: either as an attempt to trade on the sentimentality of the British public: or as “the first sign of Germans squealing, now that the tide is turning against them”. The photographs of damage at Rostock have been studied “almost with gloating, and the destruction of non-military targets has evoked no protest”. Much as “our historic buildings are prized”, it is felt that it is better to lose them than to lose “our own or our children's liberty”.

The only city in this Region which has recently suffered a heavy attack is York, and even here the truce proposals are said to have aroused “very little interest”. Further raids were expected, and were “awaited with determination”. (There were strong feelings, however, about the B.B.C's announcement of York Minster's escape, which was regarded, as such statements invariably are, as an invitation for the Luftwaffe to return.)

From Ripon, Beverley and Harrogate where no severe raids have yet been made, but might be expected, there is said to have been little interest in the proposed truce.


There appears to be no knowledge among the public in this Region that any suggestion of a bombing truce had been made.


Though there is reported to be “a general assumption .... that the Germans might at this stage suggest a truce”, [Text Missing]owing to the superiority of our attacks over theirs, there seems to be no knowledge of such a proposal. The majority seem to be against any such idea, even though reprisals for the R.A.F's present heavy attacks are regarded as “almost inevitable”. It is suggested that “if the Germans agreed to a truce, it would mean that they believed they would stand to gain by it”.

In some historic towns, however, anxiety about the possibility of raids is said to be “very apparent”, and people have been “sleeping with suit cases packed”. Librarians in Cambridge and Kings Lynn report that numerous requests have been made for Baedeker; in these towns, as in Ipswich and Colchester, there are rumours that, according to Haw Haw, each locality is “number so-and-so on the list”.

With regard to our own raids on Germany, a point which is said to have aroused discussion is the legitimacy of “working men's homes” as a target. There appears to be little realisation of how effective such bombing may be as a means of slowing down production. Consequently, and particularly among the working classes themselves, damage to workers' houses is regarded either as an attack upon morale or as an “expression of spite”. The fact that such bombing did not destroy our morale leads “the greater number to argue that it will not break the Germans' either”.


Only a very small number of people seem to be aware that any proposals for a bombing truce have been made and no discussion of the subject has been reported.


“Few people have heard anything about the German proposals”. Among those who have, however, opinion against a truce is described as “unanimous”. It is felt that such a proposal would not have been made had not the Germans felt “they were now getting the worst of the bombing”. It is suggested that, despite the prospect of retaliation, “there is an overwhelming demand for heavier and heavier bombing of Germany”. In towns such as Portsmouth and Southampton, which have already been heavily raided, “this feeling is said to be even stronger than in towns so far immune from bombing..... people want no squeamishness in air action on account of Germany's retaliatory attacks”.

Though apprehension of raids is reported from both Oxford and Winchester, “there is no evidence that this leads to a demand for a bombing truce”. On the contrary, the desire for our own attacks to be intensified is also apparent in these towns, “partly because it is thought the German people cannot stand up to raids as well as our own people”.


For the most part, the proposals for a truce seem to have gone unheard in this Region. Among the few, however, whom they have reached the reaction is said to have been “clearly and immediately against giving (them) any consideration at all”. The proposals are regarded as “the first positive evidence that the Germans are being hurt - they would not make these proposals if they were not to their own advantage. They could certainly not be trusted to honour any such arrangement”. The views of the majority may be summed up in the phrase: “Give them more and see who can stick it out the longest”.

Opinion in the raided towns of this Region is said to be “vehemently in favour of intensifying our effort” against the Germans. In Exeter the desire to “smash them even harder” is reported to be “quite remarkably strong”, women being “even more vigorous than men” in expressing this ambition.

In certain historic towns, hitherto un-raided, there is said to be “a windy element”, among whom there is some inclination to trek out of the town at night. But the general attitude in these districts seems to be: “We've got to take it, and we must stand up to it like other places”.

In certain parts of this Region, notably the Forest of Dean, the Taunton - Yeovil area, and Bristol, a certain air of “resignation to bombing attacks, rather than offensiveness”, has been noticed since the Bath and Exeter raids, though no signs of defeatism are reported from these places.


Little seems to be known about the proposals in this Region. Generally speaking, opinion appears to be “dead against” a truce, which is said to be regarded “as an attempt ... to cancel the obvious advantage that the R.A.F. now has over the Luftwaffe”. In most areas the public seem to be very glad that “at last Germany is squealing under our bombing” and they are eager that she should continue to be “thoroughly and systematically bombed”. The nearest approach to a solitary phrase of approval comes from a young woman who said that “a bombing truce would be all right, if we could trust Hitler - but we certainly couldn't”.

In Cardiff, though some nervousness of reprisals is reported among women, it seems to be generally thought that we should continue to “deliver the goods in larger quantities and with no half measures”.

From the cathedral town of Bangor, slight anxiety is reported as a result of the recent raids on similar towns in other Regions.


So far as is known, there have been no spontaneous references to the truce proposals in this Region.


Though the proposals have apparently not aroused “much interest or discussion”, it is thought that a large majority would be very strongly against them and might possibly” throw the Government out” if it were thought to be giving them serious consideration. “The furthest most people are prepared to go is to hope that we may try to avoid bombing cathedrals and hospitals”.

In areas where heavy bombing has already been experienced, such as Manchester and Merseyside, opinion is discribed as being “100% against any truce”.

In Chester, Manchester and Wigan, where there have so far been no serious raids, there does not appear to be any “special fear or reaction” at the possibility of reprisals by the Germans.

Among a small minority - to be found mostly among women in un-raided areas - who favour a truce, the argument is usually the humanitarian one that “we should not make war on women and children”.


Few people seem to be aware that proposals for a truce have been suggested; the attitude, however, of those who have heard of the idea is implicit in the comment: “Not bloody likely!”. It is assumed that such a truce “would last only as long as Germany wanted it”. That the idea is now being propounded is taken to mean that she is being “hard hit”, and that “Hitler is just playing on our humanitarian instincts”.


Again in this Region, very few people have heard of the proposals and there seems to have been “little or no discussion of the subject”. “The idea of a truce commends itself to no one ”.

Among the reasons given for its rejection is mistrust of the German Government “who would merely use the truce to re-equip the Luftwaffe”: Germany must “have a taste of what she has given us, and the bigger the dose, the better. We've gone through it before and, if necessary, can go through it again, especially if we know the R.A.F. is hitting back with even increasing strength”.

The belief that these proposals are a sign of the effect of our raids upon Germany is less marked here than in some other Regions.

Reactions from Canterbury, Guildford and Chichester indicate that though raids may be expected in these areas people are not unduly frightened at the prospect.


There has been little discussion of the proposals here. The general opinion seems to be that had the suggestion been widely heard it would have been “treated with scant respect”. The raids on Rostock are said to have thrilled the workers in a large war production factory, and there appears to be a very strong feeling that we should continue to bomb the Germans as heavily as possible.


Only a very few people appear to have heard of the German proposals and little discussion of them has been reported.

Among those who have heard of them opinion in all classes is said to be very strongly against any such suggestions. This seems to apply equally to raided and un-raided areas. A small minority, however, in which women appear to predominate, is reported to favour a truce on humanitarian grounds.

Among reasons given for rejecting any such suggestion the commonest seems to be that we should be throwing away a supreme advantage, the German proposals being interpreted as a sign of the R.A.F's superiority over the Luftwaffe.

Distrust of Germany's promises is quoted as another reason, and it is thought that a bombing “truce” would merely serve as a respite for Germany while she recouped her losses.

Although natural anxiety exists in un-raided towns of historical or antiquarian interest; it is usually coupled with a determination to face boldly whatever may be in store rather than to accept it with resignation.

On the whole, the public, in both raided and un-raided areas, strongly favours the bombing of Germany on an ever-increasing scale, despite the possibility of reprisals. The R.A.F's destruction of workers' homes and “non-military targets”, whether by accident or design, seems to be regarded with resignation or indifference rather than with regret. A minority doubt the wisdom and ethics of such a policy.

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