A History of the Ministry of Information, 1939-46

114 115

File Copy No 289

The aim of this Report is to present an impartial assessment of public feeling about the war and the war effort.

It is not a record of fact , except in so far as public opinion is itself a fact. The public is sometimes illinformed, prejudiced, or inconsistent. The recording of such feelings without comment implies no endorsement of them.

The public is more prone to criticise than to praise. Good work or efficiency is usually taken for granted. An accurate record of expressed feeling will, therefore, tend to be critical rather than laudatory. Though this Report must inevitably represent mainly articulate opinion, it has been found in practice that the views of the less articulate do not substantially differ, though their range is smaller.

The method of compiling the Report is such that the amount of space devoted to each subject, and the order in which subjects are placed, are roughly indicative of the amount of public interest each is arousing. The omission of a subject from the Report means that It is not a matter of widespread comment.

In assessing the state of public feeling there are no absolutes. Findings can only be comparative. Each issue of this Report must therefore be read as part of a continuous series. Unless the series is seen as a whole, the significance of fluctuations in feeling cannot be appreciated.

The figures in brackets at the end of each section refer to sources of information, a list of which is given on the next page. The weekly reports from Regional Information Officers (R.I.Os.) are compiled by their Regional Intelligence Officers from a large number of sources. Details of the methods of compilation and cross-checking are contained in a paper on “How the Home Intelligence Weekly Report is made”. This will be supplied on request to the Home Intelligence Division of the Ministry of Information.


116 118 -3- 120 121 -6- 123 -8- 124 -9-

Wt 19398 10M 7/43 H J R & L

No. 156. 30th September, 1943

(Covering period from 21st to 26th September, 1943)


1. General state of confidence and reaction to news

There appears to have been little change in public spirits since last week. Feelings about Italy have settled down into a realisation that much hard fighting is to be expected, and that our progress is now “slow but sure” The Prime Minister's war review has been widely praised, particularly for “clearing up many doubtful points” and “steadying public feeling”.

Russia's “marvellous progress” has been the main interest for many people.

Speculation about the length of the war continues, but on a less optimistic note. Extreme opinions range between “this Christmas” and “five more years”, but most people expect the European war to be over some time in 1944.

Home Front: widespread concern - and much anger - at strikes of all kinds are again reported. Footwear difficulties, the manpower debate, the “pay-as-you-earn” income tax scheme and the blackout are other much discussed topics.

( 17 passim)

2. The Prime Minister's review of the war in the House of Commons

Mr. Churchill's speech was eagerly looked forward to, and has been very well received by nearly everyone. It is regarded by many as one of his best, and is particularly praised for being comprehensive, clear and straightforward, for removing “many doubts, criticisms and symptoms of uneasiness”, and for giving so much information. Some reports suggest there has been comparatively little comment on it; this is attributed to its having left the disgruntled with no powder and shot, and to its length. Indeed many people became confused during the broadcast reading and remembered only isolated points.

Interest has been chiefly in his references to:

(a) The War at Sea (Eleven Regions). This was regarded by many as “his best news”, and has aroused great satisfaction and confidence; it inspired some people with the feeling that the war at sea is almost won. The First Lord of the Admiralty's revelations in his recent broadcast had come as a shock to many.

(b) Italy's surrender (Nine Regions). Mr. Churchill's “authoritative statement” was welcomed and has done much to explain the reason for “the mess in Italy”, but a feeling persists(Six Regions) that “mishandling of the Italian situation occurred somewhere or other”. Some criticism is still reported of “the time lag between the capture of Sicily and the invasion of Italy”, and our failure to get Rome, Naples and Mussolini into our hands before the [Text Missing] though the explanation of the salvaging of Mussolini satisfied some. A minority thought Mr. Churchill “appeared too friendly towards Italy in his speech” and are said to be uneasy at his references to the Badoglio Government.

(c) The second front (Seven Regions), Mr. Churchill is thought to have “tackled the second front question well”. His reference to the bloodiest struggle being ahead is frequently quoted, and held to be “true - however unwelcome”. People are satisfied, from his statement, that “invasion from the West is planned and coming”, many regarding it as a definite promise. The most varied speculations continue as to where it will be, but impatience appears to he less.

(d) “Prussian militarism and Nazi tyranny” (Two Regions). Interest and approval...”it expressed exactly what everyone feels”.

The Audience . B.B.C. Listener Research reports an audience of 58.5% of the adult public for John Sangge's reading of the speech.

( 20)

3. Italy

Expectation of quick victory in Italy seems to have disappeared entirely. Most people are now convinced that rejoicing over the armistice was premature, and some alarm at the B.B.C. and press for overplaying the armistice. The Prime Minister's statement has not entirely removed the feelings (reported in full last week), that we wore slow off the mark and lost opportunities. As it is, people now expect very bitter fighting all along the way, with big - and possibly costly - battles in the North Italian plain. A minority, not only of the educated, are concerned at the news of Italian towns being smashed by the Germans, and hope that we can save Rome and other places from meeting the fate of Naples.

Salerno : There is great satisfaction at our present steady progress - though some complain that it is slow - and heartfelt relief that the situation was saved at Salerno. Most of the credit for this is given to the naval bombardment (“Good old Wasrpite”) to the Eighth Army - who can “pull anyone out of any trouble anywhere, and go ahead and fight their own battle later”, and to the concentrated bombing of our Air Force. Criticism of the American troops and Command reported last week has largely died down, though it is said that confidence in the latter has not been completely restored.

People are asking for information as to the number of Allied casualties, “in view of the German radio announcement of 10,000 killed”.

The Italian fleet is regarded as “our one clear-cut gain” but Lord Cranborne's denial that it has surrendered has surprised and concerned people (Three Regions), some of whom do not understand what this means.

Political: People's feelings about the Italians are varied, conflicting and confused. On the whole, pity for the sufferings of civilians seems to be outweighed by a feeling that Italy brought her troubles on herself and must neither be trusted nor lightly forgiven.

About “Badoglio and his gang” and the King, people appear to be of one mind, however, and there seems to be much uneasiness over our attitude to Italy's rulers. “Are they to be treated as honourable opponents and the foul crimes committed by Italy forgotten?” There are many references to Abyssinia.

Mussolini : Comment continues on exactly the same lines as reported last week (Seven Regions).

British prisoners of war in Italy ; The anxiety of their relatives continues (Six Regions) as a result of the lack of news. Some accuse the Government of being slow - “They might have got our boys out”. Particular anxiety is felt for those prisoners who escaped at the time of the capitulation.

Sardinia and Corsica : There is satisfaction (Six Regions), but little comment.

( 17 passim)

4. Russia

Praise and admiration for Russia are even higher; the capture of Smolensk has caught people's imagination, and there is added pleasure because our own campaign in Italy is thought to have helped. Some division of opinion is still reported, however, as to whether the Germans are voluntarily withdrawing or being forced back in a rout. The absence of Russian claims of booty and prisoners is given as evidence in support of the former view.

“Where will they stop?” is now becoming a question of some urgency (Nine Regions). What will happen at the Russian frontier is a subject of both hopes and fears. The chief fears are that the Russians may then halt and make a separate peace (Five Regions) , or may remain there on the defensive “while we and U.S.A. get on with it” (Two Regions).... “which would be Russia's way of paying us back for failing to open a front in the West”, Many also fear Russia “will be too quick for us and will dictate the peace” (Five Regions).

Some hope the Russians will get to Germany first, so as to “bring home to the Germans what war really means” (Two Regions). “If it is left to America and us, Germany will not be properly subdued.”

The announecement of the Three Power Conference has “relieved considerable anxiety” (Eight Regions). A meeting of Mr. Churchill, Mr. Roosevelt and Marshal Stalin is hoped for.

Mr. Eden's comments on our relations with Russia are praised (Three Regions).

( 17. passim)

5. Allied air offensive

While there is again comment on the “lull”,the work of the Air Force continues to be praised. People look forward to a time when good use can be made of captured Italian airfields to hit the enemy from the South as well. Air losses cause anxiety, but it is said that “the ratio of losses appears to be dropping”.

There is pleasure at the Prime Minister's statement that British-American air power is four times that of Germany, and some speculation as to what has happened to the Luftwaffe. Many feel Germany must have a considerable force still available, and wonder what “she has up her sleeve”.


6. The Daath of Sir Kingsley food and the Cabinet changes

There has been little comment on the death of the Chancellor or the subsequent Cabinet changes, “No Chancellor is ever popular”, but except in Scotland and the North West, his death caused much regret. He is felt to have “kept the national finances in order”, and it is widely hoped that his “pay-as-you-earn” plan will still go through.

The only Cabinet change which has excited surprise and speculation is the re-inclusion of Lord Beaverbrook.

In Northern Ireland, It is hoped that lord Cranborne will be firm with Eire.


7. Plans for Occupied Europe

There is resentment at the idea of sending food, coal, and clothing to “ our late enemies”, Italy and Sicily (Four Regions), “especially at a time when we are so restricted”. The reservation of chocolate for European peoples has provoked particular criticism, as “ most people regard it as a luxury and a treat for children rather than as a food”. There is, however, sympathy for Greece and Belgium and it is thought “we should send to them even at the risk of benefiting the Germans”.

Amgot: Criticism and suspicion continue on familiar lines (Four Regions), stimulated, it is thought, by “misinformed criticism in the press”. There is a feeling that “one of its main functions will be to stop any left wing revolution”.


8. Famine in Bengal

Concern at the famine in Bengal is increasing. Though some accept the view that it is due to the failure of the local Indian administration, others suspect this is “the Government's subtle way of putting the blame on the Indians”. The general view appears to he that the blame must rest with us, and people are bewildered as to how there can be a famine with no real shortage of food. Our slowness in taking action is criticised.


9. Press speculation about General Marshall



Official story about Hess

This has aroused only the slightest interest. Some ask: “Why only release it now?” To which others reply “Mr. Bracken's statement in America forced the Government's hand”. There is same discussion as to whether Hess is a Prisoner of State or a Prisoner of war.


11. Colour Bar

Indignation over the Constantine case continues (Four Regions)...“Surely we are fighting to remove all differences!” Two regional reports mention that it is thought the hotel keeper's action was stimulated by Americans.

In connection with Amelia King, the coloured girl who wished to join the Land Army, the Women's Land Army is criticised; reference is made to possible repercussions in various parts of the Empire and in America.


12. The B.M.A.

There has been little comment on the B.M.A. discussions; it is all against the electors. They all suffer from chequebookitis”... “They are selfish, and only concerned with their own profit, and not with the national health.”


13. Broadcasting ada presentation of news

General satisfaction with news presentation is again reported. Criticisms are:

(a) “All the kudos is being given to Russia by the B.B.C. and the press” (Three Regions).

(b) Too much prominence is given to enemy claims (There Regions), and little is done to counter them.

The following programmes have been praised this week:

Battle of Britain programme, September 22, ( Three Regions)....”It matched the occasion and dignified it.” The Rt. Hon.A.V. Alexander's September 14; Commander Anthony Kimmins, September 15, (Two regions each).

The European News Service is again praised (Three Regions).

The Postscript by a V.A.D., September 19, has aroused widespread criticism (Eight Regions). people are said to have gone out of their all [Text Missing] used as descriptions; “it certainly did not reflect the credit... due to the V.A.D.”.

A minority praise it as “sincere”...”delicate and brave”(Five Regions)




14. Strikes

There is widespread concern at the number of strikes in progress and rising indignation against the strikers. Very strong feeling is reported; it is variously suggested that the strikers should be shot or “dumped on the Salerno beaches, with the choice of staying there or coming home and playing the game”. Comparison is frequently made with the Forces, “where strikes are not allowed”... “Look at the wages they are earning, while others are being killed for two-bob a day!” It is thought that the Government should take a firm stand, and that “Mr. Bevin's warning should be backed by immediate action in suitable cases to show that this is not just another empty threat”.

Even those who feel that the strikers must have “grievances which we know nothing about” consider that they should “settle their grievances through the proper channels”.

Various reasons are suggested to account for the many labour troubles at present:

(a) Uneasiness about postwar conditions , and particularly postwar industrial prospects . The sense of urgency of the industrial war effort is said largely to have died down; as victory appears to be on the way, workers feel strongly that if they do not make a stand now, they will never yet anything. At the back of their minds is the fear that, at the end of the war, employers will have little use for then, and mechanisation and slumps will put them on the dole again. There is said to be intense disappointment and disillusionment that the Government has done nothing about the Beveridge Plan: “They talked a lot in the black days, but now that victory is certain, they can please themselves”... “Window dressing, just as we thought”.

(b) A feeling that managements are concerned only with profit and not with production. It is said that if the Government had taken over the mines and certain other industries, the men would have felt they were really working; for their country, and not buttressing a system of private profits”.

(c) Loss of control of their members by Trade Unions . The slowness of the Unions is thought to have allowed extremists among shop stewards to get much influence over the workers.

(d) An ill-defined feeling of lack of efficiency - insufficient co-operation between the Ministries and managements and workers, and slowness in dealing radically with disputes.

( 17 four provincial P.Cs.)

15. Miners and mining

Coal-mining strikes are again the subject of widespread comment, on much the same lines as last week (All Regions). Except in mining communities, the strikes are generally condemned; many hold that in wartime they should be made illegal, though people realise that there are grievances which must be settled through the proper channels. The miners are thought to have forfeited a great deal of traditional sympathy by their “betrayal of the country”. The case of the boy Page is widely discussed; though it is thought the miners were foolish and Government weak, the majority view appears to he that he should never have been imprisoned.

The campaign to secure more mine workers: It is thought the Government should have realised from the start that coal production is as important as soldiering. The main lines of comment are as follows:

(a) The release of miners from the Forces and other occupations (Six Regions): This solution is favoured by most people, “instead of directing unwilling labour underground”. Unwilling workers are thought to be a danger to their comrades.

(b) The direction of youths into the pits (Five Regions): Opposition remains general. Miners continue determined not to let their sons go down the pits...” Once a man is in the pit he is there for life; no one will look at him again.” Direction will only be accepted if “duke's son and pitman's are treated alike”.

(c) Volunteer labour (Three Regions): It is thought the campaign will bring in only a trickle.

(d) Conscientious objectors and Italian prisoners should be directed into the mines (One Region).

(e) Government departments , particularly the Ministry of Labour, should be reduced, to find manpower (One Region).

(f) Optants now entering pits are not looked upon with favour, as they are said to take little interest in their work (One Region).

Other suggestions to ease the problem are: ( i) Clean up the industry and make it more attractive....”Conditions in mines are absolutely inhuman”;( ii) Run a campaign with pit lads themselves to lead it; (iii) Increased production and reduced absenteeism would follow if an organised rest period each month were introduced (One Region each).

In the Northern Region it is asked: “Is there really a shortage of youths for pit work, since twenty young men have only very recently left one colliery for work in a nearby factory?”

A Special Report from the North Midland Region states that the more thinking miners of the Nottinghamshire coalfield were against the strike; it is the commonly accepted view that the reason given (the imprisonment of the boy, Page) was merely an excuse. The real cause was the men's resentment of the Government’ s methods of fining for absenteeism. Miners have been “viciously sentenced” for absenting themselves from Home Guard duties; the unaccustomed exercise sometimes makes them too tired for work, so one has to be sacrificed. They resent judges sentencing men for absenteeism from the pit, when they have “no knowledge of the conditions in the pits”.

After two or three days of striking the men agreed to return to work at the earliest possible moment, as Page had been released. The owners declared that if a preparatory shift worked during Thursday night, the full shift could work on Friday. In spite of their promise, the men refused to commence on the Friday - “from superstition.”

It is alleged by the “sober” half of the men that the strike was deliberately engineered by the Communist party ,and deliberately prolonged by them. There is certainly bad feeling between the men and their Trade Union officials, who are thought to be working for the owners.

The atmosphere in the pits is still very tense, and it is thought that at the slightest provocation the men would come out again, and might persuade other pits to follow their example.

(l. 17 four provincial P.Cs.)

16. “Pay-as-you-earn” income tax

Though the details are not yet understood by most, the general idea is strongly and generally approved. The Government is praised for tackling the subject. Two criticisms are, however, made:

(a) Why exclude those paid on a monthly basis? (Seven Regions) Black-coated workers are most upset that they have been left out, particularly as they often get less than manual workers.

(b) Employers complain about the extra clerical work involved (Three Regions), and pay clerks point out that the extra work will fall especially on the busiest morning of the week; many firms pay up to the Thursday night, which means that all the calculations will have to be done on Friday morning.

A report from a mining area (North Midland Region) suggests that the scheme will mean more absenteeism and less production. Miners say they will know towards the end of the week what they have to pay, and rather than have 10/- deducted, they will rest for the last shift of the week.

It is much hoped that the promised explanatory leaflet “really will be lucid”.


17. The manpower debate in the House of Commons and the registration of older women.

The debate caused a good deal of interest. Mr. Bevin's speech has aroused much discussion and, though it had a mixed reception, his arguments are said to have impressed many people. Nevertheless, the majority are said still to be opposed to the call-up of older women - “while younger ones are not employed to the best advantage”. Comment, which the debate has revived, follows familiar lines; the chief objection being based on the belief that there is widespread overstaffing in the Civil and Women’ s Services (Seven Regions) ;complete evasion of all work by some young women (Five Regions), particularly camp-follower wives; enforced idleness in factories (Five Regions); and men at present on the dole (Northern Region).


18. Clothing

Familiar complaints continue unabated. There is growing anxiety about footwear difficulties during the coming winter. Much sickness, particularly among children, is feared.

Clothing coupon theft :The prompt action of the Board of Trade and the speedy apprehension of the suspected culprits are praised.

(, 17 two provincial P.Cs.)

19. Food

The general situation is felt to he good, but there are again complaints of the unequal distribution, insufficiency and poor quality of milk (Seven Regions) ; and the high price of vegetables and salads (Three Regions). The shortage and increased point value of biscuits (Seven Regions) are said to affect children particularly; it is asked if they could have priority for such supplies as are available.

Appreciation of the increased jam ration is again reported (Six Regions).

( 17 ten provincial P.Cs.)

20. American troops in this country

Little comment has been reported during the past four weeks. It has been on familiar lines - appreciation for “good types” and for individuals, but continued complaints of:

(a) Their high pay (Four Regions). This is said to “queer the pitch for ordinary citizens”,and cause shortages of certain commodities. They are also blamed for “overburdening our very restricted shoe repairs and dry cleaning services”. It is still asked if more of their pay could not be kept back till after the war (Two Regions). The difference between their pay and conditions and those of British troops is again referred to (Two Regions).

(b) Their behaviour with women and girls (Three Regions). The association or coloured troops with white women arouses particular concern (Three Regions) ; but whether the troops be white or black, the women are also blamed.

(c) Their excessive drinking (Two Regions) and noisy behaviour (One Region) are also alleged.


21. Agriculture

During the past two weeks anxiety has been expressed about the bad weather and the difficulty of getting in the harvest in the North and West (Regions There is fear that much of the water-sodden grain has been ruined and wasted, and that the potato crop has likewise suffered.





14. Post-war

During the past four weeks discussion has been similar to that recorded in our last monthly summary (No. 158, 14th October, Section 14), but with increased comment on housing.

There continues to be great uneasiness about postwar conditions, fear of unemployment, and a slump; scepticism, cynicism, and some bitterness about the Government's intentions, particularly in regard to the Beveridge plan. There is great anxiety to know the Government's postwar plans, rising disappointment that they have not been announced, and some doubt as to whether they exist. People ask: “What about the various reports? Umpteen committees set up to do this and that and nothing actually done”.

Anxiety about postwar conditions and employment are thought to be partly responsible for recent industrial unrest; there is strong comment on Duckham's letter. Some people think that an authoritative and reassuring statement on the Government's postwar policy would help to alleviate both war weariness and “dread of peace”.

(No reactions have yet been reported to the Prime Minister's references to the question in his Guildhall speech.)

Housing (See also Section 15) : postwar housing is a burning question of the moment; anxious discussion is reported from ten Regions, particularly from the Northern, Eastern, North Western and from London. Proposals made so far are looked on as quite inadequate; people ask for a definite postwar housing programme, to be announced and set in motion now. They feel that Local Authorities cannot go ahead with their own schemes; seaside resorts, damaged by enemy action, are particularly mentioned as being concerned about possibility of recovery without help or a lead from the Government. It is hoped that “bolder, speedier and less expensive methods will be adopted than have been used for the agricultural cottages”.

There is little detailed comment - the poor worry less about the type of house than about whether they’ll get a home at all. Many hope that jerry-building will be prevented; but the ordinary poor London housewife, for example, is simply concerned to got somewhere which is not damp, with more than one bedroom for herself and her growing family.

In rural areas, there is a demand for water to be laid on (Four Regions) and for electricity.

Some feeling is expressed (Three Regions) that women should have more say in planning postwar housing.

Postwar controls : There appears to be a fairly general realisation that restrictions - particularly food and clothes rationing - will have to continue for a while. It is thought that they would accepted for some time if they succeeded in preventing the return of the conditions which followed the last war, but that they would only be tolerated as long as they appeared necessary. Release from restrictions is looked forward to as “one of the best assets peace”, and there is much impatience to be released as soon as possible from “the tyranny of petty local officials”. It seems, however, that it is “the control of personal rather than material things” that is found irksome; the blackout is the first measure of de-control expected.

Speeches on the subject , Mr. H. Horrison's in particular, have caused interest and controversy. Some approve Mr. Horrison's views, and are concerned at “ the spate of de-control speeches, both by big business and certain ministers, and the demands for individualism in business”; such views are expressed particularly by those not wishing to return to the status quo. Others - middle-class people, particularly - do not regard Government control as synonymous with efficiency. They consider Mr. Horrison's speech as too political, and are critical of “attempts to continue every sort of control after the war”.

It seems evident that, on the subject of postwar controls and restrictions, most people are very confused; they fail to distinguish between rationing, restriction of personal freedom, and control of industry and raw materials.

Demobilisation is much discussed, particularly from the point of view of jobs for those returning from the Forces. Both the “points” system and “first in, first out”, have their supporters; some object to “points” on the grounds that it is too complicated to work, that unscrupulous businessmen may obtain early release for favoured employees, and that those who have done most active service should be released first. Even those who favour the “first in, first out” plan realise that the men released may have to be directed into priority employments. Some believe that if postwar service in the Forces were made more attractive and remunerative there would be no wild scramble for release.

Education : Discussion of the white Paper continues, chiefly among more intelligent people and educationalists; though many with little or no education themselves are said to be keenly interested in the increase of educational opportunities. Some teachers, on the other hand, are said never to have even heard of the White Paper.

Approval for the proposals is again reported, except from those who, especially in rural areas, oppose raising the school leaving age, and from Roman Catholics. There is suspicion and dislike of Roman Catholic “manoeuvring”, and some fear that their “uncompromising attitude” may adversely affect or wreck the Bill.

Agriculture : Anxiety about postwar farming prospects continues on familiar lines (Six Regions). Some people hope the present expansion of agriculture will be kept up in peace and that there can be a proper control of imports to prevent dumping of cheap food from abroad. It is also hoped that the status of farm workers can be improved, and a reasonable living wage guaranteed to farmers and agricultural workers alike. Among the agricultural community, there is a certain lack of confidence in the Government's intentions, and a feeling that it is high time that the Government announced its postwar agricultural policy.

( 5.5SE.

15. Housing and billeting (See also Section 14, and Constant Topics,No.1

During the past four weeks complaints of accommodation have continued to be reported (Ten Regions). Comment is particularly strong from the Northern, Eastern. Southern, North Western and London Regions; in London it is the leading home front topic. The situation is thought to be getting steadily worse.



1. Northern Region (Newcastle) Weekly Reports from R.I.Os.
2. North Eastern Region (Leeds)
3. North Midland Region (Nottingham)
4. Eastern Region (Cambridge)
5. London Region (London)
5.SE. South Eastern District Office, London Region (Tunbridge Wells)
6. Southern Region (Reading)
7. South Western Region (Bristol)
8. Wales (Cardiff)
9. Midland (Birmingham)
10. North Western Region (Manchester)
11. Scotland (Edinburgh)
12. See 5SE.
13. Northern Ireland (Belfast)
14. Special Reports from R.I.Os.
15. Regions Adviser's Reports
16. M.O.I. Speakers’ Reports
17. Postal Censorship
18. Police Duty Room Reports
19. Wartime Social Survey Reports
20. B.B.C. Listener Research Papers
21. B.B.C. Special Papers
22. Scottish Unionist Whips’ Reports
23. Liberal Party's Reports
24. Primary Sources

D 37138-1 10,000 6/43 R P W

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