A History of the Ministry of Information, 1939-46

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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 ill-informed, 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.



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Wt 19398 10M 7/43 HJR&L

No. 159 21st October, 1943

(Covering period from 12th to 19th October, 1943)


1. General state of confidence and reaction to news

Spirits continue at the slightly lower level reported last week. The news from Russia, the Allied air offensive, “the diplomatic victory in the Azores” and - to a less extent - steady Allied progress in Italy all give satisfaction; yet it is said that few are entirely satisfied with the present position and there are many references to:

(a) Continued uneasiness about the political situation in Italy (All Regions), which Italy's acceptance as a co-belligerent seems to have intensified.

(b) Continued uneasiness over the coal situation (Twelve Regions) which the debate in the House appears to have done little to allay.

(c) Concern about postwar conditions (Eleven Regions) and scepticism about the Government's intentions about them (Six Regions).

(d) Increasing war weariness, fatigue or ill-health (Nine Regions).

(e) Longing for “a speeding up of events” (Six Regions), for “one grand slam to get it all over as quickly as possible”.

Home Front : Footwear is again the main domestic complaint.

( 17)

2. Italy

Italy's declaration of war on Germany has been greeted with much ridicule and very little pleasure. It is described as “Gilbertian” and as “something to laugh at”, and there are many sarcastic comments about Italy trying to save her own skin. Most people doubt if Italian help at this late stage can possibly be of any value to the Allies. Some, however, welcome the possibility of using the Italian fleet and a few - women especially - hope it will “help our armies along a bit”, and shorten the war; but others consider that Italy's entrance on our side has “put months on the war”, and are full of sympathy for “unfortunate British regiments who may have to go into battle alongside the Italians”.

The Allies’ acceptance of Italy as a co-belligerent has caused little or no approval, and considerable bewilderment and dislike. There is said to be much confusion as to Italy's present position “What on earth does a co-belligerent mean?” - and the following reactions are reported:

(a) Dislike or distrust of the Italians (Ten Regions). They are “a treacherous lot”...”have always been opportunists". It is thought that “a nation which has ratted once would do so again if it paid them”...”after all, they've turned traitor to their own Allies”. The public's attitude to the Italian people is said to have hardened since Mussolini fell, though a few pity them.

(b) Desire that the guilty shall not escape punishment (Eight Regions) While many feel strongly that the Italian people as a whole must not be released from their share in responsibility for the war and their support of fascism, it is particularly desired that war criminals and “ex-fascist rogues” should not escape punishment. Roatta's appointment to a post under Badoglio's Government is especially criticised and is taken by some as “a pointer to the insincerity of all talk of punishment of war criminals”.

Many are uneasy at accepting our late enemies as friends and think we are overdoing the “let's forget the past” attitude. “Are our enemies jolly good fellows after all, and the war just a grand game?” “Isn't it time we made friends with Germany?” Older people say: “It's the Kaiser all over again”.

The King of Italy, Badoglio and his Government continue to arouse strong and widespread dislike and distrust, people are very uncomfortable at our having anything to do with “the old gang” and at the “apparent whitewashing of Badoglio's Government”.

The military situation : There is general satisfaction at the progress of the Fifth and Eighth Armies but much comment on its slowness (Nine Regions), which is contrasted with the rate of the Germans' Russian advances, and also with the speed with which the Germans were driven back across the North African desert. Some, however, consider progress good in view of the difficult country and weather, and the strength of German opposition. Nevertheless, many people continue to believe that “someone blundered badly at the beginning” and that “had we been quicker at the time of Mussolini's downfall our job now would have been much easier” (Five Regions).

Our prisoners of war in Italy : Anxiety and the wish for news continue (Four Regions).

( 17 five provincial P.Cs.)

3. The Coal Debate in the House of Commons (October 13)

Many - particularly miners and other industrial workers - have been disappointed by the debate; they feel that “the Government is shirking the issue and is not prepared to examine the root cause of discontent in the mining industry or to offer an adequate remedy”. The problem of increased coal output is, therefore, thought to remain unsolved.

Although the whole debate was followed with interest, discussion has centred round the Prime Minister:

(a) His intervention . People generally agree that “this saved a difficult Parliamentary situation”, and they admire his statesmanship There is amused appreciation of how Mr. Churchill can “talk folk into or out of anything”.

(b) His speech had a mixed reception, with nationalisation of mine the main controversial point. Opinion is divided between:

(i) Left Wing” people and workers generally who think nationalisation is the only way to solve the problem.

There is some feeling that the decision not to “indicates the Government's attitude towards all major reorganisation proposals: the shelving of reforms till after war”. “Tory pressure”, “vested interests” are thought responsible.

(ii) “Right Wing” people, some businessmen and “those who wish for a return to the status quo after the war”, are pleased at the firm stand made against nationalisation. At the same time some “non-Socialists and Old Tories” feel nationalisation must come in the end.

People are not convinced of the need for a General Election before nationalisation can be introduced: “If we can decide to enter the war without a General Election, and can nationalise lives without one, why can't we nationalise the mines?”

(, 10.11.13)

4. The Azores

General satisfaction with the agreement with Portugal comes from eleven Regions, though comment is limited. It is considered “an astute step by the Foreign Office” (Eight Regions) and “a pointer to what neutrals think about Germany's chances of winning” (Three Regions). Portugal, it is thought, must now consider her position safe, though a few fear that she may suffer for he action.

People criticise “all the stuff about the alliance of 1374” and believe the old treaty had nothing to do with the agreement. They would have preferred a plain statement without “the dope” (Four Regions).

Eire and other neutrals : There is much speculation as to the effect of the agreement on the other neutrals, particularly Eire (Seven Regions) and it is hoped that others, such as Turkey, may “display similar boldness”.

Many ask why Eire cannot follow Portugal's example, but the comment from Northern Ireland is that no one “believes de Valera will do anything of the kind”. According to the Scottish report, the Azores agreement “has again stirred up antagonism against Eire and a feeling that we should deal hardly with her after the war”. An example of this animosity is given - that of “an Eire boat which came up the Clyde last week - the first for a long time - and the crew complained bitterly that dockers and shipyard workers hurled abuse at them all the way up the river, taunting them with cowardice and with their neutrality”.


5. The attack on the Tirpitz

This has “seized the public's imagination” and evoked great admiration, as “worthy of the tradition of the Royal Navy” (Seven Regions). The “great bravery” of the crews is particularly stressed. There is some concern about our casualties.

Some criticism is, however, reported of:

(a) The account of the raid. People want more details and think these should be given to counter German reports. They want to know how many submarines were used, and the proportion of our losses to the forces engaged.

(b) The exceptional risks taken for the results achieved: “the Tirpitz can be easily repaired”.

( 17 one provincial P.C.)

6. Russia

Admiration for Russian progress continues, but “their successes are so commonplace that people don't trouble to talk about them”. The anticipated ‘autumn lull’ is now thought unlikely to materialise and the Russians are expected to “drive ahead until the Germans are pushed out of their country".

Familiar fears as to what Russia will do when she reaches her frontiers - particularly as regards Poland - are again reported (Seven Regions). Her postwar attitude is also causing some concern (Five Regions).

Three Power Conference : “Hopeful interest” is the general reaction (Nine Regions). “The need for absolute unity” is recognised, and people are “most anxious that nothing should separate us from the Soviets”.

(,11.13. 17 passim)

17 The Next Move

There is slightly more comment this week. Some “have given up all hope”, but others are increasingly discontented that another front has not yet materialised (Five Regions).

Some, - particularly relatives of fighting men - are indignant with those who express desire for another front (Three Regions): “Experience in Italy has shown it will be no walk-over”.

( 17 two provincial P.Cs.)

8. Yugoslav patriots

Admiration for the Yugoslav patriots continues, as does fear that “the fruit of their heroic work will be thrown away”.


9. Allied air offensive

Great satisfaction with the Allied air offensive continues (Ten Regions) and “no praise is too high” for the R.A.F.

More and heavier attacks are still asked for (Seven Regions) some people feeling that the war may thus be shortened. People in one Region express “a grudging admiration” for the Germans.

There has been some “dismayed comment” at our heavier losses though they are compared favourably with those in land fighting. A few, however, ask whether such losses are “worth it?”

U.S.A.A.F. : “Warm, admiration” is expressed for the achievements of the U.S.A.A.F. which are reported to be “increasingly recognised” (Five Regions). However, people still take U.S. claims of enemy fighters destroyed with “a large grain of salt” (Seven Regions).

Concern is expressed at the heavy U.S. losses on the Schweinfurt raid (Seven Regions) which some interpreted as meaning - the German defences are “immensely strong”, people are very impressed by such raids as this.


10. Raids on this country

Little comment has been reported this week, and little expectation of renewed heavy raiding (Three Regions), though there is some nervousness in the South West.

Criticism continues of “the poor shooting by Home Guards and others on the A.A. guns” during the raid on London on October 7 (Two Regions).


11. Far East

There is little general comment but the defeat of the Japanese at Rabaul has “quickened public interest” and it is felt that the war in the Pacific has “started in earnest”.

Prisoners of war : “Greater concern” is reported from one Region about the fate of men missing in the Far East. It is thought that a recent Postscript (October 1) by a civilian recently returned from a Shanghai gaol was “terribly harrowing to those with relatives in Japanese hands”. Some feel that the Government is not doing all it could on behalf of prisoners of war and their relatives.


12. Bengal famine

Although most people continue to hold the Government responsible for the situation, a large minority blame the local authorities and the Indians, “who have had too big hand in the government of Bengal”. People ask why prices of foodstuffs were not controlled, and feel that “whatever local conditions prevail, our administration should be responsible for alleviating the famine, which should not have reached such terrible proportions”.

( 17)

13. Gos

There has been loss comment this weeks, though disappointment is still reported; People are surprised that the Germans can still make even a small attack by sea. “Scanty news” is again complained of.


14. The Hereford case

Fairly widespread discussion has been aroused by this case, and considerable indignation is reported. The magistrates concerned are generally condemned; a few however, excuse them on the grounds either that “the Clerk of the Court should have seen that the correct legal procedure was adopted”, or that “they have been blamed for things for which the police were responsible”.

The case is thought to have demonstrated the need for a of review of juvenile court administration (six Regions). are “Closed” courts are condemned, and the need for younger and “more suitable” magistrates is thought to have been proved.


15. The five American Senators

Though interest does not appear to be widespread, their charges have caused resentment and pained surprise and seem to have stimulated anti-American comment, some of it rather bitter. This is particularly deplored now that “there are signs that Americans and British are becoming friendly”.

Some uneasiness is also reported that there may be grounds, however slight, for the charges, and it is hoped that “the matter may speedily be cleared up” (One Region).

( 6.10)

16. The National Conference of Women

Comment continues on the same lines as were reported last week, but the greatest emphasis is now on the question of expense (Six Regions). Some people consider the expenditure of £17,000 “outrageous”, and it is suggested that “the Prime Minister could have addressed a much larger and more comprehensive audience of women over the wireless, and at much less expense”.

( 17 three provincial P.Cs.)

17. Broadcasting and presentation of news

General satisfaction with news bulletins continues, and the European Service is again commended. On the other hand, there is some criticism of “dullness”, “repetition” and “padding”; one complaint of padding refers, specifically to Russian news.

Bad reception of the Forces programme, except on powerful sets, is complained of by Sunderland people. There is a further complaint from Penzance of bad wireless reception, particularly at night.

The Brains Trust (Seven Regions): Opinion is divided, though on the whole it is adverse, Questions are still thought “silly” and some people want Donald McCulloch back (Three Regions).

The Chinese Student (October 10): This Postscript was liked (Five Regions) and was thought to be of the type which “helps people to understand the outlook of other nations”.

B.B.C.: The following are praised this week: Dr. Garbett's Postscript on Russia, October 17; “ITMA”, and B.B.C. drama (Two Regions each). Adverse comment on the V.A.D's broadcast continues (Three Regions)

Press: The increased supplies of newspapers arc welcomed (Two Regions ).




18. Postwar conditions

Uneasiness, scepticism and cynicism, on the lines summarised in the last Home Intelligence Report (No. 158, Section 14), continue to be reported. There is said to be a widespread desire to know more of the Government's intentions; it is believed that people's spirits and enthusiasm - and also production - would be greatly raised by an authoritative statement of the Government's plans for “achieving that better standard of living for the people which, in the minds of most, is the major object for which we are fighting”.


19. Miners and mining

Uneasiness about the coal industry continues. People again express sympathy for the miners - for “their raw deal” in the past and their conditions of work - but at the same time they condemn “strikes in wartime”, particularly unofficial ones.

Solutions to the problems are felt to be:

(a) Nationalisation of mines (Nine Regions).

(b) The release of miners from the Forces (Five Regions). The statement that some are now to be recalled is welcomed.

Neither appeals for volunteers nor conscription are thought likely to be effective, and opposition to conscription is generally reported, as “the idea of forced labour for mines is repugnant”. Particular opposition is reported:

(i) Among miners, who think the employment of inexperienced workers will endanger lives; also that “it will only be our sons who are directed into the mines”.

(ii) Among people in non-mining areas, who “are worried at the possibility of their own sons being drafted into the pits”. Some non-miners say “they will not go down — not for £5 a day danger money”.

( 17)

20. Industry

Strikes: There is less talk about strikes, but concern about “the general unrest in industry” continues.

Blame is again, variously, laid on:

(a) The strikers . Many people - particularly those with relatives in the Forces - think “strikes at the present time amount to sabotage, and should be treated as such”.

(b) The Government ; both for not taking a firmer line with strikers in the beginning, and for “not interfering with business interests”.

(c) The present machinery for negotiations between the interested parties. Some think “it needs drastically overhauling”.

(d) Trade Union Officials “for sitting on grievances till the pot boils over, by saying ‘we must not embarrass the Ministers’“.

Transfer of workers: Perturbation about actual and proposed transfers both of men and girls is reported from Clydeside. Workers from a particular factory are said to be “trying to work up public opinion in the matter by delegations to the local town council and Labour party”; they claim this method was effective elsewhere.

In Aberdare, people “resent the fact that numbers of workers have either to cease work or be transferred to other areas”. They also complain of “unfair treatment of applicants before the local tribunal”.

( 17)

21. “Pay-as-you-earn” income tax

Praise for the new scheme continues (Nine Regions): “Up to the present there seen to be few snags”.

Sir John Anderson's statement that salaried workers earning up to £600 per annum will also be included in the scheme has been equally well received (six Regions), though the feeling remains that “this method of calculation should apply to salaries whatever the amount (Five Regions), or “at least to salaries up to £1000 per annum”.

( 17 three provincial P.Cs.)

22. Food

Satisfaction with the general food situation continues (Eight Regions and Postal Censorship). The chief complaints this week are: (a) shortage of biscuits (Eight Regions); (b) shortage of fish (Seven Regions); (c) high price of green vegetables (Five Regions).

Pleasure is reported at:

(a) The promised distribution of oranges (Five Regions) and specially the inclusion of children up to 16 years.’

(b) The likelihood of more dried fruit (Four Regions). Housewives are said to be worrying about dried fruit for Christmas.

(c) The reduction of the points value for canned meats (Two Regions).

( 17 six provincial P.Cs.)

23. Clothing

Complaints continue on familiar lines, and footwear difficulties particularly for children, (Eleven Regions), still predominate. There are also complaints of the need to surrender clothing coupons for household goods (Seven Regions).

( 17 two P.Cs.)

24. Alarm clocks

During the past two weeks a shortage of alarm clocks has again reported and there is “increasing demand” for permits by workers other than those employed in the transport services (Three Regions). At the same time, representatives of the bus and railway men are concerned about the number of permits applied for by employees, as the number granted to the companies is said to be quite inadequate.

In the North Eastern Region it is reported that “large firms advertise alarm clocks as available to all on essential work”.


25. The central heating ban

Prior to the relaxation of the ban, there were reports of colds and other ailments attributed to lack of heating. The ban was felt to be false economy.


26. Home Guard

Home Guards are reported to be “fed up” with the number of duties and parades they have to perform (Four Regions). Particular complaint is made of three parades a week, and of Sunday duties and parades especially during the harvest season. There is some talk in two Regions of the possibility of easing the demands on Home Guards, especially the older men, in view of the improved outlook.


27. Anti-Semitism

During the past eight weeks there have continued to be few but fairly regular reports of anti-Semitic feeling. (Seven Regions).

The chief allegations made against Jews have been:

(a) They are capturing trade and markets - particularly the drapery and tailoring trades - to the detriment of the non- Jewish trader (Four Regions, each more than once). “Jewish syndicates” are said to buy up any kind of business and to back. “shady” business ventures. There is some fear also of refugee Jews building up businesses here.

(b) “They have too much control in this country” (Three Regions).

There continue to be familiar complaints of the association of Jewish names with black market offences (Three Regions); of the “bad manners and arrogance of Jews” (Two Regions); of their escaping the Services, and of their “buying up luxuries” (One Region each).

At the same time sympathy for those who have suffered in occupied Europe continues to be expressed (Three Regions).



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

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