A History of the Ministry of Information, 1939-46

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JH Copy No. 284

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. 161,4th November, 1943

(Covering period from 26th October to 2nd November, 1943)


1. General

The drop in spirits of the past three weeks has now ceased; indeed several reports mention a rise, and greater optimism about an early end to the war, due to:

(a) Russian victories - some people refer to a German rout.

(b) The success of the Moscow Conference (though only preliminary reactions have been reported so far).

(c) Growing hope of a crack in German morale - stimulated by the stories of repatriated prisoners, as well as by Russian successes and Allied air raids.

Nevertheless, there is still dissatisfaction with both the military and political situation in Italy, disappointment at the delay in opening the second front, and concern about postwar conditions.

Home Front : War weariness, tiredness and ill-health are again reported (Eight Regions), particular reference being made to the strain of Home Guard, Firewatching and Civil Defence duties.

Footwear is again the main domestic topic.


2. Russia

Enthusiasm for, and amazement at, Russian progress are still increasing. While many want the Russians to get into Germany first, “to give the Nazis a taste of their own medicine”, others fear that, if they do so, they may be able to dictate peace terms on their own.

Three Regions (Seven last week) report speculation as to what will happen when the Russians reach their frontiers.

The Three Power Conference: Delight and relief are widespread at the news of “ the three Power plan for war and peace”; the results are described as even better than the optimists had hoped for. Preliminary reports go into little detail, but refer to particular pleasure that war criminals are to be judged at the place of their crimes.

Some people are asking why President Roosevelt made a statement about the Conference before the release of the information in London or Moscow.

( 17)

3. Inside Germany

Much speculation is reported about conditions inside Germany. Many hope that Germany may crack before long as a result of the Allied air offensive and Russian successes. Discussion has been particularly stimulated by:

(a)The stories of repatriated prisoners (Eight Regions). According to the Scottish Report:

Returned prisoners of war are telling telling the same tale - “Strict treatment, even cruelty, at the beginning; friendly attitude, almost servility, now.” Prisoners of war during the last war describe an identical change from 1914 to 1918, and are sedulously spreading their opinion that “the Germans are licked”. This opinion regarding German morale is extremely widespread, and is arousing the belief that the war will be over in a few months.

(b) Speeches by German leaders (Two Regions) , particular mention being made of Goebbels’ recent statement that bombing is the Germans’ chief worry.

(c) Sir Samuel Hoare's speech at Barcelona, October 28 (Two Regions).

(d) Reports by neutral correspondents (one Region).

( 17 seven provincial P.Cs.)

4. Italy

Military : Widespread disappointment is again reported at our slow progress, and there are many comparisons with the speed and scale of the Russian advances. There seems, however, to be less impatience this week, and a greater realisation of the difficulties involved.

Political : Dislike and distrust of the Italians and their present leaders continue, as do resentment at our accepting them as co- belligerents and the fear of our treating them too softly now and after the war.

The belief that fascists and Italian officers are being used by Amgot, and that hotels in Italy are being used by Italian troops, while ours are not admitted, has caused some adverse comment.

Prisoners of war : Anxiety and the wish for information continue.

( 5SE. 17 seven provincial P.Cs.)

5. Next move

As a result of General Smuts’ speech, most people now assume there will be no second front this year. They are doubly disappointed; both because they feel that, with the present Russian successes, we have never had a better opportunity of getting at the Germans and finishing them off, and because of the Prime Minister's "autumn leaves” statement.

Some people were surprised at General Smuts’ revealing our intentions to the enemy; others suspect him of bluffing; others again regard his presence in this country as a sign that something big is likely to happen.

The Balkans :There is a good deal of talk of a possible Allied expedition in the Balkans (Eight Regions). Some feel such an attack would ease pressure in Italy and save precious time; there is again speculation as to why the Ninth and Tenth Armies are not being used. Many people are concerned that we have not gone to the help of the Greek or Yugo-Slav patriots. It is felt that if we do not intend to invade before next Spring, the people of the Continent have been “cruelly misled”; some even wonder whether the patriots, “having served their turn, are now being left alone lost they prove troublesome when we do invade the Continent”.


6. Cos

Disappointed and critical comment continue to be reported.


7. Repatriation of prisoners of war

Widespread pleasure and interest (Ten Regions). Some regard the exchange as a sign that the end of the war is approaching. Comment on arrangements made for their reception is favourable, but there is anxiety about the future (Four Regions). People would like to know what is being done to set the men up again. It is hoped that “all that has been said of them is really meant” and there will be no “momentary meanness”. There is some criticism of the allowance given to buy new clothing, which is believed to be £2 for a coat and £2. 10. 0. for a suit; it is suggested that the rates have never been changed since the last war.

Broadcast and press stories of their arrival are praised, but some think the more harrowing details should have been omitted.

( 10.11.13)

8. Raids on this country

Speculation about their meaning, and criticism of the small number of planes destroyed continue. To some Londoners, the raids came as a shock after so long a lull; and a certain amount of anxiety and “ jitteriness”, particularly among old people and those with children, is reported from some boroughs.

In Northern Ireland, there is some discussion and uneasiness at possible German use of radio-controlled bombs.

(2.5.5SE. 17 four provincial P.Cs.)

9. Famine in Bengal

While anxiety and criticism continue, Lord Wavell's prompt action in visiting the famine area without ceremony and his use of the army for famine relief are warmly appreciated. People hope that through his efforts the situation will soon improve.

( one Special P.C.)

10. The loss of the Limbourne and Charybdis

People ask for more explanation; the delay in announcing the loss provoked strong comment.


11. Broadcasting

Noel Coward's Postscript, Octoter (Twelve Regions): The great majority praised this talk,some very highly, and one suggestion is that it should be issued in printed form. A few were “not much struck” by it.

Brains Trust (Six Regions): Although a minority think the Brains Trust is regaining popularity, apparently the general feeling is that it is deteriorating.

The V.D. discussion broadcast, October 20: Interest is again reported, and the wish for a repeat broadcast comes from two Regions.

General: The following are praised this week: Francoise Rosay's Postscript, October 31; “ITMA”; “Into Battle”; B.B.C. Plays (Two Regions each).

The poor quality of variety programmes is criticised (Three Regions).

( 18 five provincial P.Cs.)



12. Miners and mining

Comment about the coal industry is less this week, though on familiar lines. Remedies are the main topic, and suggestions continue to be:

(a) Nationalisation (Five Regions). It is still felt that the country's need is being sacrificed to private interests.

(b) Improvement in miners’ wages and conditions (Five Regions). They should havethe same pay and amenities as munition workers. Extra rations and a five day week are other suggestions.

Conscription (Seven Regions) is not thought a solution, and is still opposed because:

(a) To introduce unskilled labour will certainly cause more accidents; and, in addition, it will give the older men more work in training now labour.

(b) Miners think it will be only their sons who are directed into the mines: “as yet”, it is said, “no educated man has been caIled up for the pits”.

(c) It is felt nobody should be directed underground against his will.

The Coal Debate: Discussion continues. Many people feel that the Prime Minister's speech did not really settle anything; it is added that he appeared less anxious about the situation than Major Lloyd George - or than he himself did at the private conference of miners.

( 17)

Sugar or jam (Five Regions) : Satisfaction has been expressed that the sugar and jam rations are to be interchangeable.

(l. 10.13. 17 ten provincial P.Cs.)

16. The Workmen's Compensation Bill (Second reading in the the House of Commons, October 21)

The “high feeling” in the House surprised people, and there is “impatience at those who sabotage everything by demanding something more uncertain”. Support for the Home Secretary's stand is also reported.

Opinion about the proposals is, however, divided. while some are satisfied with the progress made, others - particularly workers in industries with a high accident risk - feel the advances in compensation are “very niggardly”.


17. Mails to and from Forces overseas

During the past two weeks there has been some comment from single Regions as follows:

(a) Disappointment at the ban this year on greetings telegrams to the Forces.

(b) Confusion due to the curtailment of some air mail services to the Middle East. More definite details are wanted as even Post Office officials are said to be “dubious” about the new arrangements.

(c) Complaints that E.F.M. telegrams take up to six months to and from the Forces.

(d) Desire that there should be an “improvement” whereby families can send remittances to the Forces at a reduced cost; at present this is frequently about 15/-.

(e) Pleasure at the “apparent speed-up” of mails from Italy and India.

(f) Mails are delayed to and from India, Sicily and Italy. Parcels posted from these places at the same time as other surface mail do not arrive. Food parcels particularly are said to be missing.


18. Rumours

Stories that the basic petrol ration is to be started again in January continue to be reported - last week from three Regions,this week from two. Indeed some indignation is mentioned that such a thing should be contemplated; but a few consider that the revenue from car licences would make it worth while.

The story that Russia is buying rubber or oil from Japan and selling it to the Allies is also once more in circulation (Two Regions last week, one Region this).


13. Hereford Juvenile Court Case

Discussion continues. People this week are less concerned with taking sides than With the outcome of. the enquiry and with possible reforms.

Two Regional reports mention some sympathy with the magistrates; it. is felt they were victims of the system.

Suggestions for reform are as follows:

(a) Magistrates should have legal qualifications (Six Regions).

(b) The method of selecting magistrates should be more democratic (Four Regions).

(c) All magistrates should be paid (Three Regions).

(d) Younger magistrates should be appointed (Three Regions)

(c) Juvenile courts should be open to the public, though the names of those concerned should continue to be suppressed (Two Regions)


14. Clothing

comment continues on familiar lines, with footwear difficulties the main topic.

This week,however, there is a considerable increase in the demand for rubber boots and shoes:

(a) For Children (Five-Regions) who, it is felt, will otherwise suffer from various illnesses caused by wet feet this winter.

(b) For agricultural workers (Three Regions).

In the South West, there is great appreciation, among rural mothers, of Wellingtons. for children sent by the American Red Cross,and distributed by the W.V.S.

( 17 four provincial P.Cs.)

15. Food

satisfaction with the general food situation continues. There is praise for Lord Woolton. Very little reaction to his comments on the coming world food shortage has been reported; people in the North Midland Region are “a little anxious”.

There are, however, complaints of:

(a) The distribution of oranges (Seven Regions). Inequalities in distribution and a desire among grown-ups for oranges.

(b) The forthcoming cut in the milk ration. (Six Regions). Housewives consider the present ration inadequate.

(c) The shortage and distribution of dried fruits (Five Regions). There is some disappointment that Christmas fruits have not yet put in an appearance, though in two Regions they are said to be available in large stores.


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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