A History of the Ministry of Information, 1939-46


MOST SECRET -not for circulation

No.163, November 18th, 1943 .

1. From the North Eastern and the London Regions, there are reports of some feeling at the inclusion of Mr. Lennox Boyd in the Government. He is described as having been mixed up with Fascists, and sympathetic towards Fascist regimes.

2. In East Kent, there are strong rumours that the second front will be opened via the North Coast of. France, during the period of the next full moon.

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Copy No. 285


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. 163. 18th November, 1943

(Covering period from 9th to 16th November, 1943)


1. General .

In spite of the Prime Minister's speech, spirits remain on the same high level as last week, for virtually the same reasons. The Prime Minister's warnings of difficulties ahead are not treated too seriously, except by those with relatives in the Forces; people continue to anticipate an early end to the war. Lord Woolton's appointment, for which there is almost universal approval, is looked on as another sign that the end is in sight.

Events in Lebanon have so far aroused relatively little interest - but a good deal of bewilderment.

Home Front : Reports of war weariness, which even good news cannot alter, continue; as does anxiety about postwar conditions, housing and footwear.

( 17 passim. No report from Region 4 this week.)

2. The Prime Minister's Mansion House speech (9th November, 1943)

The speech aroused less discussion than usual. While many thought its serious tone provided a needed corrective to over-optimism, others appear to have considered it was gloomier than the situation really justified. Some go so far as to think it was unnecessarily upsetting, especially on the question of casualties.

The following points were welcomed:

(a) The reference to food, work and homes for all (Six Regions). Hopes are raised, but some say they will not believe it till they see it.

(b) His “rebuke” to Sir Walter Citrine (Six Regions).

Some thought Mr. Churchill sounded rather tired.

( 17)

3. Minister of Reconstruction

Lord Woolton's appointment is almost universally welcomed. It is looked on as a sign the Government may be in earnest about reconstruction. Many are sorry, and even anxious, however, at his leaving the Ministry of Food; they console themselves with the thought that all must be well if he can be allowed to go, and his organisation is so good, the Ministry will now run itself.

A small minority fear he will not be given adequate powers, though others are sure he would not have taken on the job unless he was certain of getting them.

Other Cabinet changes have excited little comment or surprise.


4. Russia

Intense admiration continues though a few are rather weary of the continual eulogies of the U.S.S.R.

( 17 eight provincial P.Cs.)

5. The Moscow Conference

Widespread satisfaction continues. There is the highest praise for Mr. Eden's work, and his speech in the House was liked.

Demands for a second front have disappeared though there is still disappointment it is taking so long to come, and some fear we have waited too long.

The only remaining point of anxiety is over the future of Poland and, to a less extent, the Baltic States (Six Regions). People are not at all sure that Poland will receive her due in the postwar settlement, and think the question was studiously avoided at the Conference. Some fear we are appeasing Russia.

( 17 eight provincial P.Cs.)

6. Marshal Stalin's speech on the 26th anniversary of the Soviet Revolution (Nov. 6)

Again particular pleasure at his references to Allied friendship, his appreciation of Allied help, and his generally co-operative attitude. His speech is praised for removing much of the suspicion and misunderstanding of Russia and clearing up “a lot of muddled thinking on the Red danger to Europe”. His statement that Germany stands on the edge of a catastrophe was taken as additional grounds for optimism.


7. Inside Germany

Less discussion; though many hope for an early crack. A minority consider Germany still a tough proposition.

Hitler's speech : “No one pays much attention to his speeches now”. Optimists found pleasure in his confession of Germany's desperate plight. His threats of reprisals and secret weapons are treated with scorn by the majority, though a few fear some painful surprise. Thus in Worthing there is a persistent rumour of “some frightful form of electrocution which will be used when we invade France, and even over here”.


8. Italy

Military : No change.

Political : It continues to be hoped that Victor Emmanuel and Badoglio will go. There is some satisfaction at Roatta's dismissal. At the same time no alternatives are suggested, as no Italians are considered trustworthy.

Bombing of the Vatican: Only desultory comment is reported: (i) It was a put-up job by Germany; (ii) The statement that Allied planes were responsible should have been denied earlier; Catholics are, however, now said to be satisfied by Sir Archibald Sinclair's denial.

( 17)

9. Leros

There is disappointment and concern about the position at Leros. It is asked:

(a) Why haven't we learned from our disastrous lesson at Cos?

(b) Why after we occupy an island can't we make sure of holding it?

(c) Why wasn't there adequate air cover?

(d) If it's not worth defending, why throw valuable lives away: relatives and others are described as absolutely sick at the sacrifice of life in these small campaigns”.

(e) How can the Germans land men in force? “We thought they were finished.”

(No reactions have yet been received to the news that Leros is lost.)


10. The Lebanon and the French

Although the trouble in the Lebanon has aroused anxiety, the position is little understood and details are not widely discussed. The French authorities are criticised, though a few suggest German fifth column work among the Lebanese. Fears of repercussion in Arab States are also expressed. General de Gaulle's popularity does not appear to have been much impaired; though contempt for the French in general, and for their claims to be treated as an equal with the three major Allies, is generally expressed.


11. Allied air offensive

Continued satisfaction with round-the-clock bombing. Some people wonder why we still bomb towns, such as Cologne, which are thought to have been wiped out by previous big raids.

From two Regions there are rumours of a new British plane without propellers, silently driven by jets of air.


12. Air raids on London

A considerable increase in tube shelterers is reported. Mothers in London would like to be assured they will have another opportunity of sending young children away if the raids grow worse. Rumours of extensive damage and great numbers of casualties in recent London raids come from Wales and the South West.


13. Repatriation of prisoners

Comment continues as before, with emphasis on the Government's duty to look after the men properly.

The Postscript by the repatriated prisoner is praised (Four Regions).

( 17 passim)

14. Bengal Famine

Comment follows last week's lines, though it is getting steadily less.


15. The return home of members of the 50th Division

In the Northern Region, there is widespread interest, and keen delight among relatives and friends, at the return from Africa of members of the 50th Division. Some take this to indicate an impending second front.


16. Evacuation in the South West

Press accounts of evacuation are described as having caused great upset throughout the South Western Region. Rumours and speculation were rife in Cornwall, Devon, and parts of Somerset and Wiltshire. The evacuated inhabitants are said to be “really very good and loyal about it”, in spite of allegations that they are protesting.

The press publicity is generally condemned, particularly the articles in the Daily Herald.

The mentioning of the names of speakers at local meetings is thought to be enough to provide the enemy with clues to the localities involved; and attacks are expected.


17. Broadcasting and presentation of news

Again very little comment. The paucity of naval news, as compared with R.A.F. publicity, is criticised.

Brains Trust (Five Regions): Criticism continues to outweigh praise.

Programmes in honour of Russia, Nov: 8. (Three Regions): These were appreciated; but the B.B.C. is criticised for putting on tributes to Russia at the same time on both the Home and Forces programmes.

Basic English : A special investigation was made by the B.B.C. Listener Research Department on the public reaction to a talk on Basic English by Miss L.W. Lockhart (Oct: 29). Of an intelligent sample of 72 listeners, only 2 had never heard of Basic English, while 9 said they knew an appreciable amount about it; the rest had heard of it but knew little or nothing more. Favourable comments on Basic English were in a 3 to 1 majority. Those who were doubtful or opposed were almost all under misconceptions about the uses proposed for Basic English; where it was appreciated that it was primarily for those who knew no English, it was always welcomed as a valuable aid to international understanding.

The Listener Research conclusions are that there is a wide interest in Basic English, little prejudice to overcome, but much need for public explanation of its uses, as well as what it is and what it is not.

Broadcast religious services : In another recent B.B.C. Listener Research report, the attitude of civilian listeners generally towards religious services on three occasions is contrasted by means of a five-point scale. This is a method of classification of listeners as either keenly interested (A); mildly interested (B); indifferent (c); uninterested (D); or hostile (E); the results are:-

Percentage of listeners clasified as
% % % % %
September, 1941 17 24 30 18 11
September, 1942 20 27 27 17 9
September, 1943 22 30 23 16 9

These figures show a definite increase in public approval of broadcast religious services over the last three years. An examination in terms of different types of listener indicates that the increase is more marked among men and among young people than among women and older listeners; in other words, most marked among those groups whose interest in religious services is normally least.

( 20, 21)



18. Housing

The shortage and high price of houses, flats, and rooms continue the subject of much complaint, particularly in London, the Northern, Southern, Midland and South-Western Regions, It is now described as the biggest cause of home front anxiety.

( 17 two provincial P.Cs.)

19. Clothing

Comment continues on familiar lines, the main topics being:

(a) Footwear. Anxiety about children's health is again reported.

(b) Insufficiency of coupons, particularly for poorer people who had small or no stocks of clothes.

(c) “The delay” in issuing supplementary coupons for workers.

The allowance of 40,000 coupons to Football teams (Three Regions) has aroused great annoyance among housewives, parents and workers. People also ask how the Board of Trade can do this when youth movements such as the A.T.C. have to give up coupons for compulsory uniforms?


20. Strikes

Comment is less than last week; though most people disapprove and many are disgusted by the strikes. Comparisons are again made with Service pay and conditions.

However, some sympathy is felt both in London and the North West. In the latter Region, people are reported as saying “these strikes are for the benefit of the lads away to ensure better conditions when they return”, and workers loudly proclaim “that unofficial strikes are aimed at the vested interest class”.

Various familiar suggestions are made to account for the strikes.

Coal mines : There is also some feeling that strikes in the coal mines are not without justification (Three Regions).

( 17)

21. Home guard, fire-watching and Civil Defence

Sir Walter Citrine's speech at Manchester (Nov. 6) has loosed a flood of discussion, with opinion fairly equally divided.

Approval : Many people, particularly in areas which they consider less vulnerable, feel strongly that some relaxation could be made. They point out that many calls are made on men who have already done a heavy day's work and that the effect of fatigue on their health will be a decline in production. There is impatience at “unnecessary parades and exercises”, particularly among the early volunteers; and it is suggested that the position of trained people should be further eased. There is also some feeling against businessmen and others in superior positions who refuse to share duties with their employees.

Condemnation : On the other hand, such remarks as Sir Walter's are thought to “sap our sense of urgency”, which is particularly bad because industry has already had so much trouble in enforcing the Fireguard Order. Again, many Home Guards point out that, when a second front begins, they become the only troops left in this country.

The Prime Minister's reference to home defence in his Mansion House speech is thought to have done something to restore the balance, and his remarks about Fireguard, Civil Defence and Home Guard personnel gave great encouragement, particularly in the more danger-conscious areas.


22. Food

Supplies in general are thought to be good; though the latest cut in the milk ration and the shortage of fish are complained of.

Suger or jam (Five Regions): Public satisfaction continues, but some retailers complain that it complicates the business of stocking (Three Regions), and will involve extra labour and unsold jam.

Christmas fare is already a topic of interest (Four Regions), with some fear of a black market in it. There is scepticism as to the ordinary customer's chance of getting poultry, and complaints based on the belief that turkeys are only to be available for large cities, and also that no area in Wales has been chosen for distribution. Increased supplies of dried fruit for Christmas are looked forward to, and some extra cooking fat would be welcome.

( 17 passim)

23. Juvenile Courts

The Hereford Case still causes much discussion, particularly:

(a) The excessive publicity (Six Regions). This is already said to have stirred up virulent personal talk directed quite unfairly at local magistrates (South Western Region).

(b) The pros and cons of birching (Six Regions). The Scottish report says that the majority are against birching, and that widespread indignation has been caused by the statement of the Chief Constable of Renfrewshire that he would “use a green birch and cut them with it”. Nevertheless many upholders of corporal punishment are to be found (Four Regions); they feel that young delinquents should be dealt with firmly and that birching may be the only way of dealing with the worst.

(c) The need for stipendiary magistates (Three Regions).


24. Married women's savings

Resentful comment continues. According to the Welsh report, many women declare that, rather than run the risk of having personal savings taken from them, they will see that there are none to take, and the South Eastern District report suggests that the recent decision is affecting National Savings in some groups.


25. The Workmen's Compensation Bill

This has aroused very little interest during the post two weeks, though comment has on the whole been critical of the Government.



26. Morals

During the last three weeks reports have continued to mention a great deal of comment and concern about the general lowering of moral standards, specially among young people. Particular reference is made to:

(a) Drinking and drunkenness on the part of young people (Six Regions). Drinking by very young girls causes most concern; in the North Western Region indignation is reported at “the alleged refusal of the Ministry of Informatien to campaign against drinking by juveniles and its possible consequences”. People deplore drinking all the more in the belief that it paves the way for V.D.

(b) Immorality (Five Regions) particularly of young girls - some of them 13 or 14 - but also of husbands and wives forcibly separated for long periods by the war.

(c) Hoologanism, theft and general juvenile delinquency (Four Regions), particularly among boys.

The following arranged in order of the frequency with which they are mentioned, are thought to be contributing factors:

(a) The lack of parental discipline whether due to negligence, or to the mother being at work and the father in the Forces.

(b) The “exorbitant” wages paid to juveniles.

(c) insufficient women police; on wayward girls, they are said to have “far more psychological influence than men”. It is asked why women police cannot patrol the streets at night and “pack the girls off home - they're mostly 14s - 16s”.

(d) Publicans’ difficulty in knowing the age of young people, young girls in particular being at pains to make themselves look older. It is suggested that their identity cards should be clearly marked with the date of their birth. The re-imposition of the no-treating order is also advocated.

(e) Publicans’ indifference about selling drink to young people. The police are criticised for not keeping a close watch.

(f) The unfriendly and unhomely atmosphere of some billets or lodgings; this Is said to be conducive to street or pub life.

(g) The lack of facilities for harmless recreation at night. It is regretted that cafés and tea rooms do not open at night, where non-intoxicating drinks can be sold and girls and boys can meet.

(h) The call-up of voluntary social workers, thus reducing the numbers of those equipped to handle the problems. Particular reference is made to Scout masters, and the need for some organised outlet for the superfluous energy of boys of the 10-14 age group.

(i) The “pictures” are thought to have a harmful effect on the very young, some of whom are said to wait outside cinemas where “A” pictures are being shown, trying to persuade adults to accompany them in.

(j) Low wages - “under £3 a week for girls away from home means a stringency of living that opens the way to temptation being effective”.

(k) Lack of education in sex matters and of the right kind of people to give it.

Further remedial suggestions are the need for stringent regulations against accosting and a curfew for girls under 18.

Youth organisations : During the past six weeks there has been comment on the good work of youth organisations and the need for the extension of their scope. At present their success is felt to be limited because: (a) The young people most in need of help decline to join; some favour compulsion, in spite of the danger of their becoming like the Hitler Youth Movement (b) The organisations are cramped for lack of: sufficient facilities, particularly in rural areas; staff; uniforms.



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)
5SE. 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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