A History of the Ministry of Information, 1939-46


Copy No. 258

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.

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.O.s) are compiled by the 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.


507 508 2 509 3 511 5 512 6 513 7 514 8 515 9 516 10


No. 118. 7th January 1943

(Covering the period 29th December 1942 to 5th January 1943)


1. General state of confidence and reaction to news

Although “the holiday exuberance” of the last two weeks has diminished, public spirits remain high. There is considerable optimism, and hope or belief that “by this time next year we shall have won the war, or be a long way on the road to victory”. This attitude is attributed to “the review of prospects for 1943 made by many people during its first week”, and also to “the Russian triumphs”. These are said to be “the principal subject of war talk this week” and to overshadow the concern felt at “the political situation in North Africa which has not been clarified by Darlan's assassination as was at first hoped”, and at our slow progress in Tunisia.

(2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13. 21 Aberdeen, Birmingham, Bristol, Cambridge, Cardiff, Carlisle, Edinburgh, Leeds, Manchester, Nottingham York P.Cs. 22 Twenty-four P.D.Rs. 29. No Region 1 report received this week)

2. Russia

The “magnificent achievements” of the Russian armed forces, and their recuperative powers continue to arouse immense satisfaction, great admiration and amazement. To quote from Postal Censorship: “Aren't the Russians a surprising lot; just when the last flicker was departing, suddenly they spring into a new lease of strength and are now pounding hell out of the blasted Huns”. The capture of Velikiye Luki, Mozdok and Kotelnikovo has given particular pleasure as “the names are known”.

Other reactions reported are:

  1. Doubt over the accuracy of Russian claims (Seven Regions). Three of these Regions, however, refer to “less scepticism than previously reported”; there is even, it is suggested, a belief among “miners in one area” in Wales that Russia is understating her successes.

  2. “Are we doing enough for Russia who is beating Germany for us?” (Five Regions).

  3. Some belief that “the German army will crack” (Four Regions).

(2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13. 21 Aberdeen, Birmingham, Bristol, Cambridge, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Leeds, Manchester, Nottingham P.Cs. 22 One hundred and four P.D.Rs. 29)

3. North Africa

Political : Talk about the assassination of Admiral Darlan has died down very considerably. Although relief continues to be expressed at “his removal”, there is some uneasiness “that the political difficulties in North Africa have not been solved as speedily as was hoped”.

General Giraud appears “to be fairly generally trusted”, [Text Missing] “any alternative to Darlan must be an improvement” - but the public want “to hear that he and the Fighting French are united, and General de Gaulle assigned his rightful place in Allied councils”. People are anxious “lest lack of unity among the French may make Africa more of a weakness than a strength”, and are becoming impatient at “these bewildering French squabbles”.

Military : There continues to be little comment on this subject, but the following reactions are reported:


(a) Disappointment and anxiety at our slow progress in Tunisia (Seven Regions).

(b) Fear that “things are not going too well” or that “we have had a serious set-back,” and are not being given all the truth (Five Regions).

(c) “What are the Americans doing in the battle area?” There is some feeling (i) that they are “not sufficiently involved”; (ii) about “the bad fighting qualities of the U.S. troops” (Four Regions).


(d) Some disappointment that “we have failed to bring Rommel to decisive action” (Three Regions).

(e) Confidence in the Eighth Army (Two Regions).

(f) Queries about “the fifteen tanks Rommel was said to have been left with” (Two Regions).

(2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13. 21 Aberdeen, Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Carlisle, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Inverness, Manchester, Nottingham, York P.Cs. 22 One hundred and twenty-four P.D.Rs. 29)

4. Far East

There continues to be little reported comment except from “the well-informed” and “those with a personal interest”. There is some pleasure at the Allied success at Buna, but people are inclined to say: “If it takes all this time to defeat resistance in Papua, the defeat of Japan will be a weary business”. In spite of a realisation of our difficulties, most people seem to think that “Japan will not expand further and now stands on the defensive”.

“Information recently received by the relatives of men missing in the Far East has had a most cheering effect” in the North Midland Region.

(2. 3. 4. 5. 8. 9. 10. 11. 13. 22 Thirty-three P.D.Rs.)

5. The War at sea

“Some speculation as to the outcome of the naval engagement in Northern waters” is reported from four Regions. It is noted that “nothing has been said of our losses”, and people ask for more news.

Some talk is reported of “the success of the German attacks on our shipping”. It is pointed out that “practically no official news is given; meanwhile German broadcasts declare heavy Allied losses in convoys” (Two Regions).

(2. 4. 7. 9. 10. 12. 13. 22 Bradford, Derby, Gloucestershire P.D.Rs.)

6. The bombing of Rome

Reports from six Regions again mention considerable feeling against “the possibility of Rome being declared an open city”. It is pointed out that Papal influence was never exerted to save England's historic towns, and that “Rome as the seat of the Fascist Government should be bombed as much as possible”. “Mussolini gloated when London was bombed by Italian aircraft; why make Rome a funk-hole for Italy?” It is thought that “bombing would be the quickest way to make Italy cave in” and that “one funk-hole may materially decrease the chance of her being eliminated”.

(3. 4. 6. 7. 10. 12. 21 Inverness P.C. 22 Sixteen P.D.Rs.)

7. German anti-Jewish atrocities

These “continue to be regarded with horror”, but there are further indications that “as a result of the publicity, people are more conscious of the Jews they do not like here”. Two reports mention a strong feeling that, “although we wish to help the unfortunate Jews in occupied zones, we don't want any more over here”. A minority, however, feel that “we cannot do too much for them”. Unfavourable comment on “the number of young Jews who appear to evade military service” is mentioned in two reports.

(3. 7. 10. 12. 21 Bristol, Edinburgh P.Cs. 22 Thirteen P.D.Rs.)

8. The Beveridge Report

“General comment remains favourable” but a further decline in discussion is reported. The points most often referred to during the past week appear to have been:

  1. “The potential threat” of the Insurance Companies (Five Regions). The memorandum issued by the Industrial Life Offices (30th December) “does not seem to have won them any sympathy”, and is regarded by some as “just what was to be expected”.

  2. “The banning of the Beveridge summary of ‘Current Affairs’” (Four Regions). This is “severely criticised”, and “much disgust and scorn” are reported: “If the Forces are not allowed to discuss such far-reaching and important documents, what are they fighting for?” “The reactionary attitude of the War Office” is now said to be confirmed. In Scotland, “Lord Croft is commonly assumed to be the person responsible for the withdrawal”.

A Special Postal Censorship Report, on letters from all parts of the country written during the period from mid-November to mid-December, has classified the comments of 947 writers on the Beveridge Report as follows:-

(a) Approval 473

The majority approve because (i) “Unemployment, illness and old age are the three things that the working man fears, and now we can look forward to hope and security”: (ii) It will give “the boys who are fighting something to look forward to when they come home”: and (iii) “It seems to be a complete social revolution, which ought to give complete democracy without bloodshed”.

(b) Doubts as to whether the Report will be implemented 193

The majority in this group fear that Parliament or “the big financial groups may kill it”. A minority wonder whether “it is real, or just dope”: “This new plan for Social Security makes me laugh, don't forget the Land Fit for Heroes of the last War”.

(c) Criticism 281

The following are the main reasons for adverse criticism and are given in order of prevalence:

  1. “It does not seem to supply any spur for work-shy people, or any deterrent for wastrels.”

  2. “It seems to tend too much to smother individual initiative.”

  3. “Who is to pay for it all?”

  4. “It will not benefit anyone who has been provident.”

  5. “The upper middle professional classes are the least catered for.”

  6. “It may seriously damage our power of competition in export trade.”

(2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 21 Aberdeen, Birmingham, Cardiff, Glasgow, Inverness, Manchester, Special P.Cs. 22 Nineteen P.D.Rs. 29)

9. Ministerial changes (30th December)

These are said to have caused very little interest, though there are some comments on “a general post” being “a sign of political bankruptcy”. The only appointment to arouse much comment is that of Mr. Harold Macmillan as Resident Minister in North West Africa. This is welcomed, though it is feared that “Mr. Macmillan's job will be a tricky one”.

(2. 3. 4. 11. 12. 13)

10. Recent speeches and broadcasts

The King's broadcast (25th December) : More praise has been reported of the King's broadcast, which is generally described as “the best he has given” - a view confirmed by many Postal Censorship and Police Duty Room Reports.

Sir Norman Birkett's (Onlooker) Postscript (27th December): Further reports confirm the favourable reception mentioned last week. The talk is described as “first-rate in content and presentation, and full of hope”, and Sir Norman is said “to have a definite following among listeners to talks”. One report, however, mentions a minority view that “he is either very good or very bad, and he was the latter this time”.

Miss Violet Markham's Postscript (3rd January) is mentioned in only two reports. Praise of its “understanding of the ordinary woman's feelings and difficulties in this war” is said in one report to have been some encouragement to women, so many of whom, though “conscious of capacity, find themselves condemned to drudgery through family ties”. According to the London report, however, the talk did not prove popular and was described as “patronising”: people are said to be “fed up with all this blah about housewives”.

(2. 3. 5. 6. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 21 Aberdeen, Birmingham, Cardiff Glasgow, Inverness, York P.Cs. 22 Forty-five P.D.Rs.)

11. Broadcasting and presentation of news

There are again few references to news presentation, but there is little criticism and “most people appear to be satisfied”. The European News Service and the repetition of the headlines at the end of the news are again praised (Three Regions each).

John Amery's broadcasts from Berlin are said to be “listened to and discussed” in Scotland.

Unfavourable comment is reported on:-

  1. “The habit of stressing the growing difficulties of the enemy”, which is said to “give people the impression that the task ahead is less serious than it actually is”.

  2. “American Radio Commentators from Algeria” who are criticised for “contradictory and misleading statements”.

Favourable comment is reported on Mrs. Churchill's appeal for Aid to Russia (31st December), the Archbishop of Canterbury's Christmas sermon, and Geoffrey Muir's War Commentary (31st December).

“Front Line” : During the last three weeks there have been several favourable references to “Front Line”, described as “the best of all official war booklets so far”. It is thought that it will “do much to check anti-British propaganda in America”. The only reported criticisms are of “the inadequacy of its distribution” and of its “over-confidence,” as a statement of our air defences.

(2. 3. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 22 Bedfordshire P.D.R.)


12. Transport difficulties

From ten Regions this week come references to transport difficulties.

Complaints are on the same lines as last week: (a) The curtailment of evening and Sunday morning transport; (b) Over-crowding of buses - said, in two Regions, to be aggravated by the shortage of cycle lamp batteries; (c) Crowding out of long distance passengers by short distance ones; (d) Inadequacy of rural bus services.

The rudeness of bus and tram conductors and conductresses is mentioned in two Reports. Public resentment at this is said to be increasing in the North Eastern Region.

(2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 12. 21 Edinburgh, Glasgow P.Cs. 22 Eighteen P.D.Rs.)

13. Threatened strike of Railwaymen

Though there is “little general talk”, “anxiety” and “bitter feeling” are reported in five Regions about the threatened strike by members of the Associated Society of Locomotive Engineers and Firemen. No support for strike action is reported, and the men are criticised for even contemplating “such a paralysing measure”. In the Southern Region however, the matter is said to have stimulated talk about “discrepancies in pay”, and the need for a “courageous tackling of the wages situation by the Government”.

(2. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 22 Guildford, Hartlepool, Herefordshire, Lancashire, Plymouth, Rotherham, Sheffield P.D.Rs.)

14. Cyclists' difficulties

The shortage of cycle lamp batteries - reported from five Regions this week - is said to be “causing great concern and forcing cyclists to break the law through riding without lights. Lorry drivers also complain of the strain imposed on them through having to watch for cyclists.” There are also complaints that “unnamed batteries are being sold at high prices and that they only last a very short time”. The shortage of spare parts, such as inner tubes and pedals, is reported from the South Western Region.

(3. 4. 6. 7. 9.)

15. Industry

Little discussion about the industrial situation is reported this week. There is some criticism of reported absenteeism after the Christmas and New Year holiday, and its bad effect on production (Two Regions). Other comment follows familiar lines: complaints of (i) “Idle time” and “slackness” in factories; “the girls sit about and knit” (Three Regions), and (ii) Too long working hours, especially for women; “they feel they could do as much work in a nine hour day as they do at present” (Two Regions and Postal Censorship).

(2. 3. 5. 9. 10. 11. 21 Glasgow P.C. 22 Barnsley, Clitheroe, Dudley, Wakefield, Worcestershire P.D.Rs.)

16. Manpower and the call-up

Critical talk of the “waste of manpower” continues along familiar lines, but on a reduced scale this week. The calling up of older women while young women remain unaffected (especially servicemen's wives with no household responsibilities), and the number of young men in civilian jobs, are still criticised in four Regions. Also criticised, according to the report, from the North Western Region, are “Government contracting methods, for being extravagant in men and money”.

The staffing difficulties of retail traders due to the call-up of both experienced and newly trained assistants, are reported from three Regions; and women war workers in the London Region are reported to feel that working time will be lost through the difficulties of shopping, if staffs in “essential shops” are still further reduced.

(2. 3. 4. 5. 7. 10. 21 Glasgow P.C. 22 Chopping Wycombe, Durham, Reading P.D.Rs.)

17. Fuel

The allocation of one ton of coal for the next three months is the main topic of discussion on the fuel front this week. It is said to have caused “considerable disappointment” (Six Regions), and people who “use only coal and have no alternative forms of fuel available wonder how they will manage” (Two Regions). A report from the South Western Region states that “people generally realise it's a pretty drastic tightening of the belt, but don't disagree so long as it is equally shared”.

Some resentment is reported at the new order whereby inspectors may enter houses to look at fittings and question housewives on their fuel consumption (Four Regions). It is felt that “people dislike their domestic privacy being interfered with”, and “it is asked where all the inspectors are to come from”.

(2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 22 Accrington, Lancashire P.D.Rs.)

18. Petrol

Only three Regions refer this week to waste and misuse of petrol. Complaints are on familiar lines: (a) The use of high-powered cars when alternative transport is available; (b) The running of buses to and from dances; (c) Alleged inequalities and ‘wangling’ of petrol allowances.

(4. 7. 10. 22 Ten P.D.Rs.)

19. Food

Satisfaction with the food situation and praise for Lord Woolton continue. Favourable comparisons are drawn between the food situation in the fourth year of this war and of the last.

The main complaints this week are: (a) The fish shortage and the zoning scheme; (b) The shortage and unequal distribution of milk; (c) The shortage of shell eggs; (d) The shortage of oranges and orange juice; (e) Queues for fish and cakes.

Green vegetables : The announcement of the maximum retail prices for green vegetables is commented on in Five Regions. All express the fear that prices will go up immediately and the “maxima will be the minima”. Two Regions report that control is thought unnecessary in areas where people grow their own vegetables.

(2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 21 All Postal Censorship Reports. 22 Forty-six P.D.Rs.)

20. Clothing

The difficulty of making the coupon allowance cover household as well as personal needs is again stressed this week (Six Regions).

There is also increased criticism of the poor quality of utility clothing, especially stockings, which are said to be a “waste of coupons” (Six Regions). The shortage and poor quality of children's shoes are said to be “causing great worry to parents”, particularly in view of the high cost of, and the time required for, repairs (Three Regions).

Wellington Boots : Five Regions report an “acute need” of Wellington boots for agricultural workers and children in country districts.

(2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 9. 10. 11. 12. 21 Glasgow, Leeds P.Cs.)

21. Shopping difficulties

Five Regions this week refer to shopping difficulties. The main difficulty experienced continues to be the lunch hour closing of shops.

Complaints of the length of time shops were closed for Christmas come from three Regions; some shops are reported to have remained closed on Monday, 28th December.

(4. 5. 6. 7. 10)

Monthly Summary of Constant Topics No. 5

( Covering the period from 8th December 1942 to 5th January 1943 )

The following subjects, included in this list last month, are now omitted, as references to them have almost ceased: (i) Old Age Pensioners (ii) Preferential treatment of certain customers by shopkeepers (iii) Lack of British Restaurants (iv) Disparity in pay (v) High pay of juveniles (vi) Compulsory fire-watching for women.

All new topics arising for the first time are included in the main Weekly Reports. The following have lost their novelty, while still retaining their importance for large sections of the public. They are arranged according to the frequency with which they have been reported.

Transport difficulties

17 December Regions 1. 2. 3. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 12.
24 December Regions 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 12.
31 December Regions 1. 2. 3. 5. 6. 8. 10. 12. 13.
7 January Regions 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 9. 10.

Shopping difficulties and food queues

17 December Regions 1. [Text Missing]. [Text Missing]. 7. 11.
24 December Regions 1. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 12.
31 December Regions 2. 5. 6. 7. 10. 13.
7 January Regions 5. 6. 7. 10. 12.

Waste of petrol

17 December Regions 6. 7. 8. 10.
24 December Regions 1. 3. 4. 7. 8. 10. 11.
31 December Regions 1. 2. 3. 4. 6. 7. 10. 11.
7 January Regions 4. 7. 10.

Inadequacy of clothing coupons

17 December Regions 1. 3. 5. 9. 10. 12.
24 December Regions 2. 4. 5. 7. 10.
31 December Regions 8. 10.
7 January Regions 1. 2. 3. 5. 6. 9. 10.


17 December Regions 3. 10. 11.
24 December Regions 2. 5. 6. 8. 10. 11.
31 December Regions 2. 3. 8. 10. 11. 12.
7 January Regions 2. 3. 10. 12.

Too many young men in civilian jobs and evading call-up

17 December Regions 1. 2. 3. 7. 10.
24 December Regions 1. 2. 10.
31 December Regions 1. 2. 7. 9. 10.
7 January Regions 10.

Too many young women in civilian jobs and evading call-up

17 December Regions 7.
24 December Regions 1. 2. 5. 9. 10.
31 December Regions 3. 4. 5. 6.
7 January Regions 3. 4. 10.

Inadequate collection of salvage

17 December Regions 2. 3. 6. 8. 12. 13.
24 December Regions 9. 11.
31 December Regions 12.
7 January Regions 3. 4. 12.

Inadequacy of Servicemen's pay and dependants' allowances and pensions

17 December Regions 5. 10.
24 December Regions 4. 5. 7. 10.
31 December Regions 3. 5. 10.
7 January Regions 4. 5.

Shortage of housing accommodation and difficulty of billeting workers

17 December Regions Nil
24 December Regions 5. 7. 10.
31 December Regions 5.
7 January Regions 2. 5. 10.

Rationing difficulties of people living alone

17 December Regions 1. 5. 9.
24 December Regions 4.
31 December Regions Nil
7 January Regions 5. 6.

Victimisation of the small business in relation to larger concerns

17 December Regions 5.
24 December Regions 5. 6.
31 December Regions Nil.
7 January Regions 3. 10.

Shortages :

Shortage of fish

17 December Regions 1. 2. 3. 5. 6. 8. 9. 10. 12.
24 December Regions 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 9. 10. 11. 12.
31 December Regions 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13.
7 January Regions 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 9. 10. 11. 12.

Shortage of torch batteries

17 December Regions 1. 3. 5. 6. 10. 11. 12.
24 December Regions 5. 6. 7. 8. 12.
31 December Regions 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 11. 12. 13.
7 January Regions 2. 3. 4. 6. 7. 8. 9.

Shortage and poor quality of clothing and footwear

(a) Adults

17 December Regions 1. 2. 3. 5. 9. 12.
24 December Regions 2. 4. 5. 7. 8.
31 December Regions 5. 8. 11. 12.
7 January Regions 3. 5. 6. 7. 9. 10. 11. 12.

(b) Children

17 December Regions 7. 8.
24 December Regions 1. 4. 5. 10. 12.
31 December Regions 1. 3. 9.
7 January Regions 3. 4. 5. 6. 10.

Shortage and high price of crockery, glass and kitchenware

17 December Regions 5. 7.
24 December Regions 1. 3. 4. 5. 8. 10. 12.
31 December Regions 1. 5. 8. 10.
7 January Regions 2. 4. 10. 11.

Shortage of cycle lamp batteries

17 December Regions 7. 9.
24 December Regions 3. 4. 7. 9.
31 December Regions 3. 4. 6. 7. 13.
7 January Regions 3. 4. 5. 7. 9.

Shortage of shell eggs

17 December Regions 2. 3. 7. 10. 11. 12.
24 December Regions 10. 11.
31 December Regions 2. 5.
7 January Regions 5. 6. 7. 11.

Shortage of Matches and lighters

17 December Regions 1. 2.
24 December Regions 5. 11.
31 December Regions 5.
7 January Regions 2. 3. 5.


1. Northern Region (Newcastle) Weekly Reports from R.I.O.s
2. North Eastern Region (Leeds)
3. North Midland Region (Nottingham)
4. Eastern Region (Cambridge)
5. London Region (London)
6. Southern Region (Reading)
7. South Western Region (Bristol)
8. Wales (Cardiff)
9. Midland (Birmingham)
10. North Western Region (Manchester)
11. Scotland (Edinburgh)
12. South Eastern Region (Tunbridge Wells)
13. Northern Ireland (Belfast)
14. Special Reports from R.I.O.s
15. Regions Adviser's Reports
16. M.O.I. Speakers' Reports
17. Local Information Committees' Reports
18. Home Press Summaries M.O.I.
19. Regional Press Summaries
20. Hansard
21. Postal Censorship
22. Police Duty Room Reports
23. Wartime Social Survey Reports
24. B.B.C. Listener Research Papers
25. B.B.C. Special Papers
26. Citizens' Advice Bureaux Reports
27. W.V.S. Reports
28. Scottish Unionist Whips' Reports
29. Liberal Party's Reports
30. Economic League's Reports
31. War Office Post Bag Summaries
32. Primary Sources

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