A History of the Ministry of Information, 1939-46


Copy No. 271

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.Os.) 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.



469 471 3 473 5 474 6 476 8


No. 121 28th January, 1943

(Covering the period 19th to 26th January, 1943)


1. General state of confidence and reaction to news

A slight rise in spirits is reported and many people are said to be more cheerful than they were last week. For this, continued Russian successes are said to be chiefly responsible. There is also great satisfaction over the taking of Tripoli and the subsequent advances of the Eighth Army, and these have “in some degree taken people's thoughts away from the political difficulties in Tunisia”, where the situation continues to cause considerable anxiety. The shipping situation is said to be another “sobering influence”, and increasing realisation of the U-boat menace is reported from seven Regions.

There seems to have been a slight decrease in talk of early victory, though many are still reported to “believe that the Germans and Italians will be knocked out by Christmas, 1943”.

Several reports refer to people feeling tired and flat, and to the prevalence of colds, chills and influenza. Long hours of work, the black-out, lack of proper holidays, and of vitamins, are thought to account for this.

On the Home Front the shortage of batteries is still reported as “a widespread, major difficulty”, though the position is said to have eased a little in some places. Other “frequently discussed topics” are the fish shortage and transport difficulties.

(1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13. 14 North Western Region. 21 six provincial P.Cs. No report from Region 6 this week)

2. The Prime Minister's meeting with President Roosevelt in Casablanca

No reports of public reaction to this news have yet been received, though speculation about Mr. Churchill's whereabouts is reported from eight Regions, opinion being equally divided as to whether he had gone to America or North Africa. The earliest signs of this speculation were reported last week - from the South Western Region.

(1. 2. 3. 5. 8. 9. 10. 12)

3. Russia

Admiration for the Russians continues, apparently more strongly than ever, and “Russian prestige has never stood higher”. “People talk in superlatives of Russia but that doesn't really express how much they admire her achievements.” The relief of Leningrad made a particularly deep impression, without “giving rise to the almost emotional relief caused by the liquidation of the threat to Stalingrad”. Other reported reactions include (a) admiration for the leadership, organisation and mobility of the armies and supplies; (b) comparisons between Russian activity and our “quietness”; (c) satisfaction at the amount of material sent to Russia by U.S. and ourselves; (d) scepticism of Russian claims; (e) interest in, and desire to know more of, the Russian social system and conditions of life. Some admiration for “the tenacity of the encircled German force before Stalingrad” is mentioned in two reports.

Suspicion of Russia , in various forms, is mentioned in reports from five Regions, though apparently on the part of a small number of people only, who are “concerned over the peace, if Russia ‘pulls it off’ by herself”. “Will Joe stop at the Channel?” is another sentiment expressed. Many people in Scotland are said to be “irritated, some bewildered, and a few impressed by the outspoken anti-Russia feeling expressed by the Poles stationed there”. Those who are impressed say: “After all, they have been neighbours of the Russians for so long, they know better than the B.B.C.”.

Second front talk is mentioned in four reports. People want to “make sure that the war is definitely carried into German territory”, and some feel that “there never was a more favourable time for attacking the Germans than when they are in difficulties on the Russian front”.

The size of Russian territory is still not appreciated by many, according to three reports, two of which mention “increasing criticism of the maps of battlefields appearing in the Press”. These are said to “cause the general public to form a most erroneous impression of the scale of operations and territory involved” - particularly “the size of the areas recaptured by the Red Army”.

(1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13. 14 N.W. Region. 21 twelve provincial P.Cs)

4. The capture of Tripoli by the Eighth Army

The capture of Tripoli is described as “a milestone in the public mind” and has caused great satisfaction. Although it was not unexpected, people are said to have “liked a silence, succeeded by great news”. This success has “heightened the already great prestige of the Eighth Army and established the confidence in this command even more strongly”. According to the report from Scotland, “with working people especially, Montgomery will soon be as popular as Timoshenko”. “The feat of organisation which enabled the Eighth Army to make so great an advance in strength, and with full supplies, is highly praised” in three reports.

Many people, however, are said to expect that “great difficulties still lie ahead”, and it is pointed out that “the Eighth Army has not yet got to grips with Rommel's forces”. Though “Rommel's pursuit into Tunisia is greeted with relish”, some now fear that he will be able to join up with the Axis forces in Tunisia and that part of the Allied armies “may find themselves sandwiched between two German forces”.

At the same time it is hoped that “the arrival of the victorious Eighth Army will hasten things”. The comment is reported that “it will be the Eighth Army that will destroy the Axis in Tunisia, not the First - and certainly not the Fifth”.

(1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13)

5. Tunisia

Up to the announcement of the Prime Minister's visit, public feeling about the situation in Tunisia was reported to be substantially the same as it was last week, the only new development being widespread disapproval of M. Peyrouton's appointment. The predominating reactions continued to be (a) bewilderment and dissatisfaction at our lack of progress; (b) criticism of the Americans on the grounds that they were not doing their share of the fighting and were responsible for the political situation, and (c) a belief that the military hold-up was due less to the mud than to political difficulties.

(1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13. 21 seven provincial P.Cs.)

The war in the air

The raids on Berlin : “The R.A.F. offensive, and particularly the raids on Berlin, are said to have given much satisfaction. The great majority seem to “hope that they'll go on - reprisals or no reprisals”. Further reports mention a belief in “the psychological value” of raids on the German capital, particularly at a time when they are suffering reverses elsewhere. The raids on Berlin are said to have “ended a rumour, which very many found unpalatable, that there was a London-Berlin bombing truce”. One report mentions “some feeling against the bombing of Berlin, on the grounds that there are targets of military importance which do not involve so much bombing of civilians”.

“Why don't we bomb Rome?” is a question reported from six Regions, together with the demand that we should do so. Although one report refers to “a strong feeling that Roman Catholic influences in this country are working to ensure that Mussolini's capital remains immune”, the report from Wales says that “some Roman Catholics would not object to Rome being bombed if Mussolini is increasing the military importance of the city and if it would end hostilities more quickly”.

The raids on London were expected and were regarded by many as propaganda raids: “anything else would have been too open a confession of Luftwaffe weakness”. They were thought to have been “nothing in comparison with ours”. Satisfaction is again expressed with “the excellence of the barrage”, though there is thought to be some need for renewed warnings of the danger of sky-gazing, while it is in action.

The bombing of the school (20th January) has aroused great indignation and sympathy. Opinion is divided, however, as to whether or not it was deliberate.

Civil Defence : The daylight raid on London has given rise to much discussion - not only in London - on the question of locked shelters, of the balloons not being up and, particularly, of bombs being dropped before the alert. There is some feeling that “the Civil Defence authorities were caught napping”. “Though not unduly worried about air attack, the public do expect the very extensive and expensive services which absorb considerable man and woman power to be capable of handling efficiently a situation such as this.”

Expectation of further raids : Speculation is reported as to the possible resumption of heavy raids. There is some expectation of further reprisals, but it is not thought that they will be severe, and most people express great confidence in our anti-aircraft defences and the R.A.F. In Scotland, however, “the death roll at the school near London has re-awakened in the minds of many parents questions about evacuation”.

Poison gas : Expectation that Hitler may use gas, “as a last terrible bid”, appears to have been stimulated by Lord Halifax's reference to this possibility in his speech at Rochester, New York (18th January). It is suggested that “if the British authorities believe this, some arrangements should be made for the overhaul of anti-gas equipment”.

(1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13. 21 eight provincial P.Cs.)

7. The war at sea

Anxiety about “the U-boat menace” is increasing, particularly among those who live in ports and “more thinking people”, who are said to be uneasy because “they do not know where we stand”. “No one wants exact figures”, but it is felt that some statement should be made because: (a) “People don't want to be treated like children: what's bad enough for the Government to know is not too bad for us”; (b) “Silence blinds the mass of people to the gravity of the situation, whereas more factual news would rouse them from complacency and give an impetus to all war effort”.

Some anxiety is reported at alleged deficiencies of Fleet Air Arm aircraft.

(1. 2. 3. 4. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 13. 21 four provincial P.Cs.)

8. Iraq and Chile

Very little interest has been shown in the declaration of war on the Axis by Iraq (16th January), or in Chile's break with the Axis (20th January). There is some tendency to regard both events as “a barometer of our degree of success”.

(2. 4. 7)

9. The Beveridge report

Interest continues at a reduced level, and comment follows familiar lines. There appears, however, to be “increasing fear that the recommendations may be sabotaged by vested interests”, and it is hoped that “the Government will reassure the public with an authoritative statement”.

“Uneasiness” continues to be reported in six Regions at the ban on the A.B.C.A. pamphlet, containing the Beveridge report summary. According to reports from two of these Regions, “the defence offered by Sir James Grigg is described as very weak”.

(1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 21 four provincial P,Cs.)

10. Anti-semitism

Reports from five Regions (as against four last week) refer to “an increase in feeling against the Jews”. This is again variously ascribed to “the number of black-market offences committed by people with Jewish names, their indifference and meagre contribution to the war effort”, and their success in getting houses in areas where the demand is greatest. It is also suggested in the North Midland Region that “rumours are going around of the number of Jewish turns - especially in variety shows - being broadcast by the B.B.C.; and any preponderance of Jews in any particular industry or department does get an Englishman's goat”.

Sympathy for Jews in occupied Europe is reported from two Regions.

(2. 3. 4. 9. 10. 21 two provincial P.Cs.)

11. Broadcasting and presentation of news

There continues to be little comment on the presentation of news, but some criticism is reported this week about the following:-

  1. “The B.B.C. bulletins are overweighted with Russian material” (Three Regions). There is some anxiety lest “people are being led to believe that Russia is bearing the whole burden of the war and that our own efforts are insignificant”.

  2. We are trying to minimise our losses in Tunisia (Three Regions).

The Brains trust : Comment on the Brains Trust is reported in five Regions. Although opinion appears to be sharply divided, unfavourable reactions are said to predominate.

Appreciation is reported for Major Hastings' War Commentary of 21st January, and for the further instalments of “War and Peace” (Four Regions each).

Sunday night Postscripts : Reports from three Regions again suggest that these are not considered as interesting as they were.

(1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 7. 8. 9. 10. 32)


12. Industry

Criticism of production continues to be on a small scale, and in two Regions the public are said to be more satisfied with the position. “Lack of enthusiasm” among the workers is mentioned in two Regions, though in the South Western Region instances of “good spirit and readiness for sacrifice” are commented on. Familiar complaints reported are, (a) absenteeism, especially among transferred workers and wives of serving men (Four Regions), and (b) stories of idle time (Four Regions).

In the Northern Region “the burden of the war” is thought to be “falling far more heavily on women workers than on the men”. It is pointed out that “many women workers are housewives with an already full time job on their hands”, and “strain and fatigue” (reported from three Regions this week) are thought to be aggravated by (a) shopping difficulties (Five Regions and Postal Censorship); (b) long hours of work, especially night work (Three Regions); and (c) fire-watching duties (Two Regions).

Strikes and the threat of strikes continue to be criticised (Five Regions), especially by the relatives of serving men. In Scotland however, “considerable sympathy” is said to be shown by industrial workers for the Scottish miners' wage claims, and in the South Eastern Region a “minority” are reported to feel sympathy with the locomotive men - “Give them a fair deal and they will not strike”.

(1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 7. 10. 11. 12. 13. 21 three provincial P.Cs.)

13. Manpower

The extension of the National Service Acts (1939-42) has evoked some comment that girls of nineteen should not be called into the Forces until (a) “women in their twenties” have been called up (Four Regions), and (b) married women “without encumbrances” have been “forced into war work” (Four Regions).

Other criticisms of the manpower situation are (a) the handling of women at Labour Exchanges, and complaints of “their unfair direction into industry” (Four Regions); (b) the number of “young men in reserved jobs, shirking the call-up” (Three Regions); (c) “the inefficient use of manpower” (Three Regions); (d) “the drain on essential industries and civilian services caused by the call-up of young men and women” (Three Regions).

(1. 2. 3. 5. 7. 9. 10. 12)

14. Shortage of batteries, and cyclists' difficulties

Shortages of torch and cycle lamp batteries are again reported (torch, eight Regions; cycle lamp, seven Regions). “Although the situation appears to have eased a little”, the shortage “still remains an outstanding topic”, and “workers find that getting to their employment is a hazardous undertaking”. The bad effect on time-keeping and the overcrowding of transport at rush hours are again pointed out, and there is criticism of the whole situation, which “must have been foreseeable”. A report from the South Western Region states that “the more understanding attitude” shown by magistrates to cyclist offenders “is remarked on and approved”.

(2. 3. 4. 5. 7. 9. 10. 11. 12)

15. Transport difficulties

From ten Regions this week come reports of transport difficulties. These include the familiar ones of the overcrowding of buses, the failure of buses to pick up passengers at intermediate stops, the crowding out of long distance passengers by short distance ones, the curtailment of evening and Sunday transport and the departure of buses before their scheduled time.

(1. 2. 3. 5. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 21 one provincial P.C.)

16. Petrol

Complaints about the waste and misuse of petrol are reported along the usual lines this week from seven Regions. They are: the misuse of taxicabs; misuse of special allowances; waste by the Army, farmers, Home Guard and N.F.S.; and the number of high-powered private cars still being used.

(3. 4. 5. 8. 10. 12. 13. 21 one provincial P.C.)

17. Health

From seven Regions this week come reports of “a good deal of talk about people being away ill”. The prevalence of colds, influenza, “tummy troubles” and tiredness is specifically mentioned, and it is suggested in three Regions that “people are not getting the right sort of food to help them shake off these ailments”.

Venereal diseases : Instructions and publicity are said “to be doing much good”, and approval is reported for the B.B.C. talk on the subject given on 19th January (Five Regions). According to the report from the Eastern Region, however, “there is some feeling that the Government is not tackling the matter in a strong enough manner; many people believe that venereal disease should be notifiable, otherwise local authorities cannot co-operate as they are supposed to do”.

The care of the sick : “The growing difficulties” in obtaining nurses, doctors, and midwife attendance and hospital or nursing-home accommodation are reported from three Regions.

(1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 7. 9. 10. 14 North Western Region)

18. Food

Satisfaction with the general food situation continues to be reported.

Complaints are, however, reported of (a) the fish shortage and zoning scheme; (b) the high prices at which green vegetables are controlled; (c) the distribution and shortage of shell eggs; (d) the shortage of sweets, apples, biscuits, onions and rabbits; (e) the inadequacy of the points' allocation for small families.

Bread : Six reports refer to the waste of bread this week. It is suggested that much could be saved if (a) it were only served in restaurants and cafes on demand; (b) larger helpings of vegetables were served. People in the Northern Region are said to be disturbed at the idea of potato flour being used in bread.

Cheese : Little comment is reported on the reduction in the cheese ration (Four Regions). It is said that in many cases people did not previously use the full ration.

Tinned fruit : The announcement that tinned fruits will be available on the points ration is said to have been welcomed (Two Regions). Some fear is expressed in the rural areas of the North Midland Region that “they will be less well treated than the urban areas”.

(1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13. 16. 21 fourteen provincial P.Cs.[Text Missing])

19. Clothing

Coupons for household linen and towels : This week eight Regions report the need for a separate coupon allowance for household linen. It is said that “the problem is becoming more and more acute”, particularly for those households who have people billeted on them and where there are growing children.

Children's clothing and footwear : Seven Regions report difficulties arising from the shortage of children's clothing and footwear, particularly the latter, and it is said that “children have to stay away from school while repairs are being carried out”. The “present method of patching” is described as “false economy” as the shoes are not made watertight.

Stockings : The poor quality of stockings is again mentioned (Three Regions) as the cause of “much grumbling”.

Wellington boots : Two Regions report a shortage of Wellington boots, and there is said to be “much heart burning at the scarcity”, particularly among women working on the land and those with children”. “Evacuated children are supplied with Wellingtons by the W.V.S., and Italian prisoners of war working on the land are also given them, while every difficulty is put in other people's way.”

(2. 3. 4. 5. 7. 8. 9. 10. 12)

20. Fuel

There is less comment on this subject this week. People are said to be “doing their best”, but the difficulties of country people who can use only coal and paraffin - “the two fuels most strictly rationed” - are again pointed out (Two Regions). The Northern Region reports some discontent “on account of what is believed to be the threat of proceedings against those who exceed last year's fuel consumption”, and it is hoped that any rationing system introduced “will be decided by pre-war figures of consumption” in order not to victimise the patriotic. There are more complaints about the poor quality of coal.

Fuel Flashes and Advertisements : While opinion is divided about radio fuel flashes, and some people are said to be “heartily sick of them”, there is praise for Government fuel advertisements and for the flashes shown in the cinemas, “because they have catchy rhymes and amusing sketches”.

(1. 3. 4. 7. 8. 11. 21 two provincial P.Cs.)

21. Shopping difficulties

There are complaints from four Regions this week of shopping difficulties, the chief of which continue to be the early and lunch hour closing of shops.

Requests that shopping hours should be adjusted to suit workers are reported from the North Eastern Region, it being pointed out that the shops are sold out on Saturday afternoons when workers are free.

(2. 4. 5. 7. 10. 21 one provincial P.C.)

22. Black-out

Pleasure at the promised relaxation of black-out restrictions for travellers is reported from three Regions, although it is suggested that “what is more needed is insistence that the railway companies maintain lighting to the full extent of the permitted limit” (One Region). It is said also that “some people are disappointed that the Government did not include some form of ‘starlit’ street lighting in those towns which are still in darkness (One Region).

(3. 5. 7. 12. 14 North Western Region)

23. Income tax and post-war credits

During the past six weeks very few complaints about income tax have been reported, though four references have been made to “distrust of any repayment of post-war credits” (Three Regions). In one Region it is suggested that “these grave doubts” are due to fears that “after the war, post-war credits will be subject to the means test”.

(2. 3. 8. 9. 10. 21 two provincial P.Cs.)



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)
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.Os.
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

D 34653-1 6,000 1/43 R P W

We use cookies to track usage and preferences.

Privacy & Cookie Policy Accept & Close