A History of the Ministry of Information, 1939-46


Copy No. 274

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.



439 440 2 444 445 7 446 8 447 9


No. 123 11th February, 1943

(Covering the period 2nd to 9th February, 1943)


1. General state of confidence and reaction to news

Confidence remains on the same high level as last week, and the continued “wonderful advances” of the Red Army are again the chief reason for optimism. Other cheering factors include:

  1. Hope and belief in an early victory in Europe, which has been “buoyed up” by the Russian successes and “the German gloom”.

  2. Mr. Churchill's safe return.

  3. Expectation “that we are on the verge of some big offensive”, due, it is suggested, to the Casablanca Conference and Mr. Churchill's visit to Turkey.

  4. The continued Allied air offensive against the Axis and Axis-occupied territory.

  5. The fact that “there is always something good in the news these days”.

Some people continue to suggest that the general mood may be too cheerful, and that complacency has set in.

On the other hand, anxiety continues to be reported about “the U-boat menace”; and, although the Casablanca meeting is thought to have “eased the difficulties” somewhat, “the political muddle” in French North Africa and the military stalemate there are still causing “a good deal of irritation and disappointment”.

On the Home Front, complaints remain limited; the general attitude is summed up in the words: “aren't we wonderfully lucky”.

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

2. Russia

There seems to be little new to report on the intensity of people's admiration and enthusiasm for Russia - which again “dominates the war news”. While there is still some anxiety that when Spring comes the Germans will offer stout resistance, there appears to be a growing hope that the Russian successes will continue. Side by side with this, is increased speculation as to whether the Russian victories will end in:-

  1. Russia stopping at her own frontiers and making a separate peace.

  2. Russia winning the war for us. This leads to:

    1. A feeling of irritation and guilt about our help to Russia.

    2. Fear, on the part of a few, that Russia will overrun all Europe or “will want too much say at the peace-table”.

    3. Alternatively, acceptance of Russia's post-war dominance in Eastern Europe. “She deserves it.”

(1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13. 21 twelve provincial P.Cs. 22 thirty-nine P.D.Rs.)

3. The Prime Minister

People have been delighted by Mr. Churchill's “tour”, but are very relieved “he is safely home again”. His aerial trips excite considerable anxiety. Admiration for him is “greater than ever”. It is hoped that he will soon broadcast the results of “his good work”.

Before his return some people wondered whether “he would be going on to Moscow or India”.

Turkey : Mr. Churchill's visit to Turkey was “particularly appreciated”, and the talks at Adana were considered “a slap in the face for the Germans” and a sign that “Turkey must think that we are winning”. There is much speculation about the visit, and the following suggestions are reported:-

  1. It will mean additional help to Russia in some form or other: the Turks may open the Dardanelles to supplies and troops; we may now be in a position to use the Allied forces in Iraq and Iran in the Caucasus; or we shall invade Europe via Turkey and the Balkans, and “by this means help the Red Army”.

  2. The Turks may now come into the war on our side.

  3. “The talks anticipated a German attack on Turkey”.

Tripoli : There was great pleasure, particularly amongst relatives of men in the Eighth Army, at Mr. Churchill's visit to Tripoli.

(1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13. 21 two provincial P.Cs.)

4. North Africa

Tunisia : Reports from seven Regions (as against three last week) refer to “less worry” or talk about the political situation in Tunisia, and it is felt that the Casablanca meeting and General Giraud's “reforms” have helped to reassure people. Nevertheless, anxiety is still said to be considerable, and the following reactions continue to be reported:-

  1. Criticism of the Americans comes from seven Regions, five of which mention General Eisenhower. People are said “not to like the idea of Generals Alexander and Montgomery serving under U.S. commanders who have yet to prove themselves in the field”. The Americans are blamed for “the political muddle”, and for the slowness of military success - rumours are reported from three Regions that “the Americans are poor fighters”.

  2. Dislike and distrust of the French, especially of Peyrouton and of “all Vichy influence and all it stood for”. “Much remains to be done before pro-Vichy influences are eradicated” (Six Regions).

  3. Sympathy for General de Gaulle (Four Regions).

The Eighth Army : Pleasure that the Eighth Army “has done so well” continues to be reported, and confidence in it and in General Montgomery is said to be strong.

(1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13. 21 eight provincial P.Cs. 22 forty-five P.D.Rs.)

5. Germany

There seems to be a good deal of speculation on the possibility of an internal collapse in Germany, as a result of the despondent tone of German speeches and propaganda, the situation of the German armies in Russia, unrest in Europe, and the feebleness of their reprisal raids here. While “the motives behind the Stalingrad mourning celebrations are not really understood”, the “current German gloom propaganda” is thought by the more sceptical and wary as being designed to:

  1. “Lull us into a sense of false security”, and “make us slack” - with some success, according to one report.

  2. Pave the way for a peace offensive.

  3. Try to “rally the German nation before the crisis becomes acute”.

Even some of those who take the “gloom propaganda” on its face value, however, think that there will not be a crack in German morale yet, while a few regard the fact that the Germans dare to tell the truth as a sign, not of weakness but of strength.

One report mentions considerable surprise at news of the new German manpower decrees, as “most people thought that Germany was already fully mobilised before the war started”: a few are pleased to think that “we had already done this and have actually surpassed the enemy”.

Hatred of Germany - “enemy No. 1” - is expressed, as well as a hope that the Russians get to Germany before we do, “as they're more ruthless”. Several writers, quoted by Postal Censorship, express the hope that we shall beat them properly this time: “I hope they will not be as soft with Jerry as they were last time, and that the screw will definitely be put on, making it impossible for any more Hitlers there to start another world conflict”.

“Where is Hitler? Is he dead?” A good deal of discussion on these lines is reported. “Hitler's silence has led to much speculation, with guesses ranging between suicide, liquidation by the Prussians or high-ups in the Party, and arrest by the German High Command”.

Finland : Two reports refer to a belief that Finland may be “cracking”, and it is hoped that “efforts are being made to effect a satisfactory solution to the Finnish fighting”. It is thought that “it wouldn't take much to make her seek a separate peace”.

(1. 2. 4. 5. 6. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 21 seven provincial P.Cs.)

6. The war at sea

Anxious discussion of the gravity of the U-boat menace continues to be reported (Nine Regions). Apprehension appears to be chiefly confined to “the more thoughtful” or to those who live in coastal areas and seaport towns, and four reports indicate that many people do not yet realise the seriousness of the position.

Anger and irritation are reported at the lack of information; people are said to be “sick and tired of vague warnings, of continued reiteration of the serious times coming”. It is felt that it might be better to “run the risk of security” and to give some figures to encourage economy, and to bring home the seriousness of the situation to “those who look on the publicity given to the question as eyewash”. Press references to the sinkings are, however, already said to have prepared some people for bread rationing, and for “even more drastic curtailment of non-essentials”. At present, the plentiful food supply is looked on as a main reason for people's difficulty in realising the situation.

Some concern is reported as to whether the problem is being “tackled energetically and with imagination”, and it is asked: “Are we tackling 1942 U-boats with 1918 methods?”. In spite of this, “the raids on the bases at Lorient and elsewhere, and also on factories making U-boats or components for them, are warmly praised as being a sign of determination to overcome the submarine menace”.

(1. 2. 4. 5. 6. 8. 9. 10. 12. 13. 21 two provincial P.Cs. 22 seventeen P.D.Rs. 29.)

7. The Casablanca meeting

Comment on this meeting has died down considerably, possibly because Mr. Churchill's further journeys have monopolised attention. Second thoughts appear to be more favourable than those reported last week and this is confirmed by Postal Censorship. Approval and expectation of action now are the most frequently reported reactions, but regret at M. Stalin's absence still continues.

(1. 4. 5. 6. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 21 eleven provincial P.Cs. 22 thirty-nine P.D.Rs. 32.)

8. Second Front

Expectation of a second front is reported from eight Regions, and with it a desire for us “to strike now in Europe while Hitler is so hard pressed in the East”. There is considerable speculation as to where it will start up: Norway, Greece, or the Balkans are considered the most likely places, or possibly the Netherlands, but certainly not France with “the bitter experience of Dieppe and the lack of loyalty of the French”.

(1. 4. 5. 6. 9. 10. 11. 12)

9. R.A.F. offensive and German reprisals

There is said to be great satisfaction at “the increased scale of recent air raids over enemy territory” (Six Regions), and particularly those on Lorient and Cologne. The day raids on Berlin “continue to be the subject of satisfied and delighted comment”. “More and heavier raids on Berlin are hoped for”, and two reports mention the wish that Rome shall not be spared.

German raids on this country : Reprisal raids are said to be expected, but not feared. Some speculation is reported as to the whereabouts of the Luftwaffe: some think the Germans are “saving planes to make a big effort soon”; others believe that the Luftwaffe has had its day, or is being “kept in readiness for our invasion of Europe”.

The bombing of the London school (20th January) is still being discussed, and two reports (London, and South Eastern Regions) mention continued “dissatisfaction over the balloon barrage”. The explanation of the Secretary of State for Air is said to be “not wholly convincing”, and “the story about maintenance work, a bit too thin”. Both reports indicate that people would be “much better satisfied” if the Government were to “admit an error of judgment instead of trying to excuse it”.

(1. 2. 4. 5. 6. 8. 9. 10. 12. 13. 21 two provincial P.Cs. 22 twenty P.D.Rs. 29.)

10. Far East

Though interest remains slight, some comment is reported on the following:

China : Interest and sympathy are expressed (Three Regions), and also the fear that we may not be doing enough to help - stimulated, it is thought, by Mrs Wellington Koo's “speech” (Philadelphia, 2nd February). By some, however, her “grim warning” was dismissed as “a diplomatic flag wag”.

Australia : What is described as “the revival of Australian means” is said to have caused some not altogether sympathetic comment (Three Regions). “The controversy in the Commonwealth Parliament on the subject of the Militia caused some amusement after Mr. Curtin's appeals that Britain and America should send troops for Australian defence. Some describe as impertinent Australian attempts, fourteen months after Pearl Harbour, to get other countries to defend them from long distance attack, while they keep their conscripts safely within their own borders.”

Burma : Disappointment, anxiety and irritation are reported that “Wavell has not got far in Burma yet” (Two Regions).

The sea and air battle in the Solomons : Some anxiety is said to result from lack of news of this engagement or of “any authoritative statement from either side”, while Colonel Knox's statement (3rd February) that no major engagement was taking place is reported to have caused some confusion. (Two Regions).

(1. 2. 3. 4. 9. 10. 22 six P.D.Rs.)

11. Italy

Reports from only three Regions refer to the “re-shuffle in the Italian Cabinet”. People think this “an indication of a coming break up of Fascist power in Italy”.

(2. 6. 8)

12. The Beveridge Report and post-war reconstruction

Interest and discussion continue on the same lines as reported last week.

(1. 2. 3. 4. 6. 8. 9. 10. 12. 21 six provincial P.Cs.)

13. Broadcasting and presentation of news

“Few comments and complaints” sums up the general feeling about news presentation. Appreciation for the European News Service and listening to enemy broadcasts are both reported from three Regions. The three following points come from one Region each:

Reports of air raids : The press and B.B.C. are criticised for trying to “blind the public to the realities of war”. People are said to be “greatly irritated when references are made to our fighters crossing the Channel to bomb trains, camps and buildings and their exploits are referred to in glowing terms; but when a German plane crosses the coast it is referred to as ‘a sneak raider’ and damage done to persons and property is reported with ‘such sickening bathos’' in the press”.

Daily Express on Glasgow : Indignation is said to have been caused in Glasgow by a Daily Express article and photograph on 5th February (Scottish edition), showing “the most important railway and traffic bridges in the city to illustrate what one of our large bombs can do. They illustrated the Central and St. Enoch's railway stations and so presented, free of charge, the most wonderful bombing target in Scotland”.

Northern Ireland “neglected” : There appears to be some “disappointment that Northern Ireland has such a poor look-in the B.B.C. programme”, as compared with Wales and Gaelic Scotland.

B.B.C. programmes in general are criticised (Five Regions) as be[Text Missing] “dull”, “tripe”, “not worth listening to”, but criticisms and suggestions are alike vague.

The Brains Trust is said to be waning in popularity (Four Regions) and there is criticism of “the childish questions”. As a writer, quoted by Postal Censorship, says: “... it does seem a waste of tip-top scientists to use them for that sort of thing”.

The Anvil is criticised on the grounds that it is “too narrow-minded to be worth bothering with”, and as “doing harm to religion rather than good”. The answers are described as “fatuous”, “smug”, and “not the Bible answers expected” (Two Regions).

The newsreel interview with the children from the bombed Lewisham School is criticised in two reports as in “thoroughly bad taste. Such things should be banned”. It is considered unsuitable that children should be allowed “to record such sentiments”, though it is thought that they were “obviously prompted”.

(1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13. 21 one provincial P.C.)


14. Manpower

The decision to direct married women into part-time work (announced by the Minister of Labour in the House of Commons on 28th January) is welcomed as a means of “bringing in the young married dodgers” (Four Regions). Older married women are, however, apprehensive of the “unduly heavy burden of part-time work”, coupled with the responsibility of running a home (Three Regions). The decision also seems to be partly responsible for a revival of allegations of the “tactlessness” and youth of Ministry of Labour officials (Five Regions).

Other criticisms of the manpower situation follow familiar lines:-

(a) The number of young men and women in “cushy jobs” (Five Regions). (b) People sent to what they consider to be “unsuitable work of a less important character” than their present jobs (Three Regions) - in the Northern Region there is said to be a “growing sense of grievance”; (c) Adverse comment on the proposed increase in the transfer of labour (Three Regions); (d) Labour shortage, due to call-up, in the following occupations - shop assistants, farming, building and domestic work (Two Regions each). The call-up of key trained workers is criticised in two reports.

(1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 9. 10. 12. 21 two provincial P.Cs. 22 four P.D.Rs.)

15. Industry and coal mining

Criticism of production continues to be reported on a very small scale. In three reports workers are said to be dissatisfied, and to blame the managements for “not getting on with the job”; the managements in their turn blame the shortage of materials.

The general public is reported to be chiefly concerned with the January coal production figures which are regarded as “disappointing”, and miners are criticised for their “grumbling, and for absenteeism” (Four Regions).

(1. 3. 9. 10. 13. 21 one provincial P.C.)

16. Transport and petrol

Transport : Although in the Northern Region complaints about transport are said to be more numerous this week, the position as a whole seems to be causing slightly less criticism (Nine Regions, as against eleven last week). Complaints are, for the most part, on familiar lines. One report mentions difficulties resulting from the time it takes conductresses, transferred from one area to another, to learn the new district and the different fares and local conditions. Reference is also made to the fact that, “since many country bus stops have been cut, neither drivers nor passengers are sure of stopping places” and it is suggested that these should be indicated by a white line drawn on the road.

The London report suggests that “transport in London is generally considered satisfactory under the circumstances, and that the curtailment of services is on the whole accepted”, though there are some complaints that “buses to and from central London stop running too early”.

Petrol : Complaints of the waste and misuse of petrol have also decreased this week (Six Regions, as against eight last week). Misuse by businessmen and particularly by farmers is alleged, and “the luxury use of taxis” is again criticised. It is asked in Southampton “why commercial travellers trading in women's dresses are still allowed to go about in large cars”.

Northern Ireland church-goers : The report from Northern Ireland refers to the dissatisfaction of “church-goers who are not allowed sufficient petrol to enable them to attend church services. If the national life be not founded on the worship of God”, it is asked, “where do we stand? What are we fighting for? If the State says: ‘You may not worship unless you walk or cycle’, it bears the complexion of the State being inimical to the Church - a cleavage much to be deprecated”.

(1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 8. 10. 12. 13. 22 five P.D.Rs.)

17. Shortage of cycle lamp and torch batteries

The shortage of cycle lamp and torch batteries is reported from nine Regions each this week.

The release of cycle lamp batteries is said to be “eagerly awaited”, though in one Region it is anticipated that “greedy people” will try to buy up supplies and it is suggested they should be controlled. People in the Northern Region are reported not to believe Mr. Dalton's statement (8th February) that No. 8 batteries are uneconomical and point out that they never gave bad service before.

The number of “dud” batteries being sold is said to have increased in the North Midland Region, while in the North Eastern there are “very many complaints” of dealers refusing to sell batteries without torch cases.

(1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 8. 9. 10. 11. 21 one provincial P.C. 22 eleven P.D.Rs.)

18. Food

Satisfaction with the general food situation continues. Praise for Lord Woolton is reported from four Regions, though this is said in Scotland “to be tempered by the growing belief that the rationing system has been devised by his excellent staff”.

The main complaints are again on familiar lines: the shortage and zoning of fish; the waste of bread; the high controlled prices for green vegetables; the shortage of eggs, sweets and saccharin; the inadequacy of the fat ration for cooking potatoes.

Tinned fruit : The release of tinned fruit is said to have caused great pleasure in three Regions; but there is said to have been some speculation in the Eastern Region as to whether supplies would go round, and doubts as to whether points could be spared for such delicacies.

(1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13. 21 thirteen provincial P.Cs. 22 twenty-five P.D.Rs.)

19. Clothing

Coupons for household linen and towels : Coupon difficulties are reported from six Regions this week and the request for coupons for household goods continues. Housewives with billetees are said to be experiencing great difficulty in making necessary replacements of towels, etc., worn out by the latter.

Children's clothing and footwear : The shortage of children's clothing and footwear is reported from five Regions.

Utility clothing : Complaints of the bad or uneven quality of utility clothing are reported from three Regions.

Wellington boots : The shortage of Wellington boots, for land girls and others authorised to have them, is reported from two Regions.

(1. 3. 4. 5. 6. 9. 10. 11)

20. Agriculture

The scheme for providing 3,000 cottages for farm workers is commented on in four reports. It is said to have aroused interest in rural areas and is taken as a good augury for the future. Criticisms by agricultural workers are that they do not want a kitchen, living-room and parlour, and the rent will be too high. Farmers are said to be prepared to spend money on better housing conditions for their workers now, but difficulties due to shortage of labour and materials for having houses repaired are reported.

Land girls : Farmers are said to be unwilling to billet the girls whose services they require, for “if they live in, as they're not allowed to help domestically, the burden on the farmer's wife is much increased”. Where the girls are billeted on the farms, there is a difference of opinion between them and the farmers' wives as to how much domestic work they should undertake. It is reported that much is to be said for the wives of small farmers; they work on the farm themselves, are busier than ever and lack domestic help.

(1. 3. 4. 7. 8. 9. 12)

21. Fuel

There is little comment again this week about fuel economy. Most people are thought to be doing their best and generally trying hard to economise. Complaints continue of the unequal distribution and poor quality of coal.

Paraffin : The shortage of paraffin continues “to be a hardship” in country districts in three Regions. People, it is said, “would not mind so much if they felt that distribution was equitable”.

Fuel flashes : A mixture of criticism and praise for these is reported. They are said to be effective reminders to the more simple type of listener, although actively disliked by others.

(1. 3. 4. 6. 8. 10. 11. 21 one provincial P.C.)

22. Shopping difficulties

From seven Regions this week come references to shopping difficulties. Shopping is said to be one of the greatest difficulties of the working woman and it is reckoned that “what used to take fifteen minutes now takes two hours”.

It is suggested in the North Eastern Region that workers should be given priority tickets for shopping; in the London Region, that shops should stay open till 7.30 or 8 p.m. on one night each week; in the North Western Region, that the farthing should be abolished.

(1. 2. 4. 5. 8. 10. 21 one provincial P.C.)

23. National Savings campaign

During the last two months there have been several references to the “excellence” of the National Savings Committee advertisements. The “Squander Bug” is particularly liked “because it doesn't look like a Government advertisement”; though in Wales, however, it is thought that something less repulsive should be substituted, perhaps “a malicious little demon or gremlin”.

(2. 6. 8. 9)



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

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