A History of the Ministry of Information, 1939-46


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.

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.



173 176 4 177 5 178 6 179 7 180 8 182 10


No. 141 17th June, 1943

(Covering period 8th to 15th June, 1943)


1. General state of confidence and reaction to news

Public confidence remains high, because of:

  1. The capture of Pantelleria and “the other islands”.

  2. The knowledge that “the Captain is back at the helm”.

  3. Expectancy of big Allied operations at any moment “somewhere on the continent, probably Italy”.

  4. Our air offensive on the Axis, particularly the resumption of heavy raids on Germany.

  5. The improvement in our shipping position.

  6. The fact that the Germans have not started a summer offensive against Russia.

At the same time, there are indications that expectancy is in some cases giving way to tension, a process which, it is thought, is helped by the newspaper headlines.

A good deal of talk about the possible duration of the war in Europe continues (Seven Regions); estimates range between September this year and sometime in 1944, but according to a minority ... “if it's taken three weeks or a month to smash a small island like Pantelleria, it's going to take years and years to finish the job”.

The Whitsun break has been welcomed, but reports from three Regions refer to war weariness and fatigue. On the Home Front vigorous comment continues about clothing difficulties - particularly children's footwear - housing problems and the shortage of soft fruit. Concern is again reported over strikes in industry.

(1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 5SE. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 13. 21 nine provincial P.Cs.)

2. The capture of the Italian islands

The news of the capture of Pantelleria and “the other islands” - which people had been expecting - was received with quiet satisfaction. The “absence of casualties” was particularly appreciated. Opinion is divided as to whether the time taken to reduce the islands may be considered short or not, and some attempt is made to calculate the length of the European war on this first instalment.

The capture of the islands is looked on as:

  1. A prelude to “what comes next”. (On the other hand, “a few of the more cautious consider it the closing phase of the Tunisian campaign”.)

  2. A stepping stone in an invasion of Italy.

  3. A new technique for invasion: “We may get more almost bloodless victories by air bombing and naval bombardment ... there may even be no need to land troops on Italy's boot, if we soften it down the same way”.

(1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 5SE. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 13)

3. The next move

Expectation that “the balloon will go up at any moment” continues to be widespread, and it has increased since the capture of the Italian islands. Some people are inclined to blame the press and Allied leaders for stressing the imminence of full scale invasion and complain that the atmosphere of expectancy since the fall of Tunis is being overdone. Others are determined not to believe that we will invade Europe until we do so, and are preparing themselves for a long wait. The first reaction to the King's visit to North Africa is a feeling that the invasion cannot be coming off just yet.

Concern over the inevitable loss of life is reported from seven Regions.... “people are steeling themselves for the ordeal”.

Speculation as to possible points of attack continues as before, with Italy the most popular guess. There is criticism of “the recent tendency to speak of the ease with which Italy will fall”.... “they have stood up to the worst bombing in the world for a whole month, and will fight strongly on Italian soil”.... “to run down our enemies, especially after defeating them, takes credit away from our own men”. It is, however, thought that Italian verbal bellicosity is really “whistling to keep up their spirits”.

(1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 5SE. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 13. 21 four provincial P.Cs.)

4. The Prime Minister

Mr. Churchill's safe return is still commented on with great relief. “People get really anxious when he is absent, wondering what we should do if anything happened to him.” It is hoped that he will “not tempt Providence too often” and that “Roosevelt and Stalin will come here next time”.

Mr. Churchill's reputation is said now, in several reports, to be “at its peak”, his “personal prestige having risen even higher as the result of his courage, endurance and vitality, coupled with what is felt to be his desire to see things personally”.

The speech in the House (June 8) , though arousing less comment than his visits and safe return, has been well received. People particularly welcomed “the confidence of his references to impending operations”. It is generally agreed that “he could hardly have told us more than he did”, and “his reticence is admired”. “Efforts to read between the lines” continue, nevertheless.

(1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 5SE. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 13. 21)

5. Allied Air Offensive

The air offensive against Germany and Italy continues to give great satisfaction. While many regard mass raids as “an abhorrent necessity”, the public, with few exceptions, is said to be wholeheartedly in favour of them. There is “the warmest approval of speeches by Ministers making it clear that our air attacks are to be continued and intensified”, because people feel that “the shortening of the war is the only thing that matters” and “brutality and destruction the only thing the enemy understands”. There is no support for Spanish and Papal “feelers”. Many are said to be “getting annoyed at letters in the Press objecting to bombing as un-Christian”.

The twelve days lull in the night bombing of Germany caused much comment and speculation, and some disappointment. Some wondered if the lull was due to our losses or to our saving up our bombers for the second front. A few, finding it “difficult to believe that the weather at this time of year could keep our bombers away from Germany for so many nights”, were beginning to “wonder whether the Pope's second statement had not had some effect, despite all speeches to the contrary”.

The value of concentrated raids is questioned in two reports; the arguments against them are (i) “the devastating effect that a prolonged raid is known by experience to have, both mentally and physically, upon those who have to endure it”, and (ii) “the fear that the bombers being hurtled together may do damage to one another”. “Descriptions by pilots of narrow escapes from collision with other bombers crowding over the target have given the impression that some of our losses may be due to our aircraft either being hit by bombs falling from machines above, or colliding in mid-air.”

The bombing of Rome continues to be advocated (Eight Regions), though some hope that “it will not be necessary, in case ancient monuments are destroyed”. This is considered no argument by others, who “at once call attention to the wanton destruction of our monuments and the attack on Buckingham Palace”. The Bishop of Lichfield's address (June 4), in which he said that “to bomb Rome would be a crime against civilisation”, has caused resentment (Two Regions).

(1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 5SE. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 13. 21 seven provincial P.Cs.)

6. North African Politics

Growing irritation and impatience at “such schoolboy tactics” have followed the renewed friction of the French leaders (Eight Regions). The public are “fed up with the ‘everlasting breakdowns’ in their negotiations”.

Although there had been some expectation that the “apparent agreement” was only temporary, and some doubts about having two heads to a committee, relief and hope followed the announcement that agreement had been reached. Now that the Generals apparently cannot sink their differences, “when so many others have so much at stake”, disappointment and growing exasperation are reported. It is asked if the Government cannot do something about settling their differences, or else compulsorily retire them both.

“French stock is not rising in any quarter”. There is reported to have been a revival of the saying “the French were never any good, even in the last war”, and some speculation as to how far we can trust them. At the same time, there is some feeling that “neither of the Generals really represents the best spirit of France”.

Although sympathy is said still to be on the side of General de Gaulle, it is declining ... “another fortnight of the present deadlock will see it completely gone”. He is thought to be a difficult person, “yet it's he who has kept the French flag flying all the time”.

There is said to be “less criticism of General Giraud than might be expected”, principally, it is suggested, because the public knows so little of him.

(1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 5SE. 6. 7. 9. 10)

7. Russia

“Waiting for news of the expected offensive” appears to be the attitude of many people; otherwise there is little comment on the Russian front. It is thought that the renewal of fighting may be a “signal for a simultaneous push from our side”. Confidence in Russia remains high and there is admiration for the “increased magnitude of her air attacks”, although some doubts are still expressed about the figures of German planes lost, as compared with Russian losses.

The dissolution of the Comintern has been mentioned in eight Regional reports during the past two weeks, and “continues to be received with satisfaction”.

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

8. The Far East

Although interest in the Pacific war zone continues slight, “the desire to help China more positively” is expressed. It is hoped that the recent operations in Central China, in which Allied planes took part, “will relieve the danger of a Japanese advance on Chungking”. In other parts of the Pacific area the Allies are felt to be “only nibbling at Japan”, but people realise that “the fighting in North Africa limited possibilities in the Far East, and the choice has been justified by success”. Some concern is felt in the North Western Region as to the fate of missionaries sent out from that district.

Prisoners of war : Relatives of prisoners of war in Japanese hands wonder if their letters ever arrive and are “depressed by the scarcity of replies”. They feel that “the British Government ought to be able to do something to improve this disquieting state of affairs”.

(1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 5SE. 8. 9. 10)

9. War at Sea

The recent announcements of successes against U-boats are said to have given satisfaction and produced “a feeling of optimism” as well as increased confidence in the future. There is reported to be a “growing impression” that the U-boat menace is now under control.

Some demand for more information regarding shipping losses continues, but on a smaller scale.

(1. 3. 4. 5. 5SE. 7. 8. 9. 10)

10. U.S. Strikes

The U.S. coal strike continues to evoke adverse criticism from some members of the public; it is suggested in one report that it has “rather offset the recently increased appreciation of the U.S. war effort”. In Scotland, however, a minority are said to express sympathy for the working conditions of the miners; this sympathy is thought to have been stimulated by recent articles in the “Daily Herald” and the “Tribune”. Strong criticism of John L. Lewis continues to be reported.

A reference is made in one Regional report to feeling about the recent strike in the Packard works at Detroit. The allegation that the workers were striking against the employment of negroes is said to have caused critical comment and to have led to “doubts of U.S. sincerity in the principles of the Atlantic Charter”.

(1. 3. 5. 5SE. 11. 21 two provincial P.Cs.)

11. Air raids on this country

Some increase in anxiety about retaliatory raids is reported from the London and South Western Regions. Many people believe that “air attacks will intensify considerably” when the European landing begins, but apprehension has also been stimulated by the South Coast raids, by Civil Defence workers saying they have been warned to expect heavy raids, and by a rumour that “the Germans have thousands of planes in reserve behind the Atlantic seaboard”.

President Roosevelt's warning on gas seems to have revived discussion of its possible use by the enemy (Three Regions), but the majority are still said to think that there will be no gas attacks here. “People feel that the enemy knows that the risk would be too great”, and “sceptics consider it a stunt to keep people alert”. Some “real uneasiness among elderly people” and mothers of young children is, however, mentioned, but “no increase in the carrying of gas masks”.

The raid on Grimsby (June 14) was the first raid in the North Midland Region for some time. “The morale of the people was very high. A comment made in the town was; ‘we are used to living in danger; our men are at sea’. It is suggested that the raid was less terrifying as many anti-personnel bombs were used, not noisy H.Es.”

(2. 3. 5. 6. 7. 9.)

12. Holidays

The Whitsun holiday : A good deal of holiday travel is reported from the Southern, and North Western Regions; it is believed that many people combined Whitsun with their annual holiday “fearing that they might not get it later on”. Other reports indicate that many people “spent the weekend happily at home”, and there is said to have been “no great influx of visitors to the South Coast”. In the London area, war workers, who alleged that “this was their first daylight outing for months”, were reported to “be in an ugly mood” when they could not board buses and were forced to wait in long queues, in order to reach such open spaces as Richmond and Kew. In the Tyneside area, day trippers to the coast evoked much local sympathy when, to their dismay they were turned off the beaches at one o'clock. It is felt that “they might have been allowed one day on the sands”.

United Nations Day , despite the “uninviting weather”, seems to have been a great success, according to preliminary reports. The parade was witnessed by great crowds in London, Cardiff, and also Edinburgh where the procession was considered far too short. Here, “many of the public failed to understand what it was all about, or why, for example, the Union Jack was omitted from the United Nations' flags. The greatest cheers greeted the Indian contingent, and the next greatest, the war workers”. It was thought that “a few aeroplanes roaring overhead would have added a thrill”, though this practice has evoked criticism of waste of petrol in some places.

Summer holidays : War workers, their wives (to whom a holiday at home means extra work) and the inhabitants of blitzed districts, are reported “to feel the need for a change in this fourth year of war”; “many arrangements are already being made for holidays away from home”. Some war workers contrast their “four bank holidays ‘at home’ unfavourably with servicemen's leave, and do not see why they should be expected not to travel”. In the North Western Region numbers of people are alleged to be making plans for Wakes Week; there is said to be great difficulty in arranging holiday accommodation at seaside resorts, and people are reported “to be going on day visits to try at numerous apartment houses till they get fixed up”. In holiday areas in the Southern and North Eastern Regions, local inhabitants are already complaining that local food supplies and transport are being adversely affected by holiday makers.

While it is felt that the discomforts of travelling will put off some would-be travellers, more and better facilities for holidays at home, and effective advertising and publicity are suggested to make holidays at home really successful.

Staggered holidays : In Northern Ireland, strong criticism is reported of the Belfast Wholesale Warehousemen's Association, who, despite the Production Council's request that non-essential work firms should stagger their holidays, have recommended their members to close their warehouses during the normal holiday week.

(1. 2. 5. 5SE. 6. 8. 9. 10. 13)

13. Broadcasting and presentation of news

Again this week there is only slight comment on the presentation of news.

Criticism of the alleged contradictory statements in B.B.C. news bulletins and press reports comes from three Regions. An example of this is the “alleged minimising of air raid casualties by the B.B.C.” which was contradicted by subsequent press reports of serious damage and heavy casualties.

Criticism is also reported of the way the press is allowed “to quote German news giving advance information before it is released by British sources”..... “The Axis reported the attack on Lampedusa on Tuesday, but on Wednesday there was still no confirmation from British sources”.

The news that “American warships are provided with secret weapons giving increased speed” is said to have been greeted with considerable criticism in Scotland. The term “secret weapon” was considered unsuitable, as in Glasgow shipyards it is said that such devices have been incorporated in Clyde built ships for many years - all of them built for navies other than our own. It is asked: “Why has our Admiralty failed to make use of these devices?”

Many Glaswegians who saw the arrival at Glasgow of German North African prisoners-of-war are said to have expressed anger at the press photographs showing “tiny young Nazi troops”. “They took photos of the very worst they could see. Most of the prisoners were enormous, well built, well nourished men.” It is asked: “Why should the paper lie like this?”

Praise is reported this week for Paul Winterton's Postscript on Russia (June 6); The Radio Padre; Marching On; and Alexander Werth's broadcasts.

(1. 2. 3. 5. 5SE. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 21 One provincial P.C.)


Note : So as to shorten the Weekly Report, it is proposed to give full details of public feeling on the subjects dealt with under the heading “Special Comments” only once a month. New or important aspects of these subjects will be dealt with in the intervening weeks.

14. Industry

Strikes : While strike action or threats of strike action continue to be condemned by many people, there is some feeling that general war-strain resulting from long working hours, transport difficulties, and Home Guard and firewatching duties, is responsible for “this tendency to unrest among workers”. In the North Eastern Region the “slow working of conciliation machinery” is looked on as an added source of irritation.

Sympathy for the bus employees appears to be growing in the Northern and North Eastern Regions, though nowhere is strike action approved. It is felt that busmen's wages are very low; it is believed that they do not get overtime rates, and that their working shifts are badly organised, the spread-over of hours being too long. In some parts of the North Eastern Region, where the employees have returned to work, it is said that the management “is being increasingly blamed” for the unhappy situation.

Women war workers : The following comments have been received during the past two weeks:

  1. Anxiety is expressed by mothers with children of school age as to whether any official arrangements will be made for their childrens' summer holidays; there are some complaints that factory foremen are unsympathetic and unhelpful to mothers who have to make the necessary arrangements. In London it is asked if the Play Centres will be open and if holiday camps on farms could be arranged (Two Regions).

  2. Women doing skilled jobs in the Scottish shipyards are said to be doing good work and enjoying it. “Having a definite job to do gives them a feeling that they are part of the war effort and not just employed for odd jobs.” Complaints of “gossiping and keeping the men off their jobs.” are made only about women on unskilled work.

(1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 7. 9. 11. 21 one provincial P.C.)

15. The ration book distribution

An improvement in distribution is reported from nine Regions this week (as opposed to seven Regions last week). Criticism of the original arrangements has considerably decreased, although people who spent a large amount in fares or lost a day's work at the beginning of the distribution period are still said to be feeling “sore”.

Familiar complaints from some rural areas - of long distances travelled under difficult conditions, and time and money wasted - are reported from five Regions; from some towns in the Northern and Southern Regions come complaints of hours spent in long queues. There is still occasional criticism of the inadequacy of local arrangements and “the rigidness of the scheme”.

There is only one reference this week to the “let us sit down and wait attitude”, said to have been inspired by Lord Woolton's broadcast (May 28).

The Ministry of Food is praised for the “informative and helpful” press advertisements.

(1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 5SE. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 13. 21 one Special, one provincial P.C.)

16. Food

The outstanding food topics this week are:

Fruit : (Eight Regions) There is an “active longing for fresh fruit” and some disappointment at its absence from the shops. There is again comment on the disappearance of fruit when the price is controlled. People in London bought strawberries from stalls “without caring about the price”, so keen were they to get the taste of a little fresh fruit. Particular complaints of the shortage come from the Northern Region, where people feel they are “at a distinct disadvantage by comparison with other parts of the country”, and from gardeners and allotment-holders who have no claim on any greengrocer's shop. This is felt to be a particular disadvantage, as both fresh fruit and tomatoes are often said to be reserved for regular customers. Two suggestions for alleviating the shortage are made: (i) that “the produce of the larger private gardens be distributed”, - it is thought that, through lack of sugar, much will be wasted-and (ii) that there should be “propaganda to induce people to gather wild fruit such as blackberries, elderberries, etc.”.

Tomatoes : (Six Regions) The non-appearance and high price of tomatoes have caused much comment and some complaint. In Newcastle, people were said to be queueing for tomatoes, even though they knew that each person would only be allowed one tomato. In the North Midland Region, there are complaints that, instead of selling tomatoes by the pound, greengrocers are filling small chips with lettuce, beetroot, radishes and two small tomatoes and charging 1/-. “As many people grow their own lettuce now, they don't want to buy it in order to get a tomato. Tomatoes are also being sold in markets at the rate of 3lbs per customer, which cases the selling but means that a minority get the supply. Also poorer people cannot afford to buy that quantity. Customers who ‘want’ lettuce as well as tomatoes are allowed to jump the queue.”

Potatoes (Four Regions) There are complaints of the poorness of the potatoes now on sale, and of the absence of new potatoes. Where new potatoes have appeared, they have been “hailed with delight”.

The dumping of surplus fish into the sea at Newhaven “because of the zoning scheme” has caused “extreme resentment” in the North Western Region (“Manchester people have great difficulty in even obtaining dog fish”) and “terrific indignation” in Scotland. According to the Scottish report, “the public, the canteens and the hotels went without, but the Ministry can preen itself on preserving zoning intact. Local fish dealers are indignant that authority must be sought from London to deal with abnormal situations such as the local glut of fish.”

The importation of Algerian wine , instead of oranges, is again criticised (Two Regions).

(1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 5SE. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 13. 21)

17. Agriculture

Harvest helpers : Insistent complaints of the lack of clear directions about where prospective helpers should apply, and the need for information regarding the work available, are reported from the North Eastern Region; it is stressed that people do not want to work on farms near their homes. In London it is said that the idea of holidays on the land “has not yet penetrated very far”.

Agricultural labour : Shortage of agricultural labour is again reported from Wales and the South Western Region; in Devon it is said that “agricultural workers are enticed away from the land into higher paid jobs”. In the North Western Region land girls are criticised for “reluctance to work after six o'clock” and for too great an interest in local Servicemen. Farmers in the Northern Region are reported to be saying that agricultural workers are content with their present wages, and agitation for increases is only stimulated by their leaders.

(1. 2. 3. 5. 7. 8. 10)

18. Paraffin Priority Scheme

In the Eastern Region, the Paraffin Priority Scheme is said to have met with hearty approval, although there has been some criticism of the form to be filled in. It is pointed out that families buy in bulk and therefore cannot say how much is used for heating and how much for lighting. It is also asked “how the statement that priority authorisation will be issued only when there is no alternative method of lighting, cooking and heating” will be interpreted. Since many country cottages do possess some sort of old-fashioned grate or range which could be used if the coal ration did not render them impractical, it is hoped that “the Local Fuel Overseer will be empowered to use his commonsense”.

(4. 5)

19. Venereal diseases campaign

Comment is reported from four Regions this week. It is thought that there has been an increase in the number of people seeking advice. Although the campaign is “not much talked of openly”, it continues to be approved of generally.

(2. 8. 9. 10)

20. Miscellanea

The following have been reported from only one Region each.

The Merchant Navy : According to the report from the North Western Region, “Commissioned Wireless Operators who have served in the Merchant Navy are said to be very resentful that they have been conscripted on their next voyage as ordinary A.Bs. They consider it very unfair, and a waste of skilled men. Appeals to the Admiralty, Shipping Companies and Labour Exchanges have proved useless, and they feel that they are being signed on at an A.B's rate of pay only to be transferred to wireless duties, when the ship has put out to sea, in order to save money for the shipping companies. Another opinion reported was that our shipping losses and consequent casualties must have been so great that it has necessitated the signing on of skilled and commissioned men to fill any duty required in a ship.”

The Rushcliffe Committee : “Local District Nursing Societies are reported to be very anxious for an early statement from the Rushcliffe Committee on the District Nurse's status, as funds are getting low because of increase in salaries.” (North Western Region)

Coloured members of the British Commonwealth of Nations : The fact that they are debarred from certain hotels in this country is “censured by certain of the public”. (Northern Region)

“The second-hand cycle racket” : There are complaints that utility cycles are sold for £8. 19. 5d, while second-hand models cost £13. (London Region)

(1. 5. 10)

21. Rumour and Careless Talk

Thoughts of the European Invasion are said to be making people increasingly sensitive about and resentful of careless talk. The story about the German plane which surrendered in the air still persists in Aberdeen. The distinguished person on board is now said to be Dr. Schaht.

The belief that raids on South Coast towns involve heavy Service casualties has been exemplified by a rumour that 400 W.A.A.Fs were killed in a raid at Eastbourne.

(10. 11)



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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