A History of the Ministry of Information, 1939-46


Copy No. 282

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.



233 234 2 235 3 238 6 239 7 240 8 241 9 244 12 245 13 246 14


No. 137 20th May, 1943

(Covering period 11th to 18th May, 1943)


1. General state of confidence and reaction to news

Public confidence, which rose sharply last week, is now even higher. “Enthusiasm and thankfulness” are everywhere reported as a result of “the spectacular end to the African campaign”. Many people are “still in a state of rather delighted bewilderment, because it seems so odd that after all this time there should be no more African campaign news in the press”. Generally, elation has been “self-contained and undemonstrative”, and there has been no “Mafeking spirit”; “people assess the victory as a stepping stone, and not as dry land at last”.

The coming offensive has now superseded the Tunisian victory as a topic of conversation, and the questions of the moment are: “Where do we go from here?” and “When?” The majority are said to have “a grim understanding of the magnitude of the task”; but they have great “confidence in our leadership” and now “know with certainty that the Axis is doomed”.

“The general wave of excitement” is said to have swamped interest in other events, such as Mr. Churchill's trip to Washington, the Russian front and Burma (“the only dark spot in the picture”).

Only preliminary reactions have so far been received to the bombing of the German dams, but these suggest that “this brilliant achievement has tended to raise spirits to an even higher level than before”.

On the Home Front, “the public is so heartened by good news and so tensed for big developments that minor grievances and grumbles are to a large extent forgotten”; and the good weather is credited with having done much to “promote cheerfulness and satisfaction - even among farmers”.

A good deal of strong feeling is, however, reported about “the numerous strikes which have occurred during the past week”.

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

2. Tunisia

Intense pleasure continues to be expressed at “our colossal victory” in Tunisia. The public appear to be chiefly impressed by:

(a) “The speed of the attack” : People are “delighted because we have now shown the Nazis what a blitzkrieg - their own speciality - is really like”.

(b) The “sudden collapse of the enemy” : There is a good deal of speculation as to whether “this demoralisation of Axis forces indicates that Germany may suddenly collapse, as in the last war”.

(c) “The complete co-operation of the Allies” and of the three arms of the Services. There is praise, too, for “the skill of Eisenhower, back-stage, in organising the supplies and welding the many nationalities into a coherent unity”.

(d) The fact that “the Allied armies have proved themselves superior to the Axis in fighting power” and “have been able to give the elite of the German panzer divisions a first-class thrashing”. There is “unusual delight that the British Army has come into its own”, and there is genuine pleasure because the Americans have “learned the battle techniques quickly after all”. There is an impression that “the German Army is not so strong as was thought”.

(e) “The strategy and daring of General Alexander” : The majority now “feel that we have nothing to be ashamed about in our generalship”.

(f) “The astonishing number of prisoners” : There is much speculation as to where we shall put them all, and how we shall feed them. There is satisfaction that so many of them are German, but regret that more were not killed. “Can we now do something about the chaining of our boys?” it is asked.

(g) “The slightness of our casualties” : “Few appear to have scrutinised the figures at all carefully, but people had steeled themselves for much higher figures.” Some anxiety had been reported as a result of references, particularly by the B.B.C., to the costly nature of the offensive.

Rumours are said to be current (Two Regions) about “women going joyfully to meet their menfolk - and not being warned of dreadful mutilations”. According to one rumour the wife visits her husband in hospital, discovers him to be without arms, legs or sight, and dies of shock.

(h) “ The capture of von Arnim and news of his arrival in England caused particular satisfaction”, but not “the reports (in the press of 17th May, but since contradicted) that he would receive £40 a week, while in captivity”. It is rumoured that he is imprisoned at the Sassoon House, Trent Park, and that comfortable furniture and supplies were being hastily brought there over the weekend; it is felt that less generous treatment, in comparison with ‘what our boys get out there’, should be meted out to the General”.

(i) “Will the Eighth Army get some leave now?” is a question often asked, particularly by the men's relatives. Greatly as people wish that the enemy should be “hit again before his morale has time to recover”, it is felt that those who have been fighting in Africa since the campaign began, should be rested before they are sent to fight on a new front.

(j) Lack of arrangements to celebrate the victory : “No flags or outward jubilation”. The pealing of victory bells and the special thanksgiving services were, however, on this occasion considered justified.

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

3. The next move

“The next step is now more talked about than North Africa”, and “on all sides expectancy and speculation are reported”. It is generally believed that “there will be a bitter struggle with heavy casualties”, though some say: “No, Germany will crack up soon. Look at North Africa”. No one appears to doubt that the attack on the European fortress will succeed.

“When?” “Most people expect Europe will be invaded almost immediately”, though some think we had better wait for “at least another fortnight, until there is no moon”. It is hoped that we shall “follow up as soon as possible” - “Hitler hesitated after Dunkirk and it proved his undoing - we do not want to do the same”.

“Where?” “Suggestions as to the whereabouts of attack once more cover the whole continent of Europe.” Some “expect there will be a small landing to cover up the real operations”; others favour “a double assault from England and Africa, with a consequent pincer movement”. Some speculations are more detailed - “the Tenth Army to Crete and the Balkans, the Eighth and First to Sicily and Sardinia, and the Armies in England between Boulogne and Dieppe”. On the whole, Southern Europe, with Italy predominating, appears to be first choice, - Italy is expected to “cave in easily”. Next to Italy, the place most often mentioned is Turkey, through which it is thought the Rumanian oilfields could be reached.

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

4. North African politics

The main feeling is summed up in the following quotation: “People are sick of the flapdoodle between Giraud and de Gaulle. They want the two to get on with the job jointly, and to leave questions of rank, status and priority aside”. Some suspicion of the French in North Africa continues to be reported, and it is thought that we should, maintain strict supervision of the French Colonial Empire or “we shall have trouble with the French officials out there yet”.

(1. 2. 5. 5SE. 7. 10)

5. The Prime Minister's visit to Washington

This has been greeted in the main with satisfaction, but with little surprise, because as soon as Mr. Attlee has to “make an important speech in the House, the country knows that Mr. Churchill is abroad”. This time people thought he had gone to Cairo. His trip has caused less comment than previous ones, being “outshone” - like everything else - “by the North African news”. Comment is chiefly on the following aspects:

  1. Mr. Churchill's “toughness and courage” : There is “joy on all sides that he is fit enough to make the journey, and great admiration for his willingness to go to any lengths to effect close working. It seems to be taken for granted now that if his presence is needed, he will be there”.

  2. He “should not expose himself to dangers , at this turning point in the nation's fortunes”. “We can't do without Mr. Churchill: he shouldn't leave the country.” Some wonder “why Mr. Roosevelt can't come here for a change”. The risk to Mr. Churchill's health, as well as to his safety, also causes some concern.

  3. Russia is “again unrepresented” : “When are we going to hear of a real Four Nation conference, with the Soviet Union and China represented?” It is particularly wished that “Stalin could be in at such conferences”, and feared that he is “playing a lone hand”.

  4. Why did he go ? Although some think he went in connection with the coming offensive, it is believed that that must all have been settled at Casablanca “long ago”, and it is generally believed that “the subject of the conference is the Far East, rather than Europe”. “Moves against the Japanese”, it is thought, “would explain the presence of Wavell and the absence of Russian representatives”. Minority suggestions as to his reason for going include: “To bridge the gulf between Poland and Russia”; “to iron out difficulties with Russia”; “to arrange that General Alexander should take General Eisenhower's place in command of the North African forces”; to arrange “more help for China”.

The Prime Minister's broadcast to the Home Guard aroused less interest than his speeches usually do; it “delighted the Home Guard”, but most other people were disappointed. No fault is found with the speech itself - though some thought the ending abrupt - but the great majority seem to have been expecting a war speech. People were hoping for “a paean of victory about Africa, and an assurance that we had at last passed through the era of blood, toil, sweat and tears”. “People hope for something juicy when he broadcasts”, and they were hoping to hear him say: “I told Mussolini that we would tear his Italian Empire to shreds, and now we've done it”. Nevertheless, most people were pleased “to hear from him - whatever he was saying - when he was so far away on an important mission”. It was generally expected that the war situation would be dealt with more fully in his Congress speech.

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

6. The Far East

Interest in the Far Eastern war, although still on a small scale, is reported to be somewhat greater this week, principally owing to Mr. Churchill's visit to Washington, which “seems to presage action in the Far East”.

Disappointment and concern are again reported at the continued set-backs in Burma (Eight Regions, compared with five last week).

Some people in one Region are said to think that “the Japanese are preparing a big offensive while there's time”, and others wonder, as the result of General Wavell's visit to this country and Washington, whether the situation in Burma is “sufficiently serious to retard the opening of the coming offensive on the Continent”. There is some criticism that press reports of the Burma fighting are small and “not explicit enough”.

Although the Far East war is felt by some people to be “Australia's and America's affair”, others express concern at the “Jap approach to India” and it is said that “more people are beginning to realise that 100 per cent effort is needed to defeat Japan”. A number of people are reported to feel that “to keep the general public interested in the Far Eastern war after the collapse of Nazidom in Europe will be a most difficult task”.

China : A slight increase in interest is reported; it is said that “more people are hoping that some Allied move is to be directed at the release of China”, and that the public would welcome additional news about China.

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

7. Russia

There is still little comment reported about Russia. People are said to be awaiting developments, in some cases with anxiety about the outcome of the fighting, and in others with confidence in the Russians. A slight expectation is reported that a Russian offensive will be “linked with some Anglo-American invasion move”. The operations in the Kuban appear to have aroused little discussion, but a feeling that the situation there “is thought to have much improved” is reported from one Region.

Among a small minority there is said to be some speculation on “the outcome of Britain's alliance with Russia”, and some fear of her post-war policy.

(1. 2. 3. 5. 7. 8. 10. 21 two provincial P.Cs.)

8. The Russian-Polish dispute

Interest is now much less, Some anxiety about the effects of the dispute, particularly as to the post-war settlement in Europe, continues, although there now seems to be more confidence that a satisfactory settlement will be reached; Stalin's statement is thought to have been helpful.

Criticism of the Poles, along the lines previously reported, outweighs sympathy for them this week. The belief that the Polish leaders are Fascist in outlook is again mentioned.

(1. 2. 4. 5. 5SE. 7. 8. 10. 11. 21 five provincial P.Cs.)

9. The Allied air offensive

The bombing of the German dams : Preliminary reactions to the bombing of the three dams serving the Ruhr-Westphalia industrial region, have been received from nine Regions. This “brilliant and daring achievement” has aroused feelings which vary from “jubilation” to “grim approval” - in some cases not untinged with feelings of horror at the terrible consequences to civilians: “I wonder what it would be like to be wakened at midnight by an avalanche of water”. Many people, however, are said to feel little sympathy for the civilian victims - “they asked for it, now they've got it”. Great praise is expressed for the R.A.F., and some for the Jewish refugee who was thought to have given the necessary information. It is hoped, however, that the announcement that he was Jewish will not provoke a savage anti-semitic outburst in Germany.

There is already some speculation, and a little apprehension, as to “what the Germans can do here in return”, though “well informed” people do not believe that any of the dams in this country “could be hit with comparable effect”.

The general Allied air offensive : Satisfaction with this continues to be reported from all Regions. It is felt that “the undreamed of proportions” of our air blows have now fully redeemed past promises of continuous and ever-increasing air attacks, and people are enthusiastic at the “deadly blows we are dealing to the enemy's war production”.

Some speculation on our ability to maintain the present intensity of attack is reported; some people wonder if it is “just a well-timed gesture”, while others believe it to be a forerunner to the invasion of Europe. The bombing of German targets is specially welcomed - “there should be a raid on Germany every night, however small” - as are also the raids on Italy; and the bombing of Sicilian ports and bases is looked upon as a prelude to early large scale attacks on Italy herself.

There is said to be less concern about our losses, and the horror, expressed chiefly by women “at the necessity for such mass slaughter” is only reported from one Region this week.

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

10. Air raids on this country

The release of the Luftwaffe from the African skies, and Hitler's desperation, are given as reasons for a slight increase in the belief that there will be more raids on this country. The expectation that they will be heavy comes only from coastal districts, and most people are said to feel that the enemy no longer has it in his power to inflict severe blows.

South Eastern coastal areas : Very little comment is reported on the nuisance raids in this area, and many people are now said to be able “to sleep undisturbed while the sirens wail at night”. At Deal, however, there are allegations that the cross-channel shelling is affecting morale; there is some feeling of resentment that it continues, because “Jerry only starts shelling when we do”.

London : The nuisance raids do not appear to worry people very much and are referred to as “just enough to keep us on our toes”. There are comments on the fact that bombs were dropped on Sunday night before the siren, and that the continual sounding of the sirens disturbs people: “if the general policy of the enemy is nuisance raiding, cannot the warning be given once at night, and then the all-clear sounded in the morning?”

East coast raids : Concentration on the two coastal towns is believed to be due to the Germans' inability to get through to Norwich. Considerable sympathy for the bombed, particularly the A.T.S. hostel victims, is reported.

South Wales town : Preliminary enquiries indicate that the attack has been taken philosophically, and very much in the spirit of the elderly lady who, searching among the rubble that was once her home, was heard to exclaim “Ah well, anyway this means that we shall get more coupons”.

Aberdeen : A rumour has reached the Midland Region that five hundred Gordon Highlanders were killed in the recent raid on Aberdeen.

German leaflets dropped in a Northern Region coastal district on the night of 15th May, were received with amusement, because some of the ships named by the Germans as sunk, are known by local seamen's families to be whole and intact.

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

11. The war at sea

Less comment on the shipping position is reported this week, and anxiety seems to have decreased since the recent American statements (4th and 5th May) about the low sinkings of Allied ships during April. People are also cheered by the recent successes against the U-boats with our “new secret device”, and by the belief that owing to the Tunisian victory we shall now be able to send our ships through the Mediterranean and thus shorten our shipping routes.

The desire for “a truer account of our shipping losses” continues to be reported, and it is felt that “people would be more prepared to tighten their belts and work harder, if the facts were clearly stated”.

(1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 5SE. 10. 13. 21 one provincial P.C.)

12. Home Guard Sunday

The celebrations on Sunday are said to have given great pleasure and to have been appreciated. It is thought that it was about time the Home Guard got some praise, instead of the usual jokes, and some credit for “hard work put in on top of a long day's work”, as “many are not so young as they used to be”. The smartness and “impressive soldierliness” of the men is commented on, and the women are said “to have enjoyed the opportunity of seeing their own men on parade”.

Although the Home Guard is said to commend itself by its efficiency, and the public have full confidence in it, there are some who are doubtful of its ability to deal with a sudden major emergency. They think it would be quite inadequate against a highly trained and mechanised German army, owing to its members being mostly raw untried youths and elderly men; though not under-estimating the spirit of the men, they fear that their age and lack of experience would prove a severe handicap.

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

13. Rifleman Clayton's death

The inquest on Rifleman Clayton still seems to be “a main topic of conversation, particularly among the working-classes” and “those in contact with the ranks”. Horror and indignation are again mentioned and, though there is “some relief that the assailants are not likely to get away with it”, a number of people think that the Sergeants should be hung, or at least court martialled. “Women with male relatives in the Forces are uneasy that this alleged policy of brutalism may be common for men undergoing detention”, and “mothers are expressing great concern about their sons in the Army”.

The M.O. is thought to be “just as guilty”. Women with relatives in detention, especially if they are physically unfit, are said to be anxious. It is asked whether it is possible for a man to “ask for a second doctor's opinion, if his M.O. tells him he is fit”.

It is rumoured that Clayton was a notorious character in his home town of Enfield.

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

14. Youth

During the past three weeks there have been references from nine Regions to the behaviour of young people. The increase in juvenile delinquency, drunkenness, lax morals and hooliganism is said to be giving rise to anxiety. Lack of parental control, high wages, and the “lack of sufficiently alluring counter-attractions” are thought to be the cause.

The need for “organised play” for younger children is reported from four Regions. Even where there are public playgrounds children are said to play in the streets, and it is suggested that, where they exist, the use of these playgrounds should be made compulsory. Owing to the longer days, children are said to be allowed to stay up late; at the same time, some demand for a “children's curfew” is reported by parents in the North Western Region, as “children scatter at their play and cannot be found”.

Youth organisations : Some improvement is felt to be necessary in the youth services as there are doubts whether they are fulfilling their purpose of fitting young people for future citizenship. Concern is reported in the London Region at the “number of C.Os. directed to do youth work by military tribunals”.

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

15. The Jews

During the past fortnight nine Regional reports have commented on Jews in this country, and two reports mention an increase in anti-Semitic feeling. The main criticisms continue to be of their alleged evasion of the call-up, black marketing and truculent behaviour.

In Brighton it is said “to be widely felt that a countrywide check-up on identity cards is desirable” as “there are obviously too many fit young aliens and Jews walking about the streets”.

Persecution of the Jews in occupied countries : Sympathy is expressed for the Jews in Europe; from one Region comes support for the idea that “asylum should be found in this country or in Palestine for as many as can escape the Nazi clutches”. Though cruelty and persecution are condemned, generally speaking there is said “to be little love lost” on those who are alleged to “come crying for help and remain to plunder”.

(2. 3. 4. 5. 5SE. 7. 10. 21 one Special, two provincial P.Cs.)

16. Broadcasting and presentation of news

Comment on news presentation this week is mixed, the balance being favourable; in four Regions comment is said also to be not very strong and this, it is suggested, should be interpreted as “tacit appreciation”, there being “no desire to criticise obviously good news”.

The handling of the Tunisian news, both by press and B.B.C., is praised in reports from five Regions; satisfaction is recorded at the “promptness, completeness, and excellent taste” of the news bulletins, and at the prompt and frank statement of our losses. Some criticism is made, however, of the “sketchy way” in which the first news of the Tunisian victory was given, fuller details being published only some days later, in the press. The “matter-of-fact” tone of the announcer giving the news is also criticised. The prompt publication of photographs and details of the raids on the German dams is also praised.

Some doubts are expressed (Two Regions) as to whether our news service is not too rigidly controlled; “Are people being given the information they should be?”

B.B.C. programmes are both praised and criticizsd. There is appreciative comment of “brief and pungent” war commentaries and talks: “authoritative talks by men with first hand knowledge” are said to be always welcome (Four Regions).

There is praise for Commander Kimmins' Postscript (16th May), and further praise this week for Squadron Leader John Strachey's Postscript (6th May), and for the “dual commentary” in which he took part on 13th May. There is also further praise for Mr. Edward Murrow's Postscript (9th May).

Satisfaction is expressed with ‘Marching On’ (Four Regions) and with ‘Into Battle (Two Regions). Talks by Professor John Hilton are also praised (Two Regions).

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


17. Industry

Strikes (Seven Regions): Irritation at strikes is again reported, especially among Servicemen and their relatives; according to the report from the Northern Region, “bitterness has been much stronger the last few days”. There is a further demand for “the Government to do something drastic, and for strikes to be made illegal for the duration of war”. Disgust is said “to override any question of sympathy for the contending parties, because whatever the rights or wrongs may be, our men fighting victorious battles abroad are being let down”. Only in the North Midland Region is mention made of some sympathisers with the strikers; they cite cases of “transport workers and factory girls at Players Ltd., Nottingham who, with deductions, are now receiving a net wage regarded as being lower than pre-war”. Particular reference is made to the strike of transport operatives in Yorkshire “which has made it very difficult for many people to reach essential work”, to a bus strike in the Thames valley, and to a rumoured munitions strike in Coventry.

Enforced idleness (Five Regions): Stories continue to be reported of idle time in factories; this is variously attributed to “the overstaffing of large firms”, “overproduction of certain munitions, so that production has now had to be stopped”, and to inefficiency. “A craftsman may wait two days for a part that can be bought retail at 4/6d. - meantime other men are waiting for the job.”

Slacking of workers (Four Regions): There are further references to “work people not pulling their weight”. Some workers feel, it is suggested in the North Midland Region, that “if they produced more work, piecework rates and bonuses might be cut”.

Fatigue (Four Regions): Although fatigue is believed in two Regions to be responsible for some absenteeism, it is suggested in others that “the good news is bucking people up and signs of strain among war workers are less obvious”.

Wages (Four Regions): Dissatisfaction is reported at the high wages of munition workers compared with Servicemen's pay. On the other hand, transport employees and engineers in heavy industry are said to grumble about “wages and conditions of work in general”.

(1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 8. 9. 10. 21.)

18. The call-up

Comment continues to be reported about: (i) The number of young women, “usually soldiers' wives with no apparent obligations” who evade the call-up (Four Regions). It is suggested that when such women, living in hotels or lodgings, “are called up before the Ministry of Labour, they tell the authorities they are only staying in the town temporarily and may have to leave any day, but remain for months and are apparently lost sight of”. (ii) The direction of older women into part-time work (Four Regions). The only grumbling reported is when they see younger women apparently evading National Service. (iii) The number of young men still in civilian occupations (Three Regions). Mention is also made of “young men hawking logs and plants in the streets”, and of pavement artists.

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

19. Clothing

Clothing coupons : The inadequacy of clothing coupons (Ten Regions) continues to be reported - particularly for (a) renewing household goods (Six Regions), (b) working clothes for workers in heavy industries (Three Regions), (c) poorer families, and families with growing children (Two Regions each).

A belief (and consequent concern) that next year's coupon allowance will be smaller continues to be reported; some people are said “to have decided that the allowance will be thirty-six, and are gasping....”

Footwear difficulties : Difficulties in getting shoes repaired are reported from seven Regions (as opposed to four last week), and the high prices charged, and poor quality of leather used, are both commented on. There is again reference to the shortage of footwear (Five Regions) particularly of Wellingtons, large sizes in boots, children's light shoes and plimsolls. Leather laces and large nails and studs for farmers' boots are also said to be scarce.

Utility clothing : The poor quality of utility socks and stockings is criticised again (Two Regions each); complaints of (i) poor quality of utility corsets, (ii) utility shirts, (iii) the bad cut of mens' underpants (short style), (iv) the poor quality of worker's overalls, and (v) the small hem on children's dresses, are all received from one Region each.

Black market : The obtaining of coupons by illegal means, and the thieving of coupons and clothes, are reported from three Regions this week. In Rugby, it is alleged that unworn but “deliberately soiled” clothing is sold on the market coupon-free.

Laundry services : The struggle of women war workers to find time and soap to do their washing is reported from two Regions this week, and there are demands for communal laundries in the London Region. Complaints of the laundry zoning scheme come from the Southern Region, and from another Region the “transport-soiling” and wear and tear of laundered clothes is adversely commented on.

Note : We much regret that under the section headed Clothing in our last Report (No. 136) a statement about the new issue of clothing coupons was inaccurate. Through a misunderstanding, it was said to have been officially announced on 8th May that the allowance of coupons for next year would be thirty-six. No such statement was made, and in fact on 14th May the Board of Trade announced that no decision had yet been taken, but that the total number of coupons would not fall below thirty-six.

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

20. Transport

Transport difficulties (Eight Regions) are referred to as “a perpetual grouse”. Complaints, which continue on familiar lines, include (i) The overcrowding of buses, particularly in rural areas; special mention is again made of short-distance passengers crowding out long-distance ones. (ii) The difference between train and bus fares, “which places a heavy burden on road transport leaving the trains running half empty”; on the other hand, the overcrowding of suburban trains “by floods of week-end visitors” is referred to in the London report. (iii) The curfew, “which doesn't give people a chance to go out for an hour after they've worked till 6 or 7 p.m.” (iv) Crawling buses in London - “a pernicious and unnecessary factor of wartime transport.”

There are again requests for additional transport facilities at week-ends and for holidays. To quote from Postal Censorship: “we are asked not to travel, but people are more in need of a holiday than ever, what with war strain and blackout winters.”

Petrol (Eight Regions): Complaints continue about waste of petrol through (i) Lack of co-ordination in transport; (ii) Private cars run on unnecessary journeys by farmers, Government officials, U.S. soldiers and others; (iii) The use of taxis for pleasure purposes.

In the Northern Region, employees of bus companies are said to be criticising “the storing up by some companies of relatively new fuel-oil driven buses that do twelve to fourteen miles to the gallon, and their replacement by old and worn out petrol driven buses that only do five miles to the gallon”.

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

21. Food

Satisfaction with the food situation, and faith in Lord Woolton's administration continue. It is said “present restrictions are bearable so long as supplies are fairly distributed and black markets controlled”.

There is, however, some grumbling about:

  1. The shortage of fish (Six Regions): Reports of preferential treatment of customers continue. In one town there is said to have been a hostile demonstration when a man called to collect his telephoned order while a queue was waiting to be served.

  2. Distribution of fruit (Four Regions): Complaints that greengrocers are issuing cards to their best customers and only serving their own customers are reported; they thus stop war workers and those who grow their own vegetables from getting their fair share. The disappearance of rhubarb from the shops since its price was controlled is also complained of.

  3. The reduction in the cheese ration (Four Regions): This is said to be causing difficulty, especially to those who take packed meals.

  4. Packed meals (Three Regions): These continue to be a source of difficulty to wives. Miners' wives are said “to be going without their own rations in order to give their men food”.

  5. The shortage of dried fruit (Three Regions): Housewives in the North Midland Region rural areas say they “never see a sight of figs or dates”.

  6. The shortage of meat (Two Regions).

  7. The shortage of soft drinks (Two Regions): The warm weather is said to have caused people to complain of the shortage of soft drinks.

(1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 21 one Special, fourteen provincial P.Cs. 32.)

22. The new ration books

“Angry and bitter comment” from rural dwellers at the prospect of a five or seven mile journey to collect their new ration books is reported from five Regions. “Have they given much thought and consideration to local conditions and local working hours?” it is asked, and Isle of Wight residents complain that “this is not the way to encourage people not to travel”.

(3. 4. 5. 5SE. 6. 10)

23. Shopping difficulties

Shopping difficulties are reported from eight Regions this week. Complaints of queuing come from six Regions. Preferential treatment of customers “who ignore queues and just walk in to have their orders handed to them”, the waste of time spent in queues, and leisured women who can “comb the shops” are mentioned.

The early and lunch hour closing of shops and the irregular business hours of butchers' shops are reported to be extremely unpopular. Workers in full time jobs are said to be “worried out of their lives to get their rations”.

(1. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 9. 10. 21 one Special, two provincial P.Cs.)

24. Health

Tiredness and strain, particularly among women workers and older men and women, are reported this week from seven Regions. In the Southern Region, however, the signs of strain among war workers are said to be less than a few months ago - “Summer, and the news, having bucked people up”.

Fears of the increase of tuberculosis are reported from three Regions; stories of “dirty milk being put into dirty bottles”, the “bad ventilation of buses and the dirty condition of the streets” are said to give rise to talk that these are possible causes of the increase. It is suggested that sufferers should be “compelled to go into isolation as they are a menace to other people”.

The “worry and difficulties connected with obtaining beds in maternity homes” are complained of in reports from two Regions; they are said to be having a bad effect on expectant mothers.

The V.D. campaign continues to be spoken of in complimentary terms, though it is said that much has yet to be done. Recent posters and newspaper advertisements are thought to be more “pungent” than earlier ones, but there is some complaint that the repetition of the advertisements causes lack of attention.

(1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 21 two provincial P.Cs.)

25. Housing accommodation and the difficulties of billeting workers

The difficulty of obtaining housing accommodation, the high rents charged and the high prices of houses, are mentioned in reports from eight Regions this week. People who seek accommodation are said to be reluctant to take action through the local authority in respect of excessive charges for rent, and Government action is asked for. In the London Region much dissatisfaction is said to be felt that houses are left empty when they are so badly needed.

Hard cases of “notice to quit” furnished houses and lodgings are complained of (Two Regions). Expectant mothers are said sometimes to be asked to leave their lodgings, and to be unable to find others.

Billeting problems are reported from three Regions; “better working-class billets” are said to be very scarce.

Rural housing : The desire among country people for better housing conditions is reported from three Regions, but the cottages to be erected under the Government scheme continue to be criticised for their concrete floors and small bathrooms, and because it is thought that an insufficient number will be built.

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

26. National Savings

Wings for Victory weeks (Five Regions): The good news is said to have stimulated enthusiasm for Wings for Victory weeks and people are “saving as much as possible to help reach the target”. Disappointment is reported among some Newcastle people “that only a Hurricane was exhibited; they thought they were at least entitled to a bomber, as their target was seventy-five Lancasters - let alone the importance of the city”.

The Oxford County Court decision awarding a wife's savings to her husband is said to have had an adverse effect on group savings, and to have aroused widespread indignation (Two Regions): “If this is the law, it should be amended at once”.

The National Savings Campaign “is still not as effective as it might be”, it is felt, in one Region, as it does not draw a response from all members of the public. Examples given are (i) a working-class woman's remark: “£14 a week takes a lot of getting through”; and (ii) “the appalling amount of money spent by children: they buy anything eatable, even stomach tablets, and go two or three times a week to the pictures”. It is suggested that more competitive schemes should be introduced.

(1. 3. 5. 7. 8. 10. 32.)

27. Servicemen, their pensions and dependants

Comment continues on the lines reported last week; the main criticism is of “the low rates” of all Service pensions and dependants' allowances. “Very great uneasiness” is reported from the Northern Region because “men discharged from the Forces are compelled to seek public assistance; it's something the Government ought to attend to at once”. In Scotland, some bitterness is mentioned among the discharged soldiers themselves because of alleged inattention to their needs: “One soldier, recommended for outdoor work only, was given a job as a clerk, and it is asked if there is any organisation to see to this kind of thing”. The new pensions tribunals are welcomed.

(1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 10. 11)

28. Birdseed in the North West

Workers in the North West are great bird fanciers and there is indignation at the rise of the price of birdseed to as much as 15s a lb. Some are making it a class question: “The rich can keep their canaries, but the poor man's pet must die”.


29. Rumours

There appears to be a slight increase in the number of rumours circulating, apart altogether from speculation about the opening of the European front. Typical examples are as follows: the Germans landed at Pegwell Bay at the beginning of the month (Sandgate); a German plane surrendered in the air and was escorted into Dyce by four Spitfires - it had a high German official on board (Aberdeen); Swindon's barrage balloons have been removed now that the local “Wings for Victory” week is over. Some rumours are falsely attributed to B.B.C. bulletins - that Turkey is in the war; and that 6s. in the £ is to be deducted from everybody's Post Office savings.

Careless talk by members of the Forces, mainly in trains, is also said to be increasing. Allegations of mention of shipping movements and shipping losses are made.

(5. 5SE. 7. 8. 10. 11)


Post-war reconstruction and the Beveridge Plan

A special Postal Censorship report of 15th May indicates the main post-war questions interesting the public. The only noticeable difference between the findings of Postal Censorship and Home Intelligence is that the former contains no reference to housing, which is referred to in some Regional reports as “a live topic”.

Of 72 writers who mentioned the post-war world -

  1. 14 “wish that there was less talk and energy expended on both sides of the Atlantic on post-war plans, as if not kept in bounds it will tend to dissipate energies which should be concentrated on winning the war”;

  2. 147 - mostly working-class - fear that “there'll be a real slump afterwards in spite of all this phoney post-war dope we're getting night and day”;

  3. The remaining 559 “show an undercurrent of eager interest, in some cases coupled with ideas and proposals for the world of the future”. Their opinions may be classified as follows (they are given in order of weight):-

    1. “I do hope they don't go all soft when it comes to handling the Nazis in Germany.” In some cases, this goes as far as the hope that “we finish the German race off once and for all”. (94 writers)

    2. Belief or hope that “there is enough honesty of purpose about to achieve a better world than the pre-war one” (61 writers)

    3. “There should be a good standard of living for everybody in this world who is prepared to work.” (61 writers)

    4. “International co-operation is necessary if war is to become a discredited method of settling disputes between nations”. (54 writers)

    5. “Russia can teach us many things.” Views range between “The working-classes are going to be on top in future” to “The good things of the world should be shared by all; that is all who give of their best to the common cause, no matter what their abilities may be.” (47 writers)

    6. Fear of “Russia's attitude after the war is won”, as “Europe will be ripe for such a doctrine as Communism to take root in”. (29 writers)

100 letters also refer to questions of Anglo-American co-operation, but as a large number of the letters classified are to people in the U.S.A., this figure probably shows a greater proportion of interest than actually exists.

Specific post-war problems in which some interest is shown - though apparently chiefly among the more educated - include:

(a) Government control (52 writers)

Opinions range between those who favour planned economy and state control in the direction of industry, those who feel all public utility services should be nationalised at least, and those who are against Government control.

(b) Education (25 comments)

The majority wish is that “there should be equality for all, but we don't want a dead uniformity”.

(c) Agriculture (18 writers)

The majority opinion is: “Hope to goodness they won't let farming go down again”.

(d) International currency proposals (11 writers)

The Beveridge Report is referred to by a further 241 writers, who express the following views:

  1. Approval of the Report as a whole. (76 writers)

  2. Disapproval of the Report as a whole. (54 writers)

  3. Approval of the Report, but disapproval of the Government's attitude towards it. (36 writers)

  4. Scepticism as to whether the Plan will be implemented. (34 writers)

  5. Approval of the Government's attitude. (12 writers)

29 writers refer to the State medical service scheme. 27 of these, most of whom are doctors, refer to it with disapproval.



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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