A History of the Ministry of Information, 1939-46


Copy No. 283

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. Though this Report must inevitably represent mainly articulate opinion, it has been found in practice that the views of the less articulate do not substantially differ, though their range is smaller.

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 their 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.



40 42 3 43 4 44 5 45 6 46 7 48 9 49 10

Wt 19398 10M 7/43 H J R & L

No. 149 12th August, 1943

(Covering period from 3rd to 10th August, 1943)


1. General state of confidence and reaction to news

Public spirits remain high “because of the good news from all fronts”, particularly the capture in one week of Catania, Orel and Bielgorod. Another cause of cheerfulness is the resumption of heavy raids on Italy - “the most effective way to help the Italians make up their minds”.

People are very hopeful of an early end to the war in Europe; many think “it'll be over in 1943”; these optimists seize on any promising sign, such as “bulbs having been put back in street lamps”. Some of the more cautious still suggest 1944, while others “talk with almost superstitious caution”.

Home front : All Regions report strong and widespread disapproval of the proposed call-up of older women.

Talk about holidays continues, as do complaints of clothing difficulties (particularly footwear) and the distribution of fresh fruit and tomatoes.

(1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 5SE. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 13 17 all provincial P.Cs.)

2. Italy

Disappointment that Italy has not capitulated is giving place to a more critical attitude. The great variety of opinions expressed may be summarised under three main headings:

  1. Allied policy

    1. There is widespread and intense conviction that we must carry on the war against the Italians with the utmost rigour; heavy air attacks on their cities, including Rome, are demanded (and hoped for) as “the only effective way of forcing Italy's surrender”.

    2. There has been some irritation at the bombing respite which followed Mussolini's fall: “If we had kept it up, Italy would have been out of the war by now”.

    3. “Grim satisfaction” at the resumption of our heavy raids on Italy is reported. In London, however, there is said to be some annoyance because “we bomb centres where people are demonstrating in our favour”.

    4. Demands for unconditional surrender continue. There is “one hundred per cent approval” for Mr. Churchill's and President Roosevelt's speeches stressing these terms.

    5. There is some suspicion that the British and U.S. Government's may have misjudged the situation, or “have a disquieting tendency to let Italy down too lightly”.

    6. A few believe that “we should have given Badoglio a definite time limit for deciding on war or peace, on our terms”.

  2. Badoglio's Government

    1. There is widespread suspicion of the new Government: “The same old ship painted over - and we don't like the new paint”.

    2. Anxiety is growing at the amount of time Badoglio is giving Germany to get a grip on Italy.

    3. A general belief exists that, in spite of Badoglio, the Italian people want peace, and that Italy will capitulate fairly soon.

  3. Possible negotiations between Italy and the Allies

    1. It is feared that Badoglio and the King may be potential Darlans, and that “we may compromise with them as we did with the Vichyites in North Africa”.

    2. It is thought that “our handling of Italy will be regarded by the rest of Europe and by the world as a test of our intentions”: “We will have to nullify the bad impression made by North Africa”.

Mussolini : Speculation as to his whereabouts continues, though it is rather less than it was.

Mr. Aneurin Bevan's observations in the House (August 3) : People “who have never agreed with Mr. Bevan before” feel “there was something in what he said”.

(1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 5SE. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 13. 17 all provincial P.Cs.)

3. Sicily

The capture of Catania and further Allied advances in Sicily have given great satisfaction - “even to those who thought things were taking too long”. People are now “hopefully looking forward to the news in a few days' time that Sicily has fallen”.

The Eighth Army's “tough assignment” is again both compared with the Americans' “easy one”, and referred to as a source of great pride. The fortunes of the 51st Highland Division and of the Northumbrians are “closely followed” in Scotland and Northumberland respectively.

General Montgomery : Admiration for General Montgomery and “undiluted” confidence in him continue. There is also praise for his speech to his men before the battle for Catania.

Casualties , it is feared, may be heavy: “People are waiting for figures before they accept the official verdict that casualties have not been unduly severe”.

Mail : In the North Western Region; “the delay in mail - which arrived regularly until recently - causes apprehension among those with relatives in Sicily”. On the other hand, there is much satisfaction in places where letters from “our boys in Sicily” have been received.

(1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 5SE. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 13. 17 24)

4. Allied Air Offensive

There is continued satisfaction at the heavy bombing of Germany cities, and pleasure at the resumption of raids on Italy. The bombing of Rome is still discussed on familiar lines. “Never has a raid been so praised as this one - we should go again.”

Berlin : With the approach of longer nights people are looking forward to “even heavier loads on Germany” - “This is the first time Germany has seen war at close range, and our boys must keep up the offensive”. There is much discussion of the possibility of heavy raids on Berlin. A raid on Berlin is still thought to equal two elsewhere, and “many are longing to see Berlin plastered and are asking when its turn will come”. People hope we shall pay no attention to any proposal to make Berlin an open city; at any rate, “it should be given ‘a Hamburg bombing’ before it takes refuge behind this technicality”. It is not thought that “any large city with important marshalling yards should be looked on as coming within the category of open towns”. According to one report, people “refuse to read panic into the stories of the Berlin evacuation” and ask: “How, in fact, did it differ from ours?”

The Hamburg raids are the subject of “much attention” and strong approval on the same lines as last week. People again ask: “What can there be left to bomb?” (Five Regions) and: “How long can flesh and blood stand up to such conditions?” (Three Regions). The suggestion is reported that Hamburg has been heavily raided “because it was the centre at which Germany's internal troubles began in the last war and it might work again”. Many think that bombing on this scale “will certainly crack German morale, though the Germans are credited with a resilience and determination in standing up to bombing which the Italians have not got”.

The Ploesti raid is again widely praised as “one of the fine achievements of the war”. Regret is, however, expressed at the heavy losses, and at the fact that the raid was not made before and was not even heavier.

Casualties : Concern is again reported; but it is “the large numbers of poor lads” lost, rather than the planes, which people - particularly women - regret.

(1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 5SE. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 13. 17 ten provincial P.Cs.)

5. Russia

“Eager interest” is again being taken in the news from Russia, and heightened admiration and praise have greeted her recent successes. Further advances are expected: some have hopes of “the Russians pressing right on to Berlin”.

“Difficulties at the Peace Conference”, however, are once again beginning to be feared; it is believed that Great Britain and Russia are not consulting each other about the terms of any peace which may be made by Britain with Italy, and by Russia with Germany (Four Regions).

Doubts of the accuracy of Russian figures of German losses are reported from three Regions only this week.

(1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 5SE. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 13. 17 four provincial P.Cs.)

6. The next move

“It looks as if Italy may now have to be invaded”, and many people expect us to do so “as soon as we've taken Sicily”.

Other possibilities include Sardinia and Corsica “as a base for operations on the French Mediterranean coast”; the Balkans, via Crete; or an attack from Britain. The latter is particularly wanted by those who feel “nothing short of an attack across the Channel or the North Sea can constitute the second front we promised Russia”.

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

7. Holidays

Holidays continue to be much discussed, but comment differs little, in range or intensity, from that recorded last week.

“‘Is your journey really necessary?’ is felt to have outlived its usefulness, as the majority of people consider that a holiday away from home is a necessity for the worker”, and “those who want to go away for holidays, do so”.

Comparisons are again drawn between “the large amount of leave given to men and women in the Forces”, and the one week allowed to factory workers “who have worked hard for fifty-one weeks and also had a proportion of their spare time compulsorily occupied”.

To difficulties of transport are now added those of food, and there are complaints of holiday makers “having to queue for everything” at holiday resorts “and of emergency food cards not being met”. Nevertheless, holidays are said to have been “enjoyed, in spite of the struggle, and people are returning thoroughly rested and refreshed”. There is praise for “the helpfulness of the transport workers”.

Holidays at home are again described as unsatisfactory. Housewives speculate: “Have we got to continue in the same old grind, with no change, and the chance of being called up for National Service up to 50 years of age?” “Stay-at-homes” are, nevertheless, said to have appreciated the programmes arranged by local authorities. “We are having three days' holidays so I am stopping in Leicester. We have everything here - Fancy Fairs, Horse Racing and Garden Fetes with plenty of bands playing all day long. They call it ‘Holidays at Home’, it is better than going away” (Postal Censorship).

Criticism of the Government's attitude appears to be stronger this week (Eight Regions): Most people, feeling that holidays away are justified, criticise the Government for not appreciating the position earlier and either staggering holidays “to relieve the extreme congestion of the present period”, or allowing more trains for workers needing a change. It is thought that the Ministries of War Transport and Labour should “collaborate to produce some arrangement to abolish Rugby scrum holiday travel”; “many feel that surveys of the travelling situation should be made now, so that next year people can make their journeys without having to face the chaotic conditions of this summer”.

(1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 5SE. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 17 four provincial P.Cs.)

8. The War at Sea

Although interest appears to be “overshadowed temporarily by other events”, satisfaction with the “easing of the U-boat situation” and “the perfect co-ordination between the Royal Navy and the other Services in the Mediterranean” is again reported. One regional report mentions “regret that Naval personnel are not eligible for the North Africa Star and the 1939/43 Star”.

There is again praise for the work of the Merchant Navy.

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

9. Far East

There continues to be only slight interest in the events in the Pacific, although the capture of Munda was noted with pleasure. People are satisfied that the Allies are slowly regaining ground, and a certain complacency that “Japan is not as tough as she would have us believe” is reported.

(1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 5SE. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 13. 17 two provincial P.Cs.)

10. Sweden

The Swedish Government's decision to close their railways to the passage of German troops is taken as “a sign of the changing tide of war”, and even as an indication of “the early collapse of Germany”. It has not, however, led to “a feeling of admiration for Sweden”, and people say: “It is a pity they couldn't show a decent attitude before they knew who was going to win the war”.

(1. 2. 6. 13)

11. North African Politics

Interest has declined. Satisfaction continues with the agreement between Generals de Gaulle and Giraud, though there is some sceptical comment on the lines of: “It is admirable, until the next crisis between them”.

(2. 3. 4. 5. 7. 10. 17 one provincial P.C.)

12. South African election

There has been very little comment on the South African election. General Smuts' victory is welcomed; there is said to be appreciation of the significance “of the great swing over of South African sentiment in favour of the war”.

(2. 7. 8. 13)

13. The Education White Paper

Though not a general topic, discussion continues “among certain sections of the community”. The limited number of people who are said to have actually read the report “comment favourably on its readableness as compared with many official reports in the past”. “Popular attention is, however, most concentrated on those measures which have been given publicity in the press.” Sceptics continue to ask who is to pay for it all, and cynics to doubt whether “such post-war plans will really be implemented after all”. The majority, however, favour most of the proposals - particularly in so far as they will produce greater equality of opportunity - and it is hoped they will soon be put into operation. Some reserve is, however, felt about the following:

The raising of the school-leaving age : Some working-class parents feel that, although it may be good for the children, it will be “hard on parents who struggle enough, as it is, to keep them until the age of 14”.

Proposals for school meals and nursery classes : Some fear this may mean “the state taking responsibility which should be taken by the parents”.

The proposals regarding voluntary schools : There are those who feel these do not go far enough and fear that the compromise may prejudice “equality of opportunity”. On the other hand, some Roman Catholics feel they will have to “bear too large a share of the cost of preserving their own system of education”.

(1. 2. 3. 4. 5SE. 6. 7. 10. 17 three provincial P.Cs.)

14. Broadcasting and presentation of news

News handling by both the B.B.C. and the press is, on the whole, thought satisfactory, but the B.B.C. bulletins are again criticised for padding and for putting the latest news after the repetition of older items.

There is, also, again some criticism of the press for “over-optimism, big headlines and exaggeration”. It is suggested that “the sense of disappointment at the slowness of Italy's capitulation has been caused by the public being ‘led up the garden path’ by the press”.

European News Service : Preference for the bulletins in this service is again reported, and it appears to be increasing (Six Regions). They are thought to be “more interesting and less formally presented” than the Home Service bulletins. The broadcasts of Tangye Lean are praised (Two Regions).

The Services

It is thought that the achievements of British and Empire regiments should have more prominence, and that too much is given to the Americans in news and feature programmes. “We are too ready to place ourselves in the background.”

Programmes :

Praise this week for: London taxi-driver's Postscript, August 1 (Three Regions); Dr. T. V. Soong's Postscript, August 8 (Two Regions); Mr. Elmer Davies' Postscript, July 25 (Two Regions); Promenade concert broadcasts (Two Regions); and from one Region each - The Man in the Street, Into Battle and Marching On.

Criticism of entertainment programmes generally (Three Regions). These could be “made brighter”. More talks, particularly stories of individual heroism, would be welcomed, and “religious services could be made more attractive”. Short radio plays are appreciated.

Kitchen Front recipes are criticised as “out of keeping with the present rationing and the limited time for cooking” (One Region).

Announcers : It is thought that Maurice Shillington is “not popular as a news announcer” (Three Regions). His voice is said to irritate.

Films : The North Western Region reports - “It is felt that some American films about the war, obviously made for home distribution to encourage morale in the United States, should not be shown in England until the dialogue has been replaced, as they are likely to encourage anti-Americanism. An English liaison officer for films, with a sound insight into the English character, but no special knowledge of films, is suggested.”

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



15. Manpower

The registration of women of 46 to 50 (All Regions): The proposal to extend the age of registration of women up to the age of fifty has been the most widely discussed topic on the Home Front this week, and has aroused “a storm of protest” everywhere. Opposition is very widespread, and it is alleged that “no other wartime measure has brought forth such scathing comment”. People say “Mr. Bevin will be making the mistake of his life if he persists with the proposal”.

The chief arguments put forward against the proposal are:

(1) The proposal is “unnecessary” (All Regions): People feel that there is no “urgent need for the services of the older women, until there has been a thorough comb-out of the younger age-groups”, particularly those who have so far escaped the call-up, such as young childless married women and “camp follower wives”. There is a widespread feeling that “the machinery of the Ministry of Labour does not work smoothly”, and that there is a good deal of waste of man and woman power in:

  1. The Civil Service (Eleven Regions): There are alleged to be many young civil servants “hiding in cushy jobs”, whose time is not fully occupied, and “who could be more usefully employed elsewhere”.

  2. The Women's Auxiliary Services (Seven Regions), where it is felt that many young women have “little or nothing to do”.

  3. Industry (Four Regions): Stories of enforced idleness and factories working short time continue, and working people in the North are asking why older women have to register when factories are closing down and there are men and women “on the dole”.

  4. The Civil Defence Services (Two Regions), particularly the N.F.S., where it is said that “large numbers of young men are employed on trivial work”.

  5. Shops and works' canteens (One Region each).

(2) “These women are already doing their fair share” (Ten Regions): It is felt that women of this age group often “bear the main burden of domestic work, looking after grown-up families, many of whom are on war work”. Many of them also do “valuable voluntary work” which, it is felt, would suffer if they were directed into factories. Men are said to be discussing this matter even more than women, and “husbands are determined to prevent their wives doing any more”.

(3) “It is a critical age for women” (Eight Regions): It is felt to be “medically wrong to uproot these women against their will and make them undertake extra duties”. Women fear that their physical difficulties will not be taken into account by “girl interviewers of twenty-two and twenty-three” at the Labour Exchanges, and by the National Service Officers.

On the other hand women who are already employed, particularly those who cannot leave their work because they are under the Essential Work Order, “see no reason why their sisters should not be expected to help in the war effort”. In the cotton-weaving towns of the North Western Region, where a large percentage of the women affected are already employed, there is said to be little discussion of Mr. Bevin's proposal.

A few people believe that the registration will have the salutary effect of bringing into the war effort at least a few slackers, of the “bridge, cafe and cadge-all-you-can-from-the-shops” sort.

There is some suspicion among followers of the Labour Party, that “the storm is a political one to discredit Mr. Bevin”. Others assert that “feeling has been forced by the press”.

Recruitment to the Womens' Auxiliary Services (Four Regions): The proposal greatly to reduce recruitment to the Women's Auxiliary Services, has not been widely discussed. While some girls feel that they are being “unfairly penalised” by not being allowed to go into the Services, the general view seems to be that the proposal is right: “already many of the Forces girls have far too little to do”. On the other hand, a minority ask why it is necessary to direct girls into aircraft factories “when there is already so much talk of idle time in them”.

(1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 5SE. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 17 three provincial P.Cs.)

16. Miners and mining

Strong opposition to Mr. Bevin's proposal to direct youths into the pits continues (Seven Regions). It is again said that “coal production will be hindered rather than helped by such a measure”. The solution of the problem is still thought to lie in the return of skilled miners from the Services and industry to the pits; some suggest production will not increase until more is done to improve conditions in the pits, and the industry is nationalised.

It is felt that “the present position should have been anticipated a long time ago” and “the whole business has been badly handled all along”. Miners are said “to be sick of being made to feel guilty pariahs”.

Coal for Italy : Annoyance continues at the suggestion that coal should be supplied to Italy and fear is reported “that we shall be in bad straits next winter if Italy is out of the war and has to be supplied by us”. A writer in Postal Censorship sums up the situation: “You would think the Wops were long-lost friends, who must have the best of everything. 50,000 tons of coal a week for them and boys of 16 for our pits. What a nation of fools we are.”

(1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 5SE. 8. 9. 10. 17 two provincial P.Cs.)

17. Industry

A good deal of unrest is reported from John Brown's shipyard, Clydebank this week, where the management-are said to be “heartily disliked” by the workers. A common complaint is that the workers “don't know where they are so far as rates of pay are concerned”, but the main grievance seems to be the attitude of the management towards the trade union officials and shop stewards, which is alleged to be “contemptuous and insulting”. The shop stewards are said to have called a mass meeting to demand the dismissal of the management.


18. Clothing

Relief is reported at the announcement that the number of clothing coupons will not be reduced during the next five months, but there are still strong complaints of the general inadequacy of coupons for all purposes. The chief problems are again the renewal of household linen, particularly towels, and the clothing of growing children, now that available stocks are worn out, and “most of the stuff you can buy isn't worth the coupons”.

It is pointed out that “the coupon issue does not coincide exactly with last year's, in that a man who has exhausted his present coupons cannot now buy a suit for five months”.

Home Guard uniforms : Disquiet is reported from four Regions this week at the suggestion that coupons may be required for battledress. Many members of the Home Guard “much resent the idea” and “have no intention of giving them up”.

Clothing offence of woman M.P. : There is again condemnation of the attempted clothing transaction which brought this lady into court. While some people feel “she got away with it”, there is also some satisfaction reported at the “impartial justice shown”.

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

19. Food

Satisfaction with the general food situation continues to be reported. So do complaints of the shortage of fresh fruit and tomatoes (Seven Regions each). The shortage in both cases, however, appears to be more localised than formerly and complaints are tending to be more of unequal distribution. Thus, the Isle of Wight and, particularly, the Northern Region feel they are not getting their fair share of fruit, while places in Berks, Bucks and Dorset have plenty of apples and plums but no sugar or fruit bottles; and some towns in the Eastern Region are believed to have tomatoes “in excess of demand”. Preferential treatment of certain customers over fruit and tomatoes, and under-the-counter sales are again alleged, as well as the hardships of those who grow their own vegetables: “I had some black currants and raspberries from a friend, the first I have had for four years; all these extras have a way of getting under the counter till the right person calls ... the reason is that we have a garden plot to grow our own vegetables, so shopkeepers have no time for the like of us who dig for victory.” (Postal Censorship)

Unripe fruit : There is said to be dissatisfaction over the unripe plums and pears on sale. “If these are windfalls, it is thought that the public should be informed, and if the fruit is gathered before ripe in order to forestall price control, it is considered that Government action should be taken to prevent such a wasteful method of dealing with the fruit crop.” There is also some feeling that green tomatoes should sell “at a much lower price than ripe ones”.

The laying up of the Clyde herring fleet recently was the cause of “puzzled bewilderment and much annoyed comment” in Scotland.

The “Food Facts” packed luncheon advertisements have been highly praised (One Region).

(1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 17 ten provincial P.Cs.)

20. Agriculture

Satisfaction is again expressed at the harvest prospects: “weather permitting”, it is thought likely to be a bumper one.

There are complaints, however, of labour shortage from the Northern Region, and of bad weather from the Eastern Region. In Lincolnshire, farmers are complaining of the difficulties they are experiencing in getting machinery repairs effected, particularly binders which break down during harvesting operations.

From the Northern and North Eastern Regions there are reports that the public are enjoying helping on the land during their holidays. Farmers in Scotland are said to be pleased with the help of holiday-makers and children.

(1. 2. 3. 4. 7. 8. 11)

21. Youth

During the last four weeks there have been widespread complaints of the bad behaviour and “irresponsibility” of young people (Ten Regions). There are particular references to “excessive drinking” (Four Regions) and to the immorality of young girls (Three Regions). Especial concern is felt at the behaviour of young girls who frequent military camps and “make nuisances of themselves in the streets by their attitude towards soldiers”. The “ever-increasing illegitimate births among very young girls” is deplored.

The following factors are blamed as contributing to the problem:

(1) The “swift and serious waning in home influence” (Six Regions).

(2) The high wages paid to boys and girls on leaving school and the blind-alley jobs in which they find themselves (Four Regions).

(3) The influence of the cinema in creating a false impression of life (Two Regions).

(4) The lack of healthy recreational opportunities for workers transferred away from home and for young men and women in the Forces (Two Regions).

(5) The lack of control in schools (One Region).

Youth Organisations are thought to do excellent work in helping to combat juvenile delinquency (Five Regions). It is thought, however, that they should be widened in scope to cater for all young people above the age of fourteen, and that they need more Government support.

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



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)
5SE. South Eastern District Office, London Region (Tunbridge Wells)
6. Southern Region (Reading)
7. South Western Region (Bristol)
8. Wales (Cardiff)
9. Midland (Birmingham)
10. North Western Region (Manchester)
11. Scotland (Edinburgh)
12. See 5SE.
13. Northern Ireland (Belfast)
14. Special Reports from R.I.Os.
15. Regions Adviser's Reports
16. M.O.I. Speakers' Reports
17. Postal Censorship
18. Police Duty Room Reports
19. Wartime Social Survey Reports
20. B.B.C. Listener Research Papers
21. B.B.C. Special Papers
22. Scottish Unionist Whips' Reports
23. Liberal Party's Reports
24. Primary Sources

D 37138-1 10,000 6/43 R P W

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