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. 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.



107 109 3 110 4 111 5 112 6 114 8 115 9 116 10


No. 145 15th July, 1943

(Covering period 6th to 13th July, 1943)


1. General state of confidence and reaction to news

Until Saturday morning, people were inclined to be “bored and apathetic”, and concerned rather with their own affairs than with the war. Impatience at the delay in launching our expected offensive had increased when activity on the Russian front “flared up into a large scale offensive”.

Saturday's news of our invasion of Sicily, however, has “changed the scene, and revitalised the public's confidence and interest”. Many people were openly excited at the news of the landings: “The war has begun at last - what a thrill!” A few even thought we should be “through Sicily in a couple of days”. But the majority seem to have received the news “with profound but undemonstrative relief”, and without great excitement; they “hope it's going to bring us a bit nearer to the end”, and are glad at the thought that the offensive may relieve pressure on Russia. Most people realise that “the invasion of Europe is a colossal task” and that the invasion of Sicily is only the beginning. Nevertheless, confidence is steady, but comment is reserved while more news is eagerly awaited.

The news from Sicily has put other war fronts to the back of people's minds, but Home Front topics continue to be of great interest. Of these, “holidays is the only one which can compete with Sicily”, but there is also much talk of pensions, clothing problems (stimulated by Mr. Dalton's forecast of coupon reductions) and the shortage of fresh fruit and tomatoes. There are still reports of war strain, particularly among women workers.

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

2. Sicily

Excitement, pleasure, relief and some surprise are reported at the news of the Sicilian landings. The Prime Minister's “autumn leaves” reference had indicated that our offensive was certain but not necessarily imminent, and people were growing restive and anxious at our inactivity in face of the strong German attacks in Russia. The report of heavy air attacks on Sicily during the days preceding invasion had prepared some people for the news of a landing, though others felt it was too obvious a choice.

There is general satisfaction that the lull has been brought to an end. Opinion is, however, divided between those who look on Sicily as just another Mediterranean island which has to be cleared up before we can start upon a European offensive, and those who regard this as the beginning of the major offensive itself.

The size and “thoroughness of the combined operations” are greatly admired - “If Sicily is a nut, we are using a sledge hammer to crack her”.... “and quite right too”. “The news that Generals Alexander and Montgomery were in charge gave everyone an additional lift”, and so did the presence of the Eighth Army. Many were surprised that we “landed so easily”; the operations are thought to be going “excellently” and their success seems to be taken for granted. The majority, however, “appreciate the immensity of the task and are not prepared to underestimate the enemy” - particularly if there are many Germans among them. Only a few are said to have thought that Sicily would be overrun in a couple of days; its fall was actually rumoured last Saturday night, and announced from a theatre stage in Newcastle.

People are prepared for heavy casualties sooner or later, and “some apprehension among wives and mothers of serving men is noted”. The report that initial casualties were slight has been received with thankfulness and has raised hopes that “it isn't going to be so bad after all”.

The next move, after Sicily , is the subject of much speculation. Among a great variety of suggestions the most popular seem to be that, once Sicily is ours, we shall attack Italy proper, the Balkans, or both.

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

3. Russia

There is general confidence in the Russians' ability to hold the new German attack; “Germany is wasting her time battering at an iron and concrete wall that will never fall”. The present fighting is thought to be “a madman's last desperate gamble”.

There is, however, surprise at the strength of the German offensive. People are asking “where such numbers of tanks are produced by the Germans, if we have smashed their industrial centres”. It is also regarded as “a salutary reminder to the over-optimistic”, and has “killed some talk of German morale cracking”.

Comments on the Sicilian front are coupled with satisfaction that “at last we are starting an offensive which will help the Red Army”.

Doubt as to accuracy of the figures of German losses in men and materials given by the Soviet High Command is reported from seven Regions. “The loss of 185 planes in one day caused the Nazis to give up in the Battle of Britain. Why do not their alleged colossal losses in Russia bring about a similar result?” There is equal doubt about the German figures of Russian losses.

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

4. General Sikorski

Widespread and genuine regret outweighs all other sentiments at the death of General Sikorski. The effect of his death on future Polish policy, particularly in connection with Russo-Polish relations, is the cause of some speculation. He is felt to have been a “moderate man” and to have had a “fairly sound policy”, though the Polish Government is criticised “for being too right wing and illiberal”. The hope is expressed that “the leaderless Poles will not fall to squabbling like the French”.

Speculation as to whether his death was due to sabotage is reported from six Regions. “It is felt his death is a mystery which is still unsolved” and “it is considered necessary that an inquiry should be instituted to discover how four engines could ‘cut out at once’”. It is hoped that the German version “that we bumped him off to get the Polish and Russian affair straight” is not believed by other countries.

Again this week it is pointed out that air travel is dangerous for important persons, and it is hoped that the King and Mr. Churchill “will not risk further journeys by air”.

Colonel Victor Cazalet : Regret is reported from three Regions at the death of Colonel Victor Cazalet. In South East Kent special interest was taken because of the popularity of the Cazalet family there. Sincere sympathy and regret for “the loss of a likeable personality” are reported from his constituency in the South Western Region.

(1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 5SE. 6. 7. 8. 10. 13. 17 three provincial P.Cs. 24)

5. Air offensive

Less comment about our air offensive is reported this week. Satisfaction “with our overwhelming strength in air power”, however, continues to be widespread, although many people “now take our big Ruhr raids for granted” and are said to be “bored by B.B.C. raid recitals”. At the same time, a minority are reported to be disappointed at “the recent lull”, particularly “as it coincided with a spell of good weather”. Distaste for “gloating” continues, as also does “severe criticism” of Dean Inge for his article on bombing (July 2), which is described as “a gift to German propaganda”.

Our losses : Many people are still concerned over our losses, and some ask if a percentage of losses could be published, weekly or monthly. In the South Eastern district, however, the recent explanations in the press and B.B.C. are said to have had a good effect.

The bombing of Rome continues to be strongly advocated, “even if it does mean bombing the Vatican”. The “restraining hidden hand” is still suspected. A minority of “educated people - mainly Catholic - “consider the bombing would be an act of vandalism to be avoided at all costs”.

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

6. Air raids on this country and Civil Defence

Air Marshal Sir Trafford Leigh Mallory's Birmingham speech (June 26) has aroused a good deal of discussion on the possibility and probability of heavy reprisal raids. The Air Marshal is severely criticised for his “over-optimism”, which is thought to have “led to apathy and indifference” and to “have discouraged Civil Defence workers”; the Home Secretary is praised “for ticking him off” (House of Commons, June 30). But “such contradictory statements by high-up officials” are said to irritate and confuse the public.

While many do not believe Germany will again be able to make heavy raids on this country, others, though not apprehensive, think “they may have another go at us when a European front is established”.

Civil Defence debate (June 30): Some interest is reported, together with suggestions that “a general overhaul of the Civil Defence organisation is much needed”. The new raid warning system has aroused great interest in the South Eastern “front-line area”, where there is some anxiety because “no definite news has yet been communicated to the Civil Defence officials who will be called on to operate the system”. Miss Wilkinson's reference to “the dangers to the health of some workers” has been well received, and is thought to apply particularly to women with home responsibilities.

East Grinstead raid (July 9): In spite of the heavy loss of life incurred by the bombing of the local cinema “the morale of the people” is described as “sound”. “The tragedy is accepted, albeit sorrowfully as an unlucky chance.” The Civil Defence workers and the local troops who helped to clear the debris are praised, and there is said to have been “no criticism of the defences or anyone else”.

“The most painful scenes were at the improvised mortuary where the difficult task of identification was proceeding.”

Low flying planes : Criticism of low flying planes “which worry and upset the population” continues to be reported.

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

7. The War at Sea

Great satisfaction is felt over the shipping position and people are confident that all possible measures to combat the U-boat are being taken. “The Navy and the R.A.F. have now got their measure.” It is, however, realised that “the Allies still have a long way to go”. There is pleasure “that even Hitler's most ardent liar, Goebbels, has been forced to admit that the U-boat is not the power it was intended to be”.

The announcement that news of the battle against the U-boats will in future be given in a joint monthly statement is welcomed - “provided sufficient details are given to enable the public to appreciate the size and complexity of the problem”.

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

8. North African politics

Comment continues without much change. General de Gaulle - whatever criticism there may have been of him during the Algiers negotiations - has throughout remained the more popular of the two generals. Even those among whom he is not popular feel “he is the more worthy of trust”.

The anti-de Gaulle movement in the American press is “watched with concern”, and there is some feeling that not only is America “backing Giraud, but we are weakening towards de Gaulle”.

The “Marseillaise” (Three Regions): People are confused about why a Free French newspaper should be banned. “As this coincides with Giraud's visit to the U.S.A.”, they wonder whether it is further proof of de Gaulle “being pushed aside in favour of Giraud”.

(1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 10. 13. 17)

9. Far East

Satisfaction with the offensive in the Pacific continues. At the same time, some wonder whether “too much is being made of very small successes against the Japs - as compared with their victories in the past”.

Interest in this theatre of war is still limited to a few - particularly relatives of men serving there; it is looked on as “so remote”, and “anything East of Cairo seems beyond the average man's imagination”. “Not one in twenty know where Munda is.”

China : Admiration for the Chinese continues, and people are worried that we are not doing more for them.

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

10. The Prime Minister's Guildhall speech (June 30)

Many expressions of approval for Mr. Churchill's recent speech are again reported, on exactly the same lines as last week.

“Of the Prime Minister himself praise is widespread, one comment being that ‘he will go down to posterity as one of the greatest leaders this world has ever produced’”.

(1. 3. 5. 5SE. 7. 8. 10. 17 seven provincial P.Cs.)

11. Holidays

There is the same intensity of desire “to get away for a few days change; belief that a holiday away is necessary, particularly for housewives and all workers - certainly those who have been working a seven day week; and finally a widespread determination to get away”. Few are deterred by transport, accommodation and feeding difficulties.

Stories of trippers and week-enders and long queues at stations continue to be reported.

Transport : Industrial workers feel that they have special claims on transport, whether in their capacity as workers or holiday-makers. Thus, though they themselves complain of holiday-makers crowding them off trains and buses on their way to and from work, they also resent any criticism of their own “hard-earned jaunts”.

Some people think “the Government should assist by providing additional transport to enable tired workers to spend a real holiday away; otherwise the health of the nation is bound to suffer next winter”.

On the other hand, Railway Companies are criticised for “their lack of principle, and shilly-shallying policy”. It is felt that “they don't practise what they preach”; particular objection was taken in Wales to an announcement that “the L.M.S. ran a special train for their staff to Blackpool”.

Holidays at Home : In the “general scramble” to take holidays away, there is little reference to holidays at home. In some areas satisfaction is reported with “the municipal arrangements provided in parks”, but in others, it is felt these could have been developed much more. In Belfast, however, parents in one area of the town are threatening to boycott the amusements “because of the exorbitant charges for children and adults on the ‘dodgems’ and flying chairs”.

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

12. Detention Camp death

Uneasiness about detention camps in general, and Rifleman Clayton's case in particular, continues to be reported. Considerable blame is felt to attach to the medical officer, but at the same time, the sentences imposed on the two N.C.Os. are considered “ridiculously light”.

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

13. Youth

During the past seven weeks, ten Regional reports have referred (most of them more than once) to the behaviour of young people. Public concern is increasing about:

(a) The growth of juvenile delinquency . “Children and young people don't seem to know right from wrong.”

The present methods of treatment are considered inadequate: “The position needs serious consideration and careful and sympathetic investigation”. In Wales, “calls are made” for younger magistrates and for teacher magistrates.

(b) The unruliness and destructiveness of children and youths. Particular mention is made of their destruction of produce in allotments, and of bombed property. Instances are also given: (i) From Isleworth, of “small boys who started fires which gutted a church, the police-station, and two fire-stations”; (ii) From Battle, of boys who “slashed and tore a marquee especially erected for the feeding of troops, and broke up the tables inside”.

(c) The immorality of young girls , particularly those in their early 'teens. Stories are reported from the Eastern Region of “innumerable girls being pregnant by U.S. soldiers, whether black or white”; and in the North Midland Region the conduct of young girls with black troops is felt to call for better surveillance.

(d) Excessive drinking by lads and young girls, “the girls being tempted by the Forces”.

Lack of parental control is felt in all these cases to be “the root of the evil”.... “mothers having to work and fathers in the Forces”. Some people feel that “mothers of young children should not be encouraged to work”, and the absence of mothers is particularly regretted “just when young girls are at an age to need them most”.

High wages paid to juveniles, and cinema-going are considered as contributory factors.

Juvenile labour : From Scotland and the Midland Region come complaints of “increasing disciplinary troubles with juvenile labour”. The difficulty of “sacking the lads” is said “to make them cheekier than ever”.

Youth organisations : There has been some praise for youth clubs and organisations - “which are taking children off the streets” - and people regret that “a large number of boys and girls are not touched by them - particularly those most needing guidance and control”. “Young people on leaving school”, some feel, “should be compelled to join some youth organisation for at least two years, just as they are compelled to attend school”.

There is concern about the waste of food in Youth hostels and clubs. Some people feel that to supply food to them is merely encouraging “social evenings”. At the same time, it is thought “to be unfair that voluntary organisations such as Scouts and Guides, which were doing good work in pre-war days, are omitted from such a scheme”.

Alarm among a few is reported from two Regions at “the secularising of the Sabbath”, and protests have again been made against Youth parades during hours of divine service. Opinion is divided as to young people's attitude to religion: some feel that it needs to be thrust upon them, while others remark on a spontaneous desire for religious knowledge among the G.A.T.C., and on “the earnest support given to Chippenham's Religion and Life week”.

(1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 5SE. 7. 8. 9. 10. 17)

14. Broadcasting and presentation of news

There has been much greater eagerness to hear the news since the announcement of the Sicilian landings. More information would be welcome, but “security problems are fairly well realised” - though it is said that “there is more on the European and American news”. With regard to press treatment, it is felt that “with news yet sparse, editors are wise in not raising hopes too high”.

Broadcasts from Italy and Germany are receiving more attention, mainly to “see what sort of a tale they will make”.

Cologne Cathedral : Radio counter-propaganda and the publication of photographs are again reported to have been appreciated.

B.B.C. programmes : There is again praise for Mr. Priestley's “Make it Monday” series (Six Regions). He is thought to be “homely and direct”, although some think broadcasts of this type “make no contribution to national unity”. There is praise also for John Hilton's Postscript, July 9 (Four Regions); Sir Stafford Cripps' broadcast July 9 (Three Regions); the Radio Doctor (Two Regions); Thursday evening war commentaries (Two Regions): also - from one Region each - the Radio Padre; Dr Evatt (July 4); talks by Colonial speakers; and the Red on the Map series.

There is some desire for more talks on current affairs in the style of “The World Goes By”, and for more discussion on post-war agricultural and industrial policy.

“Impatience” is expressed with talks by men on fuel, cookery and household management, and there is criticism of “too much heavy classical music” and “too much jazz”.

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



15. Pensions and allowances

Comment is reported from ten Regions this week. The pension question “looms large in people's minds” and is thought by many to be the most discussed subject on the home front. Criticism is on similar lines to last week.

It is felt that “the Government got a jolt on the pensions debate”, but “if there's warmth in the House of Commons it is nothing to the tropical heat in the country”. There is condemnation of the “grudging spirit” with which pensions are granted, and general “irritation with the Government, and the Minister of Pensions in particular, that there should be all this fight to get a just bill passed”. “No one wants abuse of privileges”, but it is felt “far better that some should be granted pensions who do not deserve them, than that others should be left with grievances like running sores”. Middle-aged people have “bitter recollection” of treatment after the last war, and are anxious this should not happen to their children. Discussion is reported on the chances of a pension for the family of Rifleman Clayton, as it is felt that the Government must take responsibility for faulty diagnosis.

Some people are anxious about the new tribunals. They fear that the Ministry of Pensions tribunals may have “the same disadvantages as present Ministry of Labour ones”. It is thought that the new tribunals should contain members “who have had actual experience in war” and who can “thus really appreciate the factors involved”.

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

16. The possible reductions in clothing coupons

Mr. Dalton's forecast (July 7) of a probable reduction in the number of clothing coupons has been greeted with widespread concern - rising even to “consternation”. Some people had even expected an increase in the allowance.

Particular alarm is reported from: (i) Families with young children; (ii) “Working people, who claim that the present allowance is inadequate for present replacements”; (iii) Housewives, who are “already called on to provide, out of their own allotment, coupons for such things as curtains and towels”; (iv) “Women who live in very cold and exposed places (Northern Region), and are finding their coupons insufficient for warm underwear”.

“Shopkeepers are now complaining that they can get more stocks than there are coupons available”, according to the North Midland Region report; “the public interprets this as meaning that the proposed reduction is unjustified”. From the Northern Region comes a rumour that “coupons are to be suspended for a period in order that shopkeepers may get down their overstocks”.

Comments on other aspects of clothes rationing follow familiar lines and will be summarised in the next report.

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

17. Food

Soft fruit (Twelve Regions and Postal Censorship): The shortage and uneven distribution of soft fruit and tomatoes continue to be reported. Complaints follow the familiar lines of conditional sales, favoured customers, and the inability of war workers to obtain supplies. In Birmingham, there are allegations that Lewis' Stores get larger supplies, because “Lord Woolton is connected with them”.

Jam making (Seven Regions): Pleasure at the increased sugar ration, but irritation because the necessary soft fruit is unobtainable, continue to be reported. In fruit growing districts, housewives resent the bulk of the fruit going to the manufacturers, particularly “in view of the bad quality of manufactured jam”. At the same time, there are housewives who feel that the increased sugar ration should have been given earlier and over a longer period, and suggest that sugar should have been made available in lieu of sweet rations.

Increased rations for expectant mothers , announced by the Ministry of Food on July 6, have been warmly welcomed (Five Regions).

New potatoes (Three Regions): There are complaints of “a muddle in the marketing of new potatoes”. Growers feel that they should have been allowed to market their new potatoes earlier, and there are complaints of “price cutting”, particularly from the South Eastern district where it is alleged that potatoes from the Scilly Islands were sold at lower rates. Householders growing their own new potatoes are thought to have added to producers' marketing difficulties.

Reduction in the price of dried eggs (Three Regions): The reduction in price continues to be welcomed; though shopkeepers complain that they are losing 2d. on every packet, and some housewives are suspicious that the decreased price is “an inducement to buy before the powder gets too bad”.

Increased points value for biscuits continues to be criticised (Two Regions).

Milk supplies (Two Regions): The Government's encouragement to producers of T.T. milk (announced July 8), has been welcomed, though small farmers in the South Western Region fear that “they may be cut out”.

(1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 5SE. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 17 one Special, six provincial P.Cs.)

18. Agriculture

Crops and harvesting : Farmers in Cumberland, Northumberland and the South West are pleased with the hay crop this year. There is much talk of harvesting prospects for different crops, and a hope that this year's harvest will be “the best ever”. At the same time the apple crop in the North is expected to be poor and reference is made to storms and blight having ruined rhubarb and gooseberries in the North West.

The following points - some of them contradictory - are made about harvest helpers (none of them has been reported from more than two Regions):

  1. Sufficient publicity has not been given to the scheme, and there is a shortage of helpers.

  2. Applicants have come forward “only to find there is insufficient work for them, or that it is non-existent”.

  3. The helpers have made a favourable impression on farmers. On the other hand, “some farmers don't want amateur helpers”.

  4. The holiday-makers are glad to help, and are very pleased with the labour camps.

Farm Sunday : This “passed off quietly”. A few familiar “grouses” about the waste of time and petrol continue.

(1. 2. 3. 5SE. 7. 10. 17)

19. Strikes

Transport workers : Discontent about wages and working conditions among transport workers is reported from the Northern and North Eastern Regions, and particularly from the North Midland. To quote from the latter: “Busmen and woman feel they are being unfairly treated and probably there will be another strike unless they get a rise following the new talks. They are in sympathy with the railway workers and are co-operating with them”.

Miners : In Scotland, the taking over of the Priory Pit by the Government continues to excite a good deal of comment. “The public are quite uncertain as to the rights of various parties, but very much hope that this will mean the end of trouble there. These collieries have an unenviable reputation as being the centre of continuous strife.”

The Fleetwood fishermen : Strong condemnation of this strike is reported from South Devon.

(1. 2. 3. 7. 11)

20. Rumours

Rumours are circulating in the Northern Region that anti-personnel bombs, in the form of explosive cigarette cases, fountain pens, and watches, were dropped at Hull. At Bradford, it is rumoured that the damage at Hull is “terrific”.

A methodist minister in Monmouth claims he is a cousin of Mr. Chenhalls, one of the victims of the Lisbon air liner disaster; he states his cousin bore an unusual facial resemblance to the Prime Minister; spies may have mistaken him for Mr. Churchill and thus brought about the attack on the air liner.

(1. 2. 8)



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

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