A History of the Ministry of Information, 1939-46


Copy No. 285

The aim of this Report is to present an impartial assessment of public feeling about the war and the war effort. It is not a record of fact , except in so far as public opinion is itself a fact. The public is sometimes ill-informed, prejudiced, or inconsistent. The recording of such feelings without comment implies no endorsement of them.

The public is more prone to criticise than to praise. Good work or efficiency is usually taken for granted. An accurate record of expressed feeling will, therefore, tend to be critical rather than laudatory.

The method of compiling the Report is such that the amount of space devoted to each subject, and the order in which subjects are placed, are roughly indicative of the amount of public interest each is arousing. The omission of a subject from the Report means that it is not a matter of widespread comment.

In assessing the state of public feeling there are no absolutes. Findings can only be comparative. Each issue of this Report must therefore be read as part of a continuous series. Unless the series is seen as a whole, the significance of fluctuations in feeling cannot be appreciated.

The figures in brackets at the end of each section refer to sources of information, a list of which is given on the next page. The weekly reports from Regional Information Officers (R.I.Os.) are compiled by the Regional Intelligence Officers from a large number of sources. Details of the methods of compilation and cross-checking are contained in a paper on “How the Home Intelligence Weekly Report is made”. This will be supplied on request to the Home Intelligence Division of the Ministry of Information.



185 186 2 187 3 190 6 194 10


No. 140 10th June, 1943

(Covering period 1st to 8th June, 1943)


1. General state of confidence and reaction to news

Confidence remains on the same high level as last week, maintained by:

  1. Mr. Churchill's safe return.

  2. Our ceaseless air offensive and “the growing superiority of Allied air strength”.

  3. The “imminence” of big events.

  4. Belief, since the Tunisian victory, in Allied plans, leadership, men and equipment - “which give high hopes for the future”.

  5. The improvement in our shipping position.

  6. Agreement between Generals de Gaulle and Giraud.

Discussion continues about the possible duration of the war, and, while there is some hope of a speedy end through “the cracking of enemy morale”, opinions range roughly between six and eighteen months for the war in Europe, and up to 1946 for “finishing off the Japs”.

On the Home Front, there appears to be less criticism of the distribution of ration books, though this is still said to cause trouble in some areas. Comment continues about shopping difficulties, and clothes rationing - particularly footwear.

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

2. The Prime Minister

There is widespread relief that Mr. Churchill is safely back. Before his return, there had been a fair amount of speculation as to his whereabouts and anxiety for his safety; this deepened into apprehension at the news of the shooting down of the civil air liner on its journey from Lisbon to Britain. While only a few people feared that he might actually have been on that plane, many now assume that the Germans attacked it because they hoped or believed he was travelling in it. Consequently, there are some suggestions that Mr. Churchill “has done enough risky journeys - we can't afford to lose him” ..... “it's high time the others did the travelling”.

Admiration for “his pluck and energy”, appreciation of his ability to get on with the job, and faith in his leadership are widely reported. His prestige is said to be higher than ever.

His visit to Gibraltar and North Africa : Opinion is divided about the purpose of this journey. Some people think it was to effect a reconciliation between the French - “it is hoped that he told Generals de Gaulle and Giraud they must darned well get together”; some think it was “to round off” plans for invasion and generally “to buck up the troops”. (This was before his speech in Parliament on June 8).

His visit to Washington : People think it was all very satisfactory, and though “they have no idea what plans were made, they have complete faith the plans were good”.

High praise for Mr. Churchill's “superb” speech to Congress continues to be reported.

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

3. The next move

People generally continue to be “all keyed up” for “things to blow up” any moment now. While nearly everyone is still content to leave it to those in command to choose the right time and place, the patient mood referred to in last week's report seems less universal; seven Regions refer to some slight restiveness due to “the tension of waiting”. Again, however, only a small minority go so far as to believe that “we should have attacked by now to prevent the Axis reorganising”.

Heavy casualties are expected and dreaded, and people with relations in the armed forces are said to be “more reconciled to waiting for action than bachelors and spinsters”.

Speculation continues as before, with the invasion of the Italian islands and mainland as a favourite guess. At the same time, a few feel that “the publicity given to Italy and the obviousness of such a choice tend to raise doubts as to whether action isn't being planned elsewhere”.

Turkey is mentioned more frequently, and Greece, the Balkans, France, Norway and Holland are referred to as places where diversionary or simultaneous attacks may be launched, or as coming next on the list after Italy.

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

4. The Allied air offensive

“The growing superiority of Allied air strength and the great volume of intensive bombing operations on Germany, Italy and the Mediterranean islands give great and very general satisfaction” - so, too, does the small scale of German retaliation.

There is general approval of “the reaffirmation, from official quarters, of our determination to use air superiority to the fullest possible extent”. Amusement and resentment, and no sympathy whatever, are reported at “the outcry from Spain”; people are pleased with Lord Winster's and Elmer Davies' “reminders to France of his own past record”, and “would welcome an opportunity of speaking to him about Guernica, Madrid, Barcelona and Almeria”. The “mass of the public is dead against any ‘let up’ in bombing”, and the squealing of Germany and Italy against bombing are noted with pleasure and interest, but “without gloating”. Our air offensive is thought to be fully justified on an “eye for an eye” morality. “Has Gayda forgotten how Italians fought and slaughtered Abyssinians, and have the Germans forgotten Rotterdam?”

Controversy continues as to whether bombing alone will break Germany and Italy. The majority opinion appears to be “no”, though many feel that “neither country can stand such intensive bombing for any length of time.... the morale of the people will surely crack under it”. A few feel that the air offensive is a substitute for the promised invasion and “some left-wingers are inclined to say: ‘Here's another excuse for wriggling out of the second front that Russia has a right to expect’”.

Sympathy for enemy civilians continues to be expressed, but the public are “so much in favour” of the R.A.F. offensive that they are “exceedingly bitter against the very few who suggest that our bombing is inhuman”. Most of the sympathy seems to be on the lines expressed by a writer quoted by Postal Censorship: “Those dreadful raids on Germany are ghastly - of course I know they asked for it...... I've no time for the Nazis but can't help feeling sorry for the poor people if they are suffering as we have”. People suggest that in order to counter such feelings, “it should be pressed home that this is what we had to withstand, and what we would have to undergo again if we lost control”; and it is thought that “more prominence could be given to serious raids in this country, such as those on Sunderland and the South of England lately, particularly when the damage is to residential property”.

R.A.F. losses and casualties are the subject of some concern. Although some people realise that the losses are “not so great as if the army had been used”, it is thought that many are still “apt to estimate how many men are lost without comparing these losses with those of a land battle”. There is “criticism of our policy of stating our losses but not the total number of planes used.... and, as always when information is not complete, there is some doubt as to what the authorities may be covering up”.

The bombing of the dams continues to be commented on and is “considered to have been magnificently conceived and executed”, though “the tragic side is realised”. Two reports refer to the view that “it is unwise to allow the press to print the photographs and names of the airmen who took part in the raid”, because it is feared that “if any of these men - and particularly Gibson - were ever taken prisoner they might be subjected to very cruel treatment”.

The “blasting of Italy” and the Mediterranean islands continues to cause great interest and satisfaction, and people wonder how much longer they can hold out. Although no particular animosity is reported against the Italians themselves, people remember that Mussolini craved the privilege of sharing in the raids on London, and hope that we shall continue to hit Italy as hard as we can. Mr. Eden's statement on this (at Portsmouth, May 28) continues to give “great satisfaction”.

Many are in favour of bombing Rome (Five Regions), though a few of “the more thoughtful fear that such attacks might outrage the feelings of Catholic countries”.

(1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 5SE. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 13. 21 ten provincial P.Cs. 29)

5. North African politics

General, if qualified, satisfaction has greeted the settlement of the negotiations between the French leaders; it occurred when “impatience and even disgust” at the “petty bickerings” were fast becoming exasperation. “The last minute hitch over Peyrouton” had added to the general irritation. The French leaders were thought to be “jockeying for power”, and doubts were increasing as to whether “the French represented an asset or a liability to our cause”. In reports from four Regions, it is suggested that the Prime Minister intervened in the negotiations, and that no settlement would ever have been reached otherwise. It is suggested that if the French again show disagreement, either our own Government or that of the U.S.A. should step in and establish control.

Hopes are now expressed that this “belated unity will prove a reality and not a mere facade”, but there are considerable doubts at what is called this “paper” agreement (Nine Regions). Difficulties are foreseen as a result of its dual leadership, and it is feared that “they may not be on kissing terms tomorrow”.

Impatience with the French and with French politics generally are referred to. “If it's like this when the Allies are winning, no wonder France fell”. Sympathy for all Frenchmen is thought to have declined as a result of the protracted negotiations. People are said still to remain “confused about the whole French issue” and to complain that they are quite unable to understand French politics. In the North Western Region “the Italians seem to be more indulgently regarded than the French”.

Sympathy is still with General de Gaulle rather than General Giraud; but this sympathy is not universal.

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

6. The Far East

Comment on this theatre of war, aroused by Mr. Churchill's speech to Congress, has considerably died down, and events in the Far East “appear unimportant except to these who have relatives there”. Thinking people suggest that more action is needed to make the general public “realise the task that will await us when Germany is defeated”. It is said that “Japan must not be allowed to think we will not attack her until we have defeated Hitler”. There is some demand for the bombing of Japanese industries and cities “as an effective means of shortening the war”.

Prisoners of war : Lack of news as to the fate of men now in Japanese hands is causing “persistent concern” although “the increase in notifications received has brought relief”. It is asked “whether Japanese prisoner-of-war camps are inspected by the Red Cross yet”.

China and Burma : News of the recent Chinese gains has given pleasure and has “increased the desire to give more help to China”. It is suggested that Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek should be invited to Allied conferences. Some anxiety is reported about the situation in Burma.

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

7. Russia

Although little comment is reported about the fighting on the Russian front, there is said to be “general, quiet confidence in Russia” and a feeling that “the present lull will soon be broken”. “The visualisation of 8,000,000 in battle array awaiting the signal is truly appalling”. There is some conjecture as to whether a Russian attack will “coincide with our next move”.

The figures of air losses published by the Russians are regarded with some scepticism, although their work in the air is appreciated.

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

8. Leslie Howard and the lost air liner

The death of Leslie Howard, which for many has been “the news of the week”, has caused much comment and many expressions of regret - he is said to be “universally mourned”. He was considered “not only a fine actor but a worthy representative of the British people, and many seem to feel his death as a personal loss”.

Great indignation is reported at “the wanton attack on an unarmed plane”, and there has been some discussion as to the reason for the attack. It is widely felt that “the Germans must have thought the plane carried Mr. Churchill, or had important papers from the Churchill meetings aboard”. The following points are the subject of questioning comment:

  1. Is this an isolated instance of such an attack? Or are they “by no means rare, and was the loss of this plane publicised solely because a well-known character was aboard?”

  2. “Why are women and children allowed to occupy precious space in aircraft?” There is “some criticism that evacuated children should be allowed to return”; others deplore the risk to the children themselves in undertaking the journey.

  3. Is this against International Law? Some people instance the bombing of trains as being comparable, though others say that “civilians are not bombed, only the engines”, or that “the passengers are given time to get out”.

  4. Why can't civil transport planes be armed? “After all, we arm our merchant ships”.

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

9. Air raids on this country

Heavy raids do not seem to be expected, until Hitler's “dying kick, complete with gas”; but concern is expressed over sneak raids. It is felt that “damage is a good deal heavier than we are told”, an impression which exaggerated casualty rumours tend to confirm. Thus, the rumour that 2,000 were killed in the daylight raid on Bournemouth (May 23) has been reported this week from two Regions.

Recent raids continue to rouse criticism of alleged inadequate defences (Sunderland; Cardiff; Torquay; Hastings; Niton, Isle of Wight).

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

10. The War at sea

The recent statement by Mr. A.V. Alexander on the improved shipping position (June 2) is said to have been received with satisfaction and relief. There is pleasure that “we are steadily getting the measure of our enemy”.

Praise is again reported for the Royal Navy and for the Merchant Navy.

(1. 2. 3. 5. 7. 9. 10. 11.)

11. U.S. strikes

Feelings of concern and in some cases strong disapproval are reported from five Regions at the news of the recent coal strike in the United States. While most people “do not understand the issues at stake” and “hesitate to blame either side in a dispute so far away”, there is general condemnation of strike action in war-time. Many feel that the situation may be due to the fact that “America is further away from the war than we are, and that they are not really so war-conscious”. Working-class people, particularly active trade unionists, are said to support the miners and to feel that “there must be genuine grievances behind the strike”. At the same time, the majority appear to be satisfied that “Roosevelt is handling the strike firmly”; they criticise John L. Lewis for “seeking his own personal glory”.

(2. 3. 6. 7. 8. 10. 13. 21 one provincial P.C.)

12. The United Nations Food Conference at Hot Springs

The Hot Springs food conference has aroused little comment but people are said to be very pleased with (a) “the friendliness which characterised the meeting”; (b) “the establishment of a permanent Food Commission in which all the United Nations will have a place”, and (c) “the suggestion that free - or, at least, cheap - food should be provided to badly fed or under-fed peoples, as soon as the opportunity permits”.

(8. 10. 11.)

13. Argentine coup d'état

This has aroused little interest. There is some talk of Hitler having been “outwitted diplomatically”; a few even suggest this is the first result of the Washington talks - “British and American money is very eloquent”, and Latin-American politics are regarded as corrupt.

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

14. The Birthday Honours

There is considerable pleasure at the award of honours to “the small people - chaps like ourselves”. Awards to street Savings Group organisers are felt to be “really merited”. Many people are curious about the system on which the honours are allocated.

(7. 8. 9. 11. 14 South Western)

15. Broadcasting and presentation of news

Comment on the presentation of news is slight again this week.

There is praise for Mr. Bevin's broadcast (June 1), the European News Service, the Radio Doctor, Paul Winterton's Postscript on Russia (June 6), and Major Lewis Hastings' commentaries. The Postscript by the Polish refugee (May 30) is the subject of divided opinion. While it was thought timely for its statement of “the problems and perplexities of those forced to take refuge in this country”, it was criticised for “its ingratitude”.

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


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

16. Industry

Strikes : Concern and indignation “that strikes should be allowed to occur at the present time” continue to be expressed (Four Regions). Stories of unrest among transport workers are, however, only reported from the North Eastern and North Midland Regions this week. Although threatened strike action by the busmen is condemned, a good deal of sympathy for them is said to exist - “they have a strong case both on wages and hours”. From the North Midland Region comes criticism of “the authorities who have apparently made no effort to come to an agreement with the workers”; people were “surprised that the men did not come out last week” and “their continued patience was admired”.

(1. 2. 3. 10. 21 four provincial P.Cs.)

17. Summer holidays

“Holiday talk” is reported to be increasing, particularly among “tired war workers” some of whom feel that “holidays should be granted on a pre-war scale”. According to one report, workers are said to resent the fact that civil servants get two weeks holiday, while the Ministry of Labour urges them to be content with one.

Holiday travel : There is talk of “more determination to travel” this year (Two Regions), and it is felt that if people are to remain at home “more must be done to make stay-at-home holidays attractive”. It is suggested that, “as before, the Government doesn't mean what it says about extra trains, and they will run just the same”.

Staggered holidays : In Northern Ireland and in the Potteries where traditional holiday weeks are the custom, difficulty in staggering holidays is anticipated. In the Potteries it is said that staggering holidays will only result in workers “taking Wakes Week as well as their legitimate holiday”.

(3. 5. 9. 10. 13)

18. New ration book distribution

Seven Regions report that the situation is easier in many areas and “although some indignation at the official muddle” still exists, comment has decreased. Improvements in distribution are said to have been achieved by decentralisation and other means. In Wakefield, for instance, the help of Civil Defence workers has been enlisted.

Complaints come chiefly from the rural areas and follow familiar lines: time wasted travelling, costly fares, standing “rain or shine” in queues, and loss of pay for “time off”. Though the distribution of new books has not yet started in Northern Ireland, people in country districts are anticipating difficulties and complaints have already been received at the Food Offices.

The Ministry of Food continues to be blamed for “failure to plan effectively”, and particularly “for giving too little instruction to the public” (complaints of incorrect form filling come from Scotland and the Eastern Region). They are also blamed for “sheltering behind the local authorities” and “putting the blame on the local Food Offices”.

Lord Woolton's broadcast is praised, but it is suggested that his amendments will cause slackness; “folks who are awkwardly placed will now sit back and wait hopefully till the end”.

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

19. Food

The only aspects of the food situation, which differ materially from recent weeks, are as follows:

  1. The removal of home-produced tinned fruits from points (Seven Regions) causes little comment from these who get tins, and much from those who fail. “Housewives consider that there has been a large under-the-counter sale” and “people are alleged to have telephoned to order as many tins as possible on the Saturday when the news was given out, before stocks were released on Monday”.

  2. Tomatoes (Six Regions) are the subject of various hopes, fears and allegations. People “hope they'll be easier to get than they were last year”; many are still said to be awaiting a sight of them. It is feared that “they'll all go to the favoured few”; three reports mention allegations of “under counter practices”. “Cases are reported of shop-keepers who do not disclose the fact that they have supplies of tomatoes until the customer has spent a considerable sum of money, and of customers having to buy lettuces in order to get a small quantity of tomatoes”.

  3. The wish for fresh fruit (Three Regions) continues to be reported, particularly from the Northern Region, where there are “particular fears for the fresh soft fruit position in the larger towns during the coming summer”. There is comment on the high price of fresh fruit - “2/6 for strawberries is a wicked price: I wouldn't pay it” - on the non-appearance of gooseberries, and the disappearance of rhubarb. Reference is made to “‘Wooltonitis’, a disease affecting rhubarb and all controlled goods, causing them to disappear”.

  4. “Dirty milk supplies” are mentioned as a subject of complaint in two reports. “In Derby there is great concern that 7,000 households, supplied by one large private firm, are receiving dirty milk. Feeling is running high, particularly among people who were forced to change their retailer because of the zoning of deliveries. Schoolchildren are said to be finding pieces of glass and wood in their milk.” The sale of dirty milk is also said to be causing concern in York where two prosecutions have been made against one firm and a third is reported as pending. Mothers are stated to be using dried milk rather than risk the health of their children by giving them suspect milk.

  5. Algerian wine (Two Regions): “Dissatisfaction is expressed that ships are being used to bring wine to this country. It is thought that cargoes should consist of fruit, and that to use shipping space for wines is ‘an insult to our sailors who are risking their lives’.”

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

20. Wings for Victory

During the last fortnight there have been reports from eight Regions of “enthusiastic support and interest” for local Wings for Victory Weeks. They are described as “exerting a beneficial effect on public morale quite apart from their main purpose of raising money”.

“A number of snags”, however, are mentioned.

It is feared that “money is only taken from one pocket and put into another” (Four Regions). There is said to be growing cynicism at the figures of totals quoted, since “people of small means, as well as Insurance Companies and Banks, merely shift money from one Government security and put it in another, to swell the local effort”. It is also suggested that of the money deposited in Post Office Savings Banks during the campaigns, a large percentage is afterwards soon withdrawn.

There are also complaints that displays are unnecessarily lavish (Four Regions). Petrol and paper are thought to be wasted; the flying display at the opening of Reading's Wings for Victory Week is mentioned in this connection.

Enemy air attacks on Eastbourne are thought to be connected with the publicity given to the local Wings for Victory Week.

(2. 3. 5SE. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 21 One Special, six provincial P.Cs.)

21. Agriculture

“A growing apprehension” about harvest labour is reported from two Regions this week. Farmers feel “that the authorities do not sufficiently understand that farming is a skilled occupation, and that not even two or three unskilled people can replace a skilled man”. It is suggested in one report that gangs of mobile farm labourers should be moved from one part of the country to another according to harvest needs.

Harvest helpers : Demands for clearer instructions to prospective helpers are reported again from the North Eastern Region. In the Portsmouth area it is said that farmers have made no requests for help, and that camps are not yet equipped, although many offers of help have been received and prospective part-time workers are anxiously waiting to fix their holiday dates.

(1. 2. 4. 6. 8.)

22. Venereal diseases campaign

During the past two weeks, appreciation of the campaign has been reported from three Regions. It is suggested that “wider use of blood tests should be insisted on” and that “the public would like the Government to follow the campaign up in even stronger terms”. Parents with sons and daughters in the Forces are said to be especially appreciative and it is thought that “civilian authorities should be as frank on this question as are the Forces”.

From Scotland comes the comment: “speeches declaring that venereal disease is still on the increase are taken by some as a sign that the Government campaign has been ineffective. Compulsory notification is considered necessary”.

(5. 9. 10. 11.)

23. Miscellanea

The following have been reported from only one Region each:

Awards for gallantry : Comment is reported from the North Eastern Region on “the tragic associations of the award of the Victoria Cross. So many are given posthumously that ‘the V.C. is almost regarded as a death certificate’. It is pointed out that the D.S.O. and M.C., because they are rarely awarded to the dead, are free from the gloomy associations of the highest honour.”

Favouritism among publicans : In the Northern Region there are complaints of “great hardship” to elderly working-class men and women, and invalids, who can “rarely got a glass of whiskey when in need, while the strong and virile with plenty of money get all they want by under-the-counter sales”. It is suggested that whiskey and brandy should be handed over by the publican to the chemist - “to be sold a glass at a time without a doctor's note”.

The performances at the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre at Stratford are the subject of criticism, according to the report from the North Midland Region. “Shakespeare is put over so inaudibly that even British visitors cannot follow easily, and American visitors are frankly disappointed.” It is suggested that “the best use is not being made of the theatre, which should be forwarding Anglo-American understanding”.

“Various types of pests” are mentioned in the North Midland Regional report as causing several complaints during the last few weeks. “This week, householders complain of an increase in mice, beetles and ants, and they add that it is not possible to buy stuff to keep them down. Mrs. Beeton's only cure for ant in the house, it is pointed out, is ‘slices of lemon’.”

(1. 2. 3. 32)



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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