A History of the Ministry of Information, 1939-46

2 4 3 6 5 7 6 8 7

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

No. 151 26th August 1943

(Covering period from 17th to 24th August, 1943)


1. General state of confidence and reaction to news

Spirits continue at the same high level as last week. The fall of Kharkov and Sicily seem to have increased “the widespread belief that ‘the end is in sight’ in Europe”. Those who think the European war will last another year still appear to be in the majority, but many are said to expect peace before the New Year.

Two feelings, widely reported this week, are:

  1. “Expectation of an early major move of far greater importance and significance than anything hitherto witnessed.” Most people expect an invasion of the Continent to take place shortly.

  2. “Anxiety about the seeming lack of co-operation between Russia and the other Allied Nations.” There is comment about the absence of any Russian representative at Quebec, our “delay in opening a second front in Europe”, and the recall of Litvinoff.

Home Front : Though anxiety about the coming winter and the blackout are increasingly reported this week, there are indications that people dread the blackout less this year, as “it'll be the last”. The main topics of conversation - and complaint - are reported to be footwear difficulties, the call-up of older women, and transport, particularly in rural areas.

Of other domestic problems, however, it is said: “Things might be worse”.

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

2. The next moves

The coastal bar, the Quebec conferences, the end of the Sicilian campaign, stories of troop movements and, to a lesser extent, press references, are all said to have increased the feeling - which appears to be widespread - that an Allied invasion of the Continent at one or more places is imminent.

“Expectation has tended to harden on three possible moves:”

  1. “Western Europe, across the Channel” is the one most often mentioned.

  2. The Italian mainland is the move about which people feel most certain.

  3. The Eastern Mediterranean.

“The Russian demands for a second front” are said to have met with some support. Many people feel that “the Russians are justified in pressing for another European front to lessen the strain on them”, and hope that it will not be long before we can do something to relieve them (Six Regions). Only in more extreme “left wing political circles”, however, is there anything which can be described as a “second front agitation”, and many people are resentful at the “ingratitude” of the Russians, who “do not realise what we've done for them, or how much the Merchant Navy has risked so that supplies could reach them”. It is thought, too, that the Russians do not realise all we have done against the enemy both by sea and air, nor “the enormous preparations that must be made for a seaborne invasion”.

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

3. Sicily

Satisfaction at the successful conclusion of the Sicilian campaign and admiration for “the courage of our soldiers and the skill of our generals” are widespread. The low casualty figures are said to have caused particular relief.

Disappointment has, however, been reported (Six Regions) that “the Germans were able to withdraw their troops so successfully by sea, especially considering our Naval control of the waters thereabouts”.

The reported Sicilian “enthusiasm for the British” is said to be regarded as “eyewash, because the Latin has a great taste for the buttered side of his bread” - or as “no more than cheering the winner”.

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

4. Italy

Disappointment and impatience that Italy has not yet capitulated continue to be reported on much the same lines as last week. The delay is again attributed to the lull in our bombing and the failure to take “more drastic action against Italy at the time when Mussolini fell”. Some also think that the British and U.S. Governments have failed to agree over the handling of the Italian situation, that the insistence on less severe terms than unconditional surrender might have led the Italians to seek an armistice, or simply that “we were too certain at first”. At the same time, many people realise that Italy is “in a cleft stick” and that, whichever side she gives in to, she may expect trouble from the other.

No one appears to have any faith either in the King of Italy or in Badoglio, both of whom are considered “as bad as Mussolini”. It is thought that the Allies should not contemplate treating with either of them, and there is some fear that “expediency, such as was tried in North Africa with Darlan, may be again tried in Italy”.

The general feeling now seems to be that we shall have to land on the Italian mainland before they capitulate, that the sooner we do this the better, and that, in the meantime, the best thing is concentrated bombing of Italy. The delay in the invasion of Italy is said to be causing some impatience.

A minority, however, feel that “it is better to let Italy stew in her own juice as she's a liability anyway”, particularly as we have had to send coal and flour to Sicily already.

Reports of the transfer to Germany of British prisoners of war in Italian hands continue to cause anxiety to their relatives.

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

5. The Russian offensive

Widespread admiration for the recent. Russian successes is reported, but it has not approached the crescendo of praise which followed the battle of Stalingrad. “The recent capture of cities which have so often been in the news during the last two years has greatly heartened people”, and the fall of Kharkov is “taken as yet another step towards the entry into Berlin”.

There is sympathetic comment on the losses the Russians may be suffering, but some doubt about the figures given of enemy tanks, planes, etc. destroyed, and about the number of “inhabited places” captured. It is regretted that “Russia will not allow Allied military observers on her front”.

While some people think “Russia may be able to push right through this summer”, others suggest that her appeals for a second front may be a sign that she has “thrown everything into the present offensive, and must be getting pretty near exhaustion point”.

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

6. The Prime Minister's visit to North America

“Faith and trust in Mr. Churchill” and admiration for his “courage in travelling to Canada” are again reported. So are fears for his safety, and many people feel that “the Allied chiefs ought to come to him” for a change: “as this country is the centre of Allied war effort at least some of the conferences should be held here”.

Mrs. and Miss Churchill : Comment continues (Ten Regions).

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

7. The Quebec Conference

Though some reports suggest that the public were not “exuberantly excited about the Quebec Conference” while it lasted, most people seem glad that the Prime Minister and President Roosevelt have once more met.

There is great speculation as to the subjects under discussion, which are thought to have included “plans for the final phase of the attack on Germany”; “political policies”, particularly as regards Italy; and the war against Japan. Some believe that the Conference was necessary because we were “caught unprepared by the swiftness of our successes”, and they hope that plans have now been made against any future contingency.

While a speech from Mr. Churchill about the Conference is greatly looked forward to, many feel that “the real decisions of the Conference will be shown in due course by action”. “Whenever Mr. Churchill goes anywhere like this, big events follow immediately, and they will now.”

The lack of Russian representation seems to have been the most discussed aspect of the Conference. There have been widespread expressions of regret, apprehension or dissatisfaction at the absence of Marshal Stalin or any other Russian representative.

Various reasons are suggested, mostly on the lines either that Stalin does not want to have anything to do with the British and Americans, or that we are talking while the Russians are fighting and dying. Some, however, believe that there was no need for any Russians at the Conference, as the matters discussed had nothing to do with Russia; they are satisfied that Stalin will be kept informed of what took place when Mr. Eden visits him.

Nevertheless, “no one appears to be easy about the absence of Russia”, whatever their theories to account for it, and there is reported to be “a considerable desire for a meeting of the responsible leaders of the four main powers”.

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

8. Russia's relations with U.S.A. and Great Britain

From every Region this week come reports of “anxiety about the seeming lack of co-operation between Russia and the other Allied Nations”, which is thought to be shown by:

  1. The absence of any Russian representation at Quebec (Eleven Regions. See Section 7, The Quebec Conference ).

  2. Russia's “demands for a second front” , and her apparent failure to appreciate the war contributions of the other Allies (Seven Regions. See Section 2, The next moves ).

  3. M. Litvinov's recall (Six Regions). Many people are “genuinely mystified” as to the meaning of this. Some regard it as a bad sign, recalling that “his last disappearance coincided with the deterioration of relations between Russia and ourselves in the Spring of 1939”. Some believe it was “intended as a snub to the Quebec Conference”. A minority, however, “regard the moves as ordinary diplomatic changes”, while a few believe that “Stalin is foxing, and is really in complete accord with the Allies, and the present moves are to hoodwink the Germans”.

Apprehension about American and British relations with Russia have again (as in March last) given rise to familiar fears and suspicions that: (a) Russia will “have too much to say over the Peace”, and will be “difficult when the time comes to settle with Germany”; (b) Russia will make a separate peace; (c) Great Britain and U.S.A. are not sincere in their desire to co-operate with Russia, and want to see her exhausted at the end of the war.

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

9. The coastal area ban

The imposition of the ban on visitors to parts of the South and South East coast is causing interest and speculation. It is said to be “generally supposed that the area is to be a base for launching a Western European offensive”, though “the large amount of publicity given to the restrictions makes some believe that it is a ‘huge bluff’ to cover operations elsewhere”.

A feeling exists in the Brighton area that a number of people have succeeded in escaping the ban, and it is hoped “the police will take steps to see that the malingerers are removed”. In the Portsmouth area, there is comment that stations are not being picketed to stop people entering the area.

Rumours of troop movements and concentrations come from the Regions involved in the ban.

Enemy aerial reconnaissance over the Kent and Brighton areas is said to leave the people unperturbed..... “they are used to visits from the Luftwaffe”.

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

10. The Allied air offensive

(No reports have been received since the Berlin raid of August 23/24).

Admiration for “the awe-inspiring dimensions” of our air offensive continues. People are “greedy for more and heavier bombing” (Five Regions).... “Why not a thousand bomber raid every night?”. The cry ‘Bomb Berlin’ is now said to be almost as “loud as the cry ‘Bomb Rome’ was a few weeks age”. In addition many would like to see the Italian cities “ruthlessly pounded”.

There is much interest in, and praise for, our choice of targets in Italy and Germany. Special mention is made of:

Turin and Milan (Two Regions): The sight of bombers flying to Turin and Milan is said to have given London people “a great fillip”. While some feel these raids are particularly successful because they “shatter morale in the places where peace demonstrations are strongest”, others say: “Why not bomb somewhere else, since Milan is already clamouring for peace?”

Hamburg (Two Regions): People remain greatly impressed by the destruction.

There is again some speculation about whether our air attacks alone “will be sufficient to subdue the enemy” without invasion.

Reference continues to be made to “distaste at gloating over the destruction of homes”. The hope is expressed in two reports that “we will stick to industrial and military targets”.

There is praise for the personnel of the R.A.F., and the U.S.A.A.F. are said to be getting “almost as popular”.

Rome : The declaration of Rome as an open city continues to meet with general disapproval (Six Regions). People are “sceptical of the good faith of the Axis”, and feel that “they will succeed in making it an open city only when it is of no further use for German transport, and when it will hinder Allied troop movements”. The demand for “renewed and more frequent bombing of Rome” comes from six Regions.

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

11. Raids on this country

Opinion is divided this week on the possibility of future raids on this country. Many believe there will be no more bombing of this country “on the 1941 scale”.... “if he could have done it, he would have done it after Hamburg”. Others hold the view that Hitler is saving up for when we invade France, or for a last fling.

The sounding of the siren in the North Western Region, (1 a.m. on Tuesday, August 17) caused “intense surprise”. A few “almost welcomed the sound”, while others were “sure it was only a false alarm”. Many did not get up, and no cases have been reported of people using their Anderson Shelters. Afterwards, the majority view was that one aircraft “must have got blown from its course during the raid on Lincoln”, and stories of flares and gunfire circulated among many people. A few suggested that “Jerry had come after the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester”.

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

12. The Far East

Little comment is reported. There is pleasure at the Allied air successes, and confidence that the “wily and detested Jap will be soundly beaten”, although it may take a long time. A managing director in the Southern Region investigated the feelings of his workers about the war against Japan. His conclusions were that an educational campaign on the importance of the defeat of the Japanese was most necessary, as the general view appeared to be that the collapse of Nazism would be the end of the war so far as they are concerned.

Prisoners of war : Anxiety continues among relatives of prisoners of war. The loss in the air crash in Eire of mail from prisoners in the Far East has caused regret.

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

13. War at sea

There is again not much comment on this subject, although people are variously reported as feeling pride, relief and satisfaction at the growing mastery of the U-boat menace.

The recent joint Anglo-American statement on U-boat sinkings has, it is said, “brightened the public”.

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

14. Spain

Some people regard Sir Samuel Hoare's meeting with Franco with suspicion; they fear that “we may listen to Franco and either deal too softly with him or be hoodwinked by him”. Others wonder whether the meeting means “we are negotiating with Spain to allow us to land there”; or that “the Germans have asked permission to go through it, and we are saying: ‘In that case, we fight on Spanish soil’”.

(1. 8. 10. 13)

15. The Australian elections

These have been little discussed. Left-wing sympathisers are “expressing much jubilation at the results”; some are “pointing to the elections to prove their case against the party truce”. Other people express satisfaction because of their admiration for Mr. Curtin's “Churchill-like attitude during Australia's dark day when a Jap invasion of the Commonwealth seemed almost certain”.

(5SE. 11)

16. Holidays

Stories of crowded trains and holiday resorts continue on familiar lines, though on a reduced scale. Those who feel that workers are entitled to a holiday “at this stage of the war”, criticise Government policy, and feel that “so long as people are not debarred from travelling, adequate facilities including food and lodging should be made” (Four Regions). Many workers are reported to have taken their opportunity, and to “feel fitter in consequence”.

Holidays at home are still considered to be no substitute, and “those who stayed are said to feel none the better, and to regret they did”. Dissatisfaction with transport facilities to and from local attractions is again expressed.

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

17. Broadcasting and presentation of news

There is little criticism of news presentation this week.

It is not understood why official announcements cannot give the names of our bombed towns since “the German wireless is always correct in its description” (Three Regions).

European News Service : Preference for this service is again reported (Three Regions).... though a discriminating few remark that listening to it makes one wonder why the enemy is still fighting.

B.B.C. Announcers : Criticism of Maurice Shillington continues (Three Regions). His voice is described as “monotonous” and “harsh”. Freddie Grisewood's return to news reading is welcomed.

Praise this week for: The Postscript of an “average father of an average son”, August 15 (Six Regions); Alexander Werth's Russian commentary, August 23 (Three Regions).

The broadcasts by Air Marshal Sir Philip Joubert, the Radio Padre, the Radio Doctor (“apart from his teetotal views”), and Major Lewis Hastings continue to be popular.

Entertainment programmes (Four Regions) are again criticised for being “rather borderline”. At the same time, others stress the point that they want “entertainment rather than improvement”.

Commander Kimmins' broadcast on the King's visit to the Fleet was “a great disappointment to many” in Scotland; it was considered “unbearably sentimental”.

Algiers radio : The more thoughtful ask what is the status of the Algiers Radio? Does it give official Allied news? Does it speak without any authority? Or is it being used for giving misleading information to the enemy? (One Region).

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


18. Manpower and the proposed registration of women from 46 to 50

Comment about the proposed registration of older women is slightly less this week, but disapproval continues to be strong. In London, however, some people feel that “half the hubbub would have been avoided if the public had realised that exemption would be given for domestic or health reasons”.

According to two reports, people are beginning to say that the Government will not proceed with the proposals.

Opposition is again mainly based on “the widespread belief” that existing manpower is being wasted or misused. Allegations - which appear to have been stimulated as a result of the proposals - are:

  1. Idle time in Government Departments, local government offices, industry, the women's services, aerodrome construction sites, and the N.F.S.

  2. Work which could be done by older people being done by young ones - particularly in Government Departments.

  3. Evasion of the call-up by “many young women who can still get away with it”.

  4. The direction of workers into “unsuitable jobs”.

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

19. Clothing

Comment continues unabated and unchanged.

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

20. Food

Satisfaction with the general food situation continues “although with a trickle of complaints on familiar lines”. These are chiefly of the shortage and unequal allocation of fresh fruit (Six Regions), and tomatoes (Three Regions). The high price of vegetables and salads (Five Regions) and of fruit (Four Regions) is thought to put them “beyond the reach of the average purse”.

Sugar for Jam : The extension of the “sugar instead of jam” scheme from August 22 to September 18 has been welcomed (Four Regions). “We shall know what is in it if we make it ourselves.”

Shortage of beer (Four Regions), “especially in villages and small towns”.

Changing of Retailers : Curtailed transport, necessitating a change to shops nearer home, or resulting in the tightening of delivery services, is given as reason for changing of retailers in two Regions.

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

21. Civil Defence and firewatching

The new Fireguard Order has met with general satisfaction. In particular, people are pleased that “the lazy ones” are now being roped in (Three Regions), and that concessions have been made to women (Two Regions).

The regulations are, however, said to be hard to understand.

The Blackout : Many feel that the blackout could be relaxed this winter particularly as regards street lighting. This is specially stressed by road users and transport workers in London.

In the Eastern Region, however, it is said there is no demand for relaxation; it is thought that the demand is “a press stunt”.

In the Midland Region, the case is reported of “one family which took down all its blackout after the fall of Mussolini”, in the belief that it would be no longer needed.

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

22. Agriculture

“Good harvesting” continues to be reported, but the weather is “causing anxiety for the safety of the grain crops” in some South Western districts.

Food for farm workers : The provision of “adequately sustaining food” in the fields it is said to be a “real worry[Text Missing]”, particularly where the pie scheme has broken down (generally, it is said, through the call-up of helpers). “‘Food Facts’ packed lunches aren't enough for ravenous harvesters. “It is suggested that at harvest time some extra rations should be allowed to farmers' wives who must offer meals to unpaid helpers; also that farmers themselves, “who often work harder than their men”, should have the cheese ration. “Bona fide land workers”, who think their own rations inadequate, are said to resent the large amount of extra rations given to the volunteer amateur.

(1. 3. 6. 7. 8. 11)

23. Anti-Semitism

During the last three months, reports of anti-Semitic feeling have declined. The present level is similar to that obtaining before December of last year; at that time the wave of sympathy, which greeted reports of German atrocities against Jews in Poland, coincided with an increase in reports of expressions of dislike of Jews in this country.

In the Northern, North Midland, London, and South Eastern Regions, however, anti-Semitism is still said to be on the increase, particularly among business and working-class people.

Criticisms made against Jews are as follows:

  1. Jewish names are frequently associated with Black Market prosecutions reported in the press. (Four Regions, two more than once)

  2. They still get the luxuries. (Three Regions)

  3. “You never see Jews in the Services.” (Two Regions, one twice)

  4. They do nothing towards winning the war; they drive about in cars as if there were no petrol restrictions; they run to “funk-holes” in time of trouble; they put the small shopkeeper out of business; Jewish financiers are responsible for the prolongation of the war; they are “rank exhibitionists”; “they expect more to be done for them than for any other section of the community”. (One Region each)

The belief that anti-Semitism is being stimulated intentionally is reported from two Regions.

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

24. Rumours

From three Regions come reports of rumours that the Home Guard is shortly to be mobilised - possibly for duty on the South Coast.

(3. 5SE. 10)


A Swindon butcher's shopping scheme

A Swindon butcher's successful scheme for avoiding queues, helping war workers and ensuring a fair distribution of meat among his customers, is explained in a special report from the South Western Region. Although the scheme involved a good deal of initial planning for the butcher, he feels well rewarded by the results, and the customers are reported to be satisfied.

To start the scheme the butcher asked his customers to choose which time it would be most convenient for them to call for their weekend joint, Friday or Saturday, morning or afternoon. According to their preference he divided them into four groups, which turned out to be roughly equal in number. To each group he gave a coloured card, blue for Friday morning, mauve for Friday afternoon, etc. Every weekend he sets aside a proportion of the best meat for each group and even if the customers are unable to shop in their particular period, they know that they have a reasonable chance of buying a good joint. The butcher says that the customers mostly keep to their correct period, thus avoiding unnecessary queues.

These four groups are also used to ensure a fair distribution of offals among his customers. There is seldom enough for all of them, so in order to avoid the same people benefiting every time, the butcher allots each allocation of offals he receives to one group, and takes the groups in rotation.

The same butcher also keeps his shop open between 12 noon and 1 p.m. every day, for serving war workers only.

(14 South Western Region)

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