A History of the Ministry of Information, 1939-46

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Wt 39944. 10M 11/43. W.R.R. & S. Ltd. GP 38. (14).

No. 175, 10th February, 1944

(Covering period from 1st to 8th February, 1944)


1. General

The main changes since last week are: (a) a further deflation of the high hopes raised by the Nettuno landings; (b) increased interest in the Far Eastern war, as a result of the landings in the Marshall Islands; (c) a slight increase in the number of those who think the European war may not end this year; and (d) less discussion of the Russo-Polish question.

The alterations in the constitution of the U.S.S.R. have caused considerable interest and mystified speculation.

Home Front : War weariness and tiredness are widely reported (Ten Regions); General Montgomery's reference to his being “fed up” with the war is thought to have stimulated comment. There are, too, many references to complacency, apathy or relaxation of effort (Seven Regions).

The Brighton by-election has caused widespread interest (Ten Regions).

Other home front subjects widely discussed are the removal of austerity regulations for men's suits, clothing coupons, the mining situation and domestic fuel, postwar conditions, and housing.

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

2. Italy

Military : The excitement caused by the Nettuno landings has been followed by widespread disappointment at our “failure” to exploit the initial success; there is now some anxiety.

People ask for an explanation of the delay, “since we were told the original landing met with little opposition”. In view of our superior equipment, unfavourable terrain and weather are not thought sufficient explanation.

A few wonder whether such phrases in our communiqués as “regrouping our forces” are attempts to conceal reverses. “Is the Government preparing us for bad news?”

Unfavourable comparisons are made with the successes of the Russians and Yugo-slavs; some ask what will happen when we attempt a landing in the west.

Some still hope Rome will soon fall; others wonder if we are really only trying to hold down as many German divisions as possible in Italy.

Political : It is still said the King should abdicate, and that we are not firm enough with the Fascists in Italy.

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

3. Russia

Military : There is delighted admiration and amazement at the continued Russian successes. The encirclement of the German divisions in the Dnieper Bend, the advances from Leningrad, and the fighting in the Ukraine are specially praised. Still further successes are anticipated.

There is anxiety, however, about Russia's postwar position (Six Regions). It is feared she will be so powerful that we shall not be able to “stop her doing exactly what she likes”.

Russo-Polish dispute : Comment has diminished but concern continues. Sympathy is still divided on familiar lines; but Poland's sympathisers are a little more vocal than they were.

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

4. Constitutional changes in the U.S.S.R.

The changes have both puzzled and surprised people. Though feelings are mixed, suspicion and doubt have been the main reactions; even the less suspicious tend to think it an “astute” move.

The chief grounds for suspicion are that it may be:

  1. The beginning of an expansionist policy (Seven Regions). Smaller states, for example in the Balkans, may be attracted into joining the federation (Five Regions); alternatively they may be absorbed (Three Regions).

  2. An attempt to increase Russian representation at the peace conference (Five Regions).

Those who approve the changes do so because they feel them to be a “real move towards democracy”, bringing the U.S.S.R. “into line with the British Commonwealth”.

Some think the changes unlikely to be anything but nominal.

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

5. Japanese atrocities

Widespread horror and indignation are reported from all Regions.

Sympathy for relatives is expressed everywhere. In view of the deep anxiety and distress caused, many doubt the wisdom of making such disclosures, at a time when we are “powerless to act”. These relatives who had already received postcards, and believed in them, are now said to be “suffering all the more”.

It is said that, for the first time, people realise that they are personally involved in a ruthless war against the Japanese. They want the most vigorous and relentless action against these responsible for such brutalities. They feel that, after the defeat of Germany, the greatest effort will have to be made until we have completely defeated Japan.

It is variously suggested that the publication of the news was intended to stimulate interest in the Far East, to stir up the public and the troops against the Japanese, or to check over-complacency here or in the U.S.A small minority doubt the truth of the stories ... “just propaganda”.

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

6. Far East

The news of the American landings in the Marshall Islands has revived interest in the events of the Far Eastern war. They are welcomed as a sign of our growing strength and a preliminary to the main onslaught on Japan. Successes against Japanese shipping are also welcomed.

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

7. The second front

Comment differs little from that reported last week. The exceptions are references to:

  1. Increased speculation about the probable effects on civilian life . This is reported especially from the South Eastern District and the Southern and Eastern Regions. In addition to retaliatory bombing, especially in the South and South East, there is some expectation of interference with transport - whether from a veto on civilian travel or through enemy action - and of compulsory evacuation of certain areas. Some people think there is insufficient realisation of the sacrifices and restrictions which may be imposed on the public and suggest there is a need for more publicity on this point.

  2. An increase in the minority who think there will be no second front and that all our talk about it is bluff, intended to un-nerve the enemy.

  3. Too much careless talk about troop and shipping movements .

  4. General Montgomery's “comforting” remark that the invasion will not start if there is any question of failure.

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

8. Allied air offensive

No significant difference from the comment of the last four weeks.

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

9. Raids on this country

Anticipation (Seven Regions): People generally expect the enemy to bomb this country when our invasion is launched; those in the South of England are also expecting heavier reprisals for our raids on Berlin. Anxiety is reported only from the South Eastern District and among a few in the Southern Region.

It is again suggested (Four Regions) that when the Germans become frantic, they may use gas. In part of the North Western Region, however, it is rumoured that “our forces are hoping the Germans will use gas, because our anti-gas measures are better and our gas more effective - so we want to try it out”.

Recent raids on London and the South East (Four Regions): There are rumours of much damage to London, of the House of Commons receiving another bomb, and Chatham “a pasting”, and the use by the Germans of a new kind of very heavy bomb.

There is again satisfaction at the raiders' losses.

Our reports of the raids (Four Regions), it is felt, have been “playing down” the damage done. This is particularly disliked in raided areas, because:

  1. “However small the raid, it is real enough for the victims”.

  2. It makes for disbelief of the news.

German exaggerations (Two Regions) have amused people.

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

10. Spain

Again, people want stronger action against Spain, and approve the suspension of oil supplies and the Government's sterner attitude, “She should be put in her place and kept there.” People are indignant with Spain's “interpretation of neutrality”. Objection is raised to our export of coal to Spain.

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

11. Speeches by Lord Halifax (January 24) and Mr. Mackenzie King (February 1)

In Scotland and Northern Ireland particularly, the speeches have been considerably discussed among educated people.

Approval of their different viewpoints is about equally divided.

While critics of Lord Halifax feel he is reviving pre-war power politics - which “most people are anxious to avoid”, critics of Mr. Mackenzie King feel that if his views prevail, Canada and other Dominions will drift further and further away from Britain.

(3. 6. 11. 13)

12. Electoral reform

Some interest in the proposed Speaker's conference on electoral reform is reported; some want radical reforms “to make democracy function properly”; others mention only the need for a revision of the present electoral register, so that young people can vote.

(1. 2. 3. 5. 7)

13. Broadcasting and presentation of news

There is renewed criticism this week of the B.B.C's “bad taste” in accounts of our raids; people deprecate the “crowing and gloating”.

Complaints continue of the delay in the release of news already given by the enemy, and of repetition both by press and radio. The tendency to switch off after the headlines is reported to be growing.

General Forces Programme (Four Regions): Interest continues, and there are hopes of improved programmes.

Musical Programmes (Four Regions): The demand for more light music by light orchestras and for less swing and “ultra classical music” is reported.

Entertainment Programmes (Three Regions): General criticism continues.

George Formby's Postscript, January 23 (Five Regions): Appreciation continues. “The real stuff for all listeners, especially relatives of men and women in the Forces.”

Brains Trust (Five Regions): This is criticised in three Regional reports, and praised in two. Criticisms are of the constitution of the team, and the quality of both questions and answers.

Praise for : ITMA (Four Regions): Plays (Four Regions) especially Ibsen's “An Enemy of the People”, January 29; “The Air is Our Concern” (Three Regions); Ian Finlay's Postscript, January 30 (Two Regions).

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



14. Postwar

Comment continues on familiar lines - anxiety, coupled with a desire for more “precise” Government plans; interest being mainly focused on housing problems (Nine Regions); employment (Six Regions); and Beveridge (Three Regions).

Interest in, and approval of, the Education Bill continue (Seven Regions).

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

15. Housing and accommodation

Strong complaints continue on familiar lines. People want the Government to control prices now and also to start rebuilding.

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

16. Miners and mining

Strikes : The majority criticise the miners for striking, and people are said to be getting “fed up with their constant demands”. “Anything that prolongs the war is wrong.” Some blame the Government for its timidity and think that stronger measures are called for.

A considerable minority, however agree with the miners' demands for higher wages, on the grounds that the hard labour and conditions are worse than in most other industries, and that if they do not get what they want from the Government now they never will.

Some think the whole industry needs an overhaul and many advocate nationalisation, believing that “miners would be more happy in a dangerous and difficult industry if their work were for the service of the nation and not for individuals”.

Miners, themselves, are said to view the future with cynicism.

Miners' wage increases : Most reported comment comes from mining communities, where the reception is said to be mixed, but mainly unfavourable. Most discontent seems to be caused by the failure to award a rise in piece-rates (Four Regions).

“The Bevin boys” and the ballot are still the subject of familiar comment, but this week there is once again some reference to the difficulty of finding accommodation for the boys (Two Regions). Suggested reasons are:

  1. Housewives' present difficulties, with the added fear of being unable adequately to feed heavy workers.

  2. Unwillingness on the part of the miner whose son has been called up for the Forces.

  3. Old age pensioners' reluctance to lose their supplementary pensions if they are paid for housing a billetee.

  4. Working-class people's wish to see billetees installed in some of the bigger houses, or “mansions commandeered as hostels”.

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

17. Domestic fuel

There is a good deal of comment on domestic fuel supplies this week, chiefly about:

  1. The “inadequacy of the allowance” (Six Regions), particularly for people living in exposed positions, in houses with old-fashioned grates, and those with no alternative source of heat.

  2. Bad distribution and slow deliveries (Five Regions). Many people are said not to be receiving their full allowance, as a result of slow deliveries caused by lack of transport or coal merchants' shortage of staff. Nor are arrears always made up during the following month (Three Regions), even though the order was given in plenty of time. Coal merchants are also accused of supplying unlimited quantities to favoured customers.

  3. Poor quality (Five Regions).

  4. High price (Four Regions).

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

18. Clothing

Men's Utility suits (Eight Regions): The removal of austerity restrictions has again been welcomed by men, but some shopkeepers complain of being left with suits on their hands which are practically unsaleable. People wonder whether anything has been saved by the regulations and, if so, why it should be possible to relax them now.

Women, on the other hand, feel some resentment that nothing has been done for them. They ask why men should be “pampered and women merely thanked”, and feel they have already the heavier burden with household goods to buy.

Coupons : Complaints of general inadequacy continue, but particularly about the surrender of personal coupons for household goods (Nine Regions).

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

19. Food

The distribution of oranges : Pleasure continues to be expressed by those who have received oranges. There are some complaints, however, of:

  1. Difficulty in obtaining (Two Regions): In the Northern Region those unable to queue are said not to have received any. It is hoped they will have preference in any future allocation.

  2. Over-ripe fruit (Two Regions). In the Southern Region a rumour that the oranges have had poison injected into them by Nazi agents is believed to have resulted from their over-ripeness.

  3. Ration books not being adequately checked (Two Regions). In the North Midland Region it is alleged that people have been able to rub out pencil markings and consequently receive two rations.

Surplus bitter oranges : Satisfaction that these are not to go to Eire. In the North Eastern Region there are some comments on their non-appearance.

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

20. “Pay as you earn” income tax

Praise for the principle of the system continues. The receipt of their code numbers has, however, puzzled many workers. Where income tax officials have visited factories, their explanations have been found most helpful. More visits of this kind are asked for, not only in factories but in rural areas.

The broadcast explanation (February 2) was welcomed by most who heard it; more such broadcasts are both wanted and needed, it is said.

Some employers remain worried about the problem of clerical staff.

It is thought unfair that bonuses should be taxed (Two Regions).

Some Irish labourers say “pay as you earn” will make it no longer worth their while to work here, so they may as well go home.

(1. 2. 3. 5. 8. 9. 11. 17 three provincial P.Cs.)


21. Youth

During the past four weeks concern at the behaviour of young people has continued widespread, though comment has been slightly less. This has been chiefly of:

  1. Low moral standards (Six Regions), particularly of young girls. “Soliciting” of servicemen by young girls is specially deplored.

  2. Excessive drinking (Five Regions), again particularly by young girls. It is once more suggested that identity cards should show the date of birth to prevent people under age being served with drinks.

  3. Juvenile Delinquency (Five Regions). It is thought that more active steps are needed to deal with this problem. A nationwide campaign is suggested.

  4. Hooliganism and rowdiness by both children and adolescents (Four Regions). It is suggested schools should concentrate more on manners and behaviour.

The following factors are held partly responsible:

  1. Lack of parental control (Four Regions). It is suggested that many mothers might be doing greater war service by staying at home and looking after their children than by making munitions.

  2. High wages of young people (Two Regions).

Suggested solutions are more social and recreational centres for young people (Four Regions), more women police (Three Regions), and a curfew for those under 16 (One Region).

Youth Organisations are thought to need extension and encouragement (Three Regions). In the North Midland Region, however, there is said to be some doubt as to whether they can cope with the problem they are said to give children no idea of anything but pleasure.

(1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 5SE. 6. 8. 10. 11. 17)

22. Lord's Day Observance Society

During the past seven weeks there have been only a few comments; except from Wales, all suggest that the majority of people oppose the Society's activities, either because they want Sunday entertainment or think people should be free to choose whether they want it or not.

People in Wales are said to have misgivings at the “growing clamour” for Sunday entertainment, many favouring closing all places of entertainment on Sundays, others wanting limited entertainment after Church services.

There is said to be a division of opinion and keen controversy in both Wales and Northern Ireland on the question of Sunday cinemas for the Forces.

(1. 2. 5. 7. 8. 9. 13)

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