A History of the Ministry of Information, 1939-46

438 439 2 441 4 442 443 6 444 7 447 10

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

No. 179. 9th March, 1944

(Covering period from 29th February to 7th March, 1944)


1. General

Spirits are about the same as last week and for the same reasons. The second front, however, is awaited with more tension.

Home Front : War weariness, fatigue or strain, (Twelve Regions as against seven last week), are increasing with the feeling that the war may drag on for a long time yet.

The coal situation, postwar, clothing and housing continue chief topics.

(1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13)

2. Allied air offensive

Deep and widespread satisfaction with our round-the-clock bombing; the recent intensification is for some “the most encouraging aspect of the war”. A few, however, question the effectiveness of our bombing and doubt press reports of damage; they ask why we have to return so often to the same targets, and are surprised at “the Germans' ability to stage heavier attacks on London and increase fighter defence over Germany, despite the air blows at their productive capacity”.

Comment has centred particularly round:

U.S.A.A.F. day raids (Six Regions): Great admiration, particularly for the “magnificent” attack on Berlin of March 6. A few still disbelieve American figures of enemy losses; “How can they tell how many planes are shot down when so many go out together?”

Our bombing policy (Six Regions): The Bishop of Chichester's speech continues to be the subject of unfavourable comment, particularly among those with relatives in the Forces or prisoners of war. A minority continue to regard our intensive bombing as a regrettable necessity; they sympathise with the women and children, and “sicken over the ghastly horror of it all”. A few are anxious at what they consider “lack of precision” in bombing Germany by night; they think the Americans take greater risks to achieve accuracy.

Sir Archibald Sinclair's speech , February 29 (Four Regions) is said greatly to have heartened the public; it is praised for being “intelligible to the ordinary person”. Some are pleased at his promise of heavier bombing of Germany.

Losses (Three Regions): Concern continues, but the “extraordinary lightness” of our losses over Stuttgart (March 1) caused great pleasure and it is asked whether it was just chance that this coincided with the raid being a last-minute decision.

The new 12,000 lb bomb (Three Regions): People gasped when they heard about it ... “Where will they stop?” Those who had seen the devastation wrought by much lighter bombs were especially staggered.

(1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13)

3. Air raids on this country

Comment continues, but on a reduced scale, about recent raids on London and the South East. From parts of the country not affected come sympathy for the sufferers and relief at the lull, as well as uneasiness that the raids may spread. Further raids are expected (Seven Regions), and there is some anxiety in places from which, it is believed, balloon barrages and smoke screens have been removed.

Rumours and conflicting stories about damage and casualties continue (Six Regions) - some tell of damage equal to, or worse than, anything in 1940-1. It is still thought that the B.B.C. and press have minimised the effects of the raids, and there is some disbelief in stories about “Germany using obsolete planes and bombs full of sawdust”. It is thought that more information should be given.

Deep shelters (Five Regions): Surprise, speculation and some annoyance are reported at the decision not to open deep shelters in London.

In London and the South East , many take the raids philosophically, those outside the bombed areas being “unimpressed by their amateurishness”. A number, however, particularly in the areas affected, find the raids very distressing and are said not to be standing up to them so well as they used to, “owing to lowered resistance after four and a half years of war” and also to the barrage. It is noticed, too, that London evacuees arriving in other parts of the country have “not stood up to bombing as well as in the blitz period”. Some criticism of our air defences is reported; a few are disquieted that bombers are able to get through to London “So easily”, and at the damage caused by A.A. shells. Some criticism is reported, too, of the N.F.S., alleged to be “obliged to stand by for priority calls while private property burns”.

(1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13)

4. The second front

Comment and speculation have increased considerably this week. A feeling of tension and “suspense” are reported from seven Regions, whilst other people are said to be “eagerly awaiting” the invasion. Many think it will take place before the end of this month (Six Regions). Sir Archibald Sinclair's statement is said to have stimulated expectations.

Comment otherwise is on familiar lines: (a) Rumours of military preparations, Civil Defence personnel moving South, etc. (Five Regions); (b) The minority view that it is all bluff (Five Regions); (c) A growing realisation that the fighting will be “the stiffest yet” (Four Regions); (d) A belief that the air offensive is the preliminary stage of the invasion (Three Regions) or that it may make invasion unnecessary (Two Regions); (e) Expectation of heavy casualties (Three Regions).

(1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13)

5. Italy

Disappointment and anxiety continue widespread and are again focused chiefly on the bridgehead. The holding of the German attacks there has, however, reassured people to some extent (Seven Regions); and there is praise for the tenacity of our troops (Four Regions). There is some appreciation, too, for the fact that we are in any case keeping several German divisions tied up and, on the part of a few, some tendency to attribute our “slowness” to weather difficulties. Nevertheless people continue to wish we were “on the offensive”.

There is some surprise that we have still not advanced in the Cassino sector, despite the destruction of the Abbey (Three Regions).

Comment is again chiefly on the following lines:

  1. Our strategy (Seven Regions). People continue to feel that there has been a “mess-up” somewhere, particularly over our failure to exploit our position immediately after the landing. A few think, however, that “our generals have the situation well in hand” (Two Regions).

  2. The bombing of Monte Cassino (Five Regions). The delay is still criticised on familiar lines (Four Regions), and approval expressed that it was bombed (Two Regions).

  3. Russia . Familiar comparisons continue (Five Regions).

  4. The second front (Three Regions). There is again some fear that Anzio has been a “bad portent”.

  5. Casualties , it is feared, are heavy (Three Regions).

  6. General Montgomery (Two Regions). People still fear he came back too soon.

(1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13)

6. Russia and Finland

Comment and interest have increased. There is widespread approval of the armistice terms, which are thought moderate and just - even lenient (Eight Regions). It is hoped the Finns will accept them soon; if not, “they must expect what they get and not grumble”.

On the other hand, there is minority sympathy for Finland (Four Regions). Some appreciate the difficulties caused by the presence of German troops in the north; others remember Finland was attacked by the Russians in 1939.

There is some speculation as to the possible effects of the negotiations on other satellite countries (Two Regions).

(1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13)

7. Russia

Military : Admiration and satisfaction continue on familiar lines (All Regions). Again, some would like more publicity for our help to Russia.

Political : Minority suspicion and fears of Russia's future intentions are again reported (Five Regions).

Russo-Polish dispute (Six Regions): Comment has again decreased, though there is still uneasiness. Sympathies remain divided.

(1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13)

8. The Prime Minister's review of the war (February 22)

Comment continues mainly favourable, but in little detail. The sobering effect of the speech is still the feature most discussed; this is much approved, though it is said to have depressed a great many people who now feel that the war is going to be “a long business”.

This week there seems to be rather more unfavourable comment on Mr. Churchill's references to the Russo-Polish question. Some fear is expressed that we are going too far in our desire not to offend Russia, and that the Atlantic Charter is being shelved and Poland shabbily treated.

Appreciation continues for his reference to the part played in the war by Great Britain and the Empire, and for his “complete recognition” of Tito.

It is hoped his next speech may be over the radio - “his voice does hearten us so”.

(1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12)

9. Far East

Increased interest continues, but is still said to be limited by the remoteness of the battle area, and because the Allies have “troubles much closer to hand”. Appreciation of the American successes in the Pacific is reported from eight Regions.

Burma (Eight Regions): Satisfaction and pleasure are reported with the progress on the Arakan front. There is some appreciation of the physical difficulties with which our troops have to contend (Three Regions), and pleasure that more publicity has recently been given to their work (Two Regions).

Prisoners of war (Five Regions): Concern continues about the Japanese treatment of prisoners.

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

10. Turkey

Preliminary reactions on the withholding of arms from Turkey include approval, surprise and also speculation as to why supplies have been stopped. It is said that Turkey has shown only slight signs of friendship towards the Allies, and that she should make a more solid effort for them.

(1. 2. 3. 8. 10. 13)

11. The Balkans

Rumours of Bulgarian peace-feelers have aroused interest in the Balkans; it is felt that should she make a definite move, other States may follow.

Greece : The news of the agreement between the rival sections in Greece is welcomed (Two Regions).

(1. 2. 3. 11. 13)

12. By-elections

Comment is decreasing. Apart from points mentioned in previous weeks, there are references to:

  1. The electoral truce; views are divided as to whether it should be maintained or not.

  2. A feeling that the public does not want “carpet-baggers” and official nominees as candidates.

  3. Some Labour uneasiness at the Common Wealth Party's tactics, which “run parallel to the beginnings of the Nazi regime”.

Bury St. Edmunds : In the Eastern Region, there has been comment on the large number of votes obtained by Mrs. Corbett Ashby. Also, criticism of rural voters “who, in some cases, were still wondering how they should vote while they were being driven to polling booths”.

(1. 2. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 12)

13. White Paper on National Health Service

There is again little general comment; but where the proposals are mentioned, they are for the most part welcomed as a step in the right direction. Some people do not understand the provisions, and others are vaguely critical. Specific points (each from one Region) are:

  1. Some Voluntary Hospital Committees fear that contributions may “dry up and so bring them under State control”.

  2. Opinion concerning the retention of private practices is divided. Some feel that “human nature being what it is, doctors will give better treatment to their fee-paying patients”.

In the Northern Region people complain of not having been able to obtain copies of either the White Paper or its abridged edition, and criticise the authorities for the B.B.C. announcement that these have been placed on sale.

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

14. Broadcasting and presentation of news

General Forces Programme (Eleven Regions): Reports suggest a mixed reception.

Criticism is largely of :

  1. “Disjointed”, “snippity” programmes (Seven Regions). It is thought that these may be highly suited to the Forces, especially those overseas, but that they are too scrappy for civilian listeners.

  2. “Disconcerting” new times for familiar programmes (Four Regions). The Brains Trust at 1.30 p.m. on Sundays is mentioned specifically.

  3. Too much harping on “we're all together now” (Three Regions). The British soldier is thought “not to be so sentimental as to want to listen to such a Programme even if the wife may be listening too”.

  4. Poor quality, “cheap” programmes (Three Regions).

  5. Too many news bulletins (Two Regions).

However, a few are “willing to approve if it pleases the Forces”.

Praise is chiefly of :

  1. The increased, and more forthright news bulletins (Five Regions).

  2. The opportunity to listen to the same programme as relatives overseas (Two Regions).

Praise for : Emlyn Williams' Postscript, February 27, (Three Regions); Major Lewis Hastings' War Commentaries; radio plays (Two Regions each).

Welsh Brains Trust , February 29th: Reports from two Regions, including Wales, indicate that this was thought poor.

Reception : Poor reception is reported from Scarborough, Staveley (Derbyshire), Blackburn and Merseyside; it is said to have improved in Cornwall.

News announcers : Pleasure is expressed at the return of Joseph Macleod and Alvar Liddell (Two Regions each).

News presentation : Little comment. Deprecation of “gloating” about our air raids is again reported (Two Regions).

Religious talks and discussions : See IV. Appendix.

(1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12)



15. Miners and mining

Considerable comment is again reported on the same lines as in recent weeks. The unsettled condition of the industry and the succession of disputes continue to cause concern, exasperation and some mystification - feelings being all the stronger on account of the domestic coal shortage.

Blame seems to be about evenly divided between the Government - including the Ministry of Fuel and Power - and the miners, many blaming both. A minority, however, especially in industrial areas, still sympathise with the miners.

Many people persist in advocating the return of skilled miners from the Forces and industry, and/or nationalisation, rather than the direction of boys to the pits.

The ballot is still criticised, chiefly on the grounds that the war will be over before the boys produce any coal, that their special capacities and training will be wasted, and that they will all leave the mines the moment the war is over, so “the Government is spending a lot of money for nothing”. Older miners, too, are said to object to working with the boys on the grounds that, being unwilling workers, they will be careless and a danger to others. Resentment and reluctance on the part of the boys themselves - particularly those with pre-Service training - are again reported.

The Porter Award : Little public comment is mentioned, but much indignation is reported in Scotland at the go-slow policy in a number of Durham pits. Though there is some appreciation among miners for the fixing of a minimum wage, the dissatisfaction of skilled miners and piece-workers is again reported. “Who is going to flog his soul out for £5. 5. 0 a week when he can get £5. 0. 0 for taking his time?” Many of the rank and file are said not to have understood the Award and to have expected something very different; in particular, some did not anticipate that deductions would be made from the £5. minimum, for house or rent allowance and coal.

(1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 8. 10. 11. 12)

16. Fuel

Complaints continue of (a) shortage of coal - whether due to bad distribution or the inadequacy of the allowance - (b) poor quality and (c) high price.

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

17. Service pay and allowances (Amendment moved by Mr. Kendall on Army Estimates, March 2).

There is strong support for the demand for an increase in Service pay and allowances. It is felt that:

  1. The disparity should cease between Service pay and that of (i) industrial workers and (ii) U.S. and Dominion troops.

  2. There should be no quibbling over “the few extra million needed to pay adequately for the men and their dependants, when so much is spent every day”.

The small number of M.Ps. present at the debate has caused unfavourable comment.

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

18. Postwar

Anxiety about postwar matters and criticism of the delay in producing “concrete” plans continue. Among a few, however, there are said to be some fears that too much time is being given to the consideration of postwar planning at the expense of the war effort.

Housing and employment are the main topics. Many people are rather dubious about pre-fabricated houses, and more publicity about them is suggested.

(1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 9. 10. 12)

19. Housing

Housing difficulties remain the subject of widespread complaint. In the North Midlands, Eastern and Southern Regions they are said to have been accentuated by the influx of London evacuees.

(1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 10. 11. 12)

20. Food

Oranges (Eleven Regions): Pleasure among those who were able to get oranges “as a relief from war-time diet”, and complaints of unequal distribution, continue (Six Regions each). In Scotland and the Northern Region it is said that housewives could not take full advantage of the Seville oranges as they had no sugar, and some shopkeepers were offering to give them away - in some cases “finding no takers”. People feel it is a great pity more sugar was not made available for marmalade making.

Lemons (Six Regions): Those who have not yet seen lemons are hoping they will soon appear. Some think they should have been rationed.

Fats (Three Regions): Some people do not believe Professor Sir Jack Drummond's statement that the war-time consumption of fat is only 15 per cent less than pre-war. Housewives are said to “know this is not true so far as their households are concerned” and it is felt that propaganda of this sort causes “disbelief in all statements by ‘experts’”.

(1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 10. 11. 12)

21. The Newcastle Enquiry

This continues of absorbing interest in Newcastle and is much discussed in other parts of the Northern Region. An opinion is current that evidence is being withheld and that some witnesses are not telling the truth. Interest is also reported from the North Eastern Region.

Many are thoroughly disgusted by the state of affairs revealed. Some, however, still feel “you could stir up as much dirt in any town if you started an enquiry”, and that the matters under investigation are only small ones which can be condoned by the times.

There is much concern lest public confidence in local government be impaired - in the North Eastern Region the Enquiry has aroused suspicions of corruption among officials in other towns and “casts an unfortunate slur on local government generally”.

It is feared that the Enquiry will have furthered reluctance among Tyneside local authorities to amalgamate with Newcastle. Newcastle people are wondering how much the Enquiry will cost the city.

(1. 2)


22. Pay-as-you-earn income tax

During the past two weeks praise for the scheme and for the helpful talks given by Inland Revenue officials has continued, but some confusion about code numbers and allowances persists. Some employers and their clerks continue to be disturbed about the heavy additional work entailed by the scheme.

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

23. Holidays

During the past three weeks some comment has been reported on this year's holiday prospects. There is a feeling that the time has come for the Government to review its holiday policy, as, from the health standpoint, there is thought to be a need for:

  1. Longer holidays . Factory workers especially are “indignant at the Civil Service extending its annual leave while factories continue to have one week”.

  2. Holidays away from home . It is said that “holidays at home will not appeal this year”, and people hope that the travel position will be eased to allow people to get a change. Holiday-at-home programmes are said to be laughed at in industrial areas: “workers expect them to be a flop, and aren't disappointed”. It is thought that the programmes would be “more attractive if they were less obviously intended to tempt people to do the right thing, with an atmosphere of amateur or second-best shows for a good cause. First-class attractions at not too popular prices would have a much better and more indirect effect.”

(2. 4. 6. 9. 13)

24. Youth

During the past four weeks concern at the behaviour of young people has continued widespread. Comment, which has slightly increased, has again been chiefly of:

  1. The low moral standards of adolescents (Seven Regions). Particular concern is felt about very young girls “walking the streets”, and hanging around military camps - often of coloured troops.

  2. Excessive drinking (Seven Regions). This is thought to be on the increase and there is particular anxiety about girls under age. Special identity cards for people under eighteen are again suggested.

  3. The “hooliganism” of children (Three Regions). They are felt to be “completely out of hand”.

  4. Juvenile delinquency (Three Regions). It is feared that this may become a grave postwar problem.

Responsible factors are still thought largely to be:

  1. Lack of parental control (Six Regions)

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

Suggested solutions are:

  1. More social and recreational centres for young people (Five Regions).

  2. More women police (Four Regions).

  3. A curfew for the under sixteens (Two Regions).

Youth organisations are thought to need further encouragement and aid (Three Regions), though there is some criticism that they are not the success they might be (Three Regions).

(1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 12)



A B.B.C. Listener Research investigation shows there has been a distinct change in the attitude of the listening public towards Religious Talks and Discussions over the past twelve months. The following figures show the results of enquiries made in January this year and last year; on each occasion, random samples of some 5,500 listeners were classified on a five-point scale. (A = great interest, B = moderate interest, C = neutrality, D = dislike, and E = strong dislike.)

Percentage of the listening public classified as being in Group -
A B C D E Total
% % % % % %
1. January 1943 10 20 29 22 19 100
2. January 1944 17 24 26 19 14 100

As will be seen, there has been a pronounced shift away from the unfavourable end of the scale towards the favourable end. Whereas a year ago 30% of the public could be classified as interested in some degree in Religious Talks and Discussions, as against over 40% who actively disliked them, now the figures are over 40% favourably disposed, as against 33% antagonistic.

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