A History of the Ministry of Information, 1939-46

427 428 2 429 3 430 4 432 6 433 7 434 8 436 10

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

No. 180. 16th March, 1944

(Covering period from 7th to 14th March, 1944).


1. General

The main topic of the week has been the miners' strikes, which have caused widespread anger and disgust - and in Wales, some shame.

The debate on Service pay and allowances, the shortage of domestic fuel, and postwar problems have also been widely discussed.

Preliminary reports about the Eire situation show anger at de Valera's refusal to meet U.S. demands, a desire for strong action, and a feeling that “it's high time something was done”.

Apart from this, spirits remain about the same as last week, with:

  1. Great satisfaction at the intensity of the Allied air offensive and Russian advances - particularly in the Ukraine; (b) Tension about the second front; (c) Disappointment at our slow progress in Italy; (d) War weariness, fatigue and irritability, together with some continued criticism of the Government.

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

2. Allied air offensive

The U.S.A.A.F. day raids , particularly those on Berlin, have been the highlight of the week in the air war and have aroused tremendous enthusiasm (Twelve Regions). Small minority reactions are: (i) Too much publicity and credit given to the Americans; (ii) Doubt of U.S. claims of enemy planes brought down; (iii) “Is night bombing on its way to being superseded by day bombing?”

Recent small losses have caused particular interest.

The intensified air offensive is widely regarded as “the preamble to invasion” or as the beginning of it. Some think the Luftwaffe fighter strength is rapidly diminishing and that the damage now being done will make a second front unnecessary - “except as a spectacular parade”.

Our bombing policy continues to have almost unanimous public approval. The apparently considerable minority who regard it as a regrettable necessity, and who express sympathy for German women and children, are nevertheless in favour of its being kept up. People wonder how much longer Germany can take it.

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

2a. Air raids on this country

(No reactions yet reported to the raid on London on March 14.)

The general view is still that the recent bombing of London must have been more devastating than the Press or B.B.C. indicated, and that people have not stood up to bombing as well as they did in 1940/1. Both these suspicions are confirmed by the arrival of evacuees in various parts of the country.

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

3. Eire

(From some Regions only preliminary reports have as yet been received.)

People are indignant and disgusted at Eire's refusal to remove Axis consular and diplomatic representatives; relatives of merchant seamen and naval men are especially angry. While the U.S. request is generally approved, there is at the same time a feeling that something should have been done years ago about the menace to our war effort of Eire's neutrality. Eire workers in this country have long been distrusted.

Only a small minority in Scotland, mainly Eire workers, express sympathy with Mr. de Valera's point of view, “usually raking up past history as justification”. In Northern Ireland, however, Nationalists and Roman Catholics “hesitate to express in public approval of Mr. de Valera's action”.

The ban on travel : Reactions have as yet been received only from London and Northern Ireland; strong approval is reported in both places.

It is appreciated in Northern Ireland that on the eve of invasion the Allies must tighten up their precautions against a leakage of information to the enemy. In fact the sternest measures to counteract Eire's attitude would be accepted and approved by the majority of the Ulster people. Although people in Northern Ireland realize that many there will have to suffer from the ban, the prevailing opinion is that, owing to the impossibility of closing the Ulster-Eire border, the British authorities could not make any distinction between Northern and Southern Ireland without making the ban entirely inoperative.

The Prime Minister's statement (March 14) defining British-American policy as designed to isolate Southern Ireland from the outer world during the critical period now approaching has been widely approved in Northern Ireland - except among Nationalists and Republicans. (No reactions to the Prime Minister's statement from other Regions yet.)

There is, indeed, a considerable volume of opinion in Northern Ireland in favour of more drastic measures; it is argued that the closure of the border should be attempted, even if it were only 50% effective. Many Belfast industrial workers, in particular, favour the strictest form of border control - even to the extent of forbidding the thousands of Eire workers employed in war factories there to go to their homes for weekends. Londonderry business men, however, are apprehensive at the possibility of a border closure as there is a big volume of cross-border traffic and trade between Londonderry City and County Donegal. The same attitude is taken in Newry and other border towns, though the difficulty there would be less acute.

(1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13. 14 Northern Ireland)

4. Second front

Comment, speculation, expectancy and tension have again increased this week. Some expect it any day now. More are inclined to give it till the end of April. While most people view the venture with fear, especially the fear of heavy casualties, others are longing for action, and are said to be “tired of the repetitive publicity”. It is pointed out that while it may be part of the war of nerves against Germany, it is also acting against people here.

Comment otherwise is on familiar lines: (a) The bombing and shelling of the French coast is the prelude to invasion (Five Regions); (b) Rumours of movement of troops and C.D. personnel, evacuation, etc (Five Regions); (c) The minority view that it is all bluff (Four Regions); (d) The anticipated repercussions on civilian life (Four Regions).

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

5. Italy

Disappointment continues widespread, but there is rather less discussion and less anxiety this week. People appear more inclined to accept the situation; in some cases, they are pleased and thankful we are still holding on to the Anzio beach-head, and appreciate our men's tenacity. They are also more ready to believe we are merely conducting a “holding” operation, and console themselves with the thought of the number of enemy troops we are pinning down. Our “defensive mentality” continues to be deplored, however.

The following criticisms are again made:

  1. Comparisons with Russian advances (Nine Regions). Their achievements, “under worse conditions than urs”, are thought to reflect very badly on us.

  2. Our strategy (Seven Regions) is still thought to have “slipped up” somewhere.

  3. The second front (Five Regions). “If this is the sort of progress we make from a beach-head”, people fear for our chances.

  4. The bombing of the Abbey of Monte Cassino does not seem to have improved our position (Four Regions). “We were led to believe that only an old monastery stood between us and Rome.”

Our political policy in Italy is said to be disliked (Four Regions). There are still some complaints that we were let down by the Italians (Two Regions).

Our air offensive in Italy : There is thought to be little sympathy, except among Roman Catholics, for pleas to spare Rome (Three Regions) and other Italian cities (Two Regions). “This is not a moment to be squeamish.” A few, however, ask if air attacks are limited to military targets and if care has been taken over ancient monuments in Rome; also if Florence is a necessary target.

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

6. Russia

Military : Admiration and satisfaction - particularly at the successes in the Southern Ukraine - continue general.

Political : There are again some fears of Russia's future intentions (Seven Regions).

Russo-Polish dispute (Three Regions): Comment has almost ceased but some concern is still reported.

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

7. Russia and Finland

The armistice terms continue to be approved as generous (Seven Regions), and it is again hoped that Finland will soon make up her mind to accept them (Six Regions). There is surprise - in some cases concern - that she has delayed so long. Some think she is merely trying to gain time for the Germans; others excuse her as being so strongly in the Germans' grip.

Minority sympathy for her continues.

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

8. Far East

The continued American successes in the Pacific are greeted with satisfaction (Six Regions). Pleasure also continues over the successes in Burma (Four Regions), but there is some disappointment that a larger campaign has not started.

Among a few, Japan's recent shipping losses, and our Burma successes have led to a feeling that when Germany collapses Japan will be ready to crumble up (Three Regions). On the other hand, many people think the struggle will involve years of warfare.

Once again, there are requests for better maps of the Pacific area.

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

9. Turkey

Some bewilderment over Turkey's attitude is reported, and it is thought she is playing a double game. The action taken by the Allies is approved. Some, however, say Turkey cannot be blamed for her reluctance to enter the war unless adequately supported by the Allies.

(1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 8. 10)

10. War at sea

Mr. A.V. Alexander's statement (March 7) on the naval situation has been received with satisfaction (Two Regions). Great satisfaction is also reported at the news of the successes against the U-boats (Four Regions).

(1. 2. 3. 7. 8)

11. Broadcasting and presentation of news

Radio news bulletins are criticised for padding the Italian news (Two Regions), and for over-frequent references to the number and weight of bombs dropped over Germany (Two Regions).

General Forces Programme (Twelve Regions): This continues to be criticised by the majority on various grounds. It is, however, said “if the Forces like it, let them have it - but we don't want it”. Criticisms of the programmes are: (a) too disjointed and “bitty”; (b) too much jazz; (c) poor quality; (d) the use of women announcers. It is said that the B.B.C. has robbed civilians, as they now have no alternative programme (Three Regions).

A minority in nine Regions are, however, said to appreciate the change.

Praise for ITMA (Four Regions); Emlyn Williams' Postscript February 27 (Three Regions); Major Lewis Hastings' War Commentaries (Three Regions); Radio plays (Two Regions).

Welsh Brains Trust (Three Regions) is again criticised.

Alvar Liddell's return is welcomed (Three Regions).

Listening to the News : Two special Listener Research investigations were made on this subject during February.

1. In the week beginning Sunday, 13th February, a special study was made to find out how much of the 9 o'clock news had been heard by those who claimed to have listened to it. The following were the results:-

14% heard the headlines only.
17% heard the headlines and the principal news items.
66% said they listened to the whole bulletin, though how much attention they gave to it is not known.
3% gave unclassifiable answers.

2. An analysis was made of the listening to news bulletins on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, 7th, 8th and 9th February, that is, three weeks before the new General Forces Programme began. The results were as follows:-

79% of the whole adult population heard some news every day. 18% heard the whole or part of one bulletin.

The remaining 61% heard the whole or parts of two or more bulletins.

(1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 20)



12. Miners and mining

The most discussed topic of the week has been the miners' strike. Feeling on the subject is stronger and more widespread than ever. Blame is laid on :

(a) The miners (All Regions). The great majority of the public bitterly condemn the men for striking at a critical moment when the second front is imminent, and in defiance of their leaders. Many people have felt all along that there must be another side to the question, and that the miners may have genuine grievances, but it is their resort to strike action instead of arbitration which is so strongly condemned; many who formerly sympathised with the miners have lost patience with them now.

Criticism is particularly strong from people who are short of coal, from relatives of servicemen, from farm labourers and people in rural areas, from middle-class people, and from those who resent anything which may prolong the war. Strong indignation is expressed by many at “miners bargaining for money while their comrades are dying”, at their “blackmail” and lack of patriotism. It is variously suggested that all miners should be put under martial law, that a few of the ringleaders should be shot as an example, that miners' rations should be stopped, or that miners of military age should be put in the Forces if they refuse to return to work. Miners' pay and conditions are frequently compared with those of men in the Forces.

Sympathy for the miners continues, however, to be felt by a minority, mainly working-class people, particularly those in mining areas, and those in iron and steel.

(b) The Government, including the Ministry of Fuel and Power (Eleven Regions). It is not a question of blaming the miners or the Government; many people blame both. The Government is criticised for: (i) it's weak handling of the mining situation - comparison is made with Mr. Roosevelt's firm handling of coal strikes in U.S.A.; (ii) “allowing” strikes in war time; (iii) being over-partial to the owners and, alternately, (iv) placating the miners at any price. The Ministry of Fuel and Power is blamed for not having foreseen the troubles which would result from the Porter Award, which “must have something wrong about it” to induce so many miners to strike.

(c) The owners (Five Regions). Blame of the owners is far less widely reported than of the miners or Government. They are, however, criticised for: (i) putting dividends first - in Scotland, Communist speakers point to increased profits of coal companies as a proof that owners are really to blame, and people who pay £4 a ton for coal think they know where the money goes; (ii) Interpreting awards in such a way as to make miners strike.

Owners are also in some cases accused of (i) keeping the good seams till after the war; and (ii) victimisation.

(d) The miners' representatives (Three Regions). According to the North Midland Regional report, “unrest among the miners is blamed partly on to the fact that in some areas the men have no faith in their leaders who are said to be more for the owners than the men”. Welsh miners think that the Government and the coal owners, being better educated than their representatives, are able to twist the latter when costing and figures are discussed.

The Porter Award : No reactions have been reported to the Government's new wage proposals for piece-rate workers. Unfavourable comment on the Porter Award continues from mining areas, in some of which it is criticised by men, owners and managements alike.

Press handling of the Award in the first place is criticised in reports from Wales and the Northern Region. The miners did not realise that deductions were to be made for house or rent allowance and coal. They also blame the papers for statements such as “Miners get big pay packets this week”, and allege that “no paper stated that men earning over £5 a week before the Award would get nothing out of it”. The inclusion in the minimum wage of the house coal and the special allowance for working in abnormal places has been particularly resented.

Nationalisation of the industry is the solution most widely advocated this week (Six Regions).

(1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13. 14 Wales.)

13. Fuel

Complaints of the shortage of fuel come from twelve Regions. Much hardship is alleged, particularly to the old and sick; many housewives in Scotland are said to have received only 1 or 2 cwt during the last month. A great deal of the shortage is thought due to delivery difficulties.

Miners' strikes are said to have an adverse effect on fuel economy ... “Why should we bother, while miners continually strike?” ... “If fuel economy really mattered, something would be done about the stoppage at the mines.”

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

14. Postwar

Anxiety about postwar matters continues. There is still felt to be too much talk and too little action. Minorities, however, are again said to be fearing that too much time is being given to postwar planning at the expense of the war effort (Three Regions).

Housing and employment are again the main preoccupations. The Government's postwar housing scheme has attracted some attention. Some are approving but others remember the agricultural cottages and are cynical. It is also felt that “30,000 built now would be better than hearing 300,000 will be built after the war”.

The Education Bill is again arousing considerable interest. It continues to be approved.

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

15. Housing

Complaints of housing difficulties continue unabated. In the North Midland and Southern Regions evacuees from London are making the situation worse. In London, difficulties have been accentuated by recent raids.

The “shocking racket” in the price of houses is causing concern and anger. It is thought that prices should be controlled.

In the North Eastern Region, the Matthew Nasmith case is said to have aroused disgust and anger.

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

16. Service pay and allowances

The debate in the House (March 2) has worried people; and they criticise the Government for refusing to grant any increase in basic pay. Fear of inflation is thought inconsistent with the high wages paid to munition and other workers: “No such bogy is held up when miners strike.”

Most people - workers particularly - support the demand for increased rates of pay, and even more strongly the demand for increased allowances to dependants.

There should, it is widely felt, be greater equality between civilian and Service pay; some suggest “the Forces should have more pay and war workers less, to balance”. Civilians' savings for the postwar period are also compared with the Forces' inability to save. The “Salute the Soldier” campaign is not thought to fit in with the present attitude of the Government to Service pay.

Isolated references are nevertheless made to servicemen not being so badly off as appears at first glance. A few people think insufficient stress is laid on allowances, grants, reduced prices and expenses, which “make the pay compare favourably with industrial workers after all”.

Adverse comment continues on the small number of M.Ps. present at the debate.

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

17. Production

During the past two weeks reports from eight Regions referred to comment suggesting an increase in industrial uneasiness. There has been talk of enforced idleness and reduced hours of work in factories; unemployment; workers being transferred from aircraft factories to work of less importance; a slackening in the demand for hitherto vital supplies; over-production; factories 6 months ahead of schedule; factories about to cease production of war materials. Various explanations are hazarded; that war material can be produced more cheaply in America, and so is no longer being made here; that the jet-propelled plane is the reason for slowing up production of other types; that the war must be nearly over.

The need for explanation to put workers' minds at rest is stressed in three reports.

Unemployment in the Northern Region : Concern is reported. Widespread consternation is said to have been caused on Teesside by the paying off of 700 iron and steel-workers at one establishment - much larger figures had been rumoured. “Men and their families wondered what would happen to them - ‘Will it be the dole or transfer to the Midlands?’ - and were saying that even if they got a job it wouldn't be at their old trade and would mean less money. ‘If it is like this now, what's it going to be like in Peace?’ Particularly keen resentment is expressed that no explanation was given, and there was much speculation as to the cause. Rumour was rife of thousands being paid off at other concerns.”

(1. 3. 4. 6. 7. 9. 10. 11)

17a. The Minister of Production's statement (March 8)

Mr. Lyttelton's statement giving figures of production has created a very favourable impression, and it is hoped that, security permitting, more details may be given by the Ministry of Aircraft Production.

(2. 4. 6. 7. 8)

18. Food

Again there is general appreciation for our fortunate food situation after four and a half years of war. The chief comments this week have been about:

Oranges (Eleven Regions): People are pleased with the supplies, but there are complaints of unequal distribution, the difficulties of those who have no time to stand in queues, and, from retailers, of the high percentage of damaged fruit. In Scotland many of the bitter oranges are still unsold.

Cheese (Eight Regions): The cut in the cheese ration has caused some dismay, particularly among housewives who depend on it for “quick, nourishing snacks” and as a filling for sandwiches.

Fats (Three Regions): Professor Sir Jack Drummond's statement that the war-time consumption of fat is only 15% below pre-war is again criticised.

Points rationing (Three Regions): The increase has been welcomed.

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

19. White Paper on National Health Service

Comment is again slight; the proposals are generally welcomed, though as yet little detail is known about them. People are waiting to learn more and to see what will be done; a few are “sceptical of the proposals ever getting to the Statute stage”. Special comments are:

  1. The scheme is felt to be too much of a compromise (Three Regions). - “a boiled down version of Beveridge”. Some feel complete State control would have been better.

  2. It is feared that the retention of private practices may result in better treatment for those who can pay most (Two Regions).

  3. It is doubted if the Voluntary Hospitals will be able to give adequate service (Two Regions).

  4. There is speculation about where the money is to come from (Two Regions); and some annoyance at such a costly scheme being described as free ... “If all the services are free who is going to pay for them?”

It is thought that some country dwellers may be unwilling to pay increased rates for “amenities which are only enjoyed in local towns”.

(1. 3. 5. 6. 7. 9. 12)

20. The Newcastle Enquiry

This is still much discussed and the subject of many crude jokes among all classes, not only in Newcastle, but up and down the whole Northern Region. In some quarters it remains the chief topic of interest.

While some continue to treat it as rather a joke and look on the matters under investigation as trivial, others who had earlier taken this line and said it was much ado about nothing are growing increasingly disgusted and disquieted by “the criminal slackness” and want of integrity among public officials. It is said that only the fringe of the affair has been touched on and that even if the enquiry goes on for weeks more, all the irregularities will never come to light. People think the time is ripe for prosecutions; some say “shoot the lot”. Criticism is levelled not only at individuals but at the whole Corporation, and the enquiry has destroyed some confidence in the police. It is felt that their word is not good enough for them to be called as witnesses.

Concern continues at the slur cast on the city and lest confidence in local government generally be impaired. This seems to be warranted by such comments as; “They are all alike, these Councillors”. People wonder how far a similar state of affairs exists in other cities. There is much cynicism on this point, and it is said that Manchester and Glasgow are getting “quakey”.

People in the North Eastern Region are said to be aghast at the revelations. There are further references to the need to make similar enquiries into the affairs of other councils.

(1. 2)


21. Double summer-time

During the past three weeks unfavourable comment has been reported at the announcement (February 24) that double summer-time is to be re-introduced.

Criticism comes chiefly from:

  1. Agricultural areas , where farmers and cowmen complain of having to get up at; what is in fact, 3 a.m. to attend to the stock. They say that the proposal for them to work one hour behind the rest of the country is not practicable, as their children have to go to school on double summer-time, etc. Some farmers complain that “last year they had to pay three hours over-time on occasion, that men would not work in the evening, and that consequently much hay was wasted”. Some people suggest, however, that the grumbling is partly traditional, and the report from the South Western Region says that a “surprising number of farmers have become reconciled to the idea”.

  2. Parents , who say their children will not go to sleep while it is light.

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

22. U.S. troops in this country

During the past four weeks comment has again been increasingly approving (Six Regions). “We are beginning to understand one another better.” American generosity and friendliness are particularly praised.

Some sympathy is expressed for the way in which the U.S. troops are over-charged (Two Regions).

Criticisms, however, are on familiar lines:

  1. Behaviour with women and girls (Eight Regions) - particularly the youth of the girls (Three Regions) and the “poor type” with which they associate.

  2. Unmilitary appearance (Four Regions). “They don't look as though they are doing anything vital for the war effort.”

  3. Apparent lack of discipline (Four Regions).

  4. Too much money (Four Regions).

  5. Heavy drinking (Three Regions). This is particularly criticised when it is believed to cause local shortages of beer (Two Regions).

  6. Dangerous driving (Three Regions).

  7. U.S. transport (Three Regions). The waste of petrol in collecting dance partners and in “shopping expeditions” also comes in for criticism.

  8. “Dazzling” headlights (Two Regions), and overbright torches (One Region).

  9. The attitude of white troops to coloured (Two Regions). In some cases people like the black troops more than the white.

  10. Boastfulness (Two Regions), particularly about winning the war.

  11. Not turning up after invitations (Two Regions).

British and American Servicemen The disparity in their pay (Five Regions), and the better treatment American troops are believed to receive (Two Regions) are the cause of much criticism and some anxiety. These are blamed for lack of fraternisation between the men, and this, it is feared, may have unpleasant repercussions when the second front starts.

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

22a. America

Political : There is some interest in the forthcoming presidential election. It is hoped that Roosevelt will again be returned (Three Regions).

Postwar : Some anxiety about our future trade relations with America is reported from two Regions.

(1. 2. 4. 5. 7)

23. Water supply

During the past eight weeks growing concern about the serious water shortage has been reported (Four Regions, North Midland Region continuously). Many wells are now almost dry and the water is unfit for drinking purposes ... “In certain rural areas houses and farms have been without water for almost a year”. Factors contributing to the shortage are said to be:

  1. The building of aerodromes in some districts (Two Regions).

  2. Waste of water by the troops (Two Regions) ... “60,000 gallons used in one day for washing one hundred vehicles even to the undersides of mudguards”; and waste of water at American aerodromes (One Region).

  3. Recent agricultural drainage schemes, and the diversion of water from surface wells to deep gravel pits dug during the war; these now resemble lakes (One Region each).

People hope that consideration of the water situation may be one of the Government's first efforts of postwar reconstruction.

(3. 4. 6. 12)

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