A History of the Ministry of Information, 1939-46

390 391 2 393 4 396 7 398 9

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

No. 183. 6th April, 1944

(Covering period from 28th March to 4th April, 1944)

Note: Next week's report will be issued on Friday, April 14th


1. General

The Russian advance into Rumania and the vote of confidence have been this week's main topics.

Spirits are slightly lower, with:

  1. Acute worry about our stalemate in Italy.

  2. Longing for the second front to open - in spite of fears of heavy casualties; also considerable tension and some impatience.

  3. Uneasiness about strikes - both miners' and shipyard apprentices'.

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

2. Russia - military

People are enthusiastic about the Red Army's amazing advances - particularly its entry into Rumania. Admiration for the troops and generalship is widespread.

Some people, however, again suspect that the Germans are getting away a great deal of their equipment and are making an orderly, and possibly strategic, retreat ... “We should like to hear of prisoners being taken.”

Bitter comparisons continue between Russian progress and our “failure” in Italy (Eight Regions).

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

2a. Finland

People wish the Finns would hurry up and get out of the war.

(1. 4. 9. 11. 12)

3. The Government defeat and the vote of confidence

It appears that the Government's defeat caused only moderate interest and was not taken seriously at first. The decision to put the issue to the test of a vote of confidence, however, combined with the result of the vote, have made the whole question the main topic of the week for many people, and the subject of heated discussion. Nevertheless, to a great many, the whole affair remains a mystery: they are unable to understand the procedure in Parliament, and are bewildered at “the crisis”.

The following reactions, arranged in order of the frequency with which they have been mentioned, have been widely reported:

(a) The whole proceeding is thought to have savoured of dictatorship (Nine Regions). It is widely felt that a domestic issue should not have been turned into a question of general confidence in the Government. It is suggested that Parliament will soon be like the Reichstag, and people ask what is the use of discussing Bills, if criticism is to be limited. The House, it is said, should be free to express its wishes on domestic matters.

A number think the situation was not well handled by the Government, and that the crisis - which is deplored - might have been avoided. The Government, it is thought, would not have been defeated if its point of view on the equal pay question had been clearly explained at the start, as a considerable minority feel this issue is too revolutionary to introduce at the present time and is not one to be decided on a snap vote. In this connection there is some support for the suggestion of a separate vote of confidence.

(b) The small attendance in the House is strongly criticised (Eight Regions). Some people are very bitter.... “The House of Commons shows a larger percentage of absenteeism than any factory in the country”..... “M.Ps. should be subject to the Essential Work Order.”

(c) “Everyone was pleased at the size of the vote of confidence” (Six Regions). “People are convinced that Mr. Churchill is the only possible war leader.”

(1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13. 14 North Western, South Western Regions)

3a. Equal pay and the Education Bill

The debate on clause 82 of the Education Bill has stimulated widespread discussion of the question of equal pay. Many people are glad to know the subject is to be raised again, and think it calls for a full debate. Though opinion is divided, support for the principle of equal pay appears to outweigh opposition. Objections are based on the fear that it might mean either smaller salaries for men or, alternatively, less chance of a job for women.

The Education Bill : Interest in this has also been stimulated; comment continues to be generally favourable.

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

4. Italy

Widespread disappointment and anxiety continue at the slow progress, particularly in the Cassino sector after the bombardment of the town. People cannot understand what is holding up the campaign; though many still feel it may be a deliberate holding action. A few expect the fighting to flare up when the second front is launched.

Criticism, mainly on familiar lines, is of:

  1. Our strategy (Nine Regions). Many feel our plans have gone wrong, while some think the plans themselves must have been faulty. Difficulties of weather and country, it is felt, are not enough to explain things.

  2. Our leadership (Seven Regions). The recall of General Montgomery is again criticised.

  3. The American troops (Three Regions).

  4. Our intelligence service (Two Regions). It is thought that the existence of underground passages should have been known and taken into account.

Comparisons with Russian progress continue (Eight Regions).

(See also section 5)

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

5. The second front

This week there appears to be increased longing for the second front to start as quickly as possible..... the subject is “in everyone's thoughts”. Many are impatient for it to begin, “to get the war over”. The tension of waiting is described as fraying people's nerves; in Scotland people are saying that even the troops are getting stale.

Some anxiety is again reported, both on account of expected casualties and because Italian setbacks are not regarded as a good portent. Speculation as to date ranges between Easter Sunday and the end of April or May.

Continued waiting is causing people to say that:

  1. There will be no second front (A minority still, but reported from Nine Regions). “This will turn out to be the biggest bluff in history.”

  2. The Allied air offensive (Five Regions) is the start of the second front, is in fact the second front, or may make it unnecessary.

  3. The Russians will beat the Germans before we start (Five Regions). People are said to be laying bets about it ... “Stalin will reach Calais before the British and U.S. Forces”. Some are nervous that our delays may displease Russia.

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

5a. The coastal ban

Together with the appeal for lorry drivers, the ban on travel to Eire and the drafting south of C.D. personnel, the coastal ban is taken as “an invasion pointer” and, as such, is accepted as necessary. Boarding-house keepers in the areas concerned are taking the ban philosophically in the main, hoping it will soon be lifted. It is criticised, however, as being confusing to those concerned. Considerable uncertainty as to what is or is not allowable is reported from the South Western and Southern Regions and from the South East. People complain of the lack of exact information, especially as to areas affected, and of the inability or unwillingness of officials and police to give precise rulings on the matter. Business people in particular say it is unfair to expect them to make long journeys at the risk of being turned back.

People in South Western resorts outside the banned coast are anxious about their future food situation, and hope that special allocations will be allowed them this year. It is also expected that their accommodation will be severely strained.

(2. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 11. 12. 13)

6. The Prime Minister's broadcast speech (March 26)

The comment reported this week is more detailed than last week's, but is on similar lines.

Disappointment continues to be reported as the predominating reaction, though certain parts of the speech caused great interest and pleasure - notably those on postwar housing and the Japanese war. The majority, however, seem to have looked forward to a rousing speech to “brace people to face the coming invasion”, - some, in fact, even expected to hear our troops were already in France.

Many were disappointed because they felt Mr. Churchill lacked “his usual fire” - there is much sympathy and concern that he “sounded tired” - and because he told them comparatively little about the second front. Once again it is remarked that he “told us nothing new”; some thought the speech too long.

Objection is again reported on the ground that the speech was too political.

Minority disappointment has been expressed that Mr. Churchill did not deal with the Government's foreign policy, the Atlantic Charter, the mining situation, or servicemen's pay and allowances.

Points in the speech causing particular interest were Mr. Churchill's reference to:

The Government's critics : Opinion seems to be about evenly divided on Mr. Churchill's rebuke to critics of the Government, though many thought this part of the speech “a masterly defence of Government policy”.

Planning at home : This part of the speech seems to have aroused greatest interest and most favourable comment, particularly with regard to postwar housing. Families of servicemen and those bombed out are said to be very relieved at the Prime Minister's assurance of their priority. Minority criticisms are that (i) there was too much about postwar domestic planning, “in a world-wide broadcast with friend and enemy listening, and on the eve of the second front”; (ii) too little was said about land, which is felt to be the crux of the problem.

The war with Japan : The possibility that this may be over sooner than had been imagined gave great pleasure.

Demobilisation : Interest, appreciation, a desire for more details, and some scepticism greeted Mr. Churchill's references to this.

The Italian campaign : People would have liked more explanation of the hold-up in Italy; Mr. Churchill's references to this were not thought very reassuring.

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

7. Inter-Allied relations

Suspicion of Russia's intentions, and anxiety that she may dominate Europe after the war because of her military victories are again reported.

In addition, however, five Regional reports this week refer to increasing fear of strained relations between the Allies. It is suggested that this misgiving has been stimulated by press rumours of Mr. Eden leaving the Foreign Office. Each one of the three great powers, it is felt, is pursuing its own independent course. Evidence cited for this is:

  1. Russia's recognition of the Badoglio Government; her recent agreement with Japan; and her attitude to the Poles (Five Regions).

  2. Britain's support of “monarchical groups” in Yugoslavia and Greece (Two Regions).

  3. The U.S.A.'s attitude to the French Committee of National Liberation; and her criticism of the release of news in Britain.

(1. 2. 3. 4. 6. 11. 13)

8. South Eastern Europe

Comment on the whole continues on the same lines as last week. Following the Russian advance, however, it is felt that Hungary and Rumania are Russia's concern and can safely be left to her “to straighten out”.

Turkey (Three Regions): Some disappointment is again reported, and it is variously felt that: (a) Turkey “has played fast and loose with us”; (b) She has lost confidence in our ability to win the war; (c) “We've let a friendly nation slip through our fingers”; (d) “It would make a great deal of difference if she would enter the war on our side now”.

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

9. Allied air offensive

Satisfaction with our raids and those of the U.S.A.A.F. is again widespread. Comment has again been chiefly of:

Losses (Eleven Regions). The loss of 94 planes in the Nuremburg raid caused general concern, regret and shock. A few wondered whether it had been worth-while (Three Regions). There has been some discussion as to the wisdom of concentrated raids (Five Regions). People are afraid the risk of planes colliding is too great, and that the ground defences “are bound to hit something”.

Speculation about the effects of the raids on Germany (Seven Regions). Minorities express sympathy for the civilians (Three Regions).

Doubts of the effectiveness of bombing (Six Regions), particularly since Cassino, and because so many “concentrated” attacks are necessary on the same targets.

The bomber crash at Bradford-on-Avon, March 25 , occasioned much local comment. There has been very high praise for the crew.

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

9a. Raids on this country

The raid on the South West March 26 is said to have had a salutary effect in many ways. Comment was chiefly on the following lines:

  1. Speculation as to the aim and objective of the raid. Some thought Bristol was the intended target; a minority thought it mainly a reconnaissance raid.

  2. Sarcasm about the ineffectiveness of the bombing and the “poor show made by Jerry”.

  3. Satisfaction with the “enhanced” defences. Wherever planes were brought down there is said to have been intense pleasure.

  4. Rumours that Bristol and/or Avonmouth had been “flattened out”.

  5. “Tin foil showers”. Areas where it dropped expected “something would be coming in the way of a raid”.


10. Far East

Apprehension about “the Japanese thrust into India” is increasing (Seven Regions), but there is pleasure at the landing of airborne troops behind the Japanese lines.

American successes in the Pacific are praised, especially the losses inflicted on enemy shipping and transport. The position is thought encouraging (Six Regions).

The death of Maj.-Gen. O.E. Wingate is much deplored (Seven Regions). In Scotland he is said to have been “greatly admired as a daring and fearless leader whose most endearing quality was that he shared the hardships and adventures of his men”.

Anxiety about prisoners of war in Japanese hands continues (Three Regions).

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

11. Eire

Comment is again less and again on familiar lines: (a) Approval of the action taken (Eight Regions) - “it should have been done long ago” (Three Regions) - and desire for stronger measures (Two Regions); (b) Criticism of Mr. de Valera's joining in the appeal to spare Rome (Three Regions).

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

12. Broadcasting and news presentation

General Forces Programme (Ten Regions): Criticism continues to predominate. “Choppiness” (Six Regions), insufficient light music (Four Regions) and too much dance music and crooning (Three Regions) continue the main causes of complaint.

There is again some praise for the news bulletins (Three Regions).

The Home Service Programme also comes in for some criticism (Four Regions). “It's not as good as formerly.”

Praise for : Lord Winster's War Commentary, March 30; Homes for All, (Four Regions each); Alan Moorhead's War Commentary, April 2; ITMA (Three Regions each); Yugoslav patriots' recording (Two Regions).

Brains Trust (Four Regions): Opinion continues divided.

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



13. Miners and mining

Widespread discussion is again reported. The great majority condemn the strikers (Twelve Regions), especially at this critical stage in the war (Five Regions) and in view of the shortage of domestic coal (Two Regions). Those with relatives in the Forces, and servicemen themselves, are said to feel particularly bitter.

However, criticism of the Government (Nine Regions), the Ministry and Minister of Fuel and Power (Six Regions), and the Ministry of Labour (Three Regions), has increased. The problem is thought to have been entirely mishandled and stronger action is demanded (Five Regions). “Appeasement doesn't pay.”

A few think the owners are partly to blame, and from the Dysart area of Scotland come allegations that bad seams are being worked in order that the best ones may be kept for after the war.

The miners themselves are said to feel generally discontented, and dissatisfied with their leaders. Some miners say, also, that the owners must not be allowed to “get away with anything” as the position after the war will be worse than ever. Others, again, suggest that vested interests in the Government are prolonging the war, so “if they are in no hurry, why should we be?”

Minority sympathy with the miners, particularly in view of their “raw deal” before the war (Six Regions), is again reported.

Nationalisation is again the remedy most widely advocated (Five Regions).

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

13a. Fuel

Complaints continue of: shortage of coal (Seven Regions); the smallness of the allowance (Four Regions); poor quality of coal (Three Regions); delayed deliveries and unequal distribution (Three Regions).

In the London and Southern Regions anxiety is said to have decreased owing to the milder weather.

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

14. Industry

Engineering and shipbuilding apprentices' strike (Eight Regions): Fairly general resentment and condemnation of the boys is reported (Five Regions), both among the general public and, in Scotland, among adult workers in the ship-yards.

Indignation is also felt that the strike was engineered by agitators; “Trotskyist” influences have for some time been suspected in Scotland.

Approval of Mr. Bevin's action in directing the apprentices to present themselves for medical examination for the Forces is widespread (Six Regions), though in the Northern Region the older men are said to have been sympathetic earlier in the week, saying “Bevin did nowt to the miners and nowt to the dockers, and now he uses the big stick to the lads”. However, in the Northern Region it is also felt that the Ministry of Labour “should have put the true facts of their position before the lads”. It is thought that they only heard one side, and one that was wholly and deliberately a misrepresentation.

Production (Seven Regions): Again this week there are reports of wasted and idle time in factories (Five Regions). Districts specifically mentioned are Gravesend, High Wycombe, Reading and Bromley. Stories of knitting, card playing and making lighters continue.

It is felt that some works are seriously over-staffed (North Midlands Region) and it is alleged that the management is bluffing manpower inspectors in order to keep staff for postwar work.

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

15. Housing

The acuteness of the housing problem continues to be reported (Eleven Regions).

Some increase in confidence about the future has, however, resulted from (a) The Prime Minister's broadcast (though the idea of prefabrication is not popular with some, it seems to be gaining increasing acceptance) and (b) The news that machinery lately used in the building of aerodromes may soon be used for the preparation of building sites for private houses.

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

16. Service pay and allowances

Comment continues on the same lines as during the last two weeks, with a strong demand for an increase in dependants' allowances - particularly for children - and, to a lesser extent, in basic rates of pay. This is confirmed by a Special Postal Censorship Report (April 1).

(1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 8. 9. 11. 12. 17)

17. Holidays

Holidays - and especially holidays away from home - are felt to be much needed this year. In many cases, too, people feel entitled to holiday travel, particularly “if they've been pulling their weight”, and there are some regrets at the “poor prospects”. Some fear a travel ban may be imposed. Appeals to civilians to refrain from holiday travel are criticised, “while trains are packed with Service personnel going on leave every three months”.

(1. 4. 5. 6. 8. 9. 11. 12)

18. Food

The increased jam ration (Five Regions) has been “hailed with pleasure”.

The cut in the cheese ration (Five Regions) has disappointed many, particularly in rural districts. It is felt to be unfair that farmers, who work as hard as their men, are not eligible for the special ration.

(3. 4. 6. 7. 8. 10. 11. 12)


19. Youth

During the past four weeks comment has differed hardly at all from that summarised in our report of March 9 (No. 179).

Apart from fewer references to young people drinking (Four Regions, as against seven last month) and insufficient parental control (Two Regions, as against six last month), the main differences have been the belief that:-

  1. Magistrates deal too leniently with young people (Four Regions).

  2. There is too much spoon-feeding of young people , particularly in the form of entertainment (Three Regions). In return, it is thought, “nothing is asked from them”.

  3. Youth clubs are under-staffed, or staffed with the wrong kind of people (Two Regions). A few feel that at present they are instilling the wrong sentiments and are “merely pale imitations of the Nazi system”.

  4. There should be more opportunity for recreation in the evening and more cafés open (Two Regions). At the same time some youth club leaders in County Durham are reported to be protesting at the decision to open British Restaurants in the evenings. They complain that, far from solving the problem of youth in the streets, it will simply add to it by bringing an increased number of young people into the towns, and that the British Restaurants will provide unfair competition with the Clubs working in the suburbs.

(1. 2. 3. 6. 9. 10. 11. 12)

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