A History of the Ministry of Information, 1939-46

382 383 2 384 3 385 4 386 5 388 7 389 8

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

No. 184. 14th April, 1944

(Covering period from 4th to 12th April, 1944)


1. General

Spirits remain at a low level, despite a slight rise due to the latest Russian advances, the Easter break and the fine weather, and the fact that most of the strikers have returned to work.

The expected invasion, however, is still the cause of widespread tension and expectancy. People want to get it started, to bring the end of the war nearer. There is much war weariness and tiredness and people are beginning to fear there may be another blackout winter in store.

Disappointment over Italy continues widespread and there is anxiety over the Japanese thrust into India.

Home Front : Much talk about: (a) Industrial unrest, with widespread condemnation of strikers; (b) housing, both present and postwar; and (c) fish - on the part of those who got none in spite of Easter promises.

(1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13. No report from Region 8 this week)

2. Russia - military

The recapture of Odessa, the advance into Rumania and the reaching of the Czech frontier have still further increased admiration for the Red Army - and its generalship.

A few, nevertheless, expect stiffer German resistance soon: “It's the destruction of the enemy that counts, not the taking of territory”.

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

3. The second front

Increased discussion this week.

Expectancy, tension and impatience continue widespread. Once again there are reports of apprehension about casualties, speculation about repercussions on civilian life, and a little anxious talk of our chances in view of the Italian campaign.

The delay is variously attributed to coal strikes, aircraft losses and “the Irish question”; some talk is reported of “failure at Dieppe due to leakage of information from Eire”.

“When?” Speculations as to when are common; sweepstakes on the date are reported from factories. Guesses range between now and never.

Those thinking it can happen “any day now” are encouraged in this belief by the coastal ban, by reports of Service leave being stopped, and by various rumours (e.g. In a South Coast town, it is said that trains standing in the station are there to evacuate civilians when invasion starts). Luton people thought a recent night exercise was in fact the start of invasion.

The minority who think it will never materialise variously say that the Russians will beat the Germans before we get started, or that invasion talk is merely bluff. A few go so far as to say that the Government has no intention of starting a second front and will make a scapegoat of the miners for this.

“Where?” Much less discussed than “when”, but an increasing belief that the invasion may be through the Balkans (Five Regions), a few regarding the coastal ban as a feint. Recent bombing of the Balkans lends colour to this belief.

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

3a. The coastal ban

The necessity is accepted cheerfully by many, philosophically by others.

There is again said to be great confusion in the minds of many people over the difference between “prohibited, regulated, protected and restricted areas”. People within such areas continually seek for more information and people outside are uncertain where they can go. There is said to be a great need for press and radio publicity in simple terms.

People hope the ban will be strictly enforced. There is talk of the number of people who “manage to wriggle into Brighton”, and at Bournemouth it is felt there are still many visitors and that control needs tightening.

Some irritation is expressed at alleged anomalies (e.g., “Thorpe, a suburb of Norwich, banned but the neighbouring suburbs not; Hatfield Peverel residents may visit the cinemas in Maldon but not the churches”).

(2. 4. 5. 6. 7. 9. 11. 12)

4. Italy

Disappointment and anxiety at our slow progress continue widespread (All Regions). While appreciating the difficulties of weather and terrain, many are “frankly puzzled”, though some continue to think the campaign may be merely a “pinning-down action”.

Comparison with progress on the Russian front continues (Eight Regions), also criticism of our leadership and strategy (Five Regions). Some think the whole campaign has been a failure (Three Regions), and are concerned about casualties, as it is feared “lives are being lost in heroic but hopeless attacks”.

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

5. Allied air offensive

General satisfaction with our raids and those of the U.S.A.A.F. continues. The raids on the Balkan capitals have aroused particular interest. American “kills” are said in one report to be no longer regarded incredulously.

Comment otherwise has again been chiefly on:

Losses (Seven Regions): Anxiety at the recent heavy losses, especially the 94 bombers over Nuremberg, is reported. There is some tendency to compare R.A.F. losses with those of the U.S.A.A.F. day raids.

Doubts of the effectiveness of bombing (Four Regions): Doubt is reported as to whether bombing is achieving all that is claimed for it, as cities have to be revisited again and again; there is some feeling that Air Ministry reports are too optimistic about the damage.

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

6. The Government defeat and the vote of confidence

Less comment this week, but on the same lines as last week's.

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

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

Comment continues, but on a much reduced scale; it is on the same lines as reported the last two weeks. People hope Mr. Churchill will give “a clarion call to the whole nation on the eve of the second front”.

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

8. Allied relations

Russia : While M. Molotov's declaration about Rumania is welcomed, it has not reassured everybody about Soviet intentions. Reference is made to uneasiness about Russia's political attitude - her recognition of Badoglio's Government is again mentioned - and future relations with Britain and the U.S.A. (Talk of this kind had died down after the Tehran Conference in December 1943.) Fear of Russia dominating the peace conference continues.

U.S.A. : There is some concern about:

  1. The U.S. attitude to the French Committee of National Liberation. The suggestion that General Eisenhower should take charge of civil as well as military arrangements in France is considered “an unnecessary slap in the eye” for the French Committee.

  2. “Disagreements” between the U.S. and the United Kingdom; specified again is the U.S. pronouncement about the leakage of information from this country.

France : People are puzzled by “the latest de Gaulle - Giraud episode”.

(2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 9. 11. 12. 13)

9. Mr. Eden

Comment continues about reports that he will shortly leave the Foreign Office. People feel “it will not be easy to find a better man for the job”.

(1. 2. 13)

10. Finland

Still a little interest in a possible Russo-Finnish armistice.

(2. 3. 4. 5. 9. 12)

11. South East Europe

People feel that Hungary, Bulgaria and Rumania “deserve all that is coming to them”.

Yugoslavia : Praise continues for the Patriots. Comment about the help we are giving them is variously that (a) “It is good policy”; (b) There should be more publicity about it; (c) It is a pity we cannot do more.

(1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 12)

12. Far East

Burma : There is again marked anxiety over the situation in Burma and the Japanese infiltration into India (Seven Regions). Some feel that things are not going too well “in spite of statements made by responsible leaders”, and that news is being played down.

The death of Maj.-Gen. O.C. Wingate is again mentioned with regret (Four Regions).

The Pacific : Satisfaction with American operations in the Pacific continues (Three Regions).

(2. 3. 4. 6. 7. 11. 13)

13. War at sea

The attack on the battleship “Tirpitz” has aroused admiration and interest (Six Regions)..... “When the Navy set about a job they see it through”. The incident is thought to have been well timed on the eve of the invasion of Europe.

Satisfaction with the U-boat situation (Two Regions) and the work of the light naval forces in the Channel (One Region) is reported.

(1. 2. 3. 5. 6. 7. 10. 13)

14. Eire

Comment continues on familiar lines.

In Northern Ireland, the telephone ban is being accepted “philosophically”, as a necessary emergency security measure, despite the inconvenience to business people. Merchants and stockbrokers particularly feel the loss keenly, but do not complain, as urgent communications can still be sent by telegram, subject to censorship.

(2. 3. 9. 11. 12. 13)

15. Broadcasting and presentation of news

General Forces programme (Eight Regions): Criticism continues, but there is little detailed comment. “Choppiness” (Three Regions) is again the main cause of complaint this week.

Praise for : Alan Moorhead's Postscript, April 2; ITMA (Four Regions each); Commander Anthony Kimmins' broadcast on the bombing of the Tirpitz, April 7 (Three Regions); “The Man born to be King”; Radio Doctor; “Homes for All”; “To Start You Talking” (Two Regions each).

Brains Trust (Four Regions): Criticism outweighs praise this week.

Newsreels (Three Regions): The film of General Montgomery talking to factory workers has been highly praised.

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



16. Miners and mining

Strikes : Miners' strikes have again been one of the main topics of discussion; relief is expressed that they have now returned to work.

Condemnation of the strikers is once more reported to be almost unanimous (All Regions), even among the decreasing number of people who think the miners have genuine grievances. Some fear the second front is being held up as a result of coal strikes.

Criticism of the Government (Nine Regions) and of the Ministry of Fuel and Power (Two Regions) continues as before, particularly for weakness in handling the situation. A few think the Ministry of Labour is also to blame, but Mr. Bevin's “blunt words” to the miners (April 4) were welcomed.

Blame of the owners (Three Regions) comes both from public and miners. Many of those who advocate nationalisation of the industry are said to do so because they consider the owners go out of their way to irritate and upset the men.

Subversive influences (Six Regions): People are both interested and disturbed at the idea of Trotskyite or subversive influences as the root of the trouble. Those who accept the idea hope that such agitators will be severely punished; but others ridicule the suggestion that the strikes are caused by “someone getting at the miners”.

The Government's “Four Year Plan” for the mining industry (Three Regions): It is variously said that the miners do not understand the Government's proposals, that they feel they are being tricked into a settlement which gives “only the shadow of the substance”, and that shift workers are dissatisfied at the attention paid to piece workers in the proposals.

According to the Northern Region report, “one Secretary of a Miners' Lodge, after reading the proposals out to the men, said ‘Well, there they are: if you can understand what it is all about, well, I can't’. It is thought that the whole trouble underlying the miner's loss of faith in his leaders is due to the fact that the recent awards have been so complicated that the leaders don't understand them themselves and cannot therefore translate them into terms that can be understood by the rank and file. Also, that the miners are so suspicious of everyone today that it is up to the Government to explain the arguments and proposals in such clear language that there can be no misunderstanding ... ‘The miner is reasonable, but they leave him in the dark’”.

American machinery : Some miners in Fifeshire are complaining that this machinery is “merciless”, and the men return home fagged out each day.

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

16a. Fuel

Complaints continue of the poor quality of coal (Four Regions); inadequate allowances; delayed deliveries; and shortage (Two Regions each).

Manufacturers are said to be worried as to how to effect the cuts demanded without reducing production (Two Regions).

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

17. Industry

Condemnation of industrial strikes generally (Four Regions), and in particular the recent engineering and shipbuilding apprentices' strikes (Four Regions), is again reported. The Government is criticised for its failure to take decisive action (Five Regions), though there is satisfaction at indications of drastic Government intentions. Some want strikers conscripted into the Forces (Two Regions).

Belfast Strikes : From Northern Ireland anger and tension over the strikes there are reported; particularly at the one resulting from the imprisonment of five strike leaders. I.R.A. influence was suggested, but it was thought more probable that the trouble was Trotskyite in origin, as the strike synchronised with the miners' stoppage in Britain.

“The statement is being widely circulated, though not in print, that in consequence of the strike the Admiralty has withdrawn a considerable volume of urgent work from the Belfast shipyard and placed it elsewhere. It is generally feared that the industrial dislocation caused by the strike will make British Government departments chary of entrusting new orders to Northern Ireland firms. It is also asserted that the strikers have done Ulster a grave disservice, as English firms will be unlikely to consider setting up new factories in Northern Ireland in view of the proneness of the industrial workers to go on strike on flimsy and unreasonable pretexts.”

Production : Stories of idle time and staff reductions in factories are again reported, though on a reduced scale (Three Regions).

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

18. Service pay and allowances

The demand continues for an increase in both.

(1. 3. 5. 9. 12)

19. Food

Easter fish : Housewives rejoiced at the B.B.C. announcement that fish would be plentiful for Easter, and were greatly disappointed - in Scotland, enraged - that the promise did not materialise (Six Regions).

Appreciation of the better fish supply is, however, reported from the London and South Eastern, and South Western Regions.

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


20. U.S. troops in this country

During the past four weeks the public's increasing appreciation of U.S. troops has once more been reported. There is again praise for their friendliness, cheerfulness and informality; in Scotland, “the ease with which they open up conversations in trains is considered an advance on Scottish reticence”. There is also much appreciation for their kindness and generosity to children. Only in London - possibly, it is thought, because so many of the Americans are there on leave - is criticism said to outweigh praise.

Two reasons are suggested as partly accounting for the improved relationship:

  1. The U.S.A.A.F's growing activity , which is earning increasing admiration. Reference is made to the number of appreciative remarks, both from civilians and servicemen, about “the gallant way American airmen push home their daylight attacks against Germany”.

  2. People getting to know the U.S. troops better . The most favourable opinions come from those who have got to know the Americans. Three reports mention the excellent results of billeting U.S. troops in private houses. “Golden reports have come in from all over the South Western Region , highly appreciative of the billetees.” According to the report from Wales , where Americans are billeted they are generally highly spoken of. The Midland Region report says that billeting in private houses has now taken place in Evesham, the general opinion being that this has gone surprisingly smoothly. Once the householders have got over their preconceived ideas, “they seem remarkably pleased to welcome the Americans. To many families, the billeting of these lads upon them has brought something fresh and interesting to relieve the monotony of war, and they are showing their gratitude in offering their hospitality to the Americans. The householders are only required to provide sleeping accommodation for their billetees but in almost every household the American soldier is asked to share in the general routine of the home..... This private billeting which at first looked as if it would bring disaster has now proved in Evesham to have made a stronger link between the American and English people, the success of which in all fairness should be put down to the individual American soldiers.”

In spite, however, of this increase in appreciative comment, there continues to be a good deal of unfavourable talk about U.S. troops; much of it is on familiar lines, chiefly centering round:

(a) Their high pay (Eleven Regions, against four last month). People resent (i) the difference in pay between U.S. and British troops - particularly when they see the former travelling First Class and our servicemen and women standing in crowded corridors; and (ii) the Americans' high spending power, as a result of which they are able to buy up scarce goods - “They keep on asking for Scotch and the price doesn't seem to matter”. It is once more asked why some of their money cannot be banked for them at home.

On the other hand, disgust is also expressed at the profiteering which goes on in pubs and shops “when Americans heave in sight”, particular reference being made to Edinburgh landladies asking as much as 16/6 for a bed, and to publicans taking advantage of their ignorance to cheat them over their change.

There is favourable comment on the ready generosity of U.S. servicemen.

(b) Behaviour with women and girls (Eight Regions). The youth of many of the girls involved and the association of coloured troops with white women are particularly deplored. Nevertheless many people blame the girls - and their parents - more than the soldiers.

(c) Driving and transport (Six Regions). There is criticism of dangerous or careless driving (Four Regions); over-bright headlamps (Three Regions), especially during alerts; waste of petrol on pleasure (Two Regions), especially on transport to and from dances; parking on the wrong side of the road (One Region).

(d) Appearance (Six Regions). A number of people criticise the appearance of U.S. troops as unsoldierly and sloppy, and some reference is made to “their display of medals” and to the belief that these are “easily earned”.

(e) Heavy drinking (Five Regions). Some excuse them because there is so little to do; “in one little town, Bedworth, over 100 American soldiers were walking about one Sunday and no tea available, the publicans refusing to serve tea”.

(f) Behaviour in the streets (Four Regions). Allegations of their urinating in the streets or doorways, particularly after the pubs close (Four Regions), and of their leaving contraceptives lying about in the streets (Two Regions). Disgust is expressed where these allegations are believed, particularly “on behalf of children who are frequently found playing with the articles they find about in doorways and parks”.

(g) Attitude of white to coloured troops (Three Regions). This is not liked - the less so because the coloured troops are usually popular and considered well behaved (Six Regions).

(h) Use of torches (Three Regions), which is considered careless - and dangerous, when “they flash them up into the sky during alerts”.

(i) Behaviour during air raids (Two Regions), which has been the subject of unflattering rumours.

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

We use cookies to track usage and preferences.

Privacy & Cookie Policy Accept & Close