A History of the Ministry of Information, 1939-46

376 377 2 378 3 379 4 380 5 381 6

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

No. 185. 20th April, 1944

(Covering period from 12th to 18th April, 1944)


1. General

Spirits continue at the low level of recent weeks. The expected second front is uppermost in everyone's mind, and is the subject of increased tension and impatience this week. War weariness is widely reported (Nine Regions) - even among those who are doing well out of the war - and there are many references to people feeling tired (Six Regions), irritable or depressed (Five Regions).

There is great rejoicing over the news from Russia, but concern over our position in Italy and Burma.

Home Front : Satisfaction at the return of most of the strikers is tempered by doubts as to whether the agreements reached will be permanent. Housing, both present and postwar, is widely discussed.

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

2. The second front

The imminence of the second front has been the most widely discussed topic of the week.... “in everyone's mind, and on nearly everyone's tongue”. The prevailing emotions appear to be tension, suspense, impatience and anxiety. There is no tendency to think that invasion will be other than a tough proposition, but many people find the strain of waiting almost unbearable; apprehension about casualties and a grim time ahead is outweighed by the desire to make the final push to end the war. The Forces' wives and mothers are said to be the most nervous and anxious section of the public, and even the men themselves are believed to be feeling the strain of waiting.

Talk centres round the following points:

“When?” It is variously thought that the second front will start:

  1. Any day now . This belief finds support in a great number of events reported in the press, observed locally, or rumoured; e.g. the coastal ban; the cancellation or stoppage of Service and N.F.S. leave; the suspension of diplomatic rights; increased allied raids, particularly on the Pas de Calais; the disappearance of U.S. troops from various localities; inspections of identity cards; the issuing of the Home Guard with equipment; civilian evacuations; etc, etc.

  2. During the next few months . August is the latest date mentioned but many suggest the end of May.

  3. Never . This is still the view of a considerable minority who maintain either that all second front talk is bluff, calculated to keep German divisions inactive in the west, “while the Russians do the kill”, or that our bombing and the Red Army will defeat Germany between them.

“Where?” The Balkans remains a popular alternative to the west, and some think the idea of an impending western invasion is merely a ruse to cover a move somewhere else. People who observe certain pointers suspect Norway may be the objective.

“Why the delay?” The fact that the second front has not yet started is attributed by various minorities to strikes, particularly in the mines; “miscarriage of plans”; disunity among the French; lack of discipline among the U.S. Forces; disagreement between the U.S.A. and Great Britain as to how it is to be carried out; and “cold feet” following our experiences in Italy. In the Midland Region some people think we have already attempted to open a second front somewhere on the French coast, have failed to land, and have had to withdraw.

“What will happen here?” People variously expect increased enemy raids, particularly in coastal districts; interference with civilian transport and food supplies, if not a complete travel veto; and evacuation of coastal areas - Midlands people in particular fearing they may be asked to receive the evacuees. It is hoped that Mr. Churchill will give warning of possible civilian dislocations and some guidance as to behaviour.

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

3. The coastal ban

Reduced comment on familiar lines. This week uncertainty as to what is, or is not, allowed under the travel ban is reported only from the South Western Region, Where it continues to produce “multitudes of enquiries”.

(2. 3. 7. 9. 12)

4. Russia

Military : General delight at the progress of the Russian Armies is only tempered by feelings of shame and disappointment that Russia is winning the war for us while we are at a standstill in Italy. The speed of the Russian advance is the subject of astonishment; and jokes on the possibility of the Red Army's arriving at Calais before us have a wide currency. A minority persist in wondering if Germany is not making an orderly retreat in order to put up a more concentrated stand on her own borders.

This week there is a marked recurrence of the feeling that Russian advances would have been slower but for British and U.S. help, and that Russia says far too little about our contributions to her success, particularly our bombing operations (Six Regions). But some people are at least relieved that “the Russians haven't told us to get on with the second front”.

Political : Uneasiness and suspicion regarding Soviet policy, both now and postwar, continue to be reported (Six Regions), with particular reference to:

  1. The “initiative” taken by Russia in recognising the Badoglio Government without the general approval of the United Nations.

  2. The possibility that, not being at war with Japan, Russia will be free to carry out her plans in Europe undisturbed, while we are still occupied in the Far East. A few fear she may ally herself with Japan.

  3. Russia's dominating influence in the Balkans.

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

5. Allied air offensive

Satisfaction with our raids and those of the U.S.A.A.F. is again general. They continue to be welcomed as the prelude to invasion, or - by a minority - as likely to make invasion unnecessary. There is particular appreciation also for raids on the Balkans, as being of direct help to the Russians.

Comment otherwise is again of:

  1. Losses (Seven Regions). Concern continues.

  2. Doubts of the effectiveness of bombing (Six Regions). Some think the “softening up” process is taking longer than expected and that results should have been more apparent by now. There is surprise at recent statements about Germany's increased air power.

  3. German morale (Four Regions). Speculation continues as to the effects of our raids.

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

6. Italy

Military : Anxiety and disappointment continue general (All Regions), though in some cases comment is less, as “little happens to attract attention”. Comparison with Russian advances (Six Regions) and criticism of leadership and strategy (Six Regions) continue.... “Things have not gone so well since Montgomery left”.

Bewilderment at the deadlock, doubts about the whole campaign and fears for the success of the second front are again reported, though some continue to think we do not intend to advance, but merely to pin down enemy divisions.

The importance of having air bases in southern Italy from which to bomb the Balkans is thought to be “the bright spot”.

Political : The news that King Victor Emmanuel is to retire when Rome is taken has aroused little interest, but is welcomed. Some ask - “Why wait till then?”

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

7. Far East

Burma : Anxiety and bewilderment over the position in Burma and the Japanese thrust into India are widespread (Eleven Regions), and are thought to have been increased by the scarcity of news from this front. People fear that something is wrong and that we have “suffered a bad knock in Burma”.

Air Marshal Sir Philip Joubert's broadcast talk (April 13) on the Burma campaign was welcomed (Three Regions) as “making the scene real and alive”.

Pacific : Appreciation of American operations continues (Three Regions).

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

8. Neutral countries

Mr. Cordell Hull's warning to neutrals (April 9) has aroused considerable interest and approval, though a few are critical on the grounds that it was “a veering away from the Atlantic Charter to power politics”.

The public are growing increasingly impatient with the neutral countries. Some are satisfied at the Allied Governments' recent moves regarding the supply of war materials to Germany; others would like stronger pressure applied to neutrals, even though it might be inconsistent with “academic neutrality”.

Annoyance is expressed with all the neutrals except Switzerland. People are particularly puzzled and annoyed over Turkey. Although some suspect we have mishandled the situation, special disgust is felt that Turkey should “let us down, after we supplied her with arms”.

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

9. French politics

Impatience is expressed at the news of the troubles between Generals Giraud and de Gaulle. Opinion is divided over the dismissal of General Giraud. While there is some sympathy for him, majority feeling is said to be on the side of de Gaulle; Giraud is thought to be too old and his military ideas out of date.

Fears are reported that “the rot that caused the downfall of France has again set in at Algiers”.

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

10. Allied relations

People continue to have an uneasy feeling that all is not well between the U.S.A., U.S.S.R., and ourselves, without being specific as to what they think is wrong. (See also section 4, Russia, political)

(1. 3. 4. 7)

11. U.S. presidential election

There has been some discussion on the forthcoming election. Hopes are expressed that Mr. Roosevelt will be re-elected. The withdrawal of Mr. Willkie is said to have left people in a “fog” ... “If it has to be a Republican, Mr. Willkie would have been preferred”.

(2. 3. 7. 13)

12. Broadcasting and presentation of news

General Forces Programme (Nine Regions): Criticism continues, though apart from “choppiness” (Three Regions), few specific reasons are given. The only praise is for its additional news items, and for its suitability for serving soldiers.

A.B.B.C. Listener Research report states that at the end of the fifth week of the G.F.P., public opinion about the new programme appears to have settled down. The programme is widely disliked by those civilians who used to find the old Forces programme provided them with a continuous cheerful background noise. Such listeners are numerically a very large number. On the other hand, civilian listeners to whom the Forces programme did not mean a great deal do not find the new programme unacceptable and many think it an improvement on the Forces programme. The main complaint of Forces programme lovers is the choppiness of the new programme, which makes it unsuitable for continuous listening.

In the Home Forces, however, the majority think that the new programme gives them a better service than the old. This appears to be due largely to the conditions of listening in which most members of the Forces find themselves - usually in canteens.

Praise for : ITMA (Five Regions); “The Man Born to be King” (Four Regions); Air Marshal Sir Philip Joubert's War Commentary, April 13; Radio Doctor (Three Regions each); Lord Vansittart's broadcast, April 11; Raymond Gram Swing's American Commentary, April 13; Commander Kimmins' broadcast on the bombing of the Tirpitz, April 7; Alan Moorhead's Postscript, April 2; “To Start You Talking”; Radio Plays (Two Regions each).

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



13. Miners and mining

Strikes : There is general relief at the miners' return to work. People hope there will be no further trouble, but many fear that the underlying problems have not been solved, and that disputes will break out again soon.

Despite the resumption of work, the miners are still bitterly criticised, particularly for choosing such a time as the present to strike. People in rural areas and those with relatives in the services are especially indignant.

Minority sympathy with the miners is again reported, and has increased since last week - “now they have the whip hand, it's their only chance of making grievances heard”. Some, while sympathising with their grievances, nevertheless condemn their strike action.

Criticism of the Government and the Minister of Fuel and Power - and also, in smaller measure, of the owners - continues; but relief is reported that strong steps have been taken at last. Mr. Bevin's firm stand is specially commended (Three Regions).

Nationalisation is again advocated by some (Three Regions).

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

14. Subversive influences as a cause of strikes

Comment continues on the same lines as last week. Some people ridicule the idea of Trotskyist agitators instigating strikes, either in mining or other industries; others accept the idea - at the same time asking why, if the Government knew about their activities, it did not stop them a long time ago.

(1. 2. 3. 4. 9. 10. 11)

15. Industry

Strikes : Concern and indignation at the recent strikes continue (Five Regions). People are relieved that the strikers have now returned to work and that Mr. Bevin has reached agreement with employers and the T.U.C. as to new methods of dealing with strikes, but many are not confident that the causes of strikes have really been dealt with.

Production : Comment has considerably increased since last week. Reports from six Regions refer variously to shortened hours in factories, enforced idleness, abolition of overtime and/or night shift, and factories closing down. Where this means a drop in wages, workers are discontented; others are merely bewildered; others, again, put the changes down to fuel restrictions.

From the Northern Region continued concern is reported at the “ca canny” policy of Tyneside riveters. “It is wondered if the Ministry of Labour realise how seriously their attitude is holding up production and that the cumulative effects, over many weeks, are now becoming very marked.”

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

16. Fuel

Complaints continue of shortage of coal (Five Regions); delayed deliveries and inadequate allowance - “while the miners who have been on strike get good supplies” - (Three Regions each); poor quality coal and shortage of coke (Two Regions each).

Warmer weather is said to have resulted in fewer complaints in the Southern and South Western Regions.

The heating ban (Four Regions): It is said that people in the North and North East have “not taken kindly” to this, because of the cold weather and the muddle in the mining industry; also because of stories that some offices, including Government and local authority, still have coal fires.

Some misunderstanding is also reported. C.D. personnel in London do not know whether the ban applies to wardens' posts; some employers think coal fires are still allowed.

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

17. Service pay and allowances

The demand for increases continues.

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

18. Food

Easter fish : Complaints of the non-materialisation of the promised Easter fish continue widespread (Eight Regions). In the North Western Region, and in parts of the Eastern, London and South Eastern Regions, however, satisfaction is expressed at improved supplies.

The cut in the cheese ration : Complaints continue (Six Regions).

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

19. Holidays

During the past two weeks there has been some comment on the need for holidays away from home this year, though many feel that this will be impossible in view of the demands of the second front on transport. Holidays at home are, however, not considered satisfactory.

(1. 4. 5. 11. 12)

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