A History of the Ministry of Information, 1939-46

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

No. 191. 2nd June, 1944

(Covering period from 23rd to 31st May, 1944)


1. General

The second front remains in the forefront of people's minds, and tension and impatience continue. Spirits have again risen slightly, mainly because of the good news from Italy, but also because of the Whitsun break and fine weather. Nevertheless, war weariness is reported from nine Regions.

The Prime Minister's war review in the House has been generally praised, apart from the references to Spain.

Home Front : Familiar criticism of the ballot scheme for the mines (Nine Regions) has increased. There is also again considerable anxiety among workers - about short time, idle time, stoppage of overtime, and paying off, particularly in shipbuilding and engineering.

Discussion of housing - shortage, high price and prefabrication - continues; so do complaints of insufficient clothing coupons.

(1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13. 17)

2. Second front

Feeling is on familiar lines, with tension continuing - particularly among relatives of those likely to be involved. Two Regional reports, however, refer to a decline in “invasion fever”; and it is said that news from Italy is easing, to some extent, the strain of waiting. Although some people now say that any speculation about the date may as well be abandoned, suggested dates again range between “Any moment now” (the majority view), and “Never.... it's all bluff”.

(1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13. 17)

2a. The cancellation of trains

Resignation to a necessary discomfort is the chief reaction. Some continue to welcome the cuts as a sign that the second front is really imminent (Five Regions).

There is some criticism, however, because

  1. No notice is given (Five Regions). It is felt that some kind of short notice would help a lot, without giving information to the enemy.

  2. The restrictions could be better handled (Three Regions). There are complaints that in some cases workers have been particularly affected, for instance by early morning instead of mid-morning trains being removed.

People continue to ask for a lead from the Government about holiday transport; this comes particularly from those who have already booked accommodation.

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

3. Italy

There are widespread satisfaction and relief at the news from Italy. Many look on the renewed offensive as a “curtain raiser” to, or the actual start of, the second front.

The fall of Cassino and the linking-up of the beachhead troops with the main forces give particular pleasure.... “Cassino is a symbol of restored prestige”.

Many hope we shall now soon reach Rome, but there is no tendency to minimise the difficulties ahead, and people realise the campaign will have to be “fought bitterly inch by inch”. Some are concerned about the fate of Rome, but while it is hoped that the city may be spared as far as possible, most people feel that “historic and religious reasons” must not be allowed to hamper operations or endanger Allied lives. In Scotland, it is said that Roman Catholics, especially Eire workers, strongly hope Rome will be by-passed.

Confidence in General Alexander is increasing, and admiration for the troops is reported, with special praise for the Poles and French.

Delay in mails is causing anxiety among relatives of fighting men, and fears of heavy casualties continue.

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

4. The Prime Minister's review of foreign policy

Mr. Churchill's review has been generally well received, apart from his references to Spain and the French National Committee. The speech contained more information, covered more ground, and was more frank than people expected. Comment has centred chiefly round his references to:

Spain (Twelve Regions): There is widespread criticism of the remarks about Spain and about General Franco, who is greatly distrusted and regarded as “an out-and-out fascist”. Some are bewildered by Mr. Churchill's “conciliatory” attitude, and cannot understand what good it can do; others speak of appeasement and fail to see why, if fascism is to be eliminated from Italy and the world generally, Spain should be excepted. Others again feel Mr. Churchill must have been speaking with his tongue in his cheek.

Nevertheless, a minority approve, feeling either that the Prime Minister has “superior inside knowledge” and that diplomacy demanded such an attitude, or else that his references to Spain showed that she had, in fact, done something to help the Allies.

France (Nine Regions): Though opinion is divided, most people seem in favour of recognising the French National Committee, at any rate as a provisional government. There is, therefore, some disappointment at the line Mr. Churchill took, and a feeling that on this point our foreign policy is dictated by Washington. Nevertheless, some feel he may be right, and that we made mistakes over the Yugoslav and Greek Governments, and are not going to risk repeating them.

Turkey (Seven Regions): Mr. Churchill's plain speaking to Turkey has been generally approved, but a few were surprised, either being unable to see what good it would do, or thinking it was unmerited.

Poland (Five Regions): Some are pleased at the hint that relations between Russia and Poland may not be as bad as was feared; others are dubious and wonder how this squares with the setting-up of a rival Polish Government in Moscow.

Greece (Five Regions): There are uneasiness and bewilderment at Greek disunity and at the story of the mutiny. Some think the mutiny was caused by the actions of the King and his government. A few do not like the idea of British troops having been used to put down the mutineers.

Yugoslavia (Three Regions): Admiration for Tito, satisfaction at the aid given to him, and at the visit to this country of his representatives. A little criticism of the royal Yugoslav government, and a feeling that in throwing over Mihailovitch, their only object was to ensure their own survival.

World organisation for peace (Three Regions): A little approving comment.

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

5. Allied air offensive

Satisfaction continues. The raids are looked on as a prelude to the second front, especially those on enemy rail communications. Again, some take the raids for granted.

Losses are accepted calmly. The accuracy of press statements of damage is doubted by some (Three Regions).

Surprise continues at the way the Germans stand up to the bombing. There is some sympathy for them, and also regret at the killing of French civilians (Two Regions).

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

6. German shooting of air force officers

Comment is on similar lines to last week's. Indignation and horror are general (All Regions), and people want to see those responsible punished. A few again urge reprisals; others fear the risk to our other prisoners. The results of the enquiry are anxiously awaited.

A small number share Lord Vansittart's view that it was a “deliberate massacre”. Some think it may have been in reprisal for our raids.

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

7. Russia

Again very little comment. Most people think the lull is due to preparations for a new assault when the second front starts. A small minority believe that Russia is now deliberately waiting for us to do our share.

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

8. Far East

Interest continues limited.

Better maps are again asked for; people complain that the poor maps in the press make the campaigns incomprehensible.

Burma (Nine Regions): The situation continues to be looked on as more satisfactory, but still causes some bewilderment.

China (Five Regions): There is less comment. Concern for her, and the desire to help her more continue.

Pacific (Four Regions): Satisfaction with successes continues.

(1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 12. 13. 17)

9. The Government White Paper on Employment Policy

Little discussion as yet, and many think that more publicity is needed. Most reported comment is highly favourable.... “Lord Woolton's stock, as Minister of Reconstruction, has risen as a result of its publication”.

A number, while favourably disposed, will be even more pleased when the proposals become Acts of Parliament ... “We must see this paper does not get Beveridged”.

Others are sceptical or cynical; but the Scottish report states that on being pressed for their reasons, the cynics are generally found not to have read the report and only to have glanced at the press accounts.

(2. 4. 10. 11)

10. Shelling in the South Eastern District

The shelling incident at Steyning is said to have caused considerable local uneasiness and some angry comment. It is hoped that steps will be taken to prevent any recurrence of “an incident whose effect on morale was more serious than the damage done”.

People hope that “the high proportion of ineffective shells” was exceptional.

Cross-channel shelling : The feeling in Dover towards the men of the R.A. batteries is said to have improved since the publicity given to the sinking of a German ship in January.

It is said that if Folkestone were to be mentioned by name instead of “as in the vicinity of Dover”, it would compensate to a slight degree for anxious nights.


11. Broadcasting and presentation of news

There is more praise for correspondents' eye-witness accounts, especially of the battles in Italy.

General Forces Programme : Criticism continues on familiar lines (Six Regions).

Praise for : ITMA; War Commentaries, especially those by Squadron Leader John Strachey (Four Regions each); plays (Three Regions); Sir Walter Layton's Postscript, May 21; Into Battle; Monday Night at Eight; The Empire Speaks, May 24 (Two Regions each).

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



12. The new ration books

There is general satisfaction with the distribution of the new ration books (Seven Regions). Only from Darlington are there complaints of queues.

In the Southern Region, however, there are complaints about having to carry identity cards in security areas; this means workers cannot have their books collected for them.

(1. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 10)


13. Salute the Soldier

During the past five weeks interest in forthcoming Salute the Soldier weeks and/or enthusiasm for them while in progress have been reported (Eight Regions). Both interest and enthusiasm are, however, said to be waning (Five Regions) ... “People hope this will be the last of these campaigns.”

Though a little praise is reported for Salute the Soldier publicity, there is a good deal of criticism of these special weeks on the grounds that:

  1. The published totals do not represent real savings (Ten Regions) because a proportion is thought to consist of:

    1. Sums of money contributed in bulk by various organisations or private individuals to swell the local totals (Seven Regions). These bulk contributions are not looked on as genuine savings, but merely as a transfer from one account to another for the purpose of achieving an impressive figure.

    2. Stamps, which are bought for the same purpose, but cashed again almost as soon as bought - sometimes the same day (Five Regions). It is suggested that certificates should be less easily converted into cash and that a minimum of, say, three months should be enforced.

  2. Waste of money, paper, petrol, or labour are involved (Five Regions). Specifically mentioned are the waste of paper in printing so many posters and taking so much space in the press, and the extra burden on village postmistresses. It is particularly thought that considerable waste of time, paper and effort are involved by the cashing of stamps bought only a short time before (See a, ii).

  3. Money that would have been invested in Savings earlier is held back , in order that it may be invested in the local “week” (Two Regions).

  4. Lack of honesty about the object of Savings Weeks (One Region). People are “beginning to realise that the money has nothing to do with providing weapons” and say that these will be produced in any case ... “If the idea is to take surplus purchasing power away from people, then let's be honest about it”.

War Savings generally are thought to be adversely affected by the following:

  1. The belief that “the more we lend, the longer the war will last” (minorities in Six Regions).

  2. P.A.Y.E. (Four Regions). Some workers take the line that, “now they are paying income tax, there's no need to save as well”.

  3. Doubt as to whether certificates will be honoured after the war (Two Regions).

  4. Reduced earnings (One Region).

  5. Many people now holding the maximum number of Savings Certificates (One Region). An increase in the maximum is suggested on the grounds that there is too big a gap between the interest allowed on these and on war bonds.

  6. Reluctance to invest large sums , owing to a belief that they are more difficult to withdraw if required at any time (One Region): farmers are particularly mentioned.

  7. The rumour that postmasters and sub-postmasters get commissions on the sale of Savings Certificates (One Region).

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

14. Youth and morals

During the past four weeks comment has again been on familiar lines. There has been some increase in the volume of complaints however, - particularly of the immorality of young girls (Ten Regions as compared with seven last month), and the behaviour of children (Seven Regions as compared with four last month). There is particular concern about the damaging of property (Five Regions); breaking of windows, slashing cinema seats, smashing electric light bulbs in trains, and damage to parks and gardens are all alleged.

Factors blamed are:

  1. Lack of parental control (Seven Regions) particularly where mothers are at work (Four Regions). Women, it is suggested, should not be allowed to take full-time jobs unless they are able to satisfy the authorities that their children will be looked after in their absence.

  2. The irresponsibility of parents (Four Regions) particularly of working mothers “with money to spare” who spend their time in pubs and cinemas.

  3. Lack of supervisors for children when they are not in school (Three Regions).

  4. Lack of “wholesome” amusement for children and young people (Three Regions), including lack of recreation grounds, games equipment, and toys.

  5. Cinemas (Two Regions). More films suitable for children are felt to be needed.

  6. Too much money to spend (Two Regions).

Suggestions are

  1. More women police (Five Regions). It is felt, however, that great care must be exercised in their choice - the wrong type would do more harm than good.

  2. Opening British Restaurants in the evenings (Three Regions).

  3. A curfew (Two Regions).

  4. Stricter treatment of offenders by juvenile courts (Two Regions), more remand homes, and less “gentlemanly” treatment by policemen (One Region each). It is also suggested that “difficulties in the way of adequate correction in schools” should be removed.

Youth Clubs : Some interest in these continues (Five Regions). On the whole they are approved and are thought to need more encouragement. There are some complaints, however, of their inability to hold young people's interest.

Morals : In addition to anxiety about the behaviour of young people, concern has been reported at the increase in moral laxity generally (Four Regions) - particularly of married women, whose husbands are abroad, with Dominion and U.S. troops ... “There will be mass murder unless the Government gets them out of the country before our men come back”.

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

15. Anti-Semitism

During the past fourteen weeks criticism has continued at the same low level. There was a slight increase at the time of the reports of anti-Semitism in the Polish forces - though this was condemned - but comment now seems to have reverted to its previous level.

Criticisms are on familiar lines:

  1. Black market activities (Five Regions). Some continue to think “Jews are at the back of all the black market”. They are blamed for the “ramp” in the price of houses, and for the whisky and poultry “rackets” (One Region each). They are also alleged to deal in ready money and so evade income tax.

  2. Evading national service (Two Regions). It is also complained that they held all the best positions before the war, and that they will get jobs which ex-servicemen should have, after it (One Region each).

  3. Obtaining goods in short supply (Two Regions).

  4. Evacuating to safe areas , being able to run cars , using taxis for pleasure and shopping , and gambling offences (One Region each).

In the North-Eastern Region there are complaints that Jews foment industrial unrest and that Jewish Communist agitators were concerned in the recent coal strike.

Complaints of the above matters have not, however, been confined to Jews.

(1. 2. 3. 5. 7. 11. 12)

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