A History of the Ministry of Information, 1939-46

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[Text Missing]Wt 16746. 10M 5/44. W.R.R. & S. Ltd. GP 38. (14).

No. 204. 31st August, 1944

(Covering period from 22nd to 29th August, 1944)


1. General

Spirits continue to soar higher than ever. People have been thrilled, and even bewildered, by the news, in particular the astonishing speed of Allied advances in France, the liberation of Paris, and events in the Balkans. The past week is spoken of as “one of the best ever”.

The wave of optimism grows. The great majority believe the war is nearly over. October remains the general guess; many think it only a matter of weeks now, some of days. People are laying bets, looking out flags, planning celebrations.

Some have, nevertheless, found it difficult to reconcile recent statements by Allied leaders (e.g. General Eisenhower's warning against wishful thinking, August 15; General Montgomery's “the end is in sight”, August 21; and Mr. Churchill's “the enemy is still active and strong”, August 23).

The only dark spots in the picture are: (i) the flying bomb; (ii) resentment that British troops are not receiving the publicity they are thought to merit; and (iii) anxiety about a postwar job - there is great fear of unemployment.

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

2. France

The liberation of Paris has been the great event of the week and was received with a gamut of emotions ranging from satisfaction to “great joy, as on hearing of the recovery of a sick friend”.

Initial pleasure gave way for a time to confusion and disappointment, when it was learned that there was still German resistance in Paris. Many people felt the Parisians had been over-hasty in claiming the liberation of their city ... “Strange goings on - rejoicing and fighting at the same time!” Their precipitance was variously put down to hysteria and excess of emotion, to over-eagerness to celebrate, or to a desire to take all the glory to themselves. It is thought that they would have done better to have cleared the enemy out before allowing vast crowds to assemble and risking large-scale slaughter. Some also criticise them for “making an armistice with the Germans in the city and letting them remove their stock, without consulting the Allied high command”.

Nevertheless, the great majority are pleased that the French liberated their own capital, and there is much admiration for their guts and initiative. People are glad of this proof that the French are whole-heartedly opposed to the Germans. Some are glad, too, because they feared Paris would be liberated by the Americans.

However, it is hoped that the French are not going to be in too much of a hurry to forget that they did not free their city quite unaided. There is some feeling that recent French utterances have appeared to give the Parisians all the credit, whereas the Allies are thought to have paid dearly in men and aircraft, having had “to go in under the noses of the Germans to provide the liberators of Paris with arms and ammunition”.

The “majestic deportment” of General de Gaulle during the Notre Dame shooting has been greatly admired and people are glad he has had a good reception from the French in liberated areas.

Mr. Eden's broadcast (August 24) was very well received.

Northern France : The speed of Allied advances continues to give the utmost pleasure. People are saying they had never expected France would be “such a walkover”. The general view seems to be that the Germans are finished in France and will be unable to make a stand until they reach their own frontier. Some think the whole country will be freed within a fortnight. It is widely hoped that the flying-bomb sites will very soon be captured.

The generalship, strategy, and organisation are all highly praised. People are pleased at the lightness of casualties and the care taken of the wounded.

There continues to be a great deal of discussion of the relative roles of the British and American Forces . It is widely assumed that the job assigned to the British and Canadians has been tougher than that of the Americans, and it is widely regretted that it is less spectacular. A minority wonder if the Americans have got “something which we haven't - either better organisation or more concerted push when required”; but they are not prepared to believe that they are better fighters. There is, however, plenty of admiration for the Americans' fighting qualities and “lightening strategy”.

There continues to be widespread dissatisfaction on the grounds that more publicity is given to U.S. than to British exploits (See section 13, News Presentation).

Generals Montgomery and Bradley : Though the mistake has now been rectified, there continues to be annoyance that it should ever have been allowed to occur. “Those to whom Monty is a hero consider that restitution has not been made in any satisfactory form.” (No reactions yet to statements in to-day's press, August 31.)

Southern France : Much less interest than in the northern fighting, but delight at the rapid advances and the capture of Marseilles. A minority still think the Pas de Calais would have been a much better place for a landing.

The French are being “welcomed back into the fold” and many people are experiencing a change of heart towards them. This is due in general to the work of the F.F.I. and, in particular, to the part played by the French in the liberation of their own capital, which has done much to reduce distrust and scepticism.

A minority, however, remain obdurate, remembering Indo-China, Syria, Madagascar, North Africa and French political factions; feeling, too, that the French in France had not done a great deal before D-Day to help themselves or us.

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

3. Flying bombs

The country as a whole

Apart from London, comment is again on a reduced scale. Concern about damage and casualties, and sympathy and admiration for the sufferers are again widely reported.

There continues to be some belief that damage and casualties are worse than official accounts make them out to be.

Defences and countermeasures : There is widespread hope and expectation that the sites will soon be captured, and the menace finally overcome. A few, however, are pessimistic as to whether early relief can be hoped for, since they believe that the bombs are already being dispatched from the Netherlands or Germany. Some think, too, that a final “all-out” attack is to be expected before the sites are given up.

Opinion remains divided as to the extent of our success in dealing with the bombs. Some are satisfied that everything possible is being done; others are critical that more successful measures have not been found.

Future expectations : There is again considerable speculation and some apprehension. Gas or rockets are thought the most likely forms of attack.

Reactions in target areas

A. LONDON : Good news from all fronts, evacuation and the recent lull are all thought to have helped maintain people's calmness. Some expect the raids to stop in a few weeks. A weary minority are, however, fearful of the raids continuing into the winter.

Evacuation : Criticism of the Government plan continues slightly to outweigh praise. Some think present evacuation is a preparation for V.2 rather than a necessity because of V.1.

A comprehensive scheme for getting old people away continues to be asked for.

Reception areas are again censured for their “coldness”.

Post-raid services : There are once more complaints of delay and inadequacy in house repairs; anxiety is reported lest repairs are not completed before winter sets in.

The work of the Civil Defence - particularly of volunteers from the provinces - is praised. The Assistance Board is also praised.

Sentences for looting are thought too light.

Sirens : Planes flying about during alerts continue to be disliked. There is some criticism of delay in fixing imminent danger signals; firewatchers regret their not being sounded at night.

B. SOUTH EASTERN DISTRICT : It is felt that the attacks cannot continue much longer, and, while there is said to be some nervousness in the areas most affected, people are determined “to see the matter through”.

Evacuation : There is less discussion. Some satisfaction with the scheme is expressed.

Better facilities for the aged and infirm continue to be asked for; there is also some criticism of poor facilities for expectant mothers.

C. SOUTHERN REGION : People think the raids will soon be a thing of the past.

D. EASTERN REGION : It is widely assumed that the raids will only have to be endured for a few weeks longer. Some anxiety continues to be reported, but generally there is said to be less concern.

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

4. Evacuation

Comment is again less, and again on familiar lines. On the whole the scheme is thought to be working well, and both house-holders and evacuees are believed for the most part to have settled down; some mothers with children remain the exception.

At the same time, the following criticisms have continued to be levelled against the Government's scheme; (a) Communal and not private billeting should have been the rule (Seven Regions); (b) The smaller and poorer home is the worse sufferer (Four Regions), and (c) The billeting allowance is too small (Four Regions).

General criticisms of the behaviour of evacuees have continued on familiar lines. There is some increase in complaints of their laziness and dirtiness, though it is said to be realised that only a minority are to blame. On the other hand, there are also complaints of the unhelpful behaviour of some householders. It is suggested that both sides could be helped by being given a clearer idea of what is expected of them.

Complaints have also continued of increased transport difficulties (Six Regions), food and shopping difficulties (Five Regions), and accommodation shortage (Two Regions) resulting from the influx of evacuees.

Housewives' difficulties in making do with household linen and bedding have also continued the subject of complaint.

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

5. Rumania

People have welcomed Rumania's volte-face, though only a few show much enthusiasm. People are contemptuous of this German satellite “leaving the sinking ship”, though some feel more sympathy for Rumania than for Bulgaria (Three Regions).

There is some anxiety lest we forget Rumania's bolstering-up of the Nazi regime and accept her too readily as a co-belligerent; people want her to be made to work her passage home.

It is hoped the Germans will at last really feel the oil shortage. People expect, too, widespread repercussions among the other satellites, especially in the Balkans; it is thought all the Balkan countries will back out as soon as possible now.

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

6. Bulgaria

The news from Bulgaria has caused no great surprise or enthusiasm, though people are pleased that she should want to make peace.

No sympathy is reported for “this perfidious, treacherous nation”. It is hoped other satellites will follow her example.

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

7. Russia

Comment continues on a much reduced scale, the Eastern front being overshadowed by events nearer home.

Though praise is less superlative, satisfaction and admiration continue, despite some conjecture and disappointment at “the halt in the great non-stop offensive to Berlin”. Some think German resistance has stiffened, but the majority regard the lull as merely temporary, for regrouping purposes, and a big push is expected before long.

Some fear continues about Russia's future attitude (Four Regions); also a little talk about the possibility of war between Russia and this country (Two Regions).

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

7a. Russo-Polish relations

Concern about the situation in Warsaw, and disappointment that the Russians have not yet captured the city, have increased and are now widespread. People feel great admiration for the Poles fighting in Warsaw and are anxious they should be helped, but there are amazement and bewilderment at our having to supply them from Italy when the Russians are only a few miles away.

A good many think the city could well have been captured by now and that the delay is political rather than military; they are suspicious of Russian motives. Some, however, think the resisters themselves made a tactical blunder by rising prematurely; a few blame the Polish Government in London. Others think the Russians have suffered a military setback. Others again, “just don't know what to think”.

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

8. The future of Germany

There is now widespread discussion about what to do both with Germany as a whole, and with individual war criminals.

Hatred of Germany is growing and people believe that she must be treated harshly and “made to pay to the full”. First, they are most anxious she should suffer complete military defeat.... “If Germany capitulates as soon as our troops invade that country and we call off the war before their army is crushed, we shall be making a serious mistake”. Second, they think drastic action must be taken to see that she never again has an army, navy, or air force ... “She will start another war, given the slightest chance”.

It is particularly felt that war criminals must not be allowed to get away unpunished (Five Regions).

Various suggestions are made for punishing the Germans and ensuring future peace, including (a) long-term military occupation; (b) splitting Germany up; (c) “lopping off Prussia”; (d) death for all who have committed atrocities; (e) extermination of the whole nation; (f) sterilisation of all males. A more elaborate suggestion is that all children from 2 to 12 should be taken from Germany, together with all war orphans and illegitimate children, and distributed among the colonies. They should be given different names and brought up as orphans of the war.

There are, however, many fears that we shall be too lenient with the Germans and that they will escape proper punishment.

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

9. Italy

Satisfaction with progress continues, but comment is again limited. Some people are wondering how soon the armies in Italy and Southern France will link up; others suggest the army in Italy will be content with a holding role, and that a landing will be made in the Balkans, to link up with Tito.

Praise continues for General Alexander.

Mr. Churchill's visit continues to meet with approval, especially for its cheering effect on our troops. His prolonged absence was, however, beginning to worry some people, and anxiety had been felt for his safety. There is some regret that he should have visited the Pope, who “all through the war has been on the side of our enemies”; it is hoped the Prime Minister was blunt with him. Mr. Churchill's meeting with Marshal Tito, on the other hand, caused pleasure; some think it will lead to an Allied landing in Yugoslavia.

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

10. Far East

Confidence and satisfaction continue; there is a growing feeling that the Far Eastern war will not last long after Germany is defeated.

Lord Louis Mountbatten's report, though well received, aroused little interest.

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

11. Turkey

Sarcastic comment continues about her “sitting on the wall” till we were well on the road to victory, though a few recall that “she stood by us in the bad days”.

A few also hope Turkey may make a definite move against Germany.

(3. 5. 9. 12)

12. Allied air offensive

People are pleased that, despite commitments in the field of battle, heavy attacks on Germany are still possible.

The work of the Typhoons is much admired.

(1. 2. 3. 8)

12a. The Freckleton Disaster (August 23)

People are shocked at this “horror of war”. In the North East, it has resulted in some alarm about low-flying planes, particularly in crowded seaside resorts in the East Riding.

(2. 7. 10. 11)

13. News presentation

News presentation in general has been criticised on the following grounds:

  1. Too little publicity given to the British and Canadians in France, and too much to the Americans (Eleven Regions). Press and news reels are particularly blamed ... “Have we no army in France?” Forces' wives are specially bitter. Some people fear the “capture of the limelight by the Americans” is a very bad augury for postwar relations.

  2. Over-optimistic and misleading statements (Four Regions). The Falaise pocket is again cited ... “far too much talk of 100,000 Germans facing annihilation; every day the number dwindled”.

  3. Premature announcements in advance of the actual facts (Three Regions), e.g. the liberation of Paris. “The Russian habit of announcing only faits accomplis” is preferred.

B.B.C. : The B.B.C's presentation of the news is specially praised, and is thought to be more accurate than that of the press. Particular reference is made to:

(a) War Reports (Eight Regions). These remain very popular with the majority, though a few are getting tired of them and some relatives of fighting men dislike the battle noises.

The “thrilling” War Reports on the liberation of Paris have been highly commended. Sunday night's, in particular, was considered “the best thing they've done yet” ... “just like the hunch-back of Notre Dame”. “The shooting of Robert Dunnett” and the coolness of the girl with him were much admired.

(b) The resumption of War Commentaries (Five Regions). The return of Major Lewis Hastings has given great pleasure.

(c) The “Bomb-ways to London” programme (London Region). “It was untrue to say that it was not so bad as 1940/41.”

(d) The pronunciation of French names (One Region), which is said to confuse those who do not know French. “Some place names are anglicised, like Paris and Lyons; others are given French pronunciation, like Caen and Versailles”.

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



14. Holidays

The longing for holidays away from home continues, and more transport is asked for. Those who have been away say they were badly in need of a change and were prepared to put up with inconvenience and crowded travel. Those stopping at home are indignant at the holiday makers.

Holidays at home are both praised and criticised. Those who enjoyed them praise the arrangements but hope for a proper holiday next year. The main criticism is of lack of transport to and from places of enjoyment.

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

15. Lifting of the coastal ban

Opinion is divided.

Those living away from the coast and would-be holiday makers express satisfaction; it is thought to be long overdue; and to show that the danger of invasion is past. People hope the beaches will be cleared of mines as soon as possible.

Those living in coastal towns fear it will cause evacuation difficulties, and an increase in food, shopping and transport problems. Isle of Wight people think they should have been warned, so that they might have prepared for visitors.

Some look on the lifting of the ban as an indication to the Germans that we do not intend to invade the Low Countries.

(2. 4. 5. 6. 8. 9. 12)

16. Food

Beer (Nine Regions): The shortage continues to arouse widespread complaint. Evacuees and U.S. troops are both blamed. In Birmingham, some night-shift workers come in late for work, saying they cannot get a drink in the morning, as the pubs do not open till midday when they are in bed; and do not re-open till 8 p.m. when they are supposed to be at work; they add they are used to getting a drink, and will not do without it.

Fruit (Seven Regions): Shortage and bad distribution are complained of. Strong resentment is felt in the Northern Region and Scotland that English home-grown apples are not to come North.

Whisky : Irate comments are reported from many parts of Scotland about the fluctuating prices of whisky ... “When the pubs open it is 1/6 a half; then it goes up to 1/9; then 2/-; then 2/3 at closing time”. It is said English people do not appear to appreciate the immensity of this issue.

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


17. U.S. troops in this country

During the past four weeks comment has again considerably decreased, as a result both of the departure of many Americans, and of such distractions as the fighting in France and the flying bombs.

However, there are a number of references to the Americans becoming increasingly popular, mainly because of the fine job they are doing in Normandy, which has changed people's opinion of their fighting qualities. Getting to know them better has also helped; and it is believed they are better behaved and less noisy than formerly.

The Americans' generosity, especially to children, their cheerfulness and general bearing are all liked. The coloured troops are again singled out for praise (Five Regions); some think they are better behaved than the white troops (Three Regions).

Criticism is on the usual lines; again their behaviour with young married women and with girls excites most censure (Nine Regions). The troops and the girls come in for about equal criticism and people are afraid of trouble ahead when British servicemen return from overseas and find their wives have been unfaithful. The Americans' high pay, and consequent ability to give girls a good time, is chiefly blamed.

Also criticised are - wasting petrol (Four Regions) on taking girls to dances in jeeps or in using taxis for short journeys; drunken, rowdy behaviour (Four Regions); dangerous driving (Three Regions); waste and destruction of food and equipment (Three Regions); and the white Americans' attitude to their coloured compatriots (Two Regions).

British and American troops (Four Regions): Comment about differences of pay continues; also about the better food and cheaper tobacco available to the Americans. A few people think British and U.S. Servicemen are mixing better than in the past, but others comment about the “coolness” between them.

Shortages are thought in part to be due to the Americans (Three Regions). Beer, hotel accommodation, and food are all mentioned.

British children's begging habits continue to be deplored (Two Regions).

Profiteering at the expense of the Americans is condemned (Two Regions), laundries, restaurants, and taxi-drivers being mentioned.

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

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