A History of the Ministry of Information, 1939-46

70 71 2 72 3 73 4 74 5 75 6 76 7

[Text Missing] 11/44. W.R.R. & S. Ltd. GP 38. (14).

No. 216. 23rd November, 1944

(Covering period from 14th to 21st November, 1944)


1. General

There is little change in spirits - or in comment - this week. The Western front offensive has revived a few hopes of a decision against Germany this year, but most people are resigned to the prospect of another war winter.

Comment on home front topics also shows little change.

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

2. Western front

The new offensive has heartened people. A few are hoping it marks the beginning of the end and that a victory this year is possible after all. However, there is little tendency to overoptimism; the majority expect hard fighting and heavy casualties. Admiration for the troops - particularly those in Holland - is unbounded.

Earlier, there had been much comment about the rate of progress. Though disappointed that this was not speedier, most people considered that in view of the terrible weather, supply difficulties, and the stiffness of enemy opposition, progress was as satisfactory as could be expected. Many thought the lull a necessary prelude to a big attack; the clearing of the port of Antwerp continued to be welcomed as helping to make this easier.

The bombing of Germany : Approval continues, as also does wonder at the Germans' capacity to stand it. A few, however, doubt the real effectiveness of heavy bombing, since by now they think German industry should have been obliterated.

The Dutch : Much sympathy continues. People hope that we will be able to do something to help those already freed before winter sets in properly, and that the part of the country still under German control will soon be liberated.

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

2a. Inside Germany now

Hitler's silence and disappearance continue the subject of much speculation; he is variously thought to be ill, dead, mad, in hiding, supplanted by Himmler, or to have flown the country.

Whatever its cause, however, Hitler's disappearance has not given rise to optimism. People do not think it will make much difference to the fighting. Himmler is now regarded as “Nazi No. 1” and, even if Germany is beginning to “crack up morally”, it is thought that propaganda and the Gestapo will keep people going and that the military machine will fight to the very end.

A few wonder whether threats, heavy bombing, and unconditional surrender terms may not be provoking stiffer German resistance.

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

2b. What to do with Germany

Demands for a hard peace have been strengthened by the news of rocket bombs and the devastation in Holland. Suggestions for preventing Germany ever being able to make war again are on familiar lines.

This week some criticism is reported of the clergyman who collected for comforts for German prisoners of war, and some approval of the “rat-poison vicar”.

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

3. Army leave

The Prime Minister's statement in the House (November 17) that a month's leave will be granted to a number of men with long service overseas, has given very great pleasure. But there is a little disappointment that men in the Middle East will not get home for Christmas.

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

4. Rockets

There is a good deal of rather miscellaneous discussion about V2; comment and concern are less than in the case of flying bombs. The Prime Minister's statement was welcomed as relieving uncertainty and discouraging rumours, though many people thought it came rather late in the day and merely confirmed what was already known. In affected areas, however, praise and appreciation greatly outweigh other sentiments.

People in so-called safe areas (e.g. the N.W. and S.W.) tend to be indifferent or to minimise the dangers. At the same time, in Wales and the Northern and North Western Regions, there is speculation as to a possible extension of the rocket's range.

Some sympathy for sufferers is expressed.

There are very conflicting views as to the extent of the damage and the deadliness of the weapon. Some are relieved at the news of small damage and casualties, but others have difficulty in reconciling evacuees' reports of “dire damage” with the Prime Minister's “lighter dismissal of incidents”. In spite of his statement, there are a number of rumours, though on a more modest and restricted scale than was the case with flying bombs. The following examples are typical - “Herne Bay is unrecognisable”; “one landed in Norwich 10 weeks ago”; “50 landed in Ilford in one week”; “Euston Station destroyed”; rockets are reported to have fallen in Scotland, N. Ireland, Preston, Skipton, Nottingham, etc.

Some uneasiness is reported from the N.W. Region and Scotland at “the disbanding of so many C.D. Services under present conditions” ... “Because the forwards are scoring, you don't send home the half backs”.

In places involved, some people are anxious we should start retaliation bombing “with the gloves off”.

Areas affected

In London , discussion continues widespread; many, particularly in areas where rockets have fallen, are increasingly nervous. A good many, however, though disliking these attacks, take them calmly.

Apart from the lack of warning - which is found very trying by most people - rockets are not thought so bad as flying bombs.

The rocket bomb is considered to have no military value and the wickedness of the Germans in using such a weapon is stressed.

Countermeasures are not thought likely to do much good, and while most people seem resigned to the attacks continuing till the end of the war, many hope the occupation of the launching bases will soon stop the menace.

Mr. Churchill's statement was welcomed by Londoners... “It's a relief to be able to talk about it”... “The rest of the world will know we're still taking it”. Some are critical, however, on the grounds that damage and casualties were played down, and that the statement may encourage the Germans.

Damage and casualties are much discussed and wild rumours are still said to be current, though Mr. Churchill's statement has helped to dispel them. There is some wish for local casualty lists to be published to prevent exaggeration.

In the South Eastern District , anxiety and nervousness continue, increased in some cases by lack of information. But, on the whole, enemy attacks are “stood up to very well”. Little is hoped from countermeasures... “The attacks must be endured”.

In the Eastern Region it seems to be almost unanimously agreed in the areas affected that rockets are far less trying than flying bombs. “No warning means no time for nervous apprehension”... “If anything does happen, you don't know anything about it”. The terrifying noise of flying bombs is thought far more disturbing than a sudden explosion. Though some nervousness is reported, most people seem to be fatalistic and resigned. It is hoped that advances in Holland will eventually clear the bases, or that the amount of oil used in launching will prohibit many of them being sent.

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

4a. Repairs to bomb-damaged property

In London , the delay in repairs to damaged houses continues to cause much grumbling, particularly as it is feared repairs may not be completed before winter really sets in. (Disgust about the slowness of the London repairs is also again reported from the North Midland Region.) There is dissatisfaction at the conditions under which many are living.

Shortage of materials, especially of ceiling board, is thought to be the main stumbling block, but there is criticism of the lack of supervision of the repairers. These men are said not only to be lazy and unskilled but also sometimes to damage the furniture in the houses they are repairing. There is also dissatisfaction at boys of 18 in the building trade being called up for work other than building.

The Government is blamed for “not tackling the matter seriously”, the local authorities for “not using the powers granted them”.

It is variously suggested that women could quickly be trained to help with some repairs, that the £10 limit should be extended to the rest of the country, and that men who stay away from work to do their own repairs should not be penalised by losing their pay.

In the South Eastern District , “muddle” and misuse of labour are criticised, but it is realised that there is a shortage of material and labour, and that some of the labour is unskilled. A little satisfaction with repair work is mentioned.

(5. 12)

5. Liberated countries

The Prime Minister's visit to France : People are very relieved at Mr. Churchill's safe return. Many, however, are worried he takes so many risks with his health; they feel he should be urged to reduce his journeys abroad, and that President Roosevelt and Marshal Stalin should come to Britain for the next Three Power Conference.

Nevertheless, pleasure continues with the ovation given him in Paris, and with his visit generally; it is believed to have done much to promote unity in France and to foster Anglo-French relations.

France : Many are glad that France will be taking her place among the Allies as a great power, and hope this will encourage her to pull her weight in the fighting, and in the production of war materials. There is, however, a lingering distrust of the French, and a minority refer to her “rottenness” and “the way she let us down in 1940”.

Belgium : Uneasiness is reported at the present political situation there, though some, while regretting it, consider internal unrest inevitable.

Supplies : Comment about the “good quality” knitting wool for European relief, though still bitter, is less.

British propaganda : People believe that the Belgians and French have no proper appreciation of “our hard struggle in this war”.

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

6. Neutrals

Peace settlement : The Government's decision to exclude neutrals has been widely welcomed, particularly in the case of “Franco's Spain”.

In Ulster, people feel that the Nationalist claim for Eire's presence at the peace conference - on the “specious” grounds that considerable numbers of Eire men and women have fought on the side of the Allies - should be disregarded.

Asylum for war criminals : Some unfavourable comment on Eire's evasive note is reported. In Northern Ireland, discussion is bitter: “The big Unionist majority are quick to point out that Eire has been able to maintain her neutrality only because of the protection of Britain”.

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

7. Russia

Military : Satisfaction, admiration and confidence are again reported, though some disappointment continues at the slow progress both in East Prussia and in Hungary; there is a little criticism of the “lack of effort” to free Warsaw. People, however, believe the enemy's defence in both north and south to be very stubborn. At the same time, a major Russian offensive is anticipated shortly, and some still hope and expect the Red Army will reach Berlin first.

People would like more news about the position on the Eastern front; at present there is some confusion.

Marshal Stalin's speech (November 6) : Warm appreciation continues, particularly of his references to British and U.S. help, and to Japanese aggression.

Political : Some uneasiness continues about Russia's possible aspirations at the peace conference and afterwards. At the same time, a few praise her “refusal to associate with Fascism wherever it is found”.

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

8. Far East

Increased interest has been maintained. Some satisfaction with general progress is reported; but many, who had expected Japan to “cave in” after the defeat of Germany, now think there may be a long war ahead. Relatives of servicemen are greatly concerned to know if their men will be sent to the Far East after the defeat of Germany.

China (Twelve Regions): Considerable anxiety about the situation in China continues. The news of the loss of American air bases has caused much consternation. Speculation and bewilderment continue over the recall of General Stilwell, General Chiang Kai-Shek's position, and the use of Allied supplies to wage civil war. People feel that China is disunited and would like to know what is going on... “Nothing is known about the fighting except that the Chinese are always withdrawing”. A minority fear China may collapse as a fighting force.

The Pacific (Twelve Regions): There is again widespread praise for the recent U.S. naval successes, and the destruction of Japanese shipping, though a minority still doubt American claims of Jap ships sunk. The Americans are thought to be doing a “good job”.

Burma (Ten Regions): Appreciation of the greater publicity given to this campaign is again reported; still more is asked for. There is much concern over the welfare of the troops fighting under terrible conditions; it is thought more could be done to lighten their burden. Lack of canteen and recreational facilities are alleged; people ask why no N.A.A.F.I. operates there, instead of matters being left in the hands of profiteers.

Japanese atrocities against prisoners of war (Eight Regions): The Secretary of State for War's statement (November 17) has been greeted with indignation, horror and distress, and has increased hatred of the Japanese.

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

9. Italian and German prisoners of war

Italian : Resentment continues at the privileges and freedom allowed to Italian co-operators (Ten Regions). Comment is detailed and familiar. Many continue to advocate repatriation; “they take up homes, food, and also work, which might otherwise be given to the unemployed”.

Disgust is reported that some A.T.S. are having to sleep in leaky tents (Daily Herald, November 16), “while Italian prisoners of war live in mansions”.

German : German prisoners of war in England are also thought to be too well treated (Four Regions), and there is some indignant comment at the idea that “oranges and milk are supplied to them while our own people go short”. In Warrington it is rumoured that German prisoners at a local camp are allowed to walk about outside the camp sucking oranges; in the Chester-le-Street (Co. Durham) neighbourhood, the rumour that wounded German prisoners in the local hospital are given a shell egg for breakfast every morning is causing indignation.

(1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 24)

10. Italy

Military : What little comment there is about the fighting is on familiar lines. Though most people assume it is the weather which is holding things up, some are now saying that progress is being slowed down by the transfer of men to other fronts.

Discussion continues of the conditions in which our men are fighting (Four Regions); and there is again dissatisfaction at accounts of the hospital accommodation provided.

Political : Some people continue distrustful of Italy and think she is being too gently dealt with (Three Regions).

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

11. The Tirpitz

The sinking of the Tirpitz has given great satisfaction and there is much praise and admiration for the R.A.F. People are particularly pleased that a part of our fleet will now be released for duty elsewhere.

However, reports of earlier attacks on the Tirpitz have occasioned some minority comment about the “toughness” of enemy ships, compared with some of our own famous vessels - particularly the Prince of Wales.

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

12. Civil aviation conference

Comment is sparse and not detailed. On the whole, however, people seem pessimistic, both because of Russia's absence, which is regretted, and because they consider there is little chance of competing successfully against the U.S.A. or of coming to an agreement with her. Some think the Americans are only concerned with protecting their own interests.

A few, however, believe that our standards of production are such as to ensure us success.

Scottish people feel Prestwick should be the chief British air terminal after the war; some add that there are forces at work trying to prevent this.

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

13. Air Chief Marshal Sir Trafford Leigh-Mallory

There is much concern and regret at the loss of “this valued leader”. A few wonder whether it would have occurred “if his farewell party had not been reported in the press”, adding that the approximate date of departure was well known to a number of people. Some feel the plane should have been escorted all the way.

(2. 3. 5. 9)

14. Lord Moyne's assassination

Horror and concern, with some increase in anti-Semitic feeling, continue. The Prime Minister's statement (November 17) warning the Jewish organisations is approved.

(1. 2. 3. 6. 7. 8. 9. 12)

5. U.S. presidential election

The re-election of President Roosevelt for a fourth term is again referred to with great pleasure; “a well-tried friend again in office.”

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

16. News presentation

On the whole, news presentation is thought satisfactory; there are, however, a few complaints of people being treated like children, and not given the full facts. There is again much praise for War Commentaries - particularly those of Hastings and Joubert - and, to a lesser extent, for War Reports.

There are continued complaints of poor reception.

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



17. Ice-cream

The lifting of the ban on the manufacture of ice-cream has been greeted with mixed feelings - mainly critical. Though some say the idea is “tempting”, others ask “who wants ice-cream this weather?”

The main criticism, however, is that the ingredients could be put to better use if issued to householders.

(2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 8. 10)


18. U.S. troops in this country

During the past four weeks there has been a further decline in comment, due mainly to the departure of U.S. troops from many districts.

Relations have continued very cordial on the whole, and appreciation and tolerance have been enhanced by U.S. military successes in the Far East and in Europe. The Americans here are praised for their help in air raids, their friendliness, and their “homely ways”. People again say that criticism comes largely from those who do not know any Americans personally; at the same time, there is considerable relief in areas from which U.S. troops have departed.

Comment otherwise has been about:

  1. Behaviour with women and girls (Nine Regions). Comment is on familiar lines, some blaming the girls, who are chiefly attracted, it is said, by the amount of money the men are willing to spend on them.

  2. U.S. pay, compared to British (Six Regions). The disparity continues to cause resentment.

  3. Driving (Five Regions). Complaints are particularly about fast driving along narrow, winding country roads, and of blinding headlights. Some say road accidents in which U.S. vehicles are involved have increased recently.

  4. General behaviour (Five Regions). A small amount of criticism of boastfulness, drunkenness, and lack of discipline, and some comment about the number of Americans involved in recent murder cases.

  5. Coloured troops (Four Regions). There is praise for their quiet, considerate, well-mannered behaviour; though in the Southern Region there is some disapproval of the “gangster-type” of negro recently drafted into camps formerly occupied by well-behaved coloured troops.

  6. General conditions (Three Regions). There is a feeling that U.S. troops are better looked after over leisure, food and leave than our own men.

  7. Hospitality (Three Regions). Some feel more should be done to provide for the men's leisure time and to encourage families to offer hospitality.

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

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