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. 203. 24th August, 1944

(Covering period from 15th to 22nd August, 1944)


(No reports received since the fall of Paris and the capitulation of Rumania.)

1. General

Spirits continue to rise, thanks chiefly to the sweeping advances in northern France and the new landings in the South. There is a wave of optimism, which General Eisenhower's cautious words (August 15) have done little to curb. Those who are certain the war will be over by Christmas are now counted among the cautious; and October, or even earlier, remain popular guesses. Some fear that such optimism may lead to complacency and slacking-off - if it has not, indeed, already done so.

Home Front topics are, once more, evacuation and holidays and the cognate subjects of accommodation, transport, shopping, and food and beer supplies.

The approaching end of the war brings increasing anxiety about postwar conditions - many fear unemployment as soon as hostilities cease.

References to war weariness and tiredness are creeping back.

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

2. France

Northern France

People are delighted with the speed of Allied progress. The fall of Paris was eagerly awaited; so, too, is the occupation of the flying bomb sites.

Most people seem to think that the Germans are on the run everywhere: many do not expect them to make a real stand till they reach their own frontier......though hardly able to believe that “the aggressive, pompous bullies are being hunted like rats out of France”.

There is, however, some disappointment because the total number of enemy troops liquidated in the Falaise pocket seems to have been less than at first predicted.

The relative roles of the U.S. and British forces have caused much discussion, mainly on two points.

It is widely maintained that :

  1. The British and Canadians have been given a less spectacular, but much tougher, part of the front than the Americans . While there is great admiration for the swiftness of the American advance, many feel that it has only been made possible by the “holding action” of the British and Canadians round Caen. In spite of disappointment that the British are not taking part in the drive for Paris, however, there is great pride and some comfort in the belief that our men have had to face much stiffer opposition owing to the enemy's determination to prevent a breakthrough in the Pas de Calais area.

  2. A disproportionately large amount of publicity is given to the Americans at the expense of our own troops (See also Section 11, News Presentation). There is said to be considerable resentment that the British, “who seem to have the hardest job”, are scarcely mentioned, and relatives of our men in France are particularly bitter. One report even mentions “an uncomfortable undercurrent that British troops are not fighting as they should ... Poles, French, Canadians, not to mention Americans, get all the headlines”.

Generals Montgomery and Bradley : Some resentment and confusion appear to have been caused as a result of the announcement that General Bradley was in command of the American forces in North-western France. However, annoyance at the idea of General Bradley being on an equal footing with General Montgomery seems to have been dissipated by the subsequent announcement that General Montgomery is overall commander of all Allied ground forces under General Eisenhower.

The mail services to and from the Forces in Normandy seem now to be thought on the whole good.

The organisation , equipment, feeding and entertainment of the troops are praised, with a special word for the attention to the wounded. The Scottish report says: “The wounded themselves are spreading stories of their excellent treatment on the battlefront, in transit and in hospitals here”.

South of France

The landings were generally welcomed, but caused only momentary enthusiasm. Further landings had been widely expected and the preliminary air bombardment, combined with Mr. Churchill's presence in Italy, had suggested to many people a landing in the Riviera. Many would, however, have preferred a landing in the Pas de Calais; some are critical that a landing should have been made so far from the “main scene of action”.

There is great satisfaction at the speed of advance, the lack of German opposition and the small losses involved.

The French : There is great interest in, and praise for, the work of the French underground movement. The extent of the help given by the French, particularly in the South, has surprised people and erased some of the bitterness and distrust felt about them. Doubt and suspicion still, however, remain, stimulated in some cases by the stories of returned soldiers.

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

3. Flying bombs

The country as a whole

Discussion has again declined, except in London and the South East. Concern about the damage and casualties, and sympathy and admiration for the sufferers - especially Londoners - are, however, again widely reported.

There are again a few complaints of insufficient publicity. Lord Halifax's statement, that on the average 700 houses an hour are damaged, has strengthened some people's conviction that the devastation is worse than the authorities would have them believe.

Defences and countermeasures : Capture of the bases is increasingly believed to be the only solution, and it is generally hoped this will soon take place.

Opinion is now divided as to the success of the present methods of combating the bombs. Some feel we are doing everything possible and are getting the better of them; others feel just as many as ever are getting through.

Future expectations : Comment, though limited, is again on familiar lines; some begin to think if V2 is not used soon it will be too late.

In London, rockets are rumoured already to have fallen, “flattening 200 houses”.

Reprisals : The demand for them continues, though with no clear suggestions as to methods to be used.

Reactions in target areas

A. LONDON : The majority continue to take the raids philosophically; a minority are still fearful, strained and tired and, in a few cases, resentful at having again to face raids.

Evacuation : Criticism of the Government scheme now only slightly outweighs praise.

Government camps and a scheme for the evacuation of the aged continue to be asked for.

People in reception areas are again criticised, particularly those with ample room to spare who refuse to take evacuees.

Defences and countermeasures : Londoners are divided; some attributed the recent lull to fine weather: others to better defence - a figure of 80 per cent destroyed being mentioned.

Post-raid services : There are complaints that repairs to damaged property are both inadequate and delayed; though a few express satisfaction with their promptness.

The work of the Civil Defence, of soldiers, marines and the Home Guard is praised.

Sterner measures against looting are urged.

B. SOUTH EASTERN DISTRICT : Increasing tiredness and some continued nervousness, but on the whole people are believed to be steadier.

Evacuation : Some satisfaction with the organisation, and pleasure that so many have left the danger areas.

There is a little criticism that more is not done for old people.

London : Continued complaints that too much publicity is given to London, at the expense of the South East.

Shelters : Delay and unfairness in the distribution of Morrisons are alleged: also it is thought unfair that some have to pay.

C. SOUTHERN REGION : Morale continues good among those who have experienced incidents.

D. EASTERN REGION : Some division of opinion; some have “settled down”, while others still think “it's worse than the blitz”.

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

4. Evacuation

There is again slightly less comment this week. On the whole evacuation is thought to be working fairly smoothly, and a considerable measure of sympathy exists for evacuees. Unaccompanied children continue welcome; mothers with children unpopular.

At the same time criticisms have continued that the smaller and poorer home is the worst sufferer (Seven Regions), and that communal rather than private billeting should have been the rule (Five Regions).

In addition, complaints have been of:

  1. The behaviour of evacuees (Nine Regions). They are criticised for:

    1. “Only coming for a holiday” (Seven Regions) and returning when they have had enough, or if they find the country dull.

    2. Their unwillingness to co-operate (Five Regions): refusal to help in any way with the housework; “high-handedness” to their hostesses ... “telling them they are paid to look after them”; shiftlessness, and dirtiness.

  2. Intensification of the following domestic front problems as a result of evacuation.

    1. Food shortages and shopping difficulties (Eight Regions).

    2. Transport difficulties (Six Regions).

    3. Household linen shortages (Three Regions). In the South Western Region the promised coupon-free towels are said not yet to have materialised.

    4. Accommodation shortages (Two Regions).

    5. Water shortage (Two Regions).

    6. Education difficulties (Two Regions), since the numbers of teachers and the school accommodation available are limited (One Region each).

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

5. Italy

Satisfaction with progress continues, though there is some disappointment that the rate of advance is not quicker. Comment is limited, as this campaign is overshadowed by those in France.

People are thankful that Florence has been saved from destruction and that loss of life has been so small.

Praise for General Alexander and his masterly conduct of the campaign continues. It is, however, thought that he does not get his fair share of praise and attention from the press.

Mr. Churchill's visit has given pleasure, and been welcomed as “an inspiration for our neglected men”; though some are anxious for his health and safety. Reasons suggested for the visit have been the political situation in Italy, and the landings in the south of France.

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

6. Germany

This week there has been considerable talk about the possibility of the Germans making peace proposals before the Allies reach Germany, in order to prevent the devastation of their country.

All but a very small minority feel most strongly that such trickery should not be allowed - “1918 must not be repeated”. Some are very uneasy lest we be too lenient and the Germans escape adequate punishment for “all the misery, suffering and devastation they have caused”.

President Roosevelt's statement to press representatives (17th August) about the need for complete Allied occupation of Germany has, however, encouraged people; all comment is approving.

A few think the Nazis will never surrender, but will go on fighting underground even after Germany has collapsed.

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

7. Russia

Though confidence and praise continue, there is very much less comment this week; Russian news has been pushed into the background by events in France.

People are disappointed that the anticipated rush into Germany has not materialised, but they expect the advance will be resumed soon.

Hope continues, for the familiar reasons, that the Russians will reach Berlin first.

Some distrust of Russia, and apprehension as to her future attitude, however, continue (Six Regions).

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

7a. Russo-Polish relations

Uneasiness' about the position in Warsaw is widespread and people are disappointed that the Russians do not help the patriots. Many feel they have let them down deliberately, and are suspicious of Russian motives. It is asked why supplies have to be flown all the way from Italy by the R.A.F.; and it is rumoured the Russians have refused our planes fighter protection.

Disquiet continues about Russo-Polish relations generally; opinion is divided between sympathy for the Poles and pro-Russian sentiment - the latter predominating among working-class people. Likewise, people are divided in their attitude to the Polish Government in London.

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

8. Far East

People are pleased that the Japanese have at last been cleared from India. There is also some praise for the air attacks on the Japanese islands, and people are looking forward to the bombing of the mainland.

Other comment is on familiar lines.

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

9. Turkey

Turkey's break with Germany continues to be looked on simply as an attempt to be on the winning side and to get a share of the spoils. Some think, however, that the move will have favourable repercussions in the Balkans; others that Turkey still needs watching.

Some hope she will allow us airfields.

(1. 3. 5. 8. 9. 10. 11)

10. Allied air offensive

The news of the heavy raids on Kiel and Stettin - particularly the low percentage of losses - has been welcomed.

(2. 3. 9)

11. News presentation

The B.B.C. “War Report” remains very popular; though a small minority find it repetitive. News bulletins are also liked; some people preferring unvarnished facts to “racy reporting”.

Widespread dissatisfaction is, however, reported (Nine Regions), particularly among ex-Servicemen and relatives of serving men, at the lack of publicity in press, films, and on the radio about what British forces are doing. This is thought to apply in whatever field the British Army is operating, but particularly to France.... “Have we any troops in France, or is it a dream?” People say the Poles, French, Canadians and Americans get all the headlines; it is felt particularly that our men's part suffers from lack of publicity in comparison with the Americans'.

Criticism otherwise is mostly of over-optimism and exaggeration; again the Press is thought a worse offender than the B.B.C. The manner in which the possibilities of the Falaise pocket were dealt with is quoted as an example of over-optimism - “the first impression was that the whole German Seventh Army had been trapped, then it was daily softened down till only remnants were left”.

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



12. Holidays

People continue to feel the need for a real holiday away from home. Increasing numbers appear determined to put up with any travel difficulties to get away for a change of surroundings and air. However some will not risk it, as accommodation is so crowded.

Complaints of overcrowded trains and buses continue, and workers, feeling entitled to a holiday, ask that more transport should be provided.

Holidays at Home get some approval; but generally they appear to have little appeal for tired workers. Those who took holidays at home say they spent most of their time queuing for transport and food; they are discouraged to see the thousands who did go away.

Beaches : People continue to press for more beaches to be opened, not only so that people can get a breath of sea air, but also as a means of easing travel difficulties; if local beaches near industrial areas were available, workers and their families say they would not travel so far afield. Great pleasure is reported at the opening of several beaches on the North East Coast.

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

13. The beer shortage

There are widespread complaints of the shortage of beer, thought particularly hard on harvesters. Holiday-makers complain about “dry” holidays in the recent heat. It is thought that the hours of opening of public houses should be both curtailed and uniform. Some publicans, irrespective of licensing laws, are opening and closing when they like, and refusing to serve customers from opposition houses which have closed owing to the shortage.

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

14. The water shortage

The water shortage, particularly in country districts, is making the sufferers ask if the Government can speed up its plans for rural water supplies.

Evacuees have added to the difficulties.

Complaints come particularly from the Newbury rural district, where some villagers are having to rely on water carts visiting them two or three times a week; from Enstone, Oxon; N.W. Dorset; the Bath and Swindon districts; parts of Nottinghamshire; and Northampton and district - here cups of tea are rationed in cafes, one of which has closed altogether; baths are “a thing of the past”; and doctors are alarmed about unflushed lavatories. Some places have been without water for days; others have only an intermittent trickle.

There are, too, complaints of lack of official information as to when the water will be on or off.

(3. 6. 7)


15. Youth and morals

During the past four weeks comment has continued on familiar lines though in slightly less volume. Complaints have again been chiefly of:

  1. Sexual immorality (Nine Regions) - particularly of young girls with Servicemen of various nationalities. The behaviour of young married women whose husbands are abroad also causes concern.

  2. Juvenile and adolescent delinquency, rowdiness and damage to property (Eight Regions). Their bad manners and lack of respect for their elders, and the general unruliness of children, are also criticised.

  3. Drinking (Seven Regions) - again chiefly by young girls, and often by those under eighteen.

Factors blamed continue to be: Lack of parental control; lack of harmless recreational facilities; too much money to spend - though low wages for young girls are also thought partly responsible for their running after Servicemen; and the bad example set by older people.

More women police (Three Regions) and more welfare workers (Two Regions) are felt to be needed.

Youth Clubs and organisations (Five Regions) continue on the whole to be praised. Some think they are the only solution to the problem of the behaviour of young people and urge that more of them be set up - particularly in places such as Liverpool.

There is some criticism, however, that they are not run on suitable lines; more discipline, and less “bribing” with entertainments are urged.

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

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