A History of the Ministry of Information, 1939-46

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[Text Missing]Wt 16476. 10M 5/44. W.R.R. & S. Ltd. GP 38. (14).

No. 205. 7th September, 1944

(Covering period from 29th August to 5th September, 1944)


1. General

Spirits are still soaring - the amazing Allied advances in Western Europe exceed the wildest hopes.

Optimism increases about an early end to the war; while October remains the favourite guess, some expect victory any week, any day, almost any hour now. People are making their plans for celebrations, and for after the war.

The capture of many flying bomb sites, and the hope of the early capture of the rest, together with the recent lull, have given much relief. The only remaining dark spots in the picture are: (i) Resentment that British and Canadian troops have not been getting “their fair share of the limelight”; and (ii) anxiety about the postwar period - demobilisation, jobs, and homes.

War regulations : With peace “just round the corner”, there has been much talk, and hope of, relaxation of Home Guard, Civil Defence, and blackout regulations.

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

2. Western Europe

People are boundlessly amazed, excited and delighted by the Allied advances through France, Belgium, and Holland. They are too dazed and awestruck by the speed of the whole thing to discuss any specific successes. There is, however, pleasure at the capture of “those horrible flying bomb sites”, and great hopes that they will soon all be cleared.

Allied leaders, troops, strategy and planning are again praised - confidence in them is supreme.

Field-Marshal Montgomery : The majority are very pleased at his promotion. Some, however, in spite of General Eisenhower's statement (August 31) feel it is “a sop for his recent demotion”, or “an Irishman's rise”.

General Eisenhower's statement (August 31) was welcomed both because of his praise of British and Canadian troops and because he cleared the air to some extent over Field-Marshal Montgomery's position. His explanation about the American entry into Paris is, however, not universally accepted; some feel “the Americans simply couldn't resist a parade”.

Publicity given to British and American troops : People are pleased at the prominence given to the British and Canadian sweep through Northern France and Belgium and into Holland.

Though some say “it no longer matters who does what now”, others continue to feel that while we were doing the hard fighting at Caen, the Americans were getting all the publicity because of their more spectacular drives. At the same time, there is no wish to minimise the wonderful achievements of the U.S. troops.

The French : Praise continues for the F.F.I. who “have risen so splendidly” and assisted our troops in liberating their country.

A minority continue to distrust the French: “1940 has by no means been forgotten; references to the greatness of France go down badly; they need reminding that, but for the British stand after Dunkirk, the present comeback would have been impossible”.

The liberation of Paris : Great pleasure continues. There is some criticism, however, of our sending food and clothing when, according to photographs and films, the Parisians look healthy and well dressel.

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

3. The future of Germany

Widespread discussion continues. Hatred of the Germans is increasing, and there is a growing desire for them to suffer a crushing defeat on their own soil; a few want this “even if it means carrying on the war all the winter”. People hope an armistice will not save the Germans from this “taste of battle”.

There is also a growing desire that, when the fighting is over, the Germans will be really severely punished. At the same time, people continue very much afraid that we shall be too lenient - “if it is left to us British we shall stint ourselves to rehabilitate them, so they won't be provoked again”. People are particularly anxious that there should be retribution on war criminals, though many fear that “somehow they will manage to get away”.

Most popular suggestions for dealing with the Germans are: (a) long period of Allied occupation (Five Regions); (b) complete disarmament “for all time” (Three Regions) and, (Two Regions each) (c) re-education of Nazi youth - some wonder though how this is to be done; (d) splitting Germany up; (e) extermination of the whole military class, S.S., and Gestapo, and all Nazi bosses and officials; and (f) extermination of the whole nation - “people capable of such wicked outrages are not fit to survive”.

The recent revelations about the “camps of annihilation” at Lublin and Maidenek have staggered people; some find them too disgusting to read. The only other reactions are increased hatred and an intensified desire for retribution. Their truth is not doubted.

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

4. Flying bombs

Considerable relief and satisfaction have greeted the weekend lull. Together with the capture of some launching sites and imminent threat to the remainder, it has been taken as proof that, if the weapon has not already been overcome, its days are at least numbered.

There is, however, considerable speculation and some apprehension about the use of other weapons ... “Germany still has something up her sleeve”. Gas (Eight Regions), rocket bombs (Four Regions), or “pick-a-back” planes (Two Regions), are thought the most likely. However, some think the use of rocket bombs is being prevented by our overrunning their launching sites; a few think they have already been tried and have proved unsuccessful.

Comment, otherwise, has been on familiar lines.

Reactions in target areas .

LONDON : Belief that the raids are ending or have ended is increasing. A few still fear they may last into the winter, and still call for an evacuation scheme for old people.

Post-raid services : Complaints of delay in repairs continue. The Civil Defence Services, U.S. troops for the help they have given, and the emergency food arrangements are all praised.

Sirens : Approval for the Imminent Danger signals continues, though some think they increase nervousness.

SOUTH EASTERN DISTRICT : The lull has strengthened people's calmer attitude; some now think the danger past.

Countermeasures : Satisfaction is expressed with the success of anti-aircraft fire, of fighters and of the balloon barrage.

In Folkestone, great distress and indignation are said to have been aroused by a report that a petition had been signed asking that bombs should not be shot down over the town; there was considerable relief when it was found that Folkestone was not the town concerned.

EASTERN REGION : People are optimistic that the danger is nearly over and there is correspondingly less anxiety and concern. Some, however, expect a temporary increase in the near future due to the possible shifting of bases to Holland.

SOUTHERN REGION : Most of the sites are believed to have been put out of action by the capture of the Pas de Calais.

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

4a. Evacuation

Comment is again less, and again on familiar lines. Both residents in reception areas and also evacuees are beginning to look forward to the speedy end of evacuation; an increase in the number returning is thought already to be taking place. Some are critical of children being brought back at this stage.

This week the following domestic front problems have been reported as being intensified by evacuation:

  1. Household linen difficulties (Six Regions).

  2. Transport difficulties (Five Regions).

  3. Food and shopping difficulties (Four Regions).

  4. Shortages of clothing and of household utensils, and difficulties in obtaining shoe repairs (One Region each).

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

5. Russia

Comment continues on a reduced scale. Although there is widespread satisfaction with Russian progress, especially the drive into Rumania and capture of Ploesti, admiration is tempered with uneasiness, largely because of the Warsaw situation (See next section). Puzzlement continues at the hold-up in the East Prussia sector. Some continue to hope, for familiar reasons, that the Russians will reach Berlin first.

Suspicions about Russia's attitude in the postwar world continue.

Finland : Very little comment. Some consider the Russian terms moderate; others think the Finns so foolish that they deserve whatever the Russians choose to mete out to them.

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

5a. Russo-Polish relations

Anxiety and bewilderment about Russo-Polish relations have again increased. People continue full of sympathy and admiration for the patriots in Warsaw.

Although there is some division of opinion as to the explanation for the hold-up outside Warsaw and the Russians' refusal to aid the patriots, a growing number of people distrust Russian motives; they think the delay is deliberate, and due to political, rather than military factors. They again ask why we have to send bombers from Italy, and are distressed at Russia not allowing a shuttle service. A few suggest the Russians' aim is to embarrass the London Poles; others say they want to impose the Moscow Committee on Poland; others again say that they want the patriots “killed off”, to remove a future nuisance.

A few people blame the Poles, both those in London and those in Warsaw, for the prematurity of the rising. Others think the rising was an attempt to re-establish Poland, by demonstrating that Warsaw could be freed by her own efforts.

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

6. Italy

This campaign continues to be overshadowed by the successes in Western Europe. But the breaching of the Adriatic sector of the Gothic Line has been welcomed, and the position generally is regarded as satisfactory; a minority think the advance too slow.

Reference is again made to (a) lack of publicity about this front; (b) praise for General Alexander; (c) distrust of the Italians.

Mr. Churchill's visit still arouses interest and admiration, though his lengthy absence from home caused some anxiety. People are anxious to know the objects and results of his visit, and it is hoped that he will make a statement in the near future. His visit to the Pope - “whose attitude has been anything but neutral” - continues to be regarded with some misgiving.

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

7. Rumania and Bulgaria

People continue very pleased at the defection of these two countries; they hope it will have its effect on other satellites, and speed up complete German collapse in the Balkans. In particular, the acquisition of the Rumanian oilfields is thought very useful.

However, contempt continues, especially for Bulgaria, and it is hoped we shall take a strong line with both countries, and see that they work their passage home.

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

8. Far East

Satisfaction continues, together with praise for the troops in Burma; but interest is limited by the remoteness of this theatre and the relegation of news to the “back page”. People ask for more information and more interesting news presentation.

The feeling that the Far Eastern war will not last long after the defeat of Germany continues, though a minority expect a “long and anxious campaign”.

There is some feeling that more emphasis should be laid on the fact that we still have Japan to beat, as “many of those now rejoicing at the prospect of their men coming home may be disappointed, if they are drafted to the Far East”.

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

9. News presentation

Publicity given to British and American troops : (See section 2, Western Europe).

General : Comment - chiefly favourable - continues on the same lines as last week.

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



10. Holidays

Considerably less comment this week. Many continue to think extra transport facilities should have been provided, as holiday-makers only increased the difficulties of already congested traffic ... “the public cannot understand why the Government blow hot and cold about holiday travel”.

The miners' holiday week was appreciated, although some disappointment was caused by the shortage of beer; a few miners think they should have had two weeks' holiday instead of one.

Improved health of workers after the holiday period is reported from the North Eastern Region.

(1. 2. 3. 4. 6. 7. 10)

11. Lifting of the coastal ban

Comment is less. Many are pleased and are taking advantage of the situation; but there is also criticism that the lifting of the ban has only accentuated difficulties for those who must travel; it is said it should not have been lifted until evacuation was complete. Residents in the Isle of Wight continue to grumble at the failure to warn them of the lifting of the ban, and the consequent dislocation of the catering trades.

Authorities are criticised for the “ridiculous ban” on civilian bathing on some beaches, where the military are using them for this purpose. On the other hand, one report mentions comment that the “invading of the banned beaches was silly and undignified for judges and M.Ps”.

It is hoped that every precaution will be taken to see that not a single mine is left unlocated and unexploded on the foreshores.

(1. 3. 5. 6. 9. 12)

12. Food

Beer (Six Regions): The shortage continues to arouse complaints, though on a reduced scale. Agricultural workers are especially concerned and feel that, as food producers, they should at least get a minimum ration of beer after a long day in the harvest field. There is some feeling that the scarcity has been arranged, and a suspicion that canteens are allowed a disproportionate share of liquor. More generally the shortage is attributed to people having more money nowadays than in peacetime, with less to spend it on - with the result that in some cases whole families find their relaxation in clubs and licensed premises.

Dried milk (Four Regions): People think that in view of the smallness of the present milk ration there should be an earlier issue of dried milk. It is also felt that the proposed issue of one tin per person per eight weeks is not nearly sufficient.

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

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