A History of the Ministry of Information, 1939-46

170 172 3 174 5 176 7 177 8

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

No. 200. 3rd August, 1944

(Covering period from 25th July to 1st August, 1944)

Note: Next week's report will be issued on Friday, August 11 .


(No reports received since the Prime Minister's speech, August 2.)

1. General

There has been little change since last week. Optimism about the end of the war continues, as a result of good news from the fighting fronts and the German crisis.

During the earlier part of the week, however, there was still great disappointment at slow progress in Normandy.

Evacuees are again the chief home front topic; but there is also a good deal of talk about holidays, transport, food and the increased cost of coal.

Many people continue to hope for an early relaxation of the blackout; some expect it.

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

2. Evacuation

Evacuees, and the problems they create, continue a chief topic in reception areas. The general feeling seems to be that the evacuation of a large number of people has been successfully accomplished, but there are many criticisms of methods and details. Discussion has centred round:

(a) Attitude to evacuees : Again the majority are said to be sympathetic - or at least philosophical.

Unaccompanied children are usually welcome and are sometimes thought even cleaner and better-behaved than local children. A minority, however, are criticised on the grounds that they are destructive or dirty; and some billeting officers are said to have an unpleasant job persuading people to take in children they could not bear to have in their own homes.

Mothers with children , on the other hand, seem much less popular and are said to be far from easy to accommodate in private houses. A common charge against them is that they do not do their share of the housework, but expect to be waited on. Some bad cases are mentioned, but at the same time it is pointed out that possibly too much publicity has been given to cases of this kind. Even when evacuees are willing to help, however, sharing a kitchen remains a difficulty.

Class differences are again widely alleged. It is thought that larger houses, and the better off, should be made to take their share, and among middle-class people some fear of compulsion is reported. At the same time it is thought that when evacuees are not billeted upon their own class it causes embarrassment on both sides.

(b) The policy of private billeting continues to be most unfavourably regarded and there is a strong feeling in favour of camps and hostels for evacuees. There is, in fact, a good deal of criticism that the Government, being forewarned, did not make advance preparations on these lines - taking over empty houses, hotels, and camps for the purpose. It is thought that this would have been pleasanter for all concerned.

Difficulty in billeting evacuees in private houses is said to be accentuated because:

  1. Women who are out at work all day are unwilling to leave evacuees alone in the house, particularly children. Nor is it thought reasonable to expect them to.

  2. The billeting allowance is thought insufficient ... “Billetees at the present rate of pay are not only a hardship but an absolute imposition for working-class people”. The billeting allowance is thought particularly meagre compared with that for U.S. troops. Criticism is reported, in the belief that “old age pensioners who take in evacuees have their pension reduced by the amount of the payment received”.

  3. Many small towns and, villages are already overcrowded with wives of Servicemen stationed in the locality.

  4. Potential billetors are unable or unwilling to provide household linen and towels. Satisfaction is, however, reported that towels are to be made available, coupon-free, to householders who have not enough to meet the strain of billeting official evacuees, though there are references both to uncertainty as to how to obtain them, and of delays and “red tape” in issuing them.

(c) Food supplies : On the whole, people in reception areas seem pleasantly surprised that there has been no real food shortage as a result of the incursion of evacuees. There are, however, one or two references to reduced milk supplies and to the need for more unrationed foods in evacuation areas.

(d) Transport services are said to be still further overcrowded now, thanks to evacuees “flocking to the nearest towns at every opportunity”. In districts near London, evacuated business people are crowding season ticket holders off the business trains.

(e) The lifting of the ban in the South West : Appreciation continues, but there is also a feeling that it should not have been lifted for holiday-makers till all the evacuees had been accommodated. Londoners hope it will be lifted for areas near London, so that workers can get away from the raids at week-ends.

People in holiday resorts continue displeased at the thought of evacuees being sent there during the holiday season. Londoners fear the lifting of the ban may encourage the bad treatment of evacuees, in order to make them leave their rooms for better-paying holiday-makers.

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

3. Flying bombs

The country as a whole

Discussion has declined, except in London and the South Eastern District, where the raids continue the main topic. However, concern about damage and casualties remains fairly widespread; a few believing that the effects are worse than the blitz. Much sympathy for Londoners and people in other target areas continues.

Information about the raids : Complaint continues of the lack of official news. People think information is being withheld and the raids played down, and that this results in distorted and exaggerated tales gaining currency, especially those told by evacuees. In Scotland the public is said to be disregarding the effects of the weapon because of the meagreness of the news; holiday-makers from Glasgow, who went to Southern England, returned after a day or two with terrible stories of their sleepless and anxious time.

Rumours, however, are said to have declined in number.

Countermeasures : A good many people, despite realisation that many flying bombs are brought down, are uneasy and disappointed that no “real” solution has yet been found, and that the raids go on with much the same intensity. Bombing the bases is thought ineffective - “they must be captured”. People again criticise the Government for “not being better prepared, since it knew about it in advance”.

Many others, however, believe that, both by bombing the bases and by interception over this country, our defences are very effective and that the Government is doing all possible.

Future expectations : Speculation and anxiety have increased, both about the extension of the range of the present bomb and the advent of new weapons. German threats are treated “seriously”. Discussion this week has been chiefly about “V2” and rocket weapons; some say the latter weigh ten tons, travel at 750 m.p.h. and will have a blast effect 30 times more powerful than that of flying bombs. It is felt that people would worry less if they were told what to expect.

Reprisals are again demanded (Six Regions). Some want intensified, indiscriminate bombing of Germany; others, reprisals in kind.

Repair workers for London : In London, it is said that some of the men brought down from the North and Midlands have left for “safer quarters”. In the South Western Region, many building trade workers are reluctant to go to London; young men, who do not go because they are working in M.A.P. factories, are censured; it is thought young men should be sent first.

Reactions in target areas .

A. London : Reports suggest people are about equally divided this week between those suffering from anxiety and lack of sleep, and those who have adjusted themselves to this “unavoidable nuisance”. Some people are afraid production has been considerably affected by the time spent sheltering.

Evacuation : Criticism predominates; the points made are:

  1. The area to be evacuated should be bigger.

  2. Old people should have been included.

  3. People in reception areas, especially the wealthy, do not pull their weight.

  4. The need for evacuation should be stressed more.

  5. Areas with no accommodation should be publicised, to stop people going there.

  6. Evacuees come back, and want their fares paid for them and accommodation found, every time they go to and fro.

  7. Servicemen's wives cannot afford to evacuate unless assisted by War Service Grants.

Attitude to the Government : Some still think the Government was “caught napping”; and official “writing down” of the raids is again deprecated, partly because it leads to lack of sympathy in safe areas. A minority think all possible is being done.

Post-raid services : A number are resentful at the time bombed-out people have to wait before being rehoused, or for repairs; some feel army huts should be utilised, or more men and materials released.

Civil Defence workers are again highly praised.

“Imminent danger” signal : No reactions have yet been reported to the Home Secretary's announcement about an “imminent danger” warning (August 1st), for which there had previously been a considerable demand.

B. SOUTH EASTERN DISTRICT : Tiredness and nervousness are again reported, particularly among those in “doodle-bug lanes”. A few people are more upset than at first. However, many people are calm, and believe “the end is not far away”.

Evacuation is reported to be proceeding smoothly. Dover people are cynical about London evacuation - “they're only experiencing what we've had from shells all through the war, but there's been no song about evacuation for us”.

Countermeasures : Fighters are still preferred to A.A. fire. Brighton people are amazed at the number of bombs which “pass over great empty areas on the Downs, apparently neither noticed nor attacked”.

Sirens : The present system is condemned fairly widely, because the siren is thought to have no connection with imminent danger.

London : Some people wonder whether Londoners realise how many bombs are brought down before reaching them, and feel London is “getting all the glory”.

C. SOUTHERN REGION : In most districts people have recovered from the initial shock, though in the Maidenhead area some are still “nervy”. A quieter week has given relief in the affected coastal area.

In some villages where incidents have occurred people are worried by such problems as the need for immediate repair of damaged houses, because people cannot leave their work and there is no spare accommodation - nor, in some cases, any Rest Centre.

Some people think our training planes should not be in the air, “let alone swooping down”, when an Alert is on.

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

4. Germany

The crisis (All Regions): Excitement is less, and some people are disappointed that no further sensational news has come from Germany. Discussion continues on similar lines to those reported last week.

Hatred of the Germans (Six Regions) continues to be expressed, mainly in connection with the shooting of R.A.F. prisoners.

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

5. The invasion of France

Recent advances have heartened people and have, to some extent, allayed the widespread disappointment with our slow progress. Comparisons with Russian advances are again made; though the weather, the restricted area, and reports that the Germans are using some of their best forces against us, are taken into account by most people.

Confidence in our leadership continues, particularly in that of General Montgomery; a few, however, feel that “there was real progress in Italy only after he left”. There is again praise for British and American troops.

The Prime Minister's visit was appreciated (Six Regions). A minority suggest that its reason was the need for “a shake-up” because of slow progress.

The people of France (Four Regions): Some distrust continues.

News presentation continues to be praised. There is, however, again criticism of (a) the B.B.C. and press for misleading the public by premature announcements - of breakthroughs in particular; (b) the amount of publicity given to Americans.

War Reports are still popular, though there is again reference to people losing interest.

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

6. Russia

Unbounded admiration for and amazement at the speed of the Russian progress. The hope continues widespread - on the usual grounds - that the Russians will get to Berlin first.

It is thought that more publicity is needed to show how our fighting in Normandy is helping to make the Russian advances possible.

Some speculation is reported as to what will happen when the fighting reaches Reich territory. Will the Germans give in - the capture of so many German generals being taken as significant of destroyed morale - or will they fight fanatically on?

Some anxiety continues about Soviet intentions in the postwar world.

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

6a. Russo-Polish relations

The setting up of a Polish Committee of National Liberation is causing some uneasiness and discussion. People fear its recognition by the Russians will upset relations between the Allies. It is, however, hoped the problem will be speedily and amicably solved. A minority suggest our Government should take a realistic view, and support the Russians for the sake of long-term peace.

There is satisfaction at the Polish premier's visit to Moscow.

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

7. Italy

Although still much overshadowed by events on other European fronts, our steady progress in Italy is watched with great satisfaction and quiet confidence. There is again high praise for General Alexander. Only a minority are disappointed with the rate of progress.

The visit of H.M. the King (Eleven Regions): Much appreciation is reported; it is felt his visit will have given great encouragement to the troops. Some people are anxious about “undue risks” taken, especially in flying over the battle area. A few say that the fact that he was able to make such a tour is evidence of our complete control of the situation.

Saluting Italian officers (Four Regions): During the past two weeks, resentment at our men being ordered to salute Italian officers has again been reported.

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

8. Far East

Satisfaction with progress, but - as usual - not much interest, except on the part of relatives of those fighting there.

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

9. Allied air offensive

Great satisfaction with the magnificent work of the Allied Air Forces, especially the heavy bombing of Berlin and Stuttgart.

(2. 3. 8. 13)

10. Turkey

(No reports since the announcement of Turkey's break with Germany).

Comment is limited, but very indignant. People think Turkey is only concerned with what she will gain by joining the Allies - “just like the Italians; wants to be sure of the winning side before coming in”. It is doubted whether help from Turkey would in any case be of much value at this stage of the war, and people hope the Government “will tell them to go to Hell”.

(3. 9. 11)

11. The N.F.S. regulations

There is little comment. The failure to lay the regulations before Parliament is thought regrettable and has aroused criticism of those concerned. Some feel the incident demonstrates the inherent dangers when delegated legislation is allowed.

(2. 7. 8. 9. 10)

12. Welsh regiments

There is considerable dissatisfaction in Wales at the absence of references to Welsh regiments on the war fronts. “The mention of Scottish and English, but not Welsh, units seems like a studied insult to Wales”.




13. The increase in the price of coal

There is widespread criticism; miners and housewives consider 4/- a ton increase “outrageous”. People with small fixed incomes particularly lament the rise.

Many wonder where the extra money is going; some think to the miners - to meet their increased wages - and fear “we are heading for inflation”; others, miners in particular, “cannot accept the official explanation”, and suspect the coal owners will benefit.

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

14. Food

Fruit (Eight Regions): Complaints about the shortage and unequal distribution of soft fruits continue. Workers and elderly people who are unable to queue can rarely get fruit, and it is thought the same people monopolise supplies day by day.

Sugar for jam-making (Seven Regions): Appreciation of the extra allowance is again reported, but people feel more is needed to prevent waste of crops in rural gardens. People still regret the concession was not made earlier in the season.

Bacon (Five Regions): During the past two weeks appreciation of the increased bacon ration has been reported.

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

15. Holidays

Workers are said to be more than ever in need of holidays; while many would like to go away, the difficulties of travelling and accommodation put them off. Some are, however, determined to go and risk the discomfort. People whose work involves travelling by train resent the added difficulties caused by the people who try to get away for holidays.

The lifting of the ban on certain holiday areas has given satisfaction. In Scotland some boarding house and hotel keepers, while delighted that their season will not be a total loss, are puzzled to know why the ban could not have been lifted three weeks ago to cover the Glasgow and Edinburgh annual holiday periods.

The pleasure given by holidays at home is said to be limited by the poor travelling facilities to local amenities. Some people in the North Eastern Region had to queue for half a day to get a bus to a nearby place.

Holidaymakers in Bournemouth, while appreciating the opening of the beaches, feel there is a grave danger to children in digging on the sands; also if enemy planes came over and machine-gunned the beaches, there would be panic, as there is no shelter.

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

16. Clothing

Disappointment continues that there will be no increase in the number of coupons for the next period (Five Regions).

People are highly indignant that children's coats should have gone up one coupon (Five Regions); and there are sarcastic comments at the reductions in coupon values of fur capes and fustian trousers - “they are not considered adequate substitutes for vests and pants”.

(1. 2. 4. 5. 7. 8. 9. 10)

17. The transfer of men to the Army from other Services

People are pleased at this proof of our air supremacy. Otherwise comment appears on the whole to be limited to the men concerned and their relatives. Discussion is about:

  1. The disappointment of R.A.F. recruits and boys in the A.T.C. who had gone into training with high enthusiasm.

  2. The rates of pay. Some people are not clear whether the transferred R.A.F. men do or do not retain their R.A.F. pay. Relatives of men in the Army feel it “very unfair” that they do retain it: “It makes the ordinary Tommy appear more than ever like a serf in uniform.”

(2. 3. 6. 7. 8. 11)


18. U.S. troops in this country

During the past four weeks many U.S. troops have left various parts of the country, and there is consequently less talk about them. What comment there has been is more generally favourable than at any time since they arrived in this country. Their work in Normandy, especially at Cherbourg, is the factor most widely reported to have increased their prestige; but the fact that people are getting to know them better and their help in connection with flying bomb incidents are also mentioned. Indeed; the only reported comment in the London area during the past month has been appreciation of the assistance given by American troops during raids.

Their departure from various areas has usually caused great regret; they have “left some sore hearts behind”. In some areas, however, the recent thinning out of American Forces has created “something of a feeling of relief, not adversely aimed at American behaviour, but rather a feeling of getting a step nearer the end of the war and having the place to ourselves”. It has also eased congestion in bus and pub.

All familiar criticisms of American troops have abated, with one exception ... There is still a good deal of comment on their attitude to, and behaviour with, women and girls (Seven Regions), but people are becoming increasingly critical of the women and girls (Nine Regions) who are considered to meet them more than half way in many cases.

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

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