A History of the Ministry of Information, 1939-46

163 165 3 166 4 167 5 168 6

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

No. 201. 11th August, 1944

(Covering period from 1st to 9th August, 1944)


1. General

Spirits have risen yet higher this week, thanks to the American break-through in France and the Prime Minister's statement.... “If he's optimistic, then things must be going well!” Even in London and the South East there has been a slight rise in spirits, despite flying bombs.

People are increasingly hopeful that the war will soon end. It is generally assumed it will be over by Christmas, but many think it is only a matter of two or three months, and some only a matter of weeks.

Home Front : Evacuees and their problems remain the chief topic, with holidays and transport running them close.

(1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13. No report from the South Western Region this week)

2. The invasion of France

General satisfaction and delight with recent successes - particularly those of the American troops.

Before the news of recent advances on the Caen sector, disappointment had continued with the slow progress of our troops, and comparisons with Russian successes were on familiar lines. Now there is considerable relief. It is fairly generally felt that our troops have a harder task than the Americans; some are envious that the Americans; have the more spectacular role.

The planning and strategy of the campaign are receiving increased praise. Confidence in leaders and men continues.

Casualties : The care being taken of the wounded is praised (Three Regions).

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

3. Evacuation

Evacuees and everything connected with them remain a major topic in reception areas. Comment has changed little since last week, either in volume or tenor. The most marked and widespread reactions are still dislike of private billeting, the desire for communal billeting in hostels, and criticism of the Government for not having been better prepared and for not, even now, making the fullest use of empty camps, hotels and houses. It is particularly thought that since D. day there must be numerous vacant military camps with adequate cooking, sleeping and washing facilities for anything up to a thousand people. Advocacy of communal billeting is by no means confined to “hosts”.

The familiar objections and difficulties connected with private billeting are again mentioned in great detail - with particular 164 2stress on the reluctance to accept women with children, and the unwillingness of better-off people in larger homes to accept any evacuees whatever.

Though compulsory billeting is dreaded, some wonder whether it might not be fairer all round, provided that evacuees were billeted on people of the same class and religion.

Three things would, it is felt, do much to make private billeting work more smoothly.

  1. An increase in the billeting allowance . This is thought too low for all categories, but especially so for mothers with new born infants just released from maternity homes. People say that, “in asking women to take in these mothers and babies, the Government is expecting them to take on the duties of a monthly nurse for the first week or so; in addition, the mother will have to be cared for, the baby nursed, washed and generally looked after, and extra shopping done by the hostess, all for eight shillings a week - to say nothing of laundry and other difficulties and expenses”.

  2. A Government direction or appeal to evacuees to help their hosts with the household duties . There are complaints that billetees themselves do not always appreciate that people in reception areas are putting up with considerable inconvenience to help them; some evacuees expect to be treated like paying guests for the billeting allowance of 5/-.

  3. More publicity about Londoners' sufferings , to ensure them a more sympathetic welcome.

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

4. Flying bombs

The country as a whole

Except in London and the South East, discussion remains at the slightly lower level of last week. Although people are confident the raids will have no effect on the course of the war and that they indicate “Jerry is on his last legs”, grave concern about the damage and loss of life continues. This anxiety is stimulated by evacuees' and travelers' tales and by Mr. Churchill's latest revelations - which came as a shock to many. Sympathy and admiration for people in target areas continue.

Counter-measures : Uneasiness because we have not found a complete answer to the bombs has increased (Eight Regions). People think bombing the bases is ineffective, and increased number believe “the only way” is to capture the bases (Seven Regions).

However, there is some appreciation of the number brought down, and a few think everything possible is being done.

Information about the raids : People still ask for more facts and figures, which it is felt would counteract rumours and make people elsewhere realise what those in danger areas are going through; people still feel the Government is playing the raids down.

Rumours continue, though they are again said to have decreased in number.

Future expectations : Speculation and some apprehension, at the possibility of rocket bombs or larger flying bombs, continue, being partly stimulated by Mr. Churchill's remarks on the subject (August 2).

Reprisals are again asked for. The demand is considerably more widespread than last week; suggested methods are unchanged.

Civil Defence and repair workers for London : Little comment. Some Londoners think the imported repair workers “poor”. In the Northern Region, people criticise the lack of cooperation in this matter between different Ministries. Miners who volunteered, as instructed by the Ministry of Home Security, found that subsequent instructions issued by the Ministry of Fuel and Power said that no men must be released from the pits. Criticism and strong feeling have resulted.

Reactions in target areas

A. LONDON : This week there are rather more reports of nervousness and low spirits than of people taking the raids “as a matter of course”. People again think work is being affected by non-attendance, and the difficulty of concentrating during alerts.

Evacuation : People think all who can go, should do so, though they are critical of anyone who runs away from a job or goes purely for a holiday.

Criticism is of:

  1. The Government, because of:

    1. the non-provision of camps,

    2. old and infirm people not being included in the scheme.

  2. The reception areas, for:

    1. the “poor” facilities offered,

    2. people in big houses not pulling their weight,

    3. the high prices charged to private evacuees.

Some evacuees are said to be returning because “they are not wanted”; other people say they would go if they knew to whom they were going. (The North Western Region report speaks of families returning as soon as they found they were not at the seaside.)

Attitude to Government : Criticism is on the usual lines. Some think the official statements about percentages of flying bombs brought down are “humbug”.

Post-raid services : People think repairs are insufficient and that local authorities show insufficient initiative.

Civil Defence workers are again highly praised; sightseers and looters are deplored.

Shelters : People are now very “shelter-minded”; though some still complain that there are not enough shelters, and that public shelters are not open during the daytime for night workers to sleep in. Mothers praise school shelters.

Defences : Opinion divided between appreciation of what is done, and a desire that more should be done.

Aircraft flying about during alerts are disliked.

. . . . . . . . . . .

B. SOUTH BASTERN DISTRICT : Tiredness and strain because of disturbed nights are again reported. People seem about equally divided between those who are “nervy” and those who are “adjusted”.

Evacuation : The Government is criticised for:

  1. The policy of private billeting. People think hostels would have been more suitable.

  2. Lack of preparations and mishandling the scheme.

  3. Inadequate school facilities.

  4. Inadequate billeting allowances.

A minority, however, think the scheme well handled and want it extended.

Defences : Criticism is on familiar lines; though some realise many bombs are destroyed.

London : Some are sympathetic this week; others continue to think “nobody counts but London”.

Post-raid services : People praise the Home Guard. Mobile C.D. workers in Canterbury feel not enough use is made of them.

C. EASTERN REGION : Despite frequent references to despondency and strain, and some nervousness, many are taking the raids “in their stride”. Night shift workers, especially young girls, are thought to be standing up to it very well. However, some people think production is suffering.

“Imminent danger” warning : Some people in the Watford and Luton areas would like the warning to be given everywhere.

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

5. The Prime Minister's war review in the House of Commons (August 2)

Mr. Churchill's “good report” has been very well received and is generally regarded as most heartening. What seems to have struck people especially has been his optimism, the more so in view of his “consistent caution” in the past.... “You can believe him. He told us the worst; now comes the best”. His speech has strengthened the belief that victory is not far off.

Comment, which has not been very detailed, has chiefly centred round Mr. Churchill's references to:

  1. The damage wrought by flying bombs . Some dismay and surprise, particularly at the number of houses damaged; also some surprise that he should have given these figures, because it is felt they will encourage Hitler to continue and even to strengthen his attacks. A few think the Prime Minister's “boasting” caused the increased number sent over the following night and day.

  2. The rocket bomb . His allusion to this possibility caused some apprehension, though it was thought right he should warn us.

  3. The Far Eastern war . Pleasure and relief at his reference to the possibility of an earlier defeat of Japan. His tribute to the troops taking part in the Burmese campaign was welcomed.

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

6. Italy

Again general satisfaction with our steady progress, though this front is still largely overshadowed by events in Normandy and, to a lesser extent, Russia. There is speculation about further landings, and about what will happen in northern Italy after the fall of Florence.

High praise continues for the leadership and strategy of General Alexander and the tenacity of our troops fighting under bad conditions.

Visit of H.M. the King (Seven Regions): Appreciation is again reported, and his safe return has been noted with pleasure.

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

7. Russia

Great admiration, but little detailed comment. Hopes continue widespread that the Russians will reach Berlin first.

Some apprehension about future relations with Russia is again reported.

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

7a. Russo-Polish relations

Uneasiness continues over Russo-Polish relations, but there are hopes of a solution as a result of the Polish Premier's visit to Russia. Some think Russia will take what territory she wants, without bothering to justify herself; others think she needs no Justification.

(1. 2. 4. 8. 9. 10. 11)

7b. Finland

Finland is expected to be out of the war within a few weeks. The appointment of General Mannerheim as President is taken as an obvious sign that she is ready to capitulate.

(3. 6. 8. 9)

8. Germany

The crisis is much less discussed. People continue to take it as hopeful evidence of internal disunity which will hasten Allied victory. At the same time a few consider its speedy quelling a sign of Nazi party strength; while others believe it was a put-up job.

Increasing hatred of the Germans continues to be reported because of the flying bomb and “the further batch of Stalag murders”. In the latter case “it is considered insufficient to ask a protecting power to lodge a strong protest”. Punishment of the perpetrators is wanted, and reprisals are suggested.

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

9. Turkey

Comment on Turkey's break with Germany is widespread though not detailed. There is “lukewarm” satisfaction, but people wonder what advantage we shall derive. A few hope Bulgaria and Roumania may be encouraged to follow suit.

Despite satisfaction, many consider Turkey's move “rather contemptible”. They think she is “backing the winner at the finishing post” in order to have “a share of the pickings”; they hope she will be made to earn her seat at the peace conference.

A few doubt whether the break is complete, and do not think Turkey will enter the war.

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

10. Far East

Although overshadowed by events nearer home, slightly more interest is reported this week. Satisfaction with progress continues; many now feel the Far Eastern war will not last long after Germany is defeated.

There is criticism of the lack of news from this theatre of war.

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

11. News presentation

News presentation continues to be praised, though there are some criticisms of repetition in B.B.C. bulletins and of misleading headlines in newspapers.

There are again complaints that too much publicity is given to the Americans and that American war correspondents have better facilities than ours.

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



12. Holidays and holiday transport

While there is a great desire for a change and a rest, travelling is regarded by many as “worse than hard work”.

Workers continue to complain that transport conditions - both by road and rail - are worse, owing to holiday makers. Some criticism is also made of extra trains being run, which is thought inconsistent with total war; alternatively it is asked why these cannot be advertised. People who endured the congested rail travel before Bank Holiday complain that the Ministry of Transport announced that no extra trains would be run, and then was compelled to run them.

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

13. Food

While the general food situation is considered very good, there is again comment on:

The shortage and uneven distribution of fresh fruit (Six Regions), though pleasure with available supplies is also reported (Three Regions). Overcharging by street sellers is alleged and there is some resentment about the supplies they seem able to obtain. In the North West Region, small retailers are said to be unable to buy fruit in the markets as it is all bought up by large concerns. A few think too much fruit is allocated for manufactured jam, and would prefer to make their own because of the greater fruit content. Appreciation of the extra sugar allowance for jam-making is again reported.

Increased bacon ration (Four Regions): Appreciation continues.

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

14. Extension of double summer time

People generally have welcomed this extension. Farmers, however, condemn it strongly.

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

15. The increase in the price of coal

Bitter complaint continues. People variously blame:

  1. The Ministry of Fuel and Power . “We are being skinned and fleeced to maintain an inefficient Ministry - we wouldn't have minded so much if the Porter Award had led to increased production.”

  2. The miners and their increased wages, particularly as “they are still striking”.

  3. The coal owners . “Someone besides the miners is doing well out of it.”

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

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