A History of the Ministry of Information, 1939-46

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Wt 39944. 10M 11/43. W.R.R. & S. Ltd. GP 38. (14).

No. 192, 8th June, 1944

(Covering period from 31st May to 7th June, 1944)


1. General

News of the Allied invasion of France has caused profound relief after weeks of waiting and tension.

Restrained excitement and sober confidence seem to be the feelings of the majority. People realise the immensity of the task and the possibility of heavy casualties, but are relieved that such a good start has been made. There is little sign of over-optimism, but this is thought to be the beginning of the end and there is a tendency to hope that “now we've started, perhaps it won't be so long before the war is over”.

The invasion news has overshadowed everything else, but earlier in the week our advances in Italy had given great satisfaction, followed by delight at the fall of Rome.

Home Front : Housing, clothing coupons and the ballot scheme for the mines had all continued as topics of discussion earlier in the week.

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

2. The invasion of France

(Latest reports cover the period up to the morning of June 7 inclusive)

“At last.... Thank God it's started!” sums up the general feeling of profound relief from the tension and the strain of waiting.

Many were surprised when the news first broke, having expected a more sensational start, more “fuss” and dislocation of civilian life; some cheered; some wept hysterically; some felt “flattened out” ... “sick in the stomach”. The great majority, however, are described as confident, calm and steady, and excitement - even when intense - is usually restrained. “Everyone is inwardly thrilled”, but people are undemonstrative, and there are few signs of jubilation. Many are said to be awed, both by the magnitude of the operations and the issues at stake. There is, too, much anxiety for the safety of those taking part, relatives - and especially women - being particularly fearful. Nevertheless, the “browned-off” feeling of recent weeks completely vanished.

The hunger for news is intense, and many people are said to keep the wireless on permanently. People hang round every available radio in offices, shops and houses. Some complain they cannot get on with their work for excitement and interest in the bulletins. There are queues for papers, which are soon sold out. But now that some of the initial surprise has worn off, people are said not to be talking about it much, at any rate in public; many find it “too big to talk about”.

Reaction to the actual operations : People are deeply impressed by the scale of operations - the immensity of which makes many gasp - by the planning, organisation and execution and, above all, by the number of planes and ships involved.... “I simply can't visualise 11,000 planes”.

Mr. Churchill's announcement that losses were lighter than expected and that events were moving satisfactorily has caused great relief and satisfaction. Women are said to appreciate that our leaders seem to be doing all they can to spare our men's lives.

The lack of German opposition , particularly in the air, is widely discussed, and people are variously pleased, surprised, puzzled and uneasy. Many feel “German non-resistance” is ominous and wonder what they are saving up for us; some wonder if our troops are being led into a trap and fear that the Germans are waiting till we have got an immense quantity of men and material well into France before counter-attacking. People cannot understand why they are not bombing our invasion ports.

Possible repercussions here are fairly widely discussed, especially the likelihood of raids, whether in reprisal or in attacks on embarkation ports. Many are surprised that there were no raids on Tuesday night; people in London and on the Eastern and South Eastern coasts had expected to hear the sirens. Dover people say that if retaliation starts, Dover will get the worst of it, and some fear of reprisal raids is reported from Hull. A few Londoners ask if there is to be any order about carrying gas masks.

The B.B.C.'s presentation of the news has given great and widespread satisfaction, with particular praise for eye-witnesses' accounts and for the 9 - 9.45 p.m. programme on Tuesday, in which Howard Marshall's contribution was especially liked.

The advantages of the radio over the press for vividness and up-to-the-minute news has been remarked on.

The effect on the war-effort : Invasion is thought to have had a stimulating effect in war factories (Four Regions), in spite of frequent interruption of work to listen to news bulletins. The intense interest of miners and the efforts of managements in coal mines to stimulate miners to greater efforts are also referred to (Three Regions). The Fife Coal Co. fitted up loud speakers in their pits and had posters ready printed with the slogan: “The second front opened to-day, we are backing them up”.

At Slough, the news resulted in filling the blood transfusion centre with people wishing to give their blood.

H.M. The King's broadcast has pleased many people, who found it comforting and inspiring. The religious note was especially appreciated by women, for whose guidance and help the talk was thought to be particularly intended. Some men, it is said, would have liked something more stirring, but it is pointed out that “Churchill gives the news, His Majesty the steadiness”.

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

Note : The rest of the report covers the week up to and including June 6.

3. Italy

Allied progress in Italy was received with widespread pleasure and relief. Admiration for General Alexander and the troops is widespread, the French and Poles again being specially mentioned. People realise that the “going” will still be hard.... “a slogging match all the way up the Peninsula” ... but there is optimism about the outcome. Fear of heavy casualties is again reported.

Before the capture of Rome there was much speculation whether the city would be devastated or by-passed, and while people hoped it might be spared, they also felt strongly that Allied lives must not be risked. General Maitland Wilson's statement that, if the Germans chose to defend Rome, the Allies would be obliged to take appropriate military measures to eject them, was approved. The statement from enemy headquarters that withdrawal was ordered to prevent destruction is ridiculed, and people wonder if this was an attempt to gain Roman Catholic sympathy, when Hitler knew he would lose Rome in the end.

The Pope's appeal to save Rome and for “a peace without revenge” aroused little sympathy and some strong indignation. People remember his “blessing Mussolini's banners”, and the Papal attitude to the Abyssinian War is recalled. In Northern Ireland people comment on the need for drastic treatment of Germany after the war, not for vengeance but for the safety of other nations.

The news that Rome had fallen was received with much pleasure at the speed of the victory; and much relief, particularly in Roman Catholic circles, that the city had been spared. The success was looked on as a good omen for the coming invasion.

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

4. Allied air offensive

Comment has continued with little change from that reported in the past few weeks.

U.S. air bases in Russia (Five Regions): The landing of U.S. planes in Russia has been approved as evidence of the unity of the strategy of the United Nations. Some people are said to have thought for a long time that a shuttle service of this kind would be a good idea.

Aircraft production (Two Regions): The recently published figures of aircraft production in this country have caused pleasure.

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

5. Raids on this country

Recent raids on coastal towns are said to have had no ill effects on people's spirits. There is relief that there has been so little raiding, and more people are concluding that the enemy can no longer carry out serious raids on Britain.

(2. 4. 6. 7. 9)

6. The Prime Minister's review of foreign policy

Until the invasion monopolised everyone's attention, there had continued to be a good deal of discussion of Mr. Churchill's speech, and particularly of his references to Spain, France, and world organisation for peace.

Spain (All Regions): Widespread criticism on the same lines as last week's continued. Many people were concerned as to what Russia would think. A small minority, however, felt there was probably a good reason for the Prime Minister's attitude.

France (Eight Regions): The majority appeared to favour recognition of the French National committee, and were disappointed or critical at the continued non-recognition of the Committee and of General de Gaulle. Many felt we were yielding to American pressure in this matter. (Pleasure is now expressed at General de Gaulle's visit to this country; many still hope that the Government will recognise him and the French National Committee.)

World organisation for peace (Four Regions): This was far less discussed than the references to Spain and France, but comments were mainly approving.

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

7. Russia

Comment continued without substantial change.

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

8. Far East

Comment about the fighting has continued unchanged.

Prisoners of war in Japanese hands : Anxiety and concern continue to be reported (Four Regions).

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

9. German shooting of air force officers

Comment has again been on familiar lines, with indignation and horror continuing general.

A complete statement is awaited.

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

10. The Government White Paper on Employment Policy

This appears to have aroused little interest. It is suggested that some kind of simplified statement is needed as people have still only a “hazy” impression of the proposals.

What little comment there is is again chiefly favourable. It is thought to be a step in the right direction. Some, however, regard the proposals as “a pious hope” only, and doubt whether they can or will be fulfilled.

(1. 2. 6. 7. 10)

11. Eire Election

Outside N. Ireland, the results of the Eire election excited almost no interest. Even there interest has been comparatively slight, though there was some surprise at Mr. de Valera's increased majority.

(6. 11. 13)

12. Broadcasting and presentation of news

(See also Section 2, Invasion of France)

Satisfaction with news bulletins has continued. Radio news is thought cautious and reasonable. Reports by war correspondents are praised, especially Godfrey Talbot's broadcast on the occupation of Rome (June 5). Our news reporting now is thought to be of a higher standard than at any time during the war.

General Forces Programme (Seven Regions): Criticism continues. The frequent news bulletins are however said to be appreciated and some like their “chummy tone”.

Praise for : ITMA (Three Regions); American Commentary, June 2; H. Robson's War Commentary on the Pacific, June 1; “Heaven and Charing Cross”, June 3 (Two Regions each).

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



13. The new ration books

Satisfaction with their distribution continues general. Again the only complaint come from the Northern Region - this week Stockton-on-Tees.

Complaints of the difficulties involved through having to carry identity cards in protected areas come from both Southern and South Eastern Regions this week. Workers, in some cases, do not know how they are going to manage to collect their books.

(1. 2. 6. 7. 9. 10. 11. 12)

14. The cancellation of trains

The chief reaction has again been one of resignation but there was some increase in criticism. This was again on the grounds that:

  1. The cancellation could have been better handled (Seven Regions), particularly so that business and work-people would have been less affected.

  2. Some notice should have been given (Five Regions), or at least a time-table of trains still running should be issued.

A lead from the Government about holiday transport continues to be asked for (Three Regions).

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

15. Ammunition Train incident and Munitions Explosions

In the Cambridgeshire town involved, there is high praise for the men who gave their lives to save the town. Home Guard and black troops are also praised for the speed with which they cleared the debris and got the line working again.

Both in the Eastern and North Eastern Regions, there are suggestions that the explosion, as well as others recently reported, may have been due to sabotage. A local rumour attributed the Cambridgeshire explosion to German parachutists, while in N. Ireland it is suggested it may have been due to a bomb from an enemy plane.

(2. 4. 13)

16. Floods

Holmfirth : The North Eastern Regional report states that the flood at Holmfirth has been the major topic of conversation during the week in the Huddersfield area.

North Derbyshire : The following report has been received from the North Midland Region:

A very heavy thunderstorm on Monday, May 29, caused serious flooding in North Derbyshire. Small mountain streams became raging torrents, bursting their banks and causing widespread damage. Houses and cellars were flooded to a depth of several feet, and floors were left covered with slime and filth (sewers burst in a number of places). Areas affected included the towns of Glossop, New Mills, and Hayfield.

The behaviour of the public during the floods is described as “in every way admirable”. There was no suggestion of panic, but a general willingness to help the victims. This help was difficult because of rationing, for people had no stocks of food.

In New Mills and Glossop, rest centres were opened and meals served. In many cases people requiring temporary shelter went to relatives and friends, the Food Officer issuing emergency cards. Disinfectant and soap were supplied to householders to enable them to clean their homes. Air raid wardens gave valuable help and the military are assisting with the clearing of the debris. In Hayfield, no rest centre was opened, and there is widespread public discussion because no steps were taken to replace food which was washed away or rendered unusable by the water. The comments made are on the lines of: “Red tape should not be allowed to stand in the way of alleviation of distress”.

Farmers have suffered damage to growing crops - fields of wheat and roots have been lost. It is felt that this, so late in the season, is a serious loss of winter feeding stuffs. Poultry, poultry cotes, greenhouses and many allotments and gardens have been washed away completely. It is hoped that in these circumstances the allotment of fruit and vegetables to the district will be on a more generous scale.

Works have been enormously damaged; plant and machinery, including electric motors, have been deep in water and mud. Employees have worked hard to clean up the mud and it is said that fourteen days will be needed to get going again.

Many people have lost working clothes and boots, bedding, furniture and floor-coverings, and immediate replacements are essential. Although a Relief Fund has been opened its publicity must be restricted because of censorship regulations, so prompt help through Government Departments or local authorities is hoped for.

Two matters on which public opinion has been expressed have been:

  1. That much could be done to improve drainage generally and water courses in particular - “iron railings at bridges being better than walls with small draining holes”.

  2. Wood at Turnell Mill should be stored above flood level as the washing down of many logs of wood was the cause of considerable damage and flooding.

(2. 3)


U.S. Troops in this Country

During the past four weeks the public's increasingly kindly feeling towards U.S. troops has in the main continued. Praise considerably outweighs criticism, though the latter is usually given in greater detail.

This improvement in relations is attributed to:

  1. The fact that people are getting to know the Americans better. It is stated that most of those who have worked with them for some time like them very much. Particularly good relations are reported between the troops and those on whom they are billeted. People are described as “beginning to realise that the majority have been slandered for the deeds of the few”.

  2. Growing appreciation of the part that U.S. Forces, and in particular the U.S.A.A.F., are playing in the war.

Only in the Northern and Midland Regions is comment said to be largely unfavourable (though from both come a good deal of appreciation), while in parts of the Southern Region and in one place in Northern Ireland, some deterioration in the previous good relations between the U.S. troops and the local inhabitants is noted.

Reported comment has chiefly centred round:

(a) Behaviour with women and girls (Eleven Regions). The whole question, particularly the relationship of young girls with U.S. troops, white and coloured, continues to be widely discussed and to cause much anxiety. People are critical of :

(i) The women and girls concerned (Ten Regions), who in many cases are said to make most of the running. Blame of the girls is more widespread, and sometimes stronger, than of the men. Their predatoriness is particularly censured; some girls are said to be dunning as many as three or four U.S. soldiers to provide for their coming child.

Some people are very concerned at what the Americans are going to say about British girls when they return home.

More women police are advocated; satisfaction is expressed where their number has been increased.

(ii) The troops (Seven Regions) who are variously blamed for accosting, making love in public, having intercourse in telephone booths, leaving contraceptives about, and for “indiscriminate” choice of women.

According to the North Midland Region report, “Mr. Kendall's speech in the House is considered to have been unfortunately worded but, nevertheless, many feel that there was truth in his allegations”.

(iii) The girls' mothers (Three Regions). However, some parents say they cannot have the same amount of control over their daughters as formerly because of difficult working hours; they would welcome some outside help from the authorities, such as a curfew.

(b) Coloured troops (Nine Regions). These are praised. In some cases they are said to be better behaved and “less sloppy” than the whites; also, in the Huddersfield area, better behaved than the British troops.

People deplore the association of coloured troops with white girls, but it is the latter who are censured. At the same time, it is suggested that the negroes might be provided with a contingent of coloured Auxiliaries., or more camp amenities so that they should spend less time out.

There is some concern at the relations between the white and coloured troops and at reports of friction between them. Recent cases of coloured men being condemned to death for rape have aroused strong local protests on grounds of colour discrimination (S.W. Region). In Norwich there is resentment that certain restaurants will not serve negroes.

(c) High pay (Seven Regions). Comment on this differs little in volume or detail from that reported last month. Nevertheless there is high praise for the Americans' generosity, especially to children (whose cadging is deplored).

(d) Driving and transport (Seven Regions). Familiar allegations of dangerous driving (Six Regions), and waste of petrol (Four Regions). People are specially indignant when they think petrol wasted on pleasure trips has been brought over by our Merchant seamen.

(e) Heavy drinking (Seven Regions). Some realise this is confined to a minority, however.

(f) Lack of recreational facilities (Seven Regions). Many are said to realise that one of the difficulties is that the men are often bored and lonely, with nowhere to go and nothing to do, particularly in the smaller places without amusement amenities.

(g) Consumption of civilian supplies (Five Regions). There is a good deal of complaint of civilian shortages being aggravated by U.S. troops. People believe the Americans have plentiful and varied food and drink in their camps, and consider it “a shame they can buy up everything in short supply”. While references are made to cakes, fish and chips, whisky and dry cleaning services, the most prevalent complaints are in connection with beer (Four Regions). The complaint about drinking up all the beer comes particularly from rural areas, where it is said that the result of an “influx of a few hundred U.S. troops into a small country village having only one or two public houses, which are already shut on several days a week, can well be imagined”. This is said to be an increasing grievance in the Southern Region, though elsewhere some people blame the brewers rather than the Americans.

Two Regional reports mention allegations of wastefulness of food, fuel and paper in U.S. camps, billets and canteens, and the resultant impression that the Americans are indifferent to British shortages and difficulties. References are also made, however, to the tactful moderation displayed by individual Americans when accepting private hospitality.

(h) Relations between U.S. and British Troops (Five Regions). The impression continues that relations are not as cordial as they might be; this is generally attributed to differences in pay and conditions. A few, however, believe relations are improving and speak of English soldiers who have trained with Americans as saying they are “excellent fellows”.

(i) Appearance and demeanour (Four Regions). Continued comment to the effect that some of the U.S. troops give a slovenly and undisciplined impression.

(j) Billeting (Three Regions). Relations between American soldiers and the people on whom they are billeted are said to be excellent. A little talk is, however, reported of varying rates of payment for the same accommodation; householders in Stockport are alleged to receive only 2d a day to billet U.S. soldiers. In the South Western Region there is also some talk of unfair billeting allocations, e.g., “one household having three successive lots, the next door people none; influential people are much suspected of wangling out of such obligations”.

(k) Damage (Three Regions). References are made to allegations of damage of various kinds by U.S. troops, e.g. to crops, hedges, game birds and their eggs, nesting swans, and spawning beds; and also, as a result of careless driving to “old bridges and historic features”.

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

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