A History of the Ministry of Information, 1939-46

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

No. 193. 15th June, 1944

(Covering period from 6th to 13th June, 1944)


1. General

The invasion of France has produced a complete change in public feeling - relief from tension, a marked rise in spirits and a feeling that the final phase of the war has at last begun. There is little mention of war weariness now.

Though confident and hopeful, however, the great majority are calm and restrained, realising the risks and difficulties of so vast an undertaking and the possibility of set-backs and heavy casualties.

Nevertheless, people are once more beginning to hope that the war may be over this year ... perhaps by the autumn. A few think it may only be a matter of weeks.

Events in Italy, though overshadowed by invasion news, have given great satisfaction.

Home Front : A sharp decline in comment is reported, but housing and clothing problems are still discussed.

Many people are wondering whether or not to go away for a holiday.

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

2. The invasion of France

Sober hopefulness sums up the general attitude and the great majority are calm and confident ... with feelings well under control. People are relieved that such a good start has been made, and thankful that “the most serious hurdle of all has been surmounted”. Over-optimism of the “Paris in a month or less” variety seems confined to a minority, and there is general realisation of the immensity of the task and the strength of the opposition to be faced.

There is profound admiration for all concerned in the planning, organisation and performance. People continue to marvel at the thoroughness of the preparations, the scale of the operations, and also “the marvellous way the secret was kept”.

There is hardly a branch of the Services engaged which is not the object of praise and interest. Particular reference is, however, made to the R.A.F., the Navy and the glider troops. The U.S. troops are also praised; there has been a spontaneous increase in sympathy for them, and they are now regarded as “comrades-in-arms, and not strangers”.

The operations themselves are not the subject of detailed comment, though reference is made to the amazing speed with which beachheads were established, the absence of strong German resistance during the first stages, and the limited appearance of the Luftwaffe. All this causes satisfaction to most people, but a minority are uneasy, feeling that Hitler may have something up his sleeve, while a few are pessimistic and say the Germans are allowing us to gain a foothold, as at Anzio, before they start to counterattack. Some people will feel easier when we have captured a good port.

The weather has given rise to much anxious comment, particularly among people in coastal districts who realise the difficulties it is likely to cause.

The Channel Islands are the subject of speculation and rumour; German reports of unsuccessful landings have caused some anxiety and people are asking for news, refugees from the Islands being particularly concerned.

Casualties : Though there is great relief at statements that they are proving less than had been expected, many feel casualties are likely to be heavy in the stiff fight ahead, and there is much anxiety - not only among relatives. Women with men taking part, however, though deeply anxious, are said to be bearing up very bravely and with “an undoubted sense of pride” ... realising that “their boys are doing their greatest job”. Postcards now arriving from the front are helping to relieve anxiety, and the postal arrangements have impressed people.

The possibility that relatives of second front casualties may not be able to visit them if the hospital is in a banned area is the cause of some bitterness.

Casualty rumours (whether of vast numbers, or of train loads of wounded reaching or passing through particular places) are already in circulation (Five Regions), and are thought by some to be encouraged by the publication of German communiqués.

Repercussions in this country : Great surprise and relief at the absence of retaliatory bombing and much speculation as to the reason. Some now assume the Luftwaffe is “dead”; others are less sanguine and realise that air reprisals may still come. Dover people, who had been getting optimistic over the lack of shelling, are now facing the fact that they must expect it - after the five hours' shelling (June 13) during which 15 shells landed in the town alone - but they are said to have taken it very well. The short alerts in London early on Tuesday morning (June 13) do not seem to have concerned Londoners much.

There has again been a good deal of satisfaction at the absence of fuss when invasion started. People had expected considerable dislocation of civilian life, and the “business-as-usual atmosphere” has been a pleasant surprise.

The effect on the war effort : There are again references to the stimulating effect on workers (Seven Regions), and to their intense interest in the news. Most references are of a general nature - “working like niggers” ... “absenteeism dropped to a minimum”. The Midland Region report mentions a particular case, in which the manager of a steel-rolling mill states that production has gone up every day since Tuesday (June 6). There seems some doubt as to how much miners have been influenced, however.

Interest in “Salute the Soldier”” weeks is said to have been much stimulated, though a few people are saying that “now invasion has started the war will soon be over, and there is no need to invest”.

The Prime Minister's visit to the beaches : People admired his spirit and guts in wanting to go, but hoped he would be dissuaded, in view of the risk both to his safety and his health. Some also feared the possible dislocation of plans involved in affording him the necessary protection. Nevertheless it is thought that his visit will have inspired the troops and also that it indicates how secure the position must be.

News presentation : Approval is almost unanimous for the way the B.B.C. and press have presented the news. The courage of reporters and correspondents, the fullness and vividness of their dispatches, and the speed with which they have been presented to the public are enthusiastically praised.

Eyewitness accounts, whether by press or B.B.C., are particularly appreciated, but there is especial praise for “hot” recordings by the B.B.C ... “nothing brings the war closer to people”. The B.B.C's War Reports after the 9 p.m. News are said to be the high spot of the day's news, and are particularly praised for the vivid impressions they give of battle conditions. Howard Marshall's commentaries are described as magnificent.

News reels and press photographs of the invasion are greatly appreciated.

While satisfaction is general, the following criticisms (mostly of the B.B.C.) are made:

  1. Some of the correspondents' reports are too harrowing or gruesome (Five Regions), particularly to the relatives of men engaged. Special mention is made of an account of a plane being shot to pieces (which two mothers with sons in the R.A.F. are said to be unable to forget - “it cost them sleepless nights”), and of details of Germans machine-gunning troops as they left landing craft (which is said to have caused much distress). On the other hand, it is stated that the B.B.C's prompt and graphic accounts have done much to relieve the anxiety of Forces' relatives at a time when they expected no news for several days.

  2. Too much dramatisation (Four Regions) by both B.B.C. and press. Some commentators are said to make the second front like a sports event ... “Their running commentaries are what we expect from a football match where no lives are at stake”. It is also objected that their broadcasts make it all seem too easy. The people who like straight news ask for “less dramatics”.

  3. B.B.C. reporters getting wounded men to speak into the microphone (Three Regions). This is thought to resemble the practice of “less reputable newspapers in disturbing grief-stricken families when a suicide or murder story is being worked up”. One report states that some people were disgusted, especially as “one of the men obviously could hardly speak”; this is said to have caused the collapse of a woman who had already lost her husband and brother.

  4. The fact that the Germans announced the invasion before we did is a matter for some regret (Three Regions).

H.M. the King's broadcast has been greatly appreciated by the majority, on whom its sincerity has made a deep impression. Some think it the finest he has given. The call to prayer has been specially welcomed, though more by women than by men. A minority, men in particular, felt the broadcast “lacked a special message to the boys going over”, and would have preferred something more stirring.

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

2a. The French

People are speculating on the attitude of the French civilian population to the Allies, and want more news as to how they are reacting to our invasion. The French are viewed with mixed feelings, in which distrust and bitterness appear to be uppermost. Some people, however, think that the peasants will help us, even if the upper classes do not.

The French National Committee : The wish that it should be recognised appears to be considerably stronger and more widespread than the feeling that it is not representative. A good deal of bewilderment, suspicion and uneasiness are reported, and people continue to blame the U.S.A. for not supporting General de Gaulle, and our Government for giving in to the American point of view. A few suspect that the Government are merely hiding behind U.S. unwillingness to recognise de Gaulle as “they, too, dislike him”.

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

2b. The next move

There is widespread speculation on the possibility of further landings, and armchair strategists are once more at work. The warning to fishermen in occupied countries to remain in port has been taken by many as a sign that more landings are imminent, though a few regard it as bluff.

Some people think that the trump card has not yet been played and that major landings will take place elsewhere as soon as we have secured a decent port and can release shipping, or when we have drawn as many Germans as possible into the Caen area. Others think that the present operation is the main one and that Paris is our major aim.

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

3. Italy

Although overshadowed by events in Normandy, the progress of the Italian campaign has been followed with widespread pleasure, and there is high praise for General Alexander and for the speed of the advances.

Satisfaction at the fall of Rome, relief that the city has not become a battleground, and criticism of the Pope's appeal continue as last week. Some resentment is reported that the American troops had the honour to be the first to enter Rome while “we had the heavy fighting”; and there is also some scepticism about all the “kissing and bouquets” and protestations of friendship (Two Regions each).

Concern over casualties continues.

Political (Six Regions): People are pleased that King Victor has handed over his powers, and though some regret he has not abdicated, they accept the arrangement as the “best possible compromise”. The resignation of Badoglio has given relief, as he is not trusted.

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

4. Russia

Comment remains limited. Preliminary reports show great satisfaction with the offensive on the Finnish front.

It had generally been expected that the Russians would soon make a move, but many people had expected the attack to be launched from the East or through the Balkans. A few now think either that the Karelian campaign is a “preliminary diversion”, or that the idea may be to knock out Finland and link up with the Allies through Denmark and Norway.

Political (Three Regions): Some apprehension about Russia's intentions, and anxiety about her relations with Poland continue.

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

5. Neutral countries

Spain (Eleven Regions): Criticism continues of the Prime Minister's references to Spain in his review of foreign policy.

Turkey : People are puzzled by Turkey's attitude and wonder what her exact position is (Four Regions). There is criticism of her unwillingness to come in on our side, and, in the Northern Region, of her action in allowing German ships through the Dardanelles.

Portugal : Satisfaction is reported at her agreement to cut supplies of wolfram to Germany (Three Regions).

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

6. Far East

Interest continues slight and in some cases has now faded entirely into the background.

Burma (Eight Regions): People are satisfied with our progress but there is still some confusion as to what is actually happening there.

Pacific (Four Regions): Progress continues to be praised.

China (Three Regions): Concern for her and the desire to help her more continue.

Prisoners of war in Japanese hands (Three Regions): Concern for them is again reported.

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

7. Allied air offensive

Very little comment has been reported on the air offensive apart from the part played in the invasion of France.

Pleasure continues with the newly established U.S. air bases in Russia, and people are watching for news of U.S.A.A.F. operations from there.

(1. 2. 4. 9. 12)

8. The Speaker's Conference on Electoral Reform

This has aroused very little comment but there has been some disappointment with the recommendations - particularly the retention of plural voting.

In Ulster and Wales there is said to be satisfaction that these places will retain the same numbers of parliamentary members as at present.

(1. 5. 6. 8. 12. 13)

9. Broadcasting and presentation of news

Little comment has been reported apart from praise for the presentation by press and radio of the news of the invasion of France.

Criticism of : The General Forces Programme (Five Regions); programmes in general (Two Regions); the loudness and “unmusicality” of the incidental music for plays, especially Don Quixote (Two Regions).

Praise for : The Postscript by a former naval surgeon June 4; Saturday Night Theatre (Two Regions each).

ITMA (Two Regions): Disappointment that this will be discontinued.

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



10. Food

Colonel Llewellin's statement on the food position has given considerable satisfaction. The promise that there would be extra sugar for jam making again this year particularly pleased people.

There is some regret, however, that the milk ration has to be cut.

Ration book distribution (Five Regions) continues to be praised.

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

11. The cancellation of trains

The cuts continue to be accepted philosophically and criticism has now practically ceased. A few ask for still stronger measures to prevent all unnecessary travel. A lead about holiday travel continues to be asked for.

There was some surprise that more disruption of transport was not caused by the invasion.

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

12. Italian prisoners of war

During the past three weeks there has been some criticism of the “soft” treatment of Italian prisoners of war and of their freedom to roam about. In the North Midland Region miners are alleged to have refused to work with “co-operators” in the pits.

Some people, however, are said to like them and there is praise for them as farm workers.

(1. 3. 6. 8. 11. 12)

13. The Holmfirth flood

The following report has been received from the North Eastern Region:

The publication of the news of the Holmfirth cloud-burst disaster on Whit Monday has shocked many people, and there is much sympathy for the sufferers. It is asked if neglect, due to the shortage of labour owing to war conditions, had anything to do with increasing the trouble. In Holmfirth, householders, shopkeepers and the owners of comparatively small mills (i.e. mills employing a few hundred work people) have suffered severe losses in consequence of the flood that followed. It appears that the householders affected are to be allowed to obtain Utility furniture, and that special supplies of floor coverings, mattresses are to be made available. The chief needs of many of them, however, are money and homes fit to live in. Financial losses are also the chief concern of the businesses affected. Unless something can be done for them, some may be driven out of business.


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