A History of the Ministry of Information, 1939-46

217 218 2 219 3 220 4 221 5 222 6 223 7 224 8 225 9

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

No. 197. 13th July, 1944

(Covering period from 4th to 11th July; 1944)


1. General

Spirits remain high - with a slight rise in some Regions; in London people are steadier this week. Optimism about an early end to the war in Europe continues, due again to the good news from all fronts - particularly Russia.

The flying bomb is still the main topic, but the Prime Minister's statement has eased the situation considerably; casualties are lower than most people had expected, and fewer rumours are now reported.

On the Home Front there is much talk, in the areas affected, about the influx of evacuees from London and the south.

(1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13. No report from Region 8 this week)

2. Flying bombs

The country as a whole

The Prime Minister's statement has on the whole been received very well - though soberly. Only in London is much disappointment reported. It has done much to clear the air, relieve tension and dispel rumours - “Consternation at the unknown has to a great extent given way to concern for the sufferers”. There is, however, some regret that the statement was not made earlier, before evacuees had started to spread their stories round the country. Comment has mostly been about:

  1. The casualties , which are regarded by most people as surprisingly low. A minority, however, think that 10,000 casualties is a very high figure in such a short space of time. Some people suspect the casualties were greater than Mr. Churchill stated. A few East Anglians are under the impression that each bomb launched on London has killed only one person.

  2. Countermeasures . Some were disappointed that Mr. Churchill was not more reassuring about defeating the flying bomb; they had hoped he would announce an effective solution. Gratification that our Secret Service found out about the flying bomb so long ago has been somewhat counteracted by regret that the Government could not have made even more effective use of their knowledge.

  3. The announcement of the opening of deep shelters and of evacuation plans , which has caused some satisfaction.

General reactions to the bomb remain very much the same as last week. It is still more talked about than anything else. Rumours are fewer and, for the most part, less fantastic - largely thanks to the Prime Minister's statement.

There is much sympathy and admiration for Londoners. The general impression seems to be that they are undergoing ordeals worse than the blitz, an impression which evacuees are tireless in spreading. People visualise “old people wandering round, homes totally destroyed and with no evacuation scheme to help them”.

There is considerable diversity of opinion as to how the ordeal is being borne, and there continue to be many tales of Londoners panicking, living in the shelters day and night, and having to be turned out by the police in order that the shelters may be aired.

It seems to be generally believed that Londoners are more nervous over these raids than over any in the past. The possible effect on production of workers' lack of sleep is also causing some concern. On the other hand, people are told by returning visitors how well Londoners are taking it, working steadily, and carrying on as usual. Some believe that, once the children are evacuated, Londoners will find it easier to carry on.

Rumours of casualties are notably fewer than last week. Rumours of damage have only slightly decreased; it is said that the recent press stories of the damage, and those told by evacuees, visitors to London, and Air Raid Wardens have to some extent offset the good effect of Mr. Churchill's speech. Rumours of the bomb itself continue on the same lines, but fewer than before.

Defences and countermeasures continue to be discussed on the same lines as before, the majority hopeful that a solution will eventually be found and satisfied that everything possible is being done in the meantime. A minority feel that what we are doing now is not very effective, and are not very hopeful about the future. Almost everyone seems agreed that the only certain cure is occupation of the area of the launching sites; though a few fear the bombs range is greater than we suppose, that the launching sites can be progressively withdrawn towards Germany, and that we shall go on being bombed after we have occupied the coastal strip.

Reprisals are increasingly discussed and appear to be increasingly favoured (particularly by Londoners), though opinion remains divided. Those in favour mostly advocate threatening Germany with the systematic obliteration of her cities unless she stops the flying bombs, and in London there is said to be some support for John Gordon's articles on the subject in the Sunday Express; a few want “retaliation by the most vile weapon possible”. Those against retaliation object that this would only lead to a competition in terrorism and would be playing Hitler's game, besides, distracting our air power from military objectives.

“Worse to come” : There is a good deal of speculation about:

  1. A possible extension in the range of the bomb , which is the subject of minority concern in some parts of the country apparently well out of range at present. Bombs are already rumoured to have reached Bristol, Weston, Worcester, Birmingham, Coventry, Leicester and Northampton. In the Eastern Region there is some uneasiness at the possibility of there being launching platforms in Holland from which East Anglia can be bombed.

  2. Secret Weapon No. 2 . Gas and rockets are both feared; rocket shells of 20 tons are discussed with awe, and there are alarming pictures of the damage they are likely to inflict. Some anticipate a development of the flying bomb with oil bombs, land mines and incendiaries attached.


Discussion about the problem of finding accommodation for the “constant stream” of both official and unofficial evacuees has greatly increased in many parts of the country. Some people are sympathetic and willing to house evacuees wherever possible, but on the whole there is felt to be less readiness to billet them than in 1940/41. This is attributed to:

(a) The already serious accommodation difficulties.

In the Eastern Region, satisfaction is reported that the War Office have released a number of empty requisitioned houses; people hope more will be released. Hostels, it is suggested in another Region, should be used for evacuees.

(b) Unhappy recollections of evacuees in the past.

(c) The many women who now go out to work; they are anxious about the additional housework and food problems involved, and do not like having to leave strangers alone in their homes.

(d) The difficulty of supplying and replacing bedding and household linen.

(e) A feeling that people in large houses with few occupants get out of billeting, while small houses are crowded out.

There is criticism of unofficial evacuees “who make no plans”, and of Jews, who are said to be “the first to rush to safety”.

Food : There is again some concern over supplies in reception areas; people hope food allocations will not lag behind arrivals of evacuees. A shortage due to evacuees is reported from areas in the Southern and South Western Regions.

Localised Reactions

A. LONDON : The great majority continue to find the raids a severe trial, but first fears have to some extent died down, and there are now fewer references to terror or great anxiety. The continuity and inhumanity of the attacks have resulted in nervousness and strain and much lack of sleep, added to the shock of finding that the war is as yet by no means over. A few doubt if Londoners can stand a long bombardment.

Fear and anxiety do not appear to vary much as between bombed and unbombed areas, though they are slightly more pronounced among people in Central and South East London, mothers with young children, and women who are at home all day. Men working away from home, too, are anxious for their families.

On the other hand, a growing number have become more or less adjusted to the raids; many of them feel, moreover, that it is their contribution to the war effort and that “our boys in Normandy are getting it worse”. Military successes have also done much to help.

The Prime Minister's statement appears to have disappointed most Londoners; they had hoped for more reassurance about the future, and more information about the present. A few disbelieve the casualty figures, pointing out that no reference was made to the number of persons missing.

A good many, however, consider the speech all that could be expected, and think that it has had a good effect. They are glad that he “refused to sugar the pill”.

Mr. Churchill's statement appears to have had the effect of discouraging rumours; far fewer have been reported since he spoke.

Attitude to the Government : This is a little less critical since the Prime Minister's statement; but there are still complaints that the Government should have been better prepared, that it should have overcome the flying bomb by now, and that it should give more information about the raids.

Anything in the nature of a “we can take it” speech is resented ... “We do, because we must!”

Defences : Opinion seems about equally divided: some consider everything possible is being done and that the raids will not last much longer; others question the effect of Allied bombing, and fear that little can be done to stop the raids, which will go on for some time.

Sirens and warnings : Some people find the sirens very “trying to the nerves”, and an increase in the local warning system is asked for.

Evacuation is widely discussed. Everyone who mentions it agrees that children, mothers with children, and pregnant women should be evacuated at the earliest possible moment. At the same time, old and sick people, it is thought, should be urged to go away - even though elderly people “are taking the raids well on the whole”. While in some cases it is husbands who are insisting on wives and children leaving London, a great number of the women themselves want to get away and are inundating C.A.Bx. and similar offices with requests. In Finchley and Pinner there are reported to be difficulties in meeting evacuation demands as they have not been designated evacuation areas.

A greatly increased demand for facilities to leave London followed the Prime Minister's reference to evacuation.

More people are said to be making their own arrangements this time than during the blitz.

Shelters are increasingly used; many who did not use them during the blitz are sleeping in them now.

Public shelters are said to be very overcrowded; some are thought unhealthy and not fit to sleep in. Particular concern is expressed at the danger to children's health, “sleeping side by side with the aged and diseased in the Tubes”. Some people are reported to remain in the shelters day and night, regardless of work, shopping or meals. Some prefer to risk the bombs rather than lice and germs in the shelters.

There are complaints of lack of sub-surface shelters and of inadequate bunk accommodation; and there is mention of fights between regular bunk-holders and “newcomers”.

But people are pleased that the big deep shelters are being opened.

Post-raid services

There is now warm praise for the swift removal of furniture from blasted premises.

In the East End, there has been a little criticism of inadequate rest centre facilities; and, elsewhere, of inadequate rehousing for the bombed-out.

There are isolated references to “fictitious claims” being made for air raid damage compensation, and to “petty looting”.

An extra ration of tea would be welcomed by Londoners.

U.S. troops : Their assistance during raids is warmly appreciated.

“Secret weapon, No. 2” causes rather more concern this week, a greater number of Londoners speaking fearfully of “worse to come”. The press is blamed for frightening people with stories of 15 ton projectiles. Some wish to know how devastating the threatened weapon is likely to be, and also what precautions are being taken against it.

B. SOUTH EASTERN DISTRICT : As in London, people appear to be growing a little more acclimatised; though many - women and the less educated particularly - remain very scared. Folkestone, however, is said to prefer flying bombs to shells.

Loss of sleep is still the main difficulty, for which A.A. gunfire is largely blamed. People are very tired and in some cases work has been noticeably affected.

Most people in the S.E. feel very sympathetic towards Londoners, as most of the bombs seem to get through. A few, however, accuse “the Authorities” of not caring where the bombs drop, so long as it is short of London.

Defences : A.A. batteries are criticised by many on the grounds that the gunners fire over built-up areas, causing damage from shrapnel and any bombs they may succeed in hitting. Others say the guns never destroy any bombs, and merely chase away - or hit - the fighters. A joke, said to be current in Tunbridge Wells, is to the effect that the “bag” of one battery was “two Spitfires, two Tempests, and a Typhoon”.

Shelters : More people are sleeping in shelters or downstairs; the demand for Morrison shelters has increased. Unhealthy conditions are reported in the cave shelter in Kenley, where people are said to have been living night and day for three weeks.

Evacuation : Desire for the evacuation of women and children is reported from Caterham, districts near Sutton-at-Hone, and Egham. In Guildford, it is said far too many Londoners are arriving there, and that they should be advised to go north instead.

C. EASTERN REGION : Most people are seriously concerned; some are nervous and despondent. Some are afraid the range of the bombs may be extended; and those in places without military importance, who formerly thought themselves safe, now fear they may be hit. A growing shelter-consciousness is reported from most districts.

Sirens : It is asked whether something can be done about the warnings in coastal districts, where the bomb either coincides with or precedes the siren ... “It is very trying to hear the siren wailing away and covering the sound of the bomb, so that people cannot judge when to take cover”.

Some nervousness is also reported as a result of the sounding of too many sirens, particularly at night; though the present system is said to satisfy the people of Luton. In St. Albans a strong feeling is reported that schools should have the same crash warnings as factories.

D. SOUTHERN REGION : There is still considerable nervousness; and a renewal of references to war strain is attributed to the flying bomb.

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

3. The invasion of France

Widespread satisfaction and pride continue, coupled with confidence in the campaign's future development. Appreciation is again expressed of the strength and obstinacy of German resistance; heavy fighting ahead is anticipated.

At the same time, considerable disappointment has been reported this week at our rate of progress, especially in comparison with Russian successes. Some, however, think the campaign is playing an important part in the Russian victories.

The fall of Caen caused pleasure and relief; people hope it will speed progress. Satisfaction continues, also, at the fall of Cherbourg; there are widespread hopes of its usefulness as a port and base.

Praise for, and confidence in, our men, our leaders, and our planning continue; General Montgomery is particularly mentioned - there is great faith in his ability to outwit and outfight Rommel.

There is increased comment and anxiety about the poor weather (Nine Regions), which is thought to have been a great handicap and the main cause of any delays.

Comment about casualties and medical care does not differ materially from last week.

Field postcards are said not to be arriving, and “not to convey much” when they do.

The rumour that General Montgomery has been captured, killed, or wounded is this week reported from six Regions.

Suggestions made by the public to account for the origin of the rumours are that (a) a French village with a name somewhat similar to Montgomery was announced by the Germans as captured; (b) a newspaper correspondent named Montgomery was wounded, captured or killed.

The people of Normandy : Comment has decreased this week, though not distrust; this is thought to have been made worse by letters from servicemen in France. Tales are said to circulate (One Region) that “there were definitely French snipers”. Some blame the press for earlier wrong impressions; others are not surprised if the French dislike us, because of the devastation inflicted on their country. A few think hostility has been the exception in France.

Very little comment about conditions, though people continue to believe that the French have by no means suffered privations.

News presentation of the invasion : People are thought to be giving rather less attention to the news this week, but praise for its presentation continues.

While the B.B.C. War reports are still appreciated, it is suggested by a few that “now people have got the atmosphere of the battlefield, this item should be cut down”.

Four Regions (Seven last week) report some feeling that too much prominence is given to the Americans.

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

3a. The next move

Speculation continues. Some think we shall land next in the south of France; others favour Holland, north west France, or Belgium. Londoners continue to hope we shall capture the flying bomb bases.

In Brighton it is rumoured that airborne troops are being returned from France, and this is taken to portend another invasion soon.

(1. 3. 4. 5. 9. 12. 13)

4. Russia

Widespread praise for the sweeping victories of the Red Army continues, and there is much admiration for the organisation of the campaign and for the High Command. People are amazed at the speed of progress and optimistic that it will be maintained ... “The mileage from East Prussia is carefully noted after each communiqué”. An increasing number still hope that the Russians will be the first to reach Germany and Berlin.

Some wonder whether Germany is beginning to crack on the Russian front and will be “finished off” from the east. A few say that if hostilities do finish this year it will be largely because of Russian efforts now.

There is again some doubt about the accuracy of casualty figures given by the Russians.

Finland : Comment is less; there is still little sympathy. The news of the break in U.S. relations is again welcomed. Some people cannot understand the Finnish attitude “unless it is one of fear of what the Germans will do before they are driven out of the country”.

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

5. Italy

Though still overshadowed by other fronts, our progress in Italy continues to give widespread satisfaction; there is again praise for our Forces there and for General Alexander.

There have been no reports of reactions since the news of stiffening German resistance. Previously people were pleased that “we had them on the run”; some expected the Germans would soon abandon Italy entirely. A few, however, were even then disappointed at our slowness.

Complaints - particularly from relatives of those fighting there - of the small amount of publicity received by this theatre of war continue (Four Regions).

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

6. Germany

Increasingly bitter feeling against Germany and a growing desire for the punishment of her war criminals and for the “rigorous administration” of her territory after the war have been widely reported. The use of flying bombs, and - to a lesser degree - the treatment of Hungarian Jews, are both thought to have contributed.

Stories of gold being sent from Germany to Portugal are said to have stimulated fears that many war criminals will get away.

There is increasing speculation as to how much longer Germany can last . Some think she must soon succumb; recent speeches by Hitler and Goebbels, the belief that Germany does not want to fight on her own soil, and the capitulation to the Danish strikers are all cited.

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

7. Far East

There is again little interest this week. People continue satisfied with the progress being made. This, together with the bombing of Japan by Super-Fortresses and the recent naval victory, have increased the hope that the Japanese will be beaten soon after the collapse of Germany.

China : There is some concern over the Japanese advances in China (Three Regions), and some apprehension at rumours of political disunity.

(1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 7. 10. 11. 13)

8. General de Gaulle and the French National Committee

People continue puzzled and uneasy at the official attitude to General de Gaulle and the French National Committee. General de Gaulle's visit to America has roused little interest, but there is some hope that it will “clear the air”.

The desire that the Committee should be recognised as the provisional Government continues to be reported (Three Regions).

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



9. Food

Sugar for jam (Eight Regions): The announcement of the extra issue of sugar for jam has given pleasure. Some people, however, are disappointed at the small allowance, but a few are optimistic that more will be released later on. Disappointment is also reported on the grounds that, by the time the sugar is released, it will be too late to make use of any soft fruit that may be obtainable.

Fruit and tomatoes (Eight Regions): Complaints of the shortage of fruit and tomatoes have increased slightly this week (Seven Regions). People do not believe that the fruit shortage can be entirely accounted for by the frost. Unfair distribution, queues and under-the-counter sales continue to arouse complaint. Workers who cannot queue are said to be especially badly off. The high price of fruit is also commented on.

Milk ration (Six Regions): The cut continues to cause disappointment. It is asked whether more powdered or condensed milk could be released to make up for the cut.

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

10. Holidays

Comment is less, but there is still some demand, particularly among indoor workers, for facilities to get away for a holiday. Some think the Government should either ban holiday travel or make adequate arrangements. There is also some complaint of the difficulty of arranging accommodation.

In the North Midland Region it is said that the progress of the war has reconciled most people to the thought of spending yet another holiday at home; and there is some feeling because “those who are going away have done so each summer, and are not affected by the national need”.

In Scotland “short distance holidays are the fashion”, and accommodation is fully booked everywhere. Day trips are causing a rush on transport and restaurants.

In Northern Ireland booking to seaside resorts is said to be very heavy.

(2. 3. 5. 9. 11. 13)

11. The Government proposals for the control of land

Interest continues limited. However, what comment there is is now entirely adverse. People are dissatisfied with the rejection of the Uthwatt proposals for balancing compensation and betterment, and feel the Government's proposals are inadequate and piecemeal.

The Land Bill is said to be a blow to many hopes, and to have strengthened people's cynicism about the Government's intentions.

(1. 3. 6. 7)

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