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. 208. 28th September, 1944

(Covering period from 19th to 26th September, 1944)

(N.B. No reactions have yet been reported to the news of the withdrawal of the paratroops from Arnhem)


1. General

There is a slight decline in spirits this week, due to the position at Arnhem. This, and the general stiffening of German resistance, have stopped talk of the war in Europe ending in a matter of days or weeks; while the majority still expect it to be over this year, a growing minority now suggest next spring or later.

Irritation continues at the idea of sending supplies to occupied countries, where the inhabitants are now thought to be better dressed and fed than people here.

The demobilisation plan has met with widespread approval.

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

2. The battle for Germany

Enthusiastic comment on the campaign as a whole continues on familiar lines. It seems, however, that most people now expect that progress will be slower, and that stiff German resistance may continue or even increase as we approach the Rhine; this, rather than the Siegfried Line, is now felt to be the real obstacle.

The airborne invasion of Holland has been the main interest of the week and has been hailed as a remarkable achievement. People were very impressed with the scope, speed and efficiency of the operation ... “a type of warfare we have learnt from the Germans and have used to turn the tables against them”. There is profound admiration for these airborne troops ... “they should all get the V.C. and be brought home, when relieved”.

The first thrill, however, gave way to great anxiety over the position at Arnhem, where the fight was closely watched; there was great concern and sympathy for our men there. Many people doubted if the land forces would be able to link up with them, and each news bulletin was eagerly listened to in the hope that the air-troops had been relieved. A minority felt we had bitten off more than we could chew; a few suspected a bad miscalculation somewhere.

“Has the Dutch underground movement given any help, and if not, why not?” is a question some people are asking.

The roles of the British and American troops : Complaints about relative publicity continue on familiar lines; they are, however, on a reduced scale and the recently increased mention of British forces has pleased people.

A minority still think there are too many U.S. reporters and correspondents.

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

3. Conditions inside France and Belgium

Widespread surprise and considerable annoyance continue at the idea of people in occupied countries being better dressed and fed than the people here. Returning soldiers encourage the impression already created by press and news reels ... “You can buy anything you like in Paris or Brussels; no shortage there”.

People are said to be growing increasingly dissatisfied with restrictions here. A good many feel we are being deprived of food and clothing unnecessarily, to provide for people who are better off than we are. It is beginning to be said that stores of food and clothing originally intended for occupied countries should be released for consumption here (Four Regions). A minority fear that the present attitude may react unfavourably on countries, such as Greece, where there is thought to be genuine starvation. Specific comment refers to:

  1. Food (Seven Regions). References are made to ice-cream, cheap fruit, and Belgians refusing tinned meat.

  2. Clothing (Six Regions). Pictures of Paris fashions cause particular irritation; “French fancy shoes are compared with our own austerity styles”, - and women wonder whether coupon restrictions will be maintained, so as to export clothes to people apparently better dressed than themselves. They also ask “why wool of a quality denied to us should be supplied for knitting for Europe”, and there is said now to be some disinclination to continue with this work.

  3. Coal (Three Regions). People ask why we should send coal to France in view of the poor quality of much of the coal supplied here and the continuation of the heating ban - particularly “as the Belgian and French coalfields have been left untouched by the enemy and we shall soon be in the Ruhr”.

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

4. Attitude to Germany and the Germans

Discussion remains widespread and feeling strong; but comments are on almost exactly the same lines as those summarised in our last three reports. The differences are:

  1. Increased references to the fraternisation of Allied troops with German civilians (Eight Regions; five last week). People are disgusted at press descriptions of “tea parties to German civilians”; some suggest fraternisation should be a punishable offence. Incidents of this kind have lent support to fears that the Americans and ourselves will be too soft with the Germans.

  2. References to a minority (in Three Regions) who are opposed to strong punishment of the German nation as a whole. This attitude is based variously on:

    1. Christian principles.

    2. Policy - because considerate treatment may encourage co-operation.

    3. Repatriated prisoners' reports of the kind treatment they received from the Germans.

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

5. Government White Paper on demobilisation (September 22)

The White Paper has met with widespread approval (All Regions); people think it fair and reasonable - a sincere effort to be as just as possible on a very complicated issue. It is thought, and hoped, that the scheme will put an end to wangling; and people approve of the ‘age plus length of service’ basis.

The plan whereby the call-up will continue, so that many who have been “comfortable in civvy street” will be called into the Services, is particularly welcomed.

Scale B causes much discussion, and speculation as to which categories will be included.

Some are afraid the scheme may arouse false hopes and restlessness; others think it will clear up a lot of uneasiness.

There is some criticism, and/or lack of understanding, chiefly in connection with the following:

(a) Married men with children . Some people feel they should have priority over single men (Three Regions).

(b) Those with overseas service . It is thought that this should somehow count as extra service (Three Regions).

(c) Apprentices (Three Regions). There is concern about (i) those in the Forces, who, it is thought, will find it very difficult to complete their apprenticeships the older they become; (ii) those apprentices who may be withdrawn from their trade and sent into the Services, to be replaced by older demobilised men.

People feel this arrangement will prejudice our chances in the post-war international trade scramble.

(d) Small traders now in the Forces (Two Regions). There is some fear of hardship for those who have had to close down their businesses, and it is felt such people should have special consideration.

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

6. Government White Paper on social insurance

Only a few preliminary reports have so far been received.

First reactions appear to be cautious approval and pleasure, and great surprise that the plan is so extensive. But people feel they must study the details before pronouncing judgment; a typical remark is “the headlines were so staggering that I shall have to give the proposals very careful study before I can form an opinion”.

Comparisons are made with the Beveridge plan, and some are glad “most of Beveridge seems to be there”.

Criticism is of:

  1. Children's allowances (Two Regions). Some think the monetary allowances too small; others do not like assistance in kind as an alternative.

  2. Unemployment benefit finishing after 30 weeks (One Region).

(3. 5. 6. 11)

7. Flying bombs

There is some anxiety and disappointment that the attacks have not entirely ceased, though people hope the renewed raids will not last long; they expect no more than spasmodic attacks and stray bombs.

Reactions particular to London

People remain relieved that large-scale attacks have stopped; the new small-scale attacks have been accepted calmly, though a few express disappointment; it is thought the worst is over: “it won't last long”.

Post-raid services : Anxiety and discontent at the slowness and poor quality of repairs are increasing, because of the approach of winter and possible shortage of fuel. Some people are still said to be living in shelters, because their houses are not repaired.

First-aid repairs are often described as inadequate - “nothing has been done in two months to make my home habitable, other than block up all the windows; every time it rains we are deluged; the roof has almost gone”. It is bitterly remarked that “Paris will be going strong before London is”.

Repair workers are criticised as lazy, and people think more labour should be drafted in.

Some complaint is reported of the inadequacy of War Damage Compensation; and the delay in its payment and in determining the validity of claims.

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

7a. Evacuation

There is increased and widespread criticism of the Government for its “ill-advised, untimely and premature” statements about the Battle of London being over, and for its indecisiveness: “the Government have only themselves to thank for the chaotic conditions caused by giving evacuees an excuse for going back”.

Mr. Sandys' statement (September 7) is singled out (Nine Regions) for much criticism in this respect; many people think it the main reason for the evacuees returning.

Others who are thought to have contributed to over-optimism are the press, the B.B.C and the Minister of Home Security.

Some censure continues of the returning evacuees themselves, who are thought very foolhardy; though people sympathise with their desire to get back to their own homes. However, it is thought that since the renewed attacks not so many are returning.

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

7b. Explosions in the London area

In London itself , discussion and speculation are rather less. Anxiety also has declined. The majority remain certain the explosions have been caused by rocket bombs.

Most people continue to accept the official silence as necessary.

In the rest of the country there is more discussion - and more rumours. Whereas, however, last week most people outside London wanted an official statement to be made, opinion is now fairly evenly divided, and many appreciate the need for security silence.

The belief that the explosions were caused by rockets is now general. They are thought to travel through the stratosphere, and to come down faster than sound - so that there is no warning of their approach. It is said that they produce great craters, having more penetration but less blast than flying bombs. It is said also that they freeze up water in the area in which they fall, or alternatively that fragments of rocket are found covered with ice.

Stories of widespread damage continue.

Following the announcement that flying bombs were once more falling in the London area, a few people assume that the earlier explosions were due to flying bombs, and accuse the Government and the B.B.C. of concealing the facts.

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

7c. Worse to come

A number of people continue to expect some further horrible attack, as the Nazis get still more desperate. They are not, however,[Text Missing] apprehensive.

Gas remains the popular favourite, with bacteria a poor second.

(3. 5. 7. 8. 9)

7d. The Dover shelling

The sudden revival of cross-Channel shelling, after a lull of a little more than a week, came as a considerable shock to the residents in Dover and Folkestone, as they had come to believe their trials were over. They are following with intense interest news of the Allied attacks on Calais and are reported to be “greatly heartened” by the sight of fleets of Allied planes crossing the Channel to pound enemy positions.

Resentment is felt at the “foolish comments in the Press about the shelling”. Recently a photograph appeared in the ‘Daily Mail’ purporting to show the last shell being fired from France; “next day we had 14 hours' continuous shelling”.


8. Italy

Military : Satisfaction continues with the steady progress, especially the breaking of the Gothic Line by the Eighth Army; it is thought that the tough opposition has at last been overcome.

Although there has been some revival of interest with the news from Rimini and with the prospect of a quicker advance, the Italian campaign still takes a back place in public interest.

While many people appreciate the difficulties of the fighting and its costly nature, a minority feel we ought to have got on much further by now.

There is some criticism of the lack of publicity given to our troops in Italy as compared with those in North West Europe.

Praise continues for General Alexander. His broadcast was heard with pleasure.

Political : Criticism continues of our “too speedy forgetfulness” of Italy's past wrong doings. Most people regard the Italians as our conquered enemies; and have no sympathy with any fraternisation with pro-Fascists.

The Pope continues to be criticised.

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

8a. Caruso's trial and the lynching of Carreta

The predominant reaction to these events is condemnation of what is considered to be mob law - the very thing we have been fighting to suppress. It is felt that the Rome administration should not have been left without an adequate Allied guard to prevent such incidents.

Some confusion has been caused by the accounts of the Caruso trial; a minority think it was a “put up job”; another minority are pleased that Fascists are at last being tried and sentenced. The publicity given to the trial is regretted, and the pictures of the execution which appeared in the Sunday Pictorial revolted people.

There is some misgiving about future trials of Nazi collaborators and Fascists, as it is thought likely that many others will get lynched.

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

9. Russia

Russian successes in the Baltic have stimulated interest in this front, and satisfaction and admiration are widespread.

While a few continue to complain of the “lull”, others expect a large-scale offensive soon. There is some speculation as to who will reach Berlin first.

Bulgaria and Rumania (Seven Regions). Contempt for the “turn-coats”, but pleasure at their capitulation, continue.

Finland (Four Regions): Satisfaction continues with the armistice and with Russia's handling of it.

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

9a. Russo-Polish relations

People are relieved at the improvement in the Warsaw situation, but continue bewildered and anxious about Russo-Polish relations.

The rights and wrongs of the Warsaw situation continue to be debated. Russia's earlier attitude is still not understood; an increasing number now believe that her reasons were “political”. Criticism of the Polish Government in London continues on familiar lines.

Concern about our future relations with Russia is reported to be increasing (Eight Regions).

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

10. The Quebec Conference

Interest continues less than in previous conferences; but pleasure at the meeting and confidence that the results will be satisfactory are widespread.

Its purpose is believed to have been the maturing of plans for dealing with Germany, when she is beaten, and for the final assault on Japan. Mr. Churchill's statement that Britain would play her full part in the attack against Japan was approved, though some criticised his phraseology, as showing “a disregard for the horrors our men have to face”.

There continues to be some conjecture and regret at Marshal Stalin's absence. Before the announcement of Mr. Churchill's return, there was some speculation as to his whereabouts; people wondered if he was meeting Marshal Stalin.

There is some concern that Mr. Churchill should again have had to make a long journey - both because it is feared he may over-tax his health, and because “he always does the travelling”. His statement is eagerly awaited.

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

11. Far East

Interest continues slight.

Satisfaction continues with the progress in the Pacific. The severe handling given to the Japanese in the Philippines has given pleasure; it is wondered how long they can stand such heavy losses.

The lack of news of the fighting in Burma and the Pacific continues to be criticised. There is thought to be too little praise for “the forgotten Burma Army”. More maps and more information about Japan are asked for.

Conjecture continues as to our chances of finishing off the Japanese quickly after the Germans are defeated. Relatives of servicemen fear it will not be such an easy matter. It is hoped that those servicemen with the least experience of active service will be sent to fight in the Far East.

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

12. News presentation

Comment differs little from that reported last week. General satisfaction with news presentation continues, with special praise for war reports and war commentaries and some criticism of the press for over-optimism. There is praise for press photographs; also for news reels, which people think should be longer.

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



13. Relaxation of regulations

Great pleasure and relief continue, particularly at the relaxation of the black-out, and of fire guard duties. Busy people, too, are glad that compulsory Home Guard duties are abolished. Some confusion about present obligations is again reported.

Home Guard : Apart from the general satisfaction, comment has been about:

  1. Its “undramatic end” (Six Regions). Some think the wireless announcement was too abrupt; and some Home Guards complain it was “a breach of etiquette” not to have given the C.Os. any previous official notice.

  2. The “mistake” of abolishing all compulsory attendance (Four Regions). A certain number think it would have been enough if drills had been cut to a minimum.

  3. The end of the camaraderie (Three Regions). Some men who enjoyed their nights out will miss this in future.

  4. The possibility of retaining the uniform; many hope they will be allowed to keep their boots and overcoats (Two Regions).

  5. A possible award to members of the Home Guard for their admirable work (Two Regions).

Civil Defence : Comment has been mainly about the future employment of discharged personnel. Many fear unemployment, but on the other hand some people, particularly servicemen's relatives, complain that members of the Civil Defence services “will have the pick of the jobs”.

Black-out : Comment has continued on much the same lines as last week. The only new point raised is the difficulty of obtaining curtain material - making a relaxation of black-out impossible in many cases.

The “dim-out” in London : A small cross-section (200 people) of the public of London were asked, between September 20 and 22, if they were still blacking out fully at home. Three-quarters of them said that they were. The principle reason given was that they felt safer with the full black-out as long as flying bombs and V2. were still about, some adding that they did not like putting up the black-out if there was an alert. The only other reason given by a substantial proportion was absence of suitable curtains. Less than one tenth said that they did not understand the regulations, or that they had had a dispute with the wardens.

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

14. The heating ban

With the return of cold, wet weather, people are beginning to complain of the lack of heating in offices, shops, and public buildings. The heating ban is held responsible for a heavy crop of colds among office workers; people think it should be withdrawn - at any rate in the north.

(1. 2. 10)

15. Italian prisoners-of-war

Resentment continues at the freedom allowed them; feeling increases that they should be repatriated to Italy to help fight for their own country's liberation: “Why should our boys be killed for Italy while Italians are living on the fat of the land?”

People again complain of their amorous disposition, their insolence, their laziness and their bicycles.

(3. 4. 6. 9. 11)

16. Servicemen's pay

The announcement of increases for prolonged service, or in respect of service in the Far East, has given considerable satisfaction. The only criticisms are that the increases are overdue, and that they could be even larger - particularly since our men will still receive less than American or Dominion troops.

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

17. Food

Bacon (Seven Regions): The cut in the ration has caused disappointment, especially as it is thought people normally eat more bacon during the winter months.

Cheese (Three Regions): The forthcoming increase in the ration is appreciated; it is hoped that the cheese will be of better quality.

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


18. U.S. troops in this country

Comment on U.S. troops in this country has been decreasing ever since the departure of large numbers for the invasion. It has continued to decline during the past four weeks, though a good deal of talk is still reported from Wales and the North Midland and Southern Regions.

References are again made to the increased good feeling and understanding between U.S. troops and the people of this country - each side learning to make allowance for the “peculiarities” of the other. People have been impressed, too, by the way the Americans are fighting in France; there is also some appreciation for their assistance during flying bomb attacks.

Apart from this, there has been familiar comment about:

Relations with women and girls (Nine Regions): The youth of many of the girls is what concerns people most, but the women and girls are more generally blamed than the men.

Transport (Six Regions): Reckless driving, speeding and wasting petrol on frivolous journeys are all alleged.

High pay (Six Regions): This causes resentment, particularly at the thought of the advantage it gives the Americans over our own troops.

Relations with British Forces (Six Regions): People believe there to be little fraternisation, and consider the difference in pay to be the factor chiefly responsible. The alleged excessive publicity given to the American Forces in France is also thought to have had something to do with it.

Waste of material in U.S. camps (Two Regions): Allegations refer particularly to the destruction, before departure, of great quantities of commodities which the local population would have been very glad to acquire (e.g. bedding, batteries, food, etc).

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

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