A History of the Ministry of Information, 1939-46

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

No. 207. 21st September, 1944

(Covering period from 12th to 19th September, 1944)


1. General

People continue delighted with Allied progress in Western Europe and the fact that the Germans are now having a taste of war on their own soil; also with the relaxation of the blackout and other regulations.

Spirits remain at the same high level as last week; in London, however, they are slightly lower because of the renewal of flying bomb attacks; and the explosions, which are the subject of widespread rumours all over the country.

The end of the war in Europe is still expected within a week or two, or by Christmas at the latest; but optimism is said to be a little more subdued than it was.

Postwar problems loom large, particularly employment, housing and demobilisation.

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

2. The battle for Germany

There continues to be widespread amazement and enthusiasm at the “breath-taking” speed of Allied advances ... “We have out-blitzed Hitler at his own game”. The planning, organisation and execution of the campaign are all the object of profound admiration, and the lightness of the casualties is the subject of special relief.

Comment, which is seldom detailed, is chiefly about:

The fighting on German territory : People are delighted that the Germans are now having a taste of war on their own soil. There is also pleasure and surprise that the Siegfried Line has been so quickly pierced. Two minority reactions are pleasure that the invasion of “Germany proper” has been from the West and not from the East, and disappointment that the British were not the first in.

Opinions differ as to the strength of opposition likely to be encountered from now on. Those who think resistance will stiffen, now that the fatherland itself is being defended, appear to outnumber those who expect a speedy collapse. The prospect of tougher fighting on German soil - with corresponding devastation - causes no dismay, except at the possibility of heavier casualties.

The airborne invasion of Holland has caused pleased excitement, according to preliminary reports.

The capture of some of the Channel ports was received with relief, particularly that of Le Havre; the small number of casualties there, compared with the number of prisoners, was favourably noted. There is said to be some confusion as to which ports have been taken and which are still holding out.

The roles of the British and American troops and the publicity accorded them continue to be discussed on familiar lines. Satisfaction at the British entering Brussels has been some compensation for the U.S. march through Paris; increased publicity given to British achievements has, too, done something to quieten resentment at what was regarded as too much limelight for the Americans.

Field-Marshal Montgomery : His address to the men under his command (September 17) was thought most inspiring. His promotion and the circumstances attending it still continue to cause familiar comment.

F.F.I : The exploits of the F.F.I have aroused admiration - even enthusiasm - and have removed much of the anti-French feeling which existed before D-Day. Some persist, however, in the belief that the French let us down in 1940 and are still not to be trusted.

General de Gaulle's thanks for British help are appreciated, but a few still consider that the F.F.I. claimed too much credit for the liberation of Paris, “which was, after all, made possible by British and American spadework”.

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

2a. Conditions inside France and Belgium

Surprise and intense annoyance continue to be widely reported on the same lines as last week, though on a slightly reduced scale. People feel they have been misled about conditions in occupied countries and are beginning to think that, instead of our making sacrifices for starving Europe, perhaps something could now be done for “the ordinary civilian in this country, who is considered to have had the rawest deal of all”. Particular reference is made to:

  1. Clothing . Women who have “spent hours on make-do and mend” are infuriated when they see newsreels showing fashion displays in Paris and read of “the smartness of the Parisians and their new perfumes”.

  2. Food . “Soon the liberated countries will be feeding starving Britain”, is the kind of comment caused by photographs of plump French and Belgians and accounts of ice-cream in Brussels.

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

3. Attitude to Germany and the Germans

Hatred of Germany, discussion of how to deal with her after the war, fear that we shall be too lenient and that war criminals will escape retribution - all these continue to be widely reported on the same lines as last week. People are determined that the Germans must have a thorough experience of war on their own soil; “we must give them what we failed to give them in 1918”, smash our way through Germany, and not stop till we reach Berlin.

There are two new points since last week, in connection with:

Allied troops fraternising with German civilians (Five Regions). There are strong objections to press photographs of American troops feeding German civilians (September 16). Satisfaction is, however, mentioned, that the Americans obliterated a German village.

The Germans' friendly reactions to the invading armies (Two Regions) . It is felt the press and B.B.C. are over-doing this; the Germans, it is thought, can only be trying to curry favour ... “too late for soft soap now”.

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

4. Explosions in the London area

Numerous widespread rumours of a new weapon being used against London, causing mysterious explosions, are this week reported from twelve Regions. The majority of people consider they are caused by V2 - an enemy rocket bomb. Explosions are thought by many people to have occurred at Chiswick, Kew and Dagenham; other places in or near London are also mentioned, as well as places as far afield as Nottingham, Newcastle and Belfast.

It is rumoured that the explosions are terrific and cause enormous damage, e.g. craters larger than the Houses of Parliament; blast carrying debris back across the channel; everyone and everything blown to dust; one explosion killing 5,000 people.

The majority think an official statement should be made, to deter evacuees from returning and to stop rumours. A few appreciate that an announcement would help the Germans.

Reactions in London

The explosions have been a main topic of discussion. Here, too, the general view is that they are caused by V2. Rumours of damage are more moderate than in the rest of the country and are declining; there are still a few who attribute the explosions to sabotage; others say the rocket is covered in ice or that there is ice in the crater after the explosion.

The majority now accept official silence as a necessity.

There is little anxiety, though a few are worried by the lack of warning. Most people do not expect the nuisance to last for long.

Returned evacuees are annoyed to find what they have come back to.

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

4a. Further enemy weapons

Speculation continues and a number of people expect the Germans to launch yet another weapon against us. Gas is the most popular guess (Four Regions).

(1. 3. 5. 8. 10. 12. 13)

5. Flying bombs

The country as a whole

Earlier in the week people were very relieved that the attacks had ceased and that people in London and the South East were having some peace. There has been some concern at their renewal, and sympathy and admiration for those in target areas. Two suggestions are that London should be awarded the George Cross and Kent have the George Medal.

Mr. Duncan Sandys' statement (September 7) has caused continued interest; there is widespread admiration for our methods of defence. With the return of V1, and the new explosions, there is now some feeling that Mr. Sandys spoke too soon.

There is some suspicion (Three Regions) that the official casualty figures are an understatement.

Reactions in London

At the beginning of the week, most people thought this particular menace was ended; renewed activity has correspondingly damped some spirits.

Post-raid services : Complaints of slow and poor quality repair work to damaged houses have increased. It is said that roofs are left with the rain still able to penetrate, and that the substitute window material gets detached from the frame by wind and rain in a few days.

It is thought more provincial labour should be drafted in, though drafted builders in Stepney complain of being put on to repair non-useful factories, and of being moved on to other jobs when one is only partly finished.

There is some confusion as to whether local authorities or private contractors are responsible for final repairs. Some traders are “insisting on a firm order and a deposit” before giving estimates for submission to the War Damage Commission and Board of Trade.

Reception areas : People now think they should receive more praise for their kindness.

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

6. Evacuation

Discussion this week is largely confined to the wisdom - or otherwise - of evacuees returning home. A big majority think it very foolish, though this does not preclude relief and pleasure among billetors where evacuees do decide to return.

A number of people think the Government should forbid evacuees to return; others that they should be warned more precisely about the possibility of rocket bombs. The Government is criticised for causing confusion by contradictory official statements and policy. Mr. Sandys' statement and the end of official evacuation are contrasted with the “stay put” advice to people already evacuated.

Chief factors in encouraging people to return home are thought to be: Mr. Sandys' statement; the easing of the blackout; evacuees' anxiety about their homes; the decrease in the number of raids; and the suspension of the evacuation scheme.

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

7. The Quebec Conference

This has been overshadowed by news from the Western front. Nevertheless, people are pleased Mr. Churchill and Mr. Roosevelt have met again. Some, however, fear that all this travelling is too much for the Prime Minister, and ask “Why couldn't Roosevelt come here?”

People expect results - “like after the last Conference”, but they hope no modification has been made in the unconditional surrender terms for Germany.

M. Stalin's absence (Nine Regions) is regretted. It is variously attributed to (a) Russia not being at war with Japan; (b) Stalin preparing a knock-out blow for Germany; (c) “His stand-offishness”.

Marshal Chiang Kai-shek's absence (Two Regions) added, it is felt, to the incompleteness of the Conference.

Mr. Eden's flying visit caused speculation.

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

8. Russia

Interest in the Eastern front continues overshadowed by events in the West, but admiration for Russia's progress in the Balkans remains widespread.

Some are surprised that Russian progress in East Prussia has been so slow; others think the Germans intend to hold the Russians off, possibly at the cost of letting us in, because “we shall treat them less roughly”.

Others continue to speculate as to who will reach Berlin first.

Finland : Little interest is reported, and no sympathy. People think she should have made peace long ago and that if she receives harsh terms now it is her own fault.

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

8a. Russo-Polish relations

The Russian entry into Praga and intensification of activity on the Warsaw front have pleased and, to some extent, reassured people. Confusion, uneasiness and concern, however, continue to be widely reported.

The majority remain suspicious of Russia's attitude, for the familiar reasons. Criticism of the Poles - particularly of the Government in London - also continues on the usual lines.

Sympathy for the patriots is widespread and people hope their ordeal will soon be over.

Fears of the possible repercussions of the situation on Allied unity also continue to be reported.

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

8b. Bulgaria and Rumania

There is general admiration for the way Russia has handled Rumania and Bulgaria - particularly the latter. A few, however, think these countries are escaping too lightly, and contrast this with Russia's attitude to Poland.

People remain contemptuous and distrustful of both countries.

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

9. Italy

Military : Although much overshadowed by events on the Western front, satisfaction with the steady progress of a very difficult campaign is reported. People appreciate the stiffness of the opposition and express sympathy for troops “enduring bad conditions without much praise and glory”. They feel the campaign has not had its deserts either in the press or on the radio. A minority think “big things may happen any moment”, and hope that action from the south of France towards the Po Valley may relieve the weight on the Forces near the Gothic Line.

A few, however, continue disappointed at the rate of progress and some wonder if the troops have adequate air support. Again, a few are puzzled by the heavy fighting on the Gothic Line ... “Why don't we drop men behind?”

Faith in General Alexander is again reported.

Political : Anxiety about civil administration is reported. Some people fear we are showing weakness towards the Fascists and that “Italy is being allowed to get away with it”. People cannot forget former treachery and ask if “collaboration by Italy is a full remission of past sins”.

Criticism of the “apparently pro-Nazi Pope” continues.

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

9a. Italian prisoners of war

Growing dissatisfaction about the increased privileges and lenient treatment accorded to Italian prisoners of war - and the results - is reported from seven Regions. There is indignation at the way girls and young women flirt and walk about arm-in-arm with them. People object also to their receiving bicycles when civilians have none; and to their being transported in special buses when workers have to queue or walk. It is thought that if they are admitted to Service Canteens there will be serious trouble; quarry workers in Derbyshire object to their being served in their canteens, and they are said to be banned from W.V.S. Canteens.

People recall the cruelties which the Italians inflicted on our men in Africa, and on British prisoners of war. It is generally suggested that the best thing to do with them is to ship them back to Italy to fight for their country.

(2. 3. 4. 6. 7. 8. 11)

10. Far East

This theatre of war continues to be eclipsed by events in Europe, and interest is slight.

Satisfaction is, however, reported at the news of the losses of Japanese planes and shipping during American attacks on the Philippines - regarded as a major disaster for the Japs.

Speculation continues as to how long the war against Japan will last after the finish of the European war. People hope Servicemen who have been through many campaigns will not be sent out to the East.

The desire for more news of the Far Eastern war continues. Relatives of soldiers in the 14th Army are said to think their men have been forgotten by the powers-that-be.

There is support for the view that the pay of our men in India should be increased.

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

11. The shelling of Dover and Folkestone

People in shelled areas complain of having a terrible time; They say they have suffered “as much as should be expected”. There is, however, no sign of panic; they remain sustained by the hope that the Germans cannot hold the Channel ports much longer.

The ‘Folkestone Herald’ is censured for printing in large headlines “You can all come back”.


12. News presentation

General : The majority regard the news as being well handled apart from the relative publicity given to U.S. and British troops, complaints about which are now declining.

B.B.C : Continued praise for:

  1. War Reports (Eight Regions), though a minority still consider there are too many U.S. and Canadian speakers.

  2. Major Lewis Hastings (Seven Regions).

The press (Seven Regions) is blamed for encouraging optimism, and for publishing too many unconfirmed statements and premature announcements. The B.B.C., though considered slower in releasing news than the press, is regarded as more truthful.

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



13. Relaxation of blackout

Great pleasure continues. In many towns people went out just to see the lights; in Glasgow and Edinburgh, and elsewhere in Scotland, “thousands paraded up and down the streets gazing at the lights”. People continue to interpret the relaxation as a sign the end of the war is in sight.

Some minority dissatisfaction is, however, expressed in connection with:

  1. The relaxation being premature (Seven Regions). “It's tempting Jerry.”

  2. Half measures having been taken (Seven Regions). “If the blackout is no longer necessary then full lighting should be allowed.”

  3. The confusing nature of the present position (Six Regions). Some people do not know:

    1. How much light is allowed. “Is frosted glass sufficient?” “The police state curtains must not be flimsy, but all curtains now are flimsy and replacements out of the question.” A few also wonder what is to be done about churches and permanently blacked-out factories.

    2. Where the relaxation does or does not apply. At Bridport, for instance, “the streets were thronged with people on Sunday evening waiting to see the lights go up, but things are just as they have been and many people feel they have been badly let down and disappointed.”

  4. Alleged lack of timely instructions to local authorities (Four Regions), who have been unable to comply because of equipment difficulties. They point out that by the time they have adapted street lighting “all need of a dim-out may have gone”.

  5. The continued restrictions in coastal areas (Three Regions). Disappointment is reported in the South Western Region and Wales, and the preliminary announcement is blamed for having raised false hopes. On the other hand, people on the East Coast are pleased, as “they feel safer with the blackout”.

  6. The failure to allow brighter headlamps on vehicles (Three Regions).

  7. The negligible improvement in street lighting in some places (Two Regions).

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

13a. Home Guard, Fireguard and Civil Defence

General satisfaction continues at the casing of duties. Among paid Civil Defence workers and fire guards, however, there is some fear of unemployment.

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


14. The Lublin atrocities

During the past three weeks little spontaneous comment has been received. People are believed to be loth to discuss or even to think of the stories - some are said to refuse to read them in the press.

The majority believe the stories and are deeply horrified and shocked at the disclosures. They find them almost incredible. Hatred of the Germans has been intensified ... “such stories can never be forgiven nor forgotten”. They are insistent that the perpetrators and anyone in any way connected with these atrocities must be punished - some think the whole German people must be held responsible. In any case they are thought added evidence of the need for a “tough” peace and for the complete re-education of Germany.

Only minorities are sceptical of the stories' truth or believe them to be exaggeration or propaganda. Some of these quote last war atrocity stories - particularly “corpse-factory” stories - afterwards found to be untrue. Others are chary because there has been no “official” statement about them. Some find the stories incredible and “foreign” and cannot possibly believe them. A few are suspicious because they come from Russian sources, but these are changing their minds as similar stories are received from France.

Another minority are “keeping an open mind” and suspending judgment until there is more evidence.

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

15. Shaving of women collaborators' heads

During the past three weeks there has been little spontaneous comment although, when the subject was mentioned, most people apparently knew quite clearly what they thought. It seems that, although opinion is divided, a definite majority disliked the practice, and people are glad it has now ceased. On the whole men seem to have been more shocked than women.

Those who objected did so on the grounds that:

  1. It means a descent to mob or lynch law; it is the antithesis of all civilised ideas of punishing people only after trial.

  2. Sadistic methods of punishment are just what we are fighting against.

  3. It is crude and repulsive; it made people feel vaguely uneasy and distressed. Newsreels and photos in the papers shocked people particularly.

  4. It gives an opportunity for merely paying off private scores.

  5. Such methods are silly.

The minority who did not object or who approved said:

  1. “Serve them right, they deserve it”.

  2. It does no great harm.

  3. It is not our business and the French should be left to do as they think fit; local people are the best judges.

  4. They got off very lightly, and deserved more severe punishment.

  5. It was “rather a joke”.

  6. We should have done the same in similar circumstances. A few (Two Regions) even say some of our own women could do with similar treatment.

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

16. Youth and morals

During the past four weeks comment has continued on familiar lines, and complaints have again been chiefly of:

(a) Sexual immorality (Nine Regions), with troops of all nationalities, particularly Americans, both black and white, on the part of young girls, including some in their early teens, and young married women whose husbands are abroad. People wonder what will happen when these husbands return.

In some areas there has been less comment since the departure of many Americans.

From two Regions there is criticism of the behaviour of young girls with Italian prisoners of war.

(b) The drinking habits of young girls and boys (Six Regions); this is thought to increase the immorality problem.

(c) Hooliganism and delinquency among children, especially boys (Six Regions). Wilful destruction of property, thieving and housebreaking are all commented on.

(d) General rudeness and bad behaviour of young people of both sexes (Two Regions).

It is also deplored that young people start their working lives with no ideals of service or communal responsibility, but only with thoughts of “dance halls, pictures and dogs”.

Factors blamed are : (a) High wages paid to boys and girls (people wonder what will happen to these youths after the war); (b) Lack of parental control and break-up of family life, through fathers being in the Services and mothers working; (c) Lack of discipline at school; (d) The leniency of present-day parents; (e) The “weak and sentimental” attitude of Juvenile Courts; (f) The preponderance of sensational and horror films, even at special children's showings.

Remedies suggested are very few. Again it is thought there should be more women police and more counter-attractions to the pubs. In this latter connection there is considerable indignation in Scotland at the Glasgow Corporation's refusal to allow British Restaurants or other premises to remain open in the evenings.

Youth organisations (Seven Regions). There is some approval of the work done, and people think they should be further developed and their number increased in rural areas. At the same time a number of people criticise youth organisations for lax discipline and catering only for amusement. It is said they do not teach practical crafts such as cookery or woodwork; nor the responsibility of citizenship.

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

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