A History of the Ministry of Information, 1939-46

63 65 3 66 4 67 5 68 6 69 7

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

No. 217. 30th November, 1944

(Covering period from 21st to 28th November, 1944)


1. General

The Western front offensive has made people rather more hopeful this week; among a few there has been a revival of the feeling that “the end of the war in Europe is not so far away”. War weariness is, however, again widely reported (Ten Regions); and people have been depressed by the bad weather and by rockets.

Prior to Mr. Bevin's explanation about the British position, people were shocked at General Eisenhower's appeal for more shells; workers particularly could not reconcile a shortage with the present closing down of factories and stories of dismissals and redundancies in this country.

On the home front employment and housing, present and postwar, continue major anxieties.

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

2. Western front

People are well satisfied with the progress of the offensive, and there are increased hopes of an early victory - some think before Christmas. By most this offensive is regarded as “the real thing”; and many expect the Germans to crack under it. General Eisenhower's statement that they have been forced to give battle west of the Rhine has been taken as support for this belief. Optimism is still restrained, however; many expect enemy resistance still to be very stiff.

The weather is universally deplored as “our worst enemy”. There is much sympathy for the troops having to cope with it, and much praise and admiration that they are nevertheless going forward. A minority express surprise that we should have risked an offensive at such a time of the year.

The successes of the French forces - particularly the capture of Strasbourg - have greatly pleased people. They are both surprised and delighted at the “brilliant recovery of the French Army”.

The air offensive : The bombing of Germany continues to give much satisfaction; people continue amazed at the way the Germans stand up to it.

The work of the R.A.F. and U.S.A.A.F. in support of the ground forces is also praised.

The Dutch : Sympathy continues to be expressed for their sufferings.

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

2a. General Eisenhower's appeal for more shells

People were amazed and shocked - munition workers, particularly. They felt that a shortage of shells was irreconcilable with:

  1. The closing down of munition factories in this country, together with dismissals and redundancies (Eight Regions). There was even a story of workers in the North Western Region unloading shells they had previously filled.

  2. Recent articles in the press stating we had enough ammunition for two or three years (Two Regions).

Mr. Bevin's statement did much to allay anxiety, and people are pleased the complaint does not apply to Britain. At the same time, a few doubt the wisdom of publicising the shortage - whether true or not - even if it was done “to ginger workers up”.

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

2b. Belgium and France

Unrest in Belgium : Concern continues. Opinion is divided about the crisis over the resistance movement. While left-wing sympathisers resent their disarmament, others look on them as disturbers of the peace.

France : People are pleased by signs of more settled conditions in France and have growing faith in her powers of recovery; they are particularly delighted at the magnificent comeback of the French Army on the Western front. However, minority distrust of the French continues.

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

2c. Inside Germany now

There continues to be much speculation about Hitler. Some hope he is still alive because they do not want to be “cheated” of seeing him punished; others think it would be as well if he were dead since many complications would be avoided.

There is also continued speculation about Germany's morale. Many now think she must very soon crack, but others continue to fear “wishful thinking”.

A few express “grudging admiration” for the way she is sticking it.

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

2d. What to do with Germany

Hatred of Germany and the desire for her to be “rendered impotent for generations to come” continue to be reported.

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

3. Rockets

Comment, concern and rumour continue, but on a far more limited scale than was the case with V1. Anxiety about the damage and casualties has been stimulated by the tales of returning travellers and by letters from friends and relatives. There are slightly increased sympathy and admiration for Londoners; some feel that “London and the South are suffering as badly as ever they did”.

The farthest points which rockets are thought to have reached this week are Northern Ireland and West Hartlepool (Co. Durham). Prior to press accounts of the R.A.F. maintenance depot explosion, people in the neighbourhood believed it to be due to an enemy missile of some kind.

There is also a little comment about a possible extension of the rockets' range and about retaliation and countermeasures. Great satisfaction is expressed with the Spitfire attack on V2 sites in Holland.

Areas affected

In London , considerable strain and tension are reported, particularly in areas in or near which rockets have fallen; women who are at home all day being specially nervous. Indifference and fortitude are, however, also reported. The lack of warning is thought by most people to increase tension, though a few still prefer it.

The only remedy generally thought likely to be effective is the capture of the launching sites.

Rumours of damage and casualties continue; casualties are thought to be high.

A few want to be evacuated; it is felt that children should not be allowed to return yet.

In the South Eastern District , reactions differ little from these in London, though comment and nervousness are less.

In the Eastern Region , a philosophical attitude continues to be reported from the areas affected. At the same time, some people are said to be distressed, strained, and anxious, particularly since nothing can be done to counteract rockets - beyond bombing launching sites.

People living in areas where rockets have fallen complain that inhabitants of other parts of England display little interest and sympathy... “we have had something of everything the Nazis could think up, and precious little in the way of compliments for East Anglia”. A few think damage and casualties have been underestimated in official reports.

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

3a. Repairs to bomb-damaged property

In London , criticism of slow repairs continues, though in Edmonton, Greenwich and Poplar repairs are said to be proceeding quite well.

Criticism refers to the following: Bad organisation, which wastes workmen's time and material; insufficient supervision of labour; insufficient men and materials; sub-contractors' work, which is said to be shoddy; the £10 limit; the fact that in some cases undamaged houses are being decorated - why is this permitted?

Volunteer workers from the North Midland Region are said to complain of poor conditions in London.

In the South Eastern District , housing repairs are thought to be slow - bad weather and the labour position being blamed. It is suggested that all building firms should come under the local authority, irrespective of the amount of labour they employ. People are particularly annoyed when returning evacuees get repairs done before those who have stayed in bombed areas.

(3. 5. 12)

4. Russia

Military : Although satisfaction and admiration continue, there has been a considerable increase in disappointment and bewilderment at the lack of progress. Many think the Russians are no longer making an all-out effort, and that they are pulling their punches for political reasons. Uneasiness is felt, particularly about the failure to drive the Germans from Warsaw and Budapest... “Is Budapest to be another Warsaw?”

Many people, however, think a big offensive will start when real winter weather sets in; they believe that adverse weather has hitherto been the chief reason for delay. Some still hope, for the usual reasons, that the Russians will reach Berlin first.

Political : Some fear is reported of Russian intentions and political policy both now and after the war; anxiety continues about Russo-Polish relations.

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

5. Far East

Some satisfaction with progress is reported. Interest has been stimulated by broadcasts given by men back from this theatre; people ask for still more news, and more maps to give a geographical background to the news items.

Burma (Eleven Regions): Pleasure at the greater publicity given to Burma is again reported; but while the campaign is followed with interest and satisfaction, there is much concern about the conditions under which the troops are fighting... “There is more talk of the raw deal our troops are getting than of military affairs”. High praise and sympathy for the men continue, and people hope they will be relieved as soon as possible and at frequent intervals.

Frank Owen's reports, and the talks given on Burma by Brigadier Irwin are appreciated; there is mixed comment on Noel Coward's broadcast (November 19).

China (Ten Regions): Disquiet about the internal situation continues, and people ask for more news. The loss of the American air bases and General Stilwell's recall still cause concern and bewilderment. Some suspect China's war effort is not as wholehearted as it might be; and doubts are now being expressed about General Chiang Kai-Shek by some who were former warm admirers. They wonder if he thinks more of political victory than of the defeat of the Japanese.

Japanese atrocities against prisoners of war (Ten Regions): Horror, indignation and increased hatred of Japan are reported at the latest revelations of Japanese cruelty. In some cases these stories have been the first “real” news people have had of local Territorial Regiments who were in Malaya.

Relatives of prisoners in Japanese hands are terribly distressed and some people wonder whether - as nothing can be done - the publication of details of treatment is justified. The father of one prisoner described these as “turning the knife in the wound”.

Japan and the Pacific (Nine Regions): The main interest this week has been in the bombing of Tokyo and the continued blows to Japanese shipping. There is much pleasure in the U.S. achievements. People are glad, too, that the Dominions are sharing in the defeat of the Japanese.

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

6. Italian and German prisoners of war

Italians : Continued resentment at the freedom and privileges of co-operators (Twelve Regions), particularly their “luxury mode of travel”. News of stricter control (November 24) has given some satisfaction to those who read about it.

People persistently fail to understand why the Italians cannot be sent home to Italy to fight for their own country and relieve our soldiers of the task (Four Regions).

There is said to be considerable comment in the North West Region about the use of Italians in the engineering trade. From Wigan it is reported that workmen in a factory rejected the suggestion that Italians should be employed, on the grounds that if they were fit for such work they could be better employed fighting. At Warrington men ceased work when Italians were brought into the factory, but this strike was speedily dealt with “in a constitutional manner” and the men resumed work.

German prisoners are also thought to be too well treated here (Two Regions).

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

7. Italy

The fighting is rarely mentioned. There is a little familiar comment about progress being slow; most people realize this is because of the terrible weather; newsreels have shown what it is like.

There continues to be sympathy and admiration for the troops, also some disquiet over stories of inadequate hospital and convalescent accommodation and poor amenities.

Field Marshal Sir Harold Alexander : This promotion has given great satisfaction. Among those who noted it, the date from which the promotion is to take effect has given special pleasure.

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

7a. Balkans

Greece (Five Regions): Warm sympathy and admiration continue, but at the same time people are growing uneasy and impatient about the internal political quarrels.

Yugoslavia (Three Regions): Great admiration for Marshal Tito and the Partisans continues.

(1. 3. 5. 7. 8. 13)

8. Army leave

Again much pleasure at the Prime Minister's statement about leave for men with long service overseas.... “It has taken away much war weariness”. But there is again some disappointment that men from the Middle East will not be home for Christmas. Some still think the overseas service period too long and hope it will be reduced. Long absence has “deprived many men of seeing their children, some of whom are now four years old”.

People also hope that men who have been on the Western front since D-Day will be given home leave soon.

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

9. The Tirpitz

The sinking of the Tirpitz continues to give much satisfaction. There are a few comments, however, that “she took some sinking”.

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

10. The new Minister of Works

Interest and comment are limited. Some people doubt whether Mr. Duncan Sandys has sufficient experience for “this enormous job”; others, however, think the appointment means the Government intends to tackle the housing problem “in real earnest”.

(2. 3. 4. 6. 7. 10. 12)

11. President Roosevelt's report on Lease-Lend

This has caused surprised and appreciative comment. People hope that what Great Britain has done will get wide publicity in other countries, specially in America.

(2. 9. 11. 12. 13)

12. Lord Moyne's assassination

Regret is again reported, together with approval of Mr. Churchill's statement (November 17) warning the Jewish organisations.

The North Western Regional report states, however, that “Lord Moyne's death has caused much distress to the Jewish community who feel that more of the background of the murder should be published, as anti-Semites are making the most of the story. Mr. Churchill's statement is criticised for giving the impression that Palestinian Jewry gives shelter to gangsters”.

(2. 5. 7. 9. 10)

13. Thanksgiving day speeches

Mr. Churchill's speech at the Albert Hall has received favourable though limited comment. He is thought to have sounded very hopeful - particularly about “moving swiftly towards victorious peace” - and fully recovered from the strain of his visit to France.

Mr. Winant's speech was also well received, his reference to Northern Ireland being particularly appreciated there.

(2. 3. 8. 13)

14. The crisis in Canada

Apparently not much interest. Various minority reactions are: surprise, as it was “taken for granted that Servicemen would serve anywhere as directed”; uneasiness that “parts of Canada aren't as loyal as they might be”; fear that perhaps this means that recent Canadian losses have been heavier than had been expected; a feeling that the war cannot mean much to people who oppose overseas conscription.

(2. 3. 8. 9)

15. Neutrals

Peace conference : Warm approval continues for the statement that “no neutral” is to have a seat at the conference. People's indignation and distrust are particularly vehement as regards Franco's Spain.

Asylum for war criminals : Dissatisfaction and disappointment continue at the statement issued by the Government of Eire.

(1. 2. 3. 5)

16. News presentation and B.B.C. programmes

There are slightly more complaints this week - chiefly of overoptimistic reports and misleading headlines, and of repetition. On the whole, however, news presentation continues to be thought satisfactory.

War Commentaries - particularly by Major Lewis Hastings - continue to be widely praised. War Reports also receive some praise, but in one Region are said to be losing their popularity.

There are again complaints of poor reception.

B.B.C. programmes : There is praise this week for “To Start You Talking” (Five Regions); Dobson and Young (Four Regions); and the Brains Trust (Three Regions).

Talks, discussions and debates of all kinds are said to be very much appreciated (Seven Regions).

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

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