A History of the Ministry of Information, 1939-46

53 54 2 55 3 56 4 58 6 59 7 60 8 61 9 62 10 63 11

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

No. 209. 5th October, 1944

(Covering period from 26th September to 3rd October, 1944)


1. General

Spirits have again declined owing to the sobering effect of:

  1. Our withdrawal from Arnhem, together with the loss of so many men there.

  2. Stiffening German resistance generally.

  3. The Prime Minister's reference to the possibility of the war continuing into 1945.

People have been jolted out of their optimism about a speedy end to the war, and the majority now speak of spring 1945 as the finishing date. A few, however, while no longer thinking in terms of days or weeks, still expect peace by Christmas.

The Government's White Paper on social insurance has on the whole had a good reception, although some points are the subject of considerable controversy. The demobilisation plan continues to be thought fair and reasonable.

Anxiety is still prevalent about housing and employment - present and future.

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

2. Arnhem

The battle and subsequent withdrawal have in turn been the main interest of the past week. The news of how things were going at Arnhem was the “most eagerly awaited since Dunkirk”. Anxiety over the position, already reported last week, increased daily and found confirmation in the ban on news. Nevertheless, after all the excitement and enthusiasm over the airborne landings, the withdrawal came as a great shock and caused widespread disappointment. The outcome is generally regarded as a serious setback, those who thought the war as good as won being particularly dismayed by this evidence of the strength and determination of German opposition. Comment chiefly centres round:

(a) The operation itself . The majority view is that the undertaking represented a legitimate risk which did not come off. People believe that if it had succeeded it would have resulted in the turning of the Siegfried Line and the shortening of the war. This majority consider that the bad weather was the main factor against success, coupled with unexpectedly severe German resistance. They feel, too, that the venture was not entirely unsuccessful, though there is some reluctance to accept assurances that it was worth all the sacrifices involved. Field-Marshal Montgomery's words to General Urquhart - “You did not fail” - are thought to have gone a little beyond the facts.

A minority criticise the operation as a serious blunder on the part of the High Command, who are accused of over-optimism and running undue risks. (The relatives of men involved are said in one report to be very bitter.) The Prime Minister's words have, however, reassured some of those who doubted the wisdom of the undertaking.

Once more it is asked why the British troops get the toughest jobs.

(b) The men taking part . There is unanimous admiration and praise for the heroism and endurance of those taking part, and great sorrow that so many brave men have been lost. Many people feel that the survivors should receive some special recognition, either in the form of an “Arnhem medal” or immediate return home ... “They've done their bit”.

There is praise, too, for those who attempted to fly supplies to Arnhem, and for the war reporters who landed with the airborne troops.

(c) Optimistic forecasts . Some people consider that the first reports of the landings (particularly in the press) were too optimistic and flamboyant, giving the impression that they were bound to succeed.

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

2a. The battle for Germany

The “epic of Arnhem” has left little attention for the rest of the fighting in the west. No reactions have yet been received to reports of the new offensive against the Siegfried Line, and the general impression during the past week has been that the Allied advance had come to a standstill in the face of strong German opposition; there was disappointment as a result. There is some realisation that we must pause to bring up supplies, but it is feared that the weather may soon be against us and that we may get “bogged down for the winter, as in Italy”.

The capture of Calais has given great satisfaction, primarily as putting an end to the shelling of the Dover area, but also as promising us better port facilities for supplying our Forces.

There is, however, some regret that we had to direct so much of our bombing forces to bomb a French town, when “most people would like to see it concentrated on Germany”.

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

2b. Attitude to Germany and the Germans

“What to do with Germany after the war” remains the subject of much discussion of a familiar kind. Feeling against the Germans continues strong, and proposals for dealing with them are extremely varied. Any suggestion of Nazi leaders escaping punishment causes an uproar, and surprise, indignation and suspicion are reported at the news that “Hitler, Goering, Himmler and Co. are not listed as war criminals” (Seven Regions). Some people do not believe that our Government really means to tackle this problem. (No reactions yet to Mr. Churchill's answer in the House on this question, October 4.)

Stories and photographs of Allied troops fraternising with Germans continue to cause resentment (Five Regions); it is hoped our men will not be taken in by “smiling Frauleins with bowls of plums”. The press is criticised for “its neutral attitude in publishing such things”, and also for “poor dear Germans” propaganda and “stories of Germans not wanting to fight but being driven to it by their officers”.

(1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 12. 13. 17)

2c. Conditions inside France and Belgium

Bitter comment continues on familiar lines, and shows no signs of abating. Press reports and pictures of well-fed and well-dressed people in Paris and Brussels are “killing people's readiness to make further sacrifices for starving Europe”. Pictures and accounts of Paris fashions have greatly annoyed and tantalised women. Some, too, are displeased at a rumour that “luxury goods may be exported to the continent, while our women must put up with poor quality ‘Utility’ goods”. Any suggestion of sending supplies to Europe now causes resentment.

People say that if earlier reports of privations and ill-treatment under Nazi rule are now found to be exaggerated, it would be better to admit it frankly. They are asking for an explanation of the real position.

(1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 17)

2d. American businessmen in Paris

Press stories of American businessmen visiting Paris have given rise to some criticism and concern ... “People are nettled”. It is feared that others are getting ready to secure world markets, while we go on making war equipment.

There is welcome for the restrictions since imposed by General Eisenhower, but these are not thought to go far enough.

France's large order to the U.S.A. for railway equipment also upsets some ... “Who gave France her first helping hand?”

(1. 2. 3. 4. 6. 7. 8)

3. Government White Paper on Social Insurance

The plan as a whole

The plan has had a widespread and very warm welcome (All Regions), although there is still some caution and withholding of judgment, through people not yet having digested it in detail. A number call it “a great advance” which should carry the nation a long way towards freedom from want; others say, however, that the value of the benefits will depend on the purchasing power of the pound. Many are surprised and pleased that the plan contains so much of Beveridge; a very few think it an improvement.

At the same time, while approving the plan, a considerable number (Seven Regions), among whom workers and left-wing people are specified, are convinced it will never be implemented, or will be whittled away with excuses ... “They made a start by postponing the raising of the school-leaving age”. Others, though not sceptical, are nevertheless depressed at the thought of “the long time” it will take to put the provisions into practice. A few dismiss it as “a political stunt to catch votes”.

A smaller number take it as a sign that the Government is “at last getting down to it”, and are said to feel more hopeful than for some time.

Opposition to the plan comes chiefly from, or is thought by workers to come from; (a) Middle-class people (Six Regions), who are thought to be penalised by having to pay and get “nothing out of it”; from (b) Friendly Societies (Four Regions) and (c) Employers and self-employed people (Two Regions).

Other reactions to the plan as a whole are:

  1. Confusion as to what will happen about insurance contributions already made to:

    1. Approved Societies (Nine Regions). The whole position of these Societies is also discussed, people on the whole thinking it is a good thing they are “being done away with”; it will mean more and equal benefits for the insured. Some, however, regret their going. A few wonder what will happen to the Societies' employees.

    2. Superannuation schemes (Five Regions). One suggestion is that some extra voluntary payment might be arranged for people concerned, to bring the State pension up to the level of the pension for which they have been contributing in the past.

    3. Private insurance companies (Three Regions). Will people be allowed to keep their policies on if they wish?

  2. Fear of the possible effect on people's characters (Eight Regions). Many people, the middle and professional classes and right-wing opinion being specified, are afraid the plan may “make life too easy”; they think it will encourage improvidence and laziness among workers ... “who will booze their money away” - or that it will in effect subsidise the unemployed who do not want to work.

  3. Alarm as to how the plan will be paid for (Seven Regions). This seems largely confined to right-wing people, those who do not expect to benefit, and “financiers”. Some think we shall not be able to afford it; others that it can only be done by very heavy taxation or control of private enterprise.

Specific provisions

Specific provisions mainly discussed are:

(a) Contributions (Ten Regions). People like the idea of a single weekly contribution. At the same time they feel that everyone pays in full for the benefits they are to receive; “there are no rabbits out of the hat”.

Those whose contributions are thought by themselves or others to be particularly onerous are:

  1. Employees (Five Regions).

  2. Employers (Three Regions), especially small ones. A few people wonder whether the cost will be passed on to the consumer. Some jobbing gardeners and charwomen are said to be apprehensive about getting work in the face of these higher contributions.

  3. Self-employed persons (Two Regions).

  4. An average family (One Region).

(b) Retirement pensions (Nine Regions). People think the rates are inadequate, although there is at the same time satisfaction that some security for all old people will be provided.

(c) Family allowances (Seven Regions). The idea is generally welcomed, and only a very few oppose it on principle. However, there is a good deal of criticism of the exception of the first child from the cash allowance (Four Regions); and of this being only 5/- instead of the 8/- proposed by Beveridge.

There is very little comment about the services in kind, although in one Region the workers discuss them favourably.

(d) Unemployment benefit (Six Regions). The limitation to 30 weeks continues to be criticised. People also ask what happens at the expiry of this period, workers strongly opposing any means test.

There is criticism of there being no provision for self-employed persons “if they come a cropper, though they have to contribute just the same” (Three Regions).

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

3a. Government White Paper on Industrial Injury Insurance

Comment is limited, but is largely approving, particularly among workers.

Changes particularly liked are :

  1. The abolition of lump sum settlements,

  2. Setting up of tribunals, so that compensation will no longer be a disputable issue between employer and worker, with the former in a position to “trip a man up”.

Adverse comment is chiefly about :

  1. Office workers and others in relatively safe occupations, and their employers, having to pay heavily for benefits “they will never require”. For instance, it is said that employers of gardeners or domestic servants who now pay a premium of 2/6d to 5/- a year, will have to pay 26/-, which, with the same amount paid by the workers, means 52/- a year.

  2. The proposed flat rate of compensation.

  3. The danger that employers will lose their fear of accidents and that protection against accident may consequently suffer.

(1. 2. 3. 6. 7. 10. 11)

4. Government White Paper on Demobilisation

Widespread approval continues (All Regions). People think the plan is fair, though realising there are bound to be a lot of hard cases whatever scheme is adopted.

Approval is also again reported, particularly among servicemen's relatives, for the continued call up, but a few think it is idiotic to apply it to men hitherto in reserved occupations.

People insist on the necessity of finding work for the demobilised men, even if, in order to do so, they have to be released more slowly.

Discussion about Scale B continues. It is thought that priority should be given not only to men in building trades, but also to teachers, key men in industry, youth leaders, those with jobs to return to or with businesses of their own, and those whose technical or professional training was interrupted.

It is feared there may be scope for favouritism in applying Scale B.

People think that more consideration should be given to:

  1. Men with overseas service (Eleven Regions), particularly Far East troops (Two Regions). Some think they should have first priority. (A few fear that the demobilisation plan may not be applied in their case at all).

  2. Men with family responsibilities, especially married men (Six Regions).

  3. Those who have served in posts of danger , e.g. air crews, “front-line men”, etc (Two Regions).

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

5. The Prime Minister's statement in the House (September 28)

Mr. Churchill's speech has been very well received. Some lack of comment is reported, but hardly a word of criticism. Most interest has been aroused by his references to:

The possibility of the war continuing into 1945 (Eleven Regions): which came as a great shock to many. A minority, however, think a word of caution was badly needed.

Britain's share in military operations (Eleven Regions): People are delighted that he stressed this, both as regards the number of divisions involved and their achievements in the field. It is hoped that this will not pass unnoticed in the U.S.A.

The Burma campaign (Six Regions): This part of his speech was greatly appreciated, particularly his reference to its being the largest land operation yet undertaken against Japan, and his account of the many obstacles to be faced.

Russo-Polish relations (Five Regions): Interest and mixed feelings are reported, but very little detailed comment. Russian sympathisers are said to be pleased, Polish sympathisers disappointed.

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

6. Explosions

In London itself , both discussion and apprehension are again less, though there is some fear lest the attacks become heavier.

Opinion is divided as to whether official silence is necessary.

In the rest of the country discussion and rumours are widespread. The general belief continues to be that rockets are the cause of the explosions - they are described as dropping silently from the stratosphere.

There are several reports this week of them dropping outside London - some are said to have fallen as far afield as Ireland.

Opinion is evenly divided as to whether an official statement should be made. Some think it necessary to allay rumours and anxiety, others appreciate the need for silence.

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

6a. Flying bombs

Some concern and disappointment have continued. The attacks are not expected to reach their former proportion, however. Sympathy is expressed for those who have to suffer them.

In London there is disappointment at the raids starting again but they are thought only to be a “dying kick” and are said not to be upsetting people generally, though a few find them very trying.

Post-raid housing repairs : Widespread anxiety and some discontent are reported though a few are said to be pleased that repairs to bombed houses have been given priority. It is thought that still more labour should be allocated; N.F.S., Civil Defence workers and Italian prisoners-of-war are suggested.

There is some complaint that repairs are often superficial or poorly done.

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

6b. Evacuation

The “premature” announcement that the Battle of London was over continues to be widely criticised, Mr. Duncan Sandys' statement again receiving most of the blame.

At the same time evacuees are criticised for returning - parents taking back children, especially. A firm direction from the Government to prevent this is felt to be necessary.

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

6c. The Dover shelling

“Jubilation” at the cessation of the shelling is reported. A few are still sleeping in shelters, however, “fearing something else may come”.

There is some criticism of press exaggeration of the rejoicing that took place.


7. Italy

Military : Though still overshadowed by events on the Western Front, satisfaction with progress continues - especially with the breaking of the Gothic line and the capture of Rimini, and people hope the advance into Northern Italy may now be more rapid.

Disappointment with the slow advance is, however, again reported, although the majority at the same time refer to the difficulties of the campaign with understanding and sympathy. Only a small minority feel “the war there is lasting too long”, or “have lost interest until something really startling happens”.

Praise and admiration for General Alexander continue.

Political : People are still concerned and distrustful. Many feel that we are being too lenient and are apparently forgetting the Italians were our enemies and “helped to bomb London” ... “We are treating the country as if it were being liberated rather than as a hostile nation that has been defeated.” People wonder “what constitutes the grounds for making Italy's passage easy”.

Distrust of Vatican policy continues, and any signs of intervention by the Pope are said to be resented.

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

7a. Caruso's trial and the lynching of Carreta

Comment is very much less, but the outbreak of mob violence which resulted in the lynching of Carreta has made people feel that the Italians are not able to govern themselves and must be taken in hand for some time to come. Some think we should have taken measures to ensure against such a “terrible happening”.

People were revolted by the publication of photographs of Caruso's execution and details of the lynching of Carreta.

(1. 4. 12)

7b. Italian prisoners-of-war

Resentment continues widespread at the privileges and freedom Italian prisoners-of-war enjoy; there is particular indignation in a few areas at their being allowed in cinemas “where they crowd other people out”.

People still think they should be sent back to Italy to fight and to liberate their own country; in Bideford it is rumoured that this is to happen to Italians in that neighbourhood. At Didcot it is considered that the collaborators employed at the R.A.O.C. Depot should be sent home to release our own men at the Italian front and to make room at the Depot for our own ex-servicemen when demobilisation takes place.

Criticism is again made of the friendship shown to Italians, and especially the attitude of some English girls towards them.

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

8. Russia

Though interest is still limited, there is satisfaction with Russian advances in the Baltic and Balkans. People are still wondering, however, why the Russians have halted outside East Prussia; some think they are consolidating their position there before starting a great offensive.

The capitulation of Bulgaria, Rumania and Finland (Four Regions) has continued to give satisfaction, and Russia's handling of them is again praised.

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

8a. Russo-Polish relations

Bewilderment and concern at the Russo-Polish tangle continue widespread: “Discussion about this goes on and on”. Criticism of the behaviour of the Russians (Eight Regions) and of that of the Polish Government in London (Five Regions) continues on familiar lines.

Fears of the dispute prejudicing the postwar settlement and concern about Russia's future intentions also continue on familiar lines.

The situation of Warsaw and its inhabitants has been the subject of concern and sympathy, but no reactions have been received since its capitulation.

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

9. Far East

Interest continues slight, though an increase is reported in three Regions. Comment is on familiar lines:

  1. Satisfaction with progress in the Pacific and appreciation of the part the Americans are playing.

  2. Criticism of the lack of news about our “Forgotten Army” in Burma.

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

10. Captain Ramsay's release .

Criticism and indignation are reported - his attendance at the House of Commons is particularly resented. People ask if he will be allowed to attend secret sessions.

Some sympathy is expressed for Mr. Gallacher's protest (Two Regions).

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

11. News presentation

For Arnhem news, see Section 2(c).

People are glad to see “a little more publicity given to the British soldier” and the handling of the Arnhem news has been commended in this connection.

Stories of local county regiments are particularly appreciated.

B.B.C . There is praise for war reports in general, and special praise for those relating to Arnhem, though some of the descriptions are thought to have been too violent and harrowing for people who had relatives in the airborne-division. Johann Fabricius' tribute was much appreciated.

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



Relaxation of regulations

Black-out : Delight continues in the dim-out areas, particularly with “the godsend of street lighting”. There is, however, considerable grumbling in the areas still blacked-out and a feeling that “we ought to have been told from the beginning that there was to be no change, and no hopes would have been aroused”.

Other points mentioned are:

  1. The many people still blacking-out (Five Regions). Reasons for this are (i) Lack of curtain material. Housewives bitterly resent that “only the rich can afford to buy curtains without surrendering coupons”; and (ii) - In the Eastern, London, and Southern Regions - dislike of having to put up the black-out when the alert sounds.

  2. Difficulties of bus and private car drivers (Five Regions). They complain that night driving is very difficult now as the new form of lighting casts shadows between lamps. People feel brighter headlights should be allowed.

  3. The possibility of further enemy attack (Four Regions), and consequent anxiety that easing of restrictions is premature.

  4. Alleged confused instructions (Four Regions).

  5. Failure of some local authorities to provide better street lighting (Three Regions).

Home Guard : Relief is still reported. The men are specially pleased that Sunday parades are not to continue. Comment among members has also again been about:

  1. The method of notification (Six Regions). Irritation continues.

  2. Their willingness to co-operate in the voluntary scheme (Three Regions).

  3. Their wish to be allowed to keep their boots and other clothing which would be useful in civil life (Three Regions). On the other hand, it is suggested that a watch should be kept on the uniforms as “some are already finding their way into the market”.

  4. The regretted loss of camaraderie (Two Regions).

Civil Defence : Reception continues to be mixed. Voluntary workers are relieved; some full-time workers are apprehensive about finding employment.

There is some speculation as to whether C.D. personnel will be allowed to retain or at least buy their uniforms.

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

13. Servicemen's pay

The proposed increases in pay for “prolonged service” and in respect of service in the Far East continue to be greatly welcomed, although some think them “long overdue” or “not enough”. It is also again pointed out that there will still be a big difference between the pay of British and U.S. troops serving in the same theatre of war.

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

14. The heating ban

Complaints have continued of the hardship caused by the lack of central heating now that the cold weather has come. The ban is said to be responsible for an epidemic of colds and chills, and for the loss of a good number of working hours.

Dates of removal of restrictions (Announced September 29): The only reaction yet received comes from the North Eastern Region. While appreciation is reported - October 8 is earlier than was expected - there is also some demand for the immediate lifting of the ban, as “work for many people for a week or two has been most unpleasant owing to the cold”.

(1. 2. 3. 10)

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