A History of the Ministry of Information, 1939-46

178 179 2 180 3 181 4 182 5 183 6 184 7 185 8

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

No. 199. 27th July, 1944

(Covering period from 18th to 25th July, 1944)


1. General

The troubles in Germany, described as the sensation of the week, and Russian advances, have combined to raise spirits yet higher. People are increasingly optimistic about the end of the European war; the majority think it certain by Christmas; while a good many expect it much sooner.

There is still disappointment that progress in Normandy has not been faster.

Except in London and the South East, the flying bomb is now less discussed than the arrival of evacuees. Evacuation problems are the chief home front topic.

An early relaxation of the blackout is widely hoped for.

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

2. The crisis in Germany

On Friday, people were wildly excited by the news, and there was much speculation about possible dramatic developments. There were widespread rumours of civil war in Germany, and of Hitler being dead or a prisoner in the hands of the plotters. Since then, the majority, though keenly awaiting further information, have become more cautious. Even so, no matter what view is taken of the crisis, everybody feels it indicates a crack inside Germany, and is the beginning of the end.

Detailed discussion has been on the following lines:

The authenticity of the plot : Opinion is divided between:

  1. The majority who think there really was a plot. They believe that the rebel generals, seeing defeat before them, wanted to get rid of Hitler, so as to negotiate an early peace; the German army “could then live on to fight a third world war another day”.

  2. Those who think the whole thing a frame-up on the part of the Nazis, primarily to liquidate the disaffected military leaders. A few think it a propaganda stunt to idolise Hitler or to distract attention from Germany's present plight.

The failure to kill Hitler : Opinion is again divided:

  1. Some think it a great pity he was not killed, as it would have brought the end of the war much nearer.

  2. Others feel it was a good job the bomb did not get him; it would have been too easy a death; or, according to a few, it would have made him a martyr in the eyes of the Germans.

The need to defeat the Germans militarily : People are unanimous that there must be no negotiated peace, no matter what moves are made inside Germany for the overthrow of the Nazis. They feel that now is the time to be most careful, or the Germans will trick us again; the German generals are as dangerous as the Nazis; and our best line is to go on hitting hard again and again. Only a complete military defeat of Germany can convince the German people they have really lost the war.

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

2a. Hatred of the Germans

The hatred reported last week due to the flying bomb, the French village and Hungarian Jew massacres, and the shooting of British prisoners of war, has increased with the news of further shootings.

People are heartily sick of German militarism and brutality, and want rigorous “Vansittart” terms imposed on them when they surrender. Fear continues, however, that the British and Americans will be too lenient, and also that “some elements in this country are prepared to be kind to the Germans”.

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

3. Evacuation

In the country as a whole, evacuation is now even more widely discussed than the flying bombs. On the whole, it is thought to have gone off fairly well. Discussion is chiefly about:

Attitude to evacuees : In general, people have been sympathetic and helpful, particularly towards unaccompanied children - many of whom have pleasantly surprised their hosts.

Women with children, and pregnant women, have been far less welcome and are said to be very difficult to billet - still more so, of course, when mothers refuse to be separated from large families of children. Women do not want another woman in the house, either getting in the way or, alternatively, expecting to be waited on hand and foot. It is said to be a heart-rending job hawking unwanted evacuees from door to door.

A minority are unsympathetic, some producing doctors' certificates, others shutting up their houses and going away. Previous unfortunate experiences are not forgotten.

Disgust is reported at cases of householders refusing to accept evacuees or freezing them out by unpleasantness. A night or two in London is thought the best punishment for them. It is suggested, however, that press publicity about such cases has been both unfortunate, in not fostering a helpful attitude of mind among people in reception areas, and also unfair to the localities pilloried for the unkindness of a few.

Class differences are frequently alleged (Eight Regions). It is thought both that better-off people living in larger houses are less ready to take their share, and that less pressure is put on them than on smaller and poorer households.

The billeting allowance is considered by many people to be much too small and consequently unlikely to encourage volunteers. The higher billeting rates of U.S. officers is said to make them much more acceptable.

The policy of private billeting , which is regarded most unfavourably, at least until other alternatives have been tried. The Government is criticised on the grounds that, knowing in advance about flying bombs, they should have prepared hostels and camps, and not asked the general public to shoulder the responsibility. It is widely thought that, before sending evacuees to private houses, the Government should organise camps and hostels, taking over for the purpose large mansions - whether partially occupied or not; vacant property - furnished or unfurnished; empty hotels (e.g. three in Stratford, the “Royal” at Scarborough); houses requisitioned, but not used, by the War Office; vacant Army Camps; Cambridge colleges, etc. etc. It is also thought that the time has now come when provincial business firms, using private houses in the suburbs as offices, could give them up and go back to their quarters in the city centre (e.g. in Newcastle). Women say they would be quite willing to go and provide domestic help if the evacuees were accommodated in hostels.

Bedding and household linen : The shortage of household linen has for some time been a subject of widespread public complaint. The difficulty is now said to be seriously aggravated - particularly in working-class homes - by the incursion of evacuees. People ask if the Government cannot make provision or at least insist on evacuees bringing their own.

Food : There is some praise for the way the food position has been adjusted (Eastern and Southern Regions); though the shortage of points goods is said to be a difficulty. In other parts of the country, the promise of more supplies to evacuation areas has relieved anxiety on this score. Only in the South Western Region are acute food problems reported, aggravated in resort towns by the arrival of trippers, but in the Midland Region report there is also reference to “a party of women with young children in the train returning to London, saying that they had been unable to buy enough food”.

The lifting of the ban in the South West , which is appreciated, though many people continue to think that the re-opened areas should have been fully utilised for evacuees before the general public were allowed to enter. As it is, in the Dorset coastal area, holiday makers are said to be crowding out unofficial evacuees.

Holiday resorts : Some seaside resorts fear that evacuees will take accommodation which would have been available for holiday makers and so reduce the income of residents. Scarborough boarding-house keepers, “who have lost money steadily throughout the war and are in arrears with rent and rates, ask why they should be expected to take in evacuees just at a period when, for the first time since the war, they are beginning to make up leeway. Scarborough people say that Blackpool landladies are in a different position as their business has not suffered to anything like the same extent.”

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

4. Flying bombs

The country as a whole

Widespread discussion continues, although the flying bombs are no longer the main topic except in London and the South Eastern district. Anxiety and concern persist, and people are disappointed that the intensity of the raids does not appear to have lessened. There is much sympathy and admiration for those in target areas, especially Londoners; though a few (Eastern and Southern Regions) regard the raids with indifference - “like reports from occupied Europe”.

Information about the raids : There is still considerable criticism of the meagreness and vagueness of bulletins. They are thought to treat the raids too lightly, to cause unnecessary anxiety about friends and relatives, and to encourage rumours. People find it difficult to reconcile official statements with stories brought by evacuees.

Nevertheless, rumours, although still widespread, are fewer.

Countermeasures : Most people are confident the bombs will eventually be mastered - if only by the capture of the launching site areas; equally, they are disappointed at the lack of success so far.

Some continue to think the Government should have made more preparations before the raids began.

Future expectations : Widespread anxiety about the possibility of the range of the bomb being extended, or of the enemy using new, more deadly weapons, continues; rocket or gas bombs are the most popular suggestions. In the Northern Region, a rumour that men attending C.D. lectures have been told that the bombs may be expected in the North East in a few weeks is said to be causing uneasiness, though it is not thought to fit in with the influx of evacuees and requests to give up Morrison shelters.

Reprisals continue to be advocated by many, the systematic bombing of German cities being the favourite suggestion. A few suggest the use of flying bombs.

Some, however, feel reprisals might achieve nothing, diverting our planes from battlefields and giving the Germans the excuse for further murders of prisoners of war.

Reactions in target areas

A. LONDON : Although anxiety and strain continue, more people are becoming adjusted, looking on the raids as part of the daily routine. There is still some mention of work being upset by disturbed nights and repeated sheltering during the day.

Attitude to Government : Criticism again predominates - on the grounds of lack of preparation, and an unsympathetic attitude; “they take our endurance for granted”.

Civil Defence workers : High praise continues; sightseers at incidents are criticised.

Looting : Much indignation. People favour heavier sentences.

Danger warning : A uniform method of imminent danger warning is asked for - but not anything which will mask the sound of the bomb as the siren sometimes does.

Defences : Though the R.A.F. is praised, there is little comment. People dislike our planes “buzzing about” during alerts.

Shelters : People think some areas have too few; and that Morrisons should be available for everyone.

Children : Anxiety continues about children, particularly those whose mothers are working; they are not attending school and are playing in the streets during alerts.

Post-raid services : There is still some dissatisfaction over compensation for raid losses, and the slowness of repair work.

Evacuation : Criticism of details continues to be reported in greater volume than does approval of the principle. At the same time, some feel the Government should be congratulated for moving so many children so quickly.

The points made are:

  1. The scheme should cover a wider area.

  2. Old people should be included. Servicemen are said to be particularly anxious about their aged relatives.

  3. Camps would have been better than private billeting; at the same time, people who refuse to billet children should be [Text Missing] severely dealt with.

  4. The prices charged to voluntary evacuees are too high; anyhow, these people should be given travel vouchers.

  5. Some mothers going with children are only going for a holiday and intend to come back in a week or two.

B. SOUTH EASTERN DISTRICT : Tiredness remains the most prominent feature, owing to disturbed nights and lack of respite by day. Those in “established bomb lanes” are nervous; but the majority are calm.

Defences : The fighters continue to be preferred to A.A. fire and people are pleased where guns have been removed.

Post-raid services : Appreciation.

Shelters : More Morrison shelters are wanted in some areas.

Children : Many parents are said not to be sending their children to school because there are no shelters at the schools.

Evacuation : Discussion is on the same lines as in London. More people, however, feel evacuation is unnecessary, or that “it will be a failure as before”, and are said not to be sending their children away.

C. SOUTHERN REGION : People in affected areas, though calm, are suffering from lack of sleep.

There is continued high praise of Civil Defence workers; but again complaints that warnings coincide with bombs.

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

5. The invasion of France

(No comments have yet been received on Mr. Churchill's visit)

Satisfaction and confidence continue; but there is increased disappointment with our progress this week - chiefly because of the non-materialisation of the much expected “breakthrough”. Comparisons with Russian advances are again widely made, though some continue to point out the contribution to Russian successes that our campaigns are making. The weather, geographical difficulties, and the fact that the Germans are using some of their best forces against us are also cited.

Praise for British and American troops and confidence in our planning and leadership continue.

Postal services (Six Regions): Some continue to complain of slowness, but others express pleasure at improved deliveries.

The people of France (Four Regions): Some are pleased that the French are helping our Forces, but others remain suspicious of them.

News presentation : Satisfaction with news presentation continues, though there are a few more complaints this week. The B.B.C. and press are accused of misleading the public by premature announcements of a “breakthrough”; consequently Howard Marshall's commentary warning against anticipating this is said to have confused some people.

The broadcasts of the parade service from Normandy and of the bombardment of the Caen sector are both praised.

General Montgomery's broadcasts have apparently done something to squash the rumour of his capture or death; the rumour continues to be reported, however.

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

5a. The next move

Speculation about another landing continues. Some are surprised it has not yet taken place.

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

6. Russia

Widespread admiration and astonishment at the rapid advance of the Red Army continue. A great majority hope and expect that the Russians will be first in Berlin ... “They will show no mercy to the Nazis, as we might”. There is speculation about the effect the Russian entry into East Prussia will have on German morale.

Again some fears about the Russian attitude in the postwar world; though working-class people in Scotland say that if we play the game by her, she will play it by us.

Russo-Polish situation : Uneasiness continues.

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

7. Italy

Satisfaction with progress continues, particularly with the capture of Leghorn and Ancona; there is much praise for General Alexander's leadership and for the troops “doggedly pushing over difficult country”. Some still feel not enough publicity is given to this campaign and that there is a tendency to forget what is being done, in view of the more spectacular events on the Russian and Normandy fronts.

A minority are disappointed at the continued enemy resistance; some, however, regard it as “Kesselring's swan song” and think the Germans will soon clear out, in order to make a last determined stand on their home front.

Little comment has as yet been received about the visit of H.M. the King to the Italian front.

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

8. Far East

Interest in the fighting continues to be overshadowed by events in Europe, but the attack on Guam has caused some appreciative and hopeful comment. People are beginning to think that the Far Eastern war will not last long after Germany is defeated.

The resignation of Tojo and his cabinet has aroused some interest and is generally taken as another step in the right direction and as evidence that the Japanese are not doing so well, and know it. Only a few seem to think that this move is intended to throw dust in Allied eyes.

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

9. General de Gaulle and the French Committee of National Liberation

During the past two weeks pleasure has been reported at the success of General de Gaulle's visit to the U.S.A., and the recognition of the French Committee of National Liberation as the de facto authority for civil administration under Allied military control. It is felt this step forward will strengthen the French resistance movement. Some minority concern about Angle-American-French relations still persists, however.

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

10. Polish troops

Polish troops who have been stationed in the East Riding have made a very good impression as being quiet and well-behaved, contrary to first expectations. People in the area generally have taken them to their hearts, and compare them very favourably with our own troops, who had been stationed previously in the district. There is genuine regret at the departure of Polish troops from the area.




11. Clothing

The announcement that the ration for the next period will be 24 coupons continues to cause little comment - mainly in the nature of disappointment, and renewed complaints of the inadequacy of the allowance.

There is said to be resentment that children's new coupons cannot be used before August 1, “as the B.B.C. and press gave the impression they could”; mothers clothing their children for evacuation are said to find this very difficult (One Region).

(5. 6. 9. 11. 12. 13)

12. Food

Fresh fruit (Seven Regions): People complain of shortage and uneven distribution and of the prevalence of queues. Some housewives ask why it is not possible to ration fruit in order to distribute it more evenly.

Sugar (Six Regions): While the extra sugar for jam-making is appreciated, disappointment is again reported that it was not made available in time for preserving soft fruit. It is feared some garden fruit may have been wasted.

Food for reception areas is dealt with under “Evacuation”.

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

13. Holidays

Some people are spending their holidays at home, either because they are discouraged by crowded trains and the difficulty of finding accommodation, or because they would feel guilty using transport needed for war.

In Scotland, however, all holiday accommodation has been booked up as far as the middle of September, and hotels and boarding-houses are being inundated with requests from disappointed holiday makers and evacuees. Day trips are common, even though the trippers often have to spend most of the day in queues - for trains, buses and for food. In London, more people than ever want to go away for holidays - “the flying bomb raids have stopped holiday-at-home resolutions”.

Harvest helpers : In Scotland, those who filled up forms are said to be anxiously awaiting further information regarding farms, hostels etc. as their holiday “has been fixed accordingly and no holiday accommodation is available now”.

It is suggested that many people would help with farming if they could take their children with them.

(2. 5. 6. 7. 11. 12)


14. Youth and morals

During the past four weeks uneasiness and criticism have continued on the subject of moral delinquency. Though it tends to be social workers, the elderly and “more thoughtful” who complain most about the wild behaviour of young and irresponsible people, the general public are not slow to criticise when the offences affect them directly.

The complaints are the familiar ones, of:

  1. Sexual immorality (Eleven Regions, as against seven last month), specially of young women and girls with servicemen of every available nationality and colour. The unfaithfulness of married women, particularly those whose husbands are on active service, is also a subject of concern; public indignation against specific instances is said to be very strong, especially where child neglect ensues. A little sympathy is, nevertheless, reported towards servicemen's wives living in the country ... “Plenty of entertainment is provided for the troops, but nothing for the women left in isolated villages; is it any wonder they get into trouble!”

  2. Drinking (Seven Regions), again particularly by young people. “Working men, by no means teetotal enthusiasts, complain bitterly about the number of young girls who frequent pubs night after night and cause disgraceful scenes. They say that, after a long day's work, they want to be able to have a glass of beer in peace.” But it is recognised that it is difficult for publicans to know the age of their young customers.

  3. Juvenile misdemeanours of various kinds (Seven Regions), including petty crimes - which are thought to be increasing - damage to property, thefts from gardens, hooliganism, rowdiness, rudeness and foul language.

Factors blamed are the familiar ones: (a) Lack of parental control - whether because of irresponsibility or absence on war work; (b) Lack of harmless recreational facilities, particularly for transferred workers in uncongenial lodgings; (c) Too much money and nothing suitable to spend it on. As a result, adolescents frequent the pubs, and younger children the cinemas. Some elementary school children are given 10/- a week - or more - pocket money, and in some cases go to the pictures “regularly four times a week”. One small boy, asked why he brought fly papers to school, claimed it was because there was nothing else in the shops to buy.

Youth clubs and organisations (Seven Regions) are the subject of miscellaneous comment, mostly favourable. They are praised, said to be well supported, and more are thought to be needed, but there is a feeling that they do not attract those who would benefit from them most. Youth clubs are criticised from opposite points of view, either as being too sectional and religious, with too much uplift, or alternatively, as concentrating on entertainment and dancing at the expense of cultural activities.

Club leaders and social workers feel their work is handicapped by:

  1. The need for members to give coupons for uniforms.

  2. Lack of accommodation, particularly in remote areas, where Forces are stationed and the halls all requisitioned.

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

15. Attitude to the Jews

Anti-Semitism: During the past eight weeks comment has still continued at a low level. In some areas, however, apparently as a result of discussion of German atrocities against Jews and of evacuation difficulties, there has been some increase.

Criticisms have chiefly been on the grounds of:

  1. Jews being “first out” when the flying bomb raids started (seven Regions).

  2. Wealth and ostentation (Three Regions) .

  3. Evading National Service (Two Regions). “No Jews appear to be drawn out of the ballot for the mines.”

  4. Black market activities (Two Regions).

German atrocities against Jews : Horror at their treatment and sympathy with the victims are reported (Five Regions).

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

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