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. 220. 21st December, 1944

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


1. General

There has been a further drop in spirits this week. People are generally described as depressed, as a result of the situations in Greece and on the Western Front, the likelihood of the war in Europe continuing for many more months, signs of disagreement between the Allies, the prospect of endless unrest in Europe and - not least - the housing and employment situations at home.

The advent of Christmas has done little to raise spirits and has led to bitter comment about the “toy ramp”.

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

2. Greece

Grave disquiet continues. Everyone deplores the use of British troops against the Greeks, and the “waste” of our men's lives in a civil war.

Opinion is still sharply divided between an apparent majority who disapprove of British policy and a large minority who approve. Among the disapprovers, the tendency is now to blame individual members of the Government for being pro-monarchy and pro-reaction, rather than to blame the Government as a whole.

Other comment is also mainly on the lines reported last week; it differs in the following respects:

  1. Criticism of the Greeks for squabbling among themselves is growing. More people suggest: “They are not worth the loss of a single British soldier - we should withdraw our troops without delay and leave the Greeks to settle their own internal differences”.

  2. There is suspicion - in some cases conviction - that we are not being given the full truth.

  3. Comparison is made by left-wingers between our intervention in Greece and non-intervention in the Spanish Civil War: “We didn't intervene then, because the Spanish Government at that time was left-wing and the insurgents fascist”.

  4. Many people who at first rushed to a conclusion now realise they do not know enough to pass judgment. There is a strong demand for more information.

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

2a. Inter-Allied relations

There is considerable fear that Anglo-U.S.-Soviet relations may be adversely affected by our support of “reactionary elements” in foreign countries; Greece, Italy and Belgium are specified. Failure to consult America about our veto on Count Sforza is particularly felt to have strained relations.

Attitude to America : There is a growing fear that the Americans are becoming:

  1. More isolationist in their attitude to Europe. People would like a U.S. statement about present political troubles in Europe.

  2. Less interested in the European war, as evidenced by the shortage of ammunition, and “obvious activity on the Far Eastern front”... “The ‘Beat Germany First’ slogan is now a back number”.

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

2b. Liberated countries

Uneasiness continues about present and potential troubles. People feel that Allied military control should continue in liberated countries until conditions there are settled and elections can take place.

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

3. Western front

Preliminary reports suggest that the German counteroffensive has come as a considerable shock to people, and is causing some depression and anxiety. People had no idea that the Germans had the means to launch such an offensive.

However, there is thought to be no undue alarm. Some compare the move with the German push of 1918 and find comfort in the theory that this, too, means “the beginning of the end”; others are sure that we must have foreseen the attack and will be able to hold it.

Comment previously had been on familiar lines; disappointment at the slowness of progress being modified by appreciation of the weather difficulties and of the stiffness of enemy resistance.

The air offensive continues to win approval (Six Regions).

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

4. Mr. Churchill's statement on Poland (December 15)

Comment has not been very widespread or detailed. People are most disappointed at the position Mr. Churchill revealed; some are appreciative of the tremendous difficulties with which the Government has to contend. There is much sympathy for Poland.

Among those who express decided views as to our policy, opinion is divided between:

  1. Those who are critical (Four Regions). Some ask whether Russia is to be allowed to do as she likes, and accuse our Government of “knuckling under” and sacrificing Poland. Others think our policy is treacherous, in that we have gone back on our word. A few think a policy of robbing the weak (Germany) to pay the strong (Russia) is not a sound basis for future peace.

  2. Those who support the Government (Four Regions). They feel it is right that Russia should be allowed to annex territory up to the Curzon line so long as Poland has compensation.

U.S.A. (Three Regions). Some hope the U.S. government will soon make a statement of policy.

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

4a. Russia

Military : Comment continues slight, though many people say it is taking the Red Army a long time to wrest Warsaw and Budapest from the enemy. Some continue to think that the Russians are deliberately halting, and will not make a real effort at any rate until the political problems of the liberated countries are settled.

The French-Soviet Treaty is approved, but not widely discussed.

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

5. Far East

Some satisfaction with progress and slightly increased interest are reported, together with recognition of the “enormous difficulties we are faced with in bringing about the defeat of the Japanese”.

Japan and the Pacific (Eleven Regions): People are pleased we have sent such a large fleet to the Far East. Praise for the bombing of Japan, the American landings in the Philippines, and the sinking of Japanese vessels continues, though it is thought that if American statements are true the Japanese must have had tremendous shipping reserves.

China (Ten Regions): Great concern continues. More information about the internal problems would be welcomed.

Burma (Ten Regions): Comment is mainly about fighting conditions. While there is very general sympathy and admiration for the men, and appreciation of the greater publicity, a minority think that too much stress has been laid on the horrors of the campaign.

Prisoners of war in Japanese hands (Five Regions): Relatives remain very anxious; strain and distress being increased alike by lack of news and mail, and by atrocity stories. Some people say relatives would welcome any news about conditions in camps from prisoners who have managed to return; but despondency is said to have resulted from a recent B.B.C. talk about the Japanese character (December 13)... “What hope can there be of decent treatment for our men, if the Japs write off their own men when taken prisoner?”

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

6. Rockets

Again little general comment, with such as there is on the same lines as last week. Rumours continue, and so does the belief that rockets are causing a lot of slaughter and damage and that the truth is being withheld or minimised.

There is an uneasy feeling that relaxations in the C.D. services may have been premature.

Areas affected

In London reactions continue with no obvious change, nervousness and resignation being about equally reported.

In the South Eastern District nervousness is said to have decreased during the past week.

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

6a. Bomb damage repairs

Great appreciation for the help given by U.S. troops in repairing London's bomb damage (Five Regions)... “a fine practical gesture”.

Areas affected

In London repair work continues to be thought slow and inefficient by some people though satisfaction is reported from three boroughs. There is criticism of bad organisation, insufficient supervision and workmen slacking... “Employers think the men stick to T.U. restrictions and hold up the jobs”.

Local Authorities are also criticised for not making full use of their powers to requisition property for the bombed out.

In the South Eastern District the slowness of repairs is also blamed on slack and inadequately supervised workmen; complaint is also made about the injury done to furniture by workmen.

In Hull it is asked when the builders who have been sent to London to repair houses will return to “the bombed town of Hull”.

(2. 3. 5. 6. 7. 9. 10. 12)

7. Italy

Military : Even less comment than last week. People remain disappointed at slow progress, but for the most part appreciate the reasons for it.

Political : Lack of sympathy for our late enemies continues to be reported, as well as uneasiness at the political situation in Italy and at British support for what are regarded by most people as reactionary elements.

Co-operators : Familiar comment on a reduced scale.

See also Constant Topics, No. 10.

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

8. The Labour Party Conference

Though this is said to have caused considerable interest, reported comment is limited. There is some satisfaction with the Party's decision to remain in the Government till the end of the war with Germany; otherwise, comment is desultory and in accordance with political affinities.

(2. 3. 7. 10. 12)

9. Food for the Channel Islands

The news that a food ship is to be sent has been warmly welcomed; a few people grumble that it was not sent a year ago and that even now we are making no effort to liberate the Islands.

(2. 7. 10. 12)

10. German prisoners of war

News that some of them are to be allowed to work on the land without guards has caused concern. At the same time, according to one report, farmers consider Germans better workers than Italians.

A rumour is reported from Manchester to the effect that German prisoner of war patients in a local hospital are being given better treatment than English soldiers in the same hospital... “Christmas presents, turkey and decorated wards”.

(2. 6. 10)

11. News presentation and B.B.C. programmes

There is some increase in criticism of news presentation this week; the “unreliability” of news - particularly in the press - being the chief grievance... “One day all is well, and the next the Germans have launched a counteroffensive”. There is also some criticism of the handling of the news from Greece; early reports were thought fair and balanced but later ones are considered biased and tendentious. Censorship for political reasons is suspected.

War Commentaries and War Reports are again praised.

B.B.C. programmes : “Jobs for All” is again praised (Ten Regions), but this week there is also criticism (Five Regions) - chiefly on the grounds that some of the arguments were above the heads of the average public, and also because the programme seemed “a bit unreal and stage-managed”.

The Brains Trust and ITMA are also praised (Four Regions each).

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



12. Housing - present and postwar

The whole housing situation, present and future, continues the subject of widespread and bitter complaint on substantially the same lines as in our report of a fortnight ago (No. 217, November 30, Section 15).

The main difference this week is increased distrust of the Government's intentions, as a result of Mr. Sandys' announcement that production of steel houses cannot begin till the end of the European war. The Portal house - which, though not popular, had been grudgingly accepted as better than no roof at all - is now spoken of as a “racket” or as “nothing but a stunt which will be quickly dropped”. There is said to be “rising anger at the absence of an immediate building programme... just plans, plans, plans”. Some people anticipate serious unrest after the war among Servicemen who return and find no homes waiting for them.

See also Constant Topics, No. 3.

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

13. Industry, trade and manpower - present and postwar

Comment is again mainly about:

  1. Fear of unemployment (All Regions), both in the immediate and postwar future; particularly among workers in shipbuilding, ship repairing, iron mining and smelting. This fear is caused by stories of present redundancy in industry, dismissals and closing down of war factories. People are also worrying about postwar jobs for members of the Forces.

  2. Direction of labour (Four Regions). Workers are irritated at the alleged refusal of Labour Exchanges to allow men on the dole to find jobs for themselves... “There is an obvious desire among workers to get back to their peacetime occupations.”

  3. Controls (Four Regions). Employers and shopkeepers are anxious to see “unnecessary” controls swept away.

  4. Export (Three Regions). People fear this country will lag far behind other countries, particularly the U.S.A.

  5. Shortage of labour (Two Regions). Boot manufacturers and businessmen are specified as sufferers... “Present unemployment, and girls in the Forces having nothing to do, add insult to injury”.

See also Constant Topics, No. 5.

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

14. Christmas toys and presents

People continue deeply indignant at the price and quality of toys... “a scandalous ramp”.

The high price and poor quality of presents generally are also the subject of complaint (Six Regions).

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

15. Food and shopping difficulties

Comment is again on familiar lines, with Christmas fare the chief topic.

Extra Christmas rations (Seven Regions): Pleasure continues.

Nuts (Seven Regions): Their distribution is strongly criticised. People with plenty of time to queue at different shops are said to get more than their fair share; it is thought that ration books should be marked.

Turkeys (Five Regions): In addition to alleged bad distribution, a black market in turkeys is the subject of complaints.

Wines and spirits - (Three Regions): Criticism continues of shortage and high price.

See also Constant Topics Nos. 11. 12. 14. 22.

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

16. Clothing

Comment is again on familiar lines; chief complaints being of the poor quality and shortage of footwear - particularly children's; the inadequacy of the coupon allowance; and the shortage and high price of bedding. The priority docket system continues to be criticised (Five Regions) - both by those entitled to dockets and those not.

See also Constant Topics, Nos. 1. 2. 6. 13.

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

17. Service leave

Great pleasure continues. There is, however, minority criticism of (i) the slow rate at which the men are coming home, and (ii) the ballot system, on the grounds that men with exceptional fighting records and those eligible for compassionate leave should come first.

A few say that men who have been on distant fronts for over three years should not be sent back after their leave until those who have served in this country have also had a term there.

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

18. Health

Widespread and, in some Regions, increasing war weariness is reported. Complaints of minor ailments continue, digestive and skin troubles being put down to wartime diet. A minority think health on the whole is fairly good.

See also Constant Topics No. 4.

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

18a. National Health Service

Comment has declined, but many, particularly lower paid workers who find doctors' bills for dependants a serious problem, look forward to the benefits proposed in the White Paper, and criticise the attitude of the medical profession... “They are too much concerned with their own status and privilege”. On the other hand, some upper and middle-class people tend to support the doctors' point of view.

(5. 8. 10. 11. 12)

19. Transport and the dim-out

Transport complaints of a familiar kind - particularly in rural areas - appear to have increased this week as a result of Christmas shopping and bad weather.

Motorists continue to ask for improved car lighting to reduce the risk of accidents; some people think the dim-out has caused more accidents than the blackout.

See also Constant Topics, Nos. 8. 9.

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

20. Miners and mining

Apart from limited criticism, on familiar lines, of both miners and Government, comment has been confined to the following subjects:

  1. Bevin boys (Five Regions). Some people say the boys are not pulling their weight, and there is criticism of their “intention to take ten days' holiday at Christmas”. Dislike of the scheme continues; a few people think it is not worked impartially for all classes.

  2. Absenteeism among miners (Three Regions). Miners are still “sore” about accusations; some miners in the North Midland Region say that recently, in quoting the loss of production caused by absenteeism, the owners have included time lost through illness and accident.

  3. Mining Association proposals, November 30 (Three Regions).Miners are reported to be very antagonistic - “It means throwing us back fifty years”.

(1. 3. 5. 6. 8. 9. 12)

20a. Domestic fuel

Comment continues on familiar lines, though there is less complaint this week about the irregularity of coal deliveries. Some again suggest that old people should have an extra allowance (Two Regions).

There is some complaint of the shortage of coke, and a rumour that supplies are going to be diverted from householders to national purposes.

See also Constant Topic No. 7.

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

21. National insurance

Comment is on a much reduced scale, though people continue to hope the proposals will become law “unwhittled”, and with the least possible delay. There is still some anxiety about the size of weekly contributions, and some regret that benefits are apparently not to be related to the cost of living.

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

22. Agriculture

Though many farmers welcome Mr. Hudson's statement (December 5) about farm prices - “It has dispelled some of the uncertainty regarding postwar problems” - they would prefer a longer-term policy, and many continue sceptical about the future. “A pressing problem is felt to be whether arable farming or the raising of stock should have priority.”

Labour (Five Regions): Labour shortage is a major difficulty and is said to be having its effect on dairy farmers, who are considering cutting down their herds. Obtaining the right kind of labour is thought to be a pressing problem and it is hoped more agricultural workers will be released from the Forces without delay. Agricultural workers themselves hope for better conditions.

Crops (Four Regions): Concern about the effect of bad weather and labour shortage on crops continues. In one area of the Northern Region, it is feared some of the potato crop will have to be ploughed in. In the North Midland Region there is complaint of light wheat crops which are often unfit for milling; and farmers are said to be so behindhand that all sowing will have to wait until the spring.

Land cultivation (Two Regions): Criticism is again made of the Government policy of ploughing up so much land which is considered unsuitable for growing wheat. It is said also that good pasture and meadow land has been ruined by the reseeding demanded by one W.A.E.C.

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


23. U.S. troops in this country

During the past four weeks comment has again been on a much reduced scale, partly because so many Americans have left the country.

There is some mention of greater tolerance towards U.S. troops; this is thought to be partly due to people realizing the importance of Anglo-U.S. friendship, and therefore looking for the best in the American troops; and partly to a realization that bad behaviour is confined to a conspicuous few. From two Regions, however, a deterioration in relations is reported.

People praise the Americans' fighting qualities; their good and polite behaviour; and the entertainments they have planned for children.

Other comment has been about:

  1. Behaviour with women and girls (Seven Regions). Familiar criticism continues.

  2. General behaviour and bearing (Five Regions). Some still think the Americans unsoldierly and lacking in discipline; and that they are too casual, and boisterous in attitude and manners.

  3. Driving (Five Regions). A number blame the Americans for a suspected increase in road accidents; they say they drive too fast, and their headlights are unmasked, thus dazzling other drivers.

  4. Murder cases (Five Regions). People are under the impression that the Americans are involved in a large proportion of murder and assault cases; this arouses some antipathy. There is also one mention of American house-breakers.

  5. U.S. pay and living conditions, compared with those of British Servicemen (Four Regions). People continue resentful at the “unfair advantage” the disparity in pay gives the Americans over our men; some also remain bitter at the scale of comfort provided for U.S. troops, especially their food and cigarette rations. There is, too, some comment about the military lorries which take American Servicemen back to camp after dances, while our men have to leave early and wait in bus queues.

  6. Antagonism between British and U.S. troops (Two Regions). There is some regretful comment about the lack of fraternization.

  7. Shortages (Two Regions). A few say the Americans are buying up large quantities of spirits, poultry and ice cream, and that as a result prices are even higher and supplies even shorter.

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


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

No subject has been included to which fewer than four references have been made during the past week.

1. Inadequacy of clothing coupons for :
(a) General Regions 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12.
(b) Renewing household goods Regions 2. 4. 7. 8. 9. 10. 12.
2. Footwear difficulties
(a) Poor quality
(i) Children's Regions 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 7. 9. 10. 11. 12.
(ii) General, including adults' Regions 1. 2. 3. 5. 7. 10. 12.
(b) Shortage
(i) Children's, including rubber boots Regions 1. 2. 3. 5. 6. 7. 8. 10. 11.
(ii) General, including adults' Regions 1. 5. 7. 10. 12.
(c) Long delay and difficulty in getting shoes repaired Regions 2. 3. 5. 7. 10.
3. Housing and accommodation difficulties
(a) Shortage Regions 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12.
(b) High rents and prices Regions 1. 5. 6. 7. 9. 11. 12.
(c) Repair difficulties Regions 2. 5. 10. 12.
4. Tiredness, ill health and war weariness Regions 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 7. 9. 10. 12.
5. Industry
(a) Fear of unemployment Regions 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 7. 8. 9. 11.
(b) Redundancy and enforced idleness Regions 5. 7. 9. 10. 11.
6. Shortage and high price of bedding and household linen, including sheets Regions 1. 2. 4. 5. 6. 8. 9. 10.
7. Coal
(a) General fuel shortage Regions 1. 3. 4. 5. 6. 8. 10. 12.
(b) Bad distribution, delayed deliveries, and anxiety about winter supplies Regions 1. 3. 5. 6. 10.
21 118. Transport difficulties
(a) General Regions 1. 3. 5. 6. 8. 10. 12.
(b) Rural Regions 1. 2. 3. 6. 7. 8.
9. Desire for, and speculation about, reintroduction of basic petrol ration Regions 1. 2. 3. 5. 10. 12.
10. Liberties allowed to Italian collaborators Regions 1. 3. 6. 8. 9. 12.
11. Inadequacy of fat ration Regions 1. 2. 5. 7. 10.
12. Inadequacy of milk ration Regions 1. 5. 6. 7. 10.
13. Shortage of domestic help Regions 1. 3. 6. 7. 8.
14. Poor quality of clothing (including Utility) Regions 1. 3. 4. 5.
15. Shopping difficulties and food queues Regions 1. 2. 3. 5.
16. Shortage of toilet paper Regions 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 10. 12.
17. Shortage of combs Regions 1. 2. 3. 4. 6. 7. 10. 12
18. Shortage of feeding bottle teats Regions 1. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 12.
19. Shortage of note paper and envelopes Regions 1. 2. 3. 4. 6. 7. 8.
20. Shortage and high price of crockery, glass and kitchenware, particularly kettles and pans Regions 2. 3. 4. 7. 8. 10. 11.
21. Shortage of fish Regions 2. 5. 6. 7. 8.
22. Shortage of matches Regions 1. 2. 10. 11.

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