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. 219. 14th December, 1944

(Covering period from 5th to 12th December, 1944)


1. General

There has been a general drop in spirits this week, due chiefly to grave disquiet about the situation in Greece and Britain's part in it. Other dispiriting factors have been the slowness of progress on the fighting fronts, realisation that the war is going on for a long time yet, and the weather - depressing at home and a hardship and hindrance to our troops. War weariness and strain continue.

On the home front , the chief preoccupations continue to be present and postwar employment and housing, clothing difficulties, and - to a more limited extent - the price and shortage of toys. There is little Christmas feeling yet.

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

2. Greece

Grave disquiet about the tragic situation is widespread. Everybody is unhappy that our men are having to fight our friends the Greeks, and that British blood is being shed in a civil war in an Allied country. There is also very general bewilderment as to the issues involved; “moderate” people alone, on account of this, refraining from passing judgment. Others discuss the matter with great heat, and opinion is sharply divided between those who are against British policy and those who are for it:

  1. Against Government policy . These are certainly the more vocal, possibly the more numerous, and consist mainly of left-wing people, including most industrial workers. (Only in Northern Ireland are the majority of workers said to be solidly behind Mr. Churchill.) These people are highly discontented with the following:

    1. Our military intervention being on the side of “reaction” (All Regions); some say “If law and order had to be kept, then both sides should have been disarmed”. They feel our troops are fighting against progress, and against those who bore the brunt of German occupation and who fought for the liberation of their country. They also feel that we are trying to force an unwanted government on the Greeks, and that E.A.M. and E.L.A.S. probably represent the wishes of the Greek people. Some take the general strike to prove the solidarity of the workers behind E.L.A.S.

    2. The way the issue was handled in the House (Six Regions), particularly its being made the subject of a vote of confidence.

    3. Our having “interfered too much” (Four Regions). The Greeks should be left a free hand to choose the Government they like.

  2. For Government policy . These are mainly described as right-wing people, “better informed people”, and those convinced by Mr. Churchill's speech. Reasons for their support of the Government include the following:

    1. The need to establish law and order (Four Regions), as it is thought we must maintain our lines of communication and prevent any military hold-up.

    2. Fear of communism (Four Regions). A few suspect Russia is behind the whole affair.

Three further points of view are expressed - neither specifically for nor against the Government:

  1. Fear that Allied relations may suffer (Six Regions), particularly our relations with the U.S.A. and Russia.

  2. Impatience with the Greeks “squabbling” politically (Six Regions); “after we have already sacrificed so much to liberate them, they are now hindering us in our war against Germany”. Many feel “let us clear out and leave them to fight it out among themselves”.

  3. Belief that there should have been an Allied military occupation until elections could have taken place (Four Regions).

Liberated countries in general : Uneasiness and comment, though in a milder and more limited form, are similar to those about Greece. People particularly fear that these troubles will lead to dissension among the Allies, and are a bad augury for the postwar world.

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

2a. The political situation in Italy

People are concerned, but far less so than about Greece - “as the Italians are our ex-enemies”. The vetoing of Sforza is not understood, and our Government is suspected of siding with reactionaries and royalists against the left.

Mr. Stettinius “rebuke” : Opinion is divided between (a) the majority, who feel it was justified: “We should have consulted America; in any case, it is ill-advised to place ourselves in a position where the U.S. can criticise us”. (b) A minority, particularly right wingers, who resent the rebuke.

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

3. Western front

In view of the weather and the stiffness of German resistance, progress is thought as satisfactory as can be expected. There is, nevertheless, increasing disappointment and, in some cases, depression at its slowness. Some find the “hold-up” difficult to understand, in view of our “vaunted” superiority in men and materials, and wonder if we have misjudged German strength - particularly since it has been found that they have more divisions available than we expected. A few are asking if something has gone wrong with our plans.

Most people now expect bitter and prolonged fighting and are fearful of heavy casualties. Some, however, continue to expect big moves at any moment.

Sympathy and admiration for the men are again reported.

The air offensive (Nine Regions): There is considerable satisfaction with the “stepped-up” offensive against Germany, and continued amazement at the way the Germans are standing up to it.

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

4. Rockets

Little general comment. Rumours of damage and casualties continue; many people believe that things are much worse than they are led to suppose, and ask for more facts and figures. The only reaction to the publication of casualty figures reported so far comes from Scotland, where the “large death roll” has surprised people, and increased their sympathy for Londoners.

Press diagrams and photographs of V2 have stimulated speculation as to the potentialities of this weapon, but only a very few people in areas so far safe are seriously concerned at the possibility of an extension of the rockets' range.

The bombing of V2 sites and stores is strongly approved, though it is generally felt that the menace will end only with the war.

Areas affected

In London , though individual incidents are much discussed, nervousness appears to have lessened this week, except in areas where rockets have fallen. Otherwise reactions are on familiar lines, with a slightly increased wish for reprisal bombing of German cities.

In the South Eastern District , alarm and apprehension are reported and seem to be slightly increased - apparently as a result of rumours of devastation rather than actual experiences.

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

5. Far East

Some satisfaction with general progress is reported and the demand for more news continues. While some feel the war with Japan will be long and hard, a few still hold Japan will not present serious difficulty once Germany is defeated.

There is pleasure that Whitehall has “at long last” published the names of British regiments in the Far East; people regard this as an encouragement to our men, and also as a revelation to our Allies that “they are not finding all the men for the Far Eastern struggle”.

Great anxiety continues among relatives of prisoners in Japanese hands.

China (Nine Regions): Much anxiety over the serious internal situation is reported. Some feel China is not pulling her weight in the war effort, but is relying on the U.S. and Great Britain to defeat Japan. They resent the use, in civil war against the Communists, of supplies sent by us to fight the Japanese.

Burma (Nine Regions): Pleasure at increased publicity, anxiety over “appalling conditions”, and some satisfaction with progress are again reported.

Japan and the Pacific (Eight Regions): Again great satisfaction over the bombing of Tokyo and the sinking of so many Japanese vessels. There is also pleasure that British vessels are now working with the Americans in the Pacific.

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

6. Russia

Military : Comment has declined. People are enthusiastic about progress in Hungary and are eagerly awaiting news of the fall of Budapest. Disappointment continues about the situation in the north, though this week a much smaller number mention the possibility of political motives behind the hold-up; others appreciate the difficulties presented by the weather. People continue to hope for a big general offensive soon.

Political : Fear of Russia's postwar political intentions and anxiety about Russo-Polish relations continue.

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

7. Italy

Military : Still little comment. It is thought that the disappointing slowness of our progress is due mainly to the weather and terrain, but also to “numbers and equipment being now so depleted”. A few, however, were cheered by the capture of Ravenna; and there is some slight expectation of a big push when the weather improves.

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

7a. Italian co-operators

Familiar comment continues on a reduced scale. People persist in thinking the Italians ought to be sent back to their own country where “they would probably be more appreciated”.

See also Constant Topics, No. 9.

(2. 3. 4. 5. 7. 9. 10)

8. War at sea

News of the launching of the new battleship has given much pleasure. People think it “a good augury for the war against Japan”.

(5. 7. 8. 10)

9. The White Paper on the United Kingdom war effort

Appreciative comment continues on the same lines as last week.

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

10. News presentation and B.B.C. programmes

News presentation continues to be thought good on the whole, though interest is again said to be less. War Reports and War Commentaries - particularly by Hastings and Joubert - are again praised.

B.B.C. programmes : Debates and discussions continue popular. “Jobs for All” (Eight Regions) is particularly praised.

“Treasure Island” was liked (Three Regions), but there are some complaints that it was broadcast too late in the evening for children to listen.

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



11. Postwar

Apprehension is again widely reported about postwar jobs, industry, trade, and housing. Scepticism about Government promises, and the demand for definite plans and action persist.

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

12. Employment, industry and trade - present and postwar

Comment continues on the same lines as last week, with the main preoccupations again:

  1. Unemployment. Fear both for the immediate and postwar future, because of present changeover difficulties, and reports of dismissals and redundancy.

  2. Export trade. People are worried we will be left behind by the U.S.A.

See also Constant Topics, No. 2.

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

13. Housing - present and postwar

Except for disappointment - and even shock - at Mr. Sandys' announcement on December 7 that production of steel houses cannot begin until the end of the European war, reactions to the housing situation are exactly the same as those described last week. Briefly these are: widespread and often bitter complaint about the shortage and high price of every kind of accommodation; disquiet and frustration at postwar housing prospects, and dissatisfaction with what is felt to be the Government's slowness in dealing with the situation... “If they don't get a move on soon, there'll be riots when the men get home”; dislike of the idea of temporary housing, but grudging toleration of the Portal as being better than nothing, with much criticism of cost and detail.

See also Constant Topics, No. 1.

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

14. Home Guard

H.M. the King's broadcast and the final parades have done a good deal to get rid of the previous ill-feeling about the stand down, though familiar comment about this is still heard, as well as regrets at the disbanding.

Some criticism of “the adulation and ceremony” accorded the Home Guard comes from those who feel that the C.D. and N.F.S. services have done - and are still doing - more than the Home Guard, and who are also under the impression that the Home Guard is largely composed of men who in 1940 had not volunteered for the C.D. services, nor for any other form of national service.

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

15. Service leave

Delight over the leave arrangements for men serving overseas continues. There is, however, some criticism of the ballot system; thus it is said that men with three years' service have been passed over, in some cases, for men who have only two years' service. Some continue to think that men with long overseas service should come home for good.

The fear that when leave is over men may be drafted to the Far East is increasing.

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

16. Clothing

Comment is on familiar lines. Chief complaints are again of: the inadequacy of the coupon ration; the poor quality and shortage of footwear - particularly children's; the shortage and high price of bedding; the high price of clothing generally - particularly non-Utility; and the shortage of children's clothing.

See also Constant Topics Nos. 3. 4. 5. 6. 23. 24.

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

16a. Toys

The price, poor quality, and shortage of toys are again the subject of much bitter comment. Telling people not to buy high-priced, shoddy toys, but to report the shopkeeper, is considered no adequate solution.... “Parents have to get the children something, even if it does mean paying 12/6d for two bits of unplaned wood badly stuck together”.

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

17. Food, and shopping difficulties

Comment continues on familiar lines, the extra Christmas rations being the chief topic.

The disclosures in the press (December 3) on the inequalities between our rations and those of the Americans and Canadians are said to have caused some indignation - it being thought that the time has come to “equalise this burden”.

Extra Christmas rations (Ten Regions): Satisfaction continues. However, some people are disappointed at the non-appearance or shortage of the promised suet, dried fruit and turkeys.

Wines and spirits (Two Regions): Complaints are of shortage and high price. Whisky is said to be obtainable only at £3 to £4 a bottle.

See also Constant Topics, Nos. 10. 13. 14. 25. 26.

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

18. Domestic fuel

Comment continues on familiar lines, with reference particularly to the irregularity of deliveries and to the poor quality of coal “though it is sold at the maximum price”.

In mining areas in the North Midland Region there is growing irritation over the question of miners, including officials, receiving up to a ton of coal a month. The order which prevents a miner giving part of his monthly allowance away is regarded by the miners themselves as ridiculous.

See also Constant Topics, No. 12.

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

18a. Miners and mining

Comment is mostly on familiar lines, though there has been an increase in talk about the ballot (Six Regions). People do not like the scheme, and once more suggest miners should be released from the Army. The Bevin boys are again criticised for inefficiency and unwillingness to work.

(1. 2. 3. 5. 10. 11. 12)

19. National insurance

Comment is almost entirely confined to expressions of hope that the White Paper proposals will be made law with the least possible delay, coupled with scepticism as to this happening. The King's speech (November 29) and other recent official statements have increased fears that legislation will be delayed and the proposals whittled down.

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

20. Transport and petrol

The familiar comments continue on much the same lines as last week: complaints of inadequate and overcrowded bus services; discomfort increased by wet weather and lack of shelters; appreciation where services have improved; and criticism of late and overcrowded trains.

The reintroduction of the basic petrol ration remains the subject of hopes, demands and rumours.

See also Constant Topics, No. 8.

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

21. The dim-out

Pleasure at the relaxations has been increased by the announcement that it is not necessary to blackout premises when the alert is sounded.

Motorists continue to complain bitterly of increased difficulties; they want the masking of head lamps done away with, both to avoid accidents and to compete with the “dazzling and powerful lights on U.S. vehicles”.

(1. 2. 4. 5. 8. 9. 12)

22. Agriculture

So far little comment has been received on Mr. Hudson's statement in the House (December 5) about farm prices. Many farmers continue anxious and fear a drift back to the old conditions, but a minority find in Mr. Hudson's speech a “faint hope for agriculture after all”.

Adverse weather and labour shortage continue to be the main problems, both in the gathering of the potato and beet harvests and in the preparation of the land for next year.... “a sodden countryside has brought agriculture to a standstill for the time being”.

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

23. Health

Complaints of minor ailments and war weariness, particularly among women, continue. People again criticise Government statements.... “Does the Government really understand how weary people are?”

Concern about outbreaks of diphtheria is also reported (Two Regions). In one area there is some annoyance because “the R.D.C. has not yet carried out a sewage system for the district, despite the fact that a plan was got out seven years ago”.

See also Constant Topics, No. 11.

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

23a. National Health Service

The recent meetings of the British Medical Association have aroused some interest in the National Health Service, but there is little comment. In Scotland it is said the man-in-the-street is taking it for granted that a National Health Service is on the way.

There is some criticism of the “narrow and clannish” attitude of the medical profession, but also some support for their “resistance to lay control”. A few feel that doctors in the Services should have an equal say in the matter with their colleagues at home.

(2. 5. 6. 10. 11. 12)


24. Youth and morals

During the past three months complaints of the behaviour of young people and children have continued on familiar lines. Comment has been chiefly of:

Immorality (Ten Regions): The association of young girls and young married women with Italian prisoners of war and American troops is particularly deplored. People expect “murder when our men get back”.

Excessive drinking (Seven Regions) - again chiefly by young girls.

The “hooliganism” (Seven Regions) of young and adolescent boys. “Wanton” damage to property, and rowdiness are the chief complaints.

General bad manners and behaviour (Six Regions):

Juvenile delinquency (Five Regions): This is believed to be on the increase.

Factors blamed are:

  1. Lack of parental control (Nine Regions) as the result of fathers being in the Forces and mothers out working. Lack of interest on the part of some mothers is also blamed. Some people think an attempt should be made to educate parents in their responsibilities.

  2. High wages (Six Regions) and “nothing to spend them on”.

  3. Over-kind and “sentimental” treatment by courts and magistrates (Six Regions). A few think more birchings would be in order.

  4. The shortcomings of present education (Five Regions) - for which the shortage of teachers is chiefly blamed.

  5. Lack of “healthy” recreation facilities (Five Regions) - including lack of the “right kind” of films.

  6. The decline of interest in religion (Three Regions).

More women police, more powers for the police to take protective action, and more recreational facilities are suggested.

Youth clubs (Nine Regions): The need for more clubs and for more facilities for existing ones are urged. The shortage of good youth leaders is deplored.

Some, however, feel that youth clubs provide too much entertainment and too little discipline.

Pre-Service organisations (Nine Regions): There are many complaints of declining attendance and lack of interest in the A.T.C. as a result of the likelihood of the lads being sent into the Army or mines “however proficient”.

Discussion of the future of these organisations is reported. Some are anxious that they should continue after the war; others are against “regimentation”.

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


(Covering period from 5th to 12th December, 1944)

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

1. 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. 2. 3. 6. 7. 10. 11. 12.
(c) Repair difficulties Regions 1. 3. 5. 7. 8. 10. 12.
(a) Fear of unemployment Regions 1. 2. 4. 5. 6. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13.
(b) Redundancy and enforced idleness Regions 1. 3. 5. 6. 9. 10. 12.
(c) Dismissals Regions 1. 3. 9. 10. 11. 13.
3. Inadequacy of clothing coupons for :
(a) General Regions 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12.
(b) Renewing household goods Regions 1. 2. 3. 5. 7. 8. 10. 11.
4. Footwear difficulties
(a) Shortage
(i) Children's Regions 1. 3. 5. 6. 8. 9. 10. 12.
(ii) Children's rubber boots Regions 2. 4. 5. 6. 7. 10. 12.
(iii) General, including adults' Regions 3. 5. 9. 10
(b) Poor quality
(i) General, including adults' Regions 1. 2. 3. 5. 8. 10.
(ii) Children's Regions 1. 3. 5. 6. 8. 10.
(c) Long delay and difficulty in getting shoes repaired Regions 2. 3. 7. 8.
5. Clothing
(a) High price of clothing in general Regions 1. 2. 4. 5. 8. 10. 12.
(b) Shortage of children's clothing Regions 3. 7. 8. 10. 12.
6. Shortage and high price of bedding and household linen, including sheets Regions 1. 2. 5. 8. 10. 11. 12.
7. Desire for, and speculation about, reintroduction of basic petrol ration Regions 1. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 12.
8. Transport difficulties Regions 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 10.
9. Favoured treatment of Italian collaborators Regions 2. 3. 4. 5. 7. 9. 10.
10. Inadequacy of milk ration Regions 3. 5. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12.
11. Tiredness, ill health and war weariness Regions 1. 3. 5. 7. 8. 10.
12. Coal
(a) Poor quality and high price Regions 2. 4. 5. 7. 10. 11.
(b) Bad distribution, delayed deliveries, and anxiety about winter supplies Regions 2. 3. 6. 10. 11.
(c) General fuel shortage and inadequate coal allowance Regions 2. 3. 4. 5. 12.
13. Inadequacy of fat ration Regions 2. 7. 10. 12.
14. Sugar increase thought necessary Regions 2. 8. 10. 12.
15. Shortage of toilet paper Regions 1. 2. 3. 4. 6. 7. 8. 10. 12.
16. Shortage of combs Regions 1. 3. 6. 7. 8. 10. 11. 12.
17. Shortage of feeding bottle teats Regions 1. 2. 3. 6. 7. 10.
18. Shortage of note paper and envelopes Regions 1. 3. 4. 7. 8. 10.
19. Shortage of scrubbing brushes Regions 1. 2. 3. 8. 10.
20. Shortage of soap flakes and good quality soap Regions 2. 6. 7. 8.
21. Shortage of matches Regions 1. 2. 10. 11.
22. Shortage and high price of crockery, glass and kitchenware, particularly kettles and pans Regions 6. 8. 10. 12.
23. Shortage of elastic Regions 1. 3. 8. 10.
24. Shortage and poor quality of knitting wool Regions 5. 6. 8. 10.
25. Shortage of fish Regions 2. 3. 6. 11.
26. Shortage of dried fruit Regions 1. 4. 5. 8.

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