A History of the Ministry of Information, 1939-46


Copy No. 241

The aim of this Report is to present an impartial assessment of public feeling about the war and the war effort. It is not a record of fact , except in so far as public opinion is itself a fact. The public is sometimes ill-informed, prejudiced, or inconsistent. The recording of such feelings without comment implies no endorsement of them.

The public is more prone to criticise than to praise. Good work or efficiency is usually taken for granted. An accurate record of expressed feeling will, therefore, tend to be critical rather than laudatory.

The method of compiling the Report is such that the amount of space devoted to each subject, and the order in which subjects are placed, are roughly indicative of the amount of public interest each is arousing. The omission of a subject from the Report means that it is not a matter of widespread comment.

In assessing the state of public feeling there are no absolutes. Findings can only be comparative. Each issue of this Report must therefore be read as part of a continuous series. Unless the series is seen as a whole, the significance of fluctuations in feeling cannot be appreciated

The figures in brackets at the end of each section refer to sources of information, a list of which is given on the next page. The weekly reports from Regional Information Officers (R.I.Os.) are compiled by the Regional Intelligence Officers from a large number of sources. Details of the methods of compilation and cross-checking are contained in a paper on “How the Home Intelligence Weekly Report is made”. This will be supplied on request to the Home Intelligence Division of the Ministry of Information.



814 817 4 820 7 821 8 822 9


13th August, 1942

(Covering the period from 4th to 11th August, 1942)


1. General state of confidence and reaction to news

A fairly widespread feeling of depression is reported this week; this does not appear to be associated with any particular aspect of the war and is described as a state of “grey melancholy with nothing bright emerging”. On the other hand, there are fewer references to “detachment from the war”.

Six Regions refer to a decline in confidence (as against three Regions last week) due to “the gravely disquieting news from Russia” and “our inactivity and failure to render effective help”.

The conflict in the public mind between the desire “to strike and strike hard”, the feeling that we may not be in a position to do so, and the fact that we have not yet done so continues to arouse irritation and a sense of frustration. There is also some suspicion that “anti-Russian feeling in high quarters accounts for our not establishing a Second Front”.

Signs, where they do arise, of strong action on our part or on that of our Allies cause general satisfaction. The firm stand taken by the Government in India is a case in point; it is described as “the right kind of stuff - it makes one feel better already”. In fact, it may be said to offset to some extent “the worry about the sudden crisis there”. The attack on the Solomon Islands is also welcomed as a sign that the Allied powers can take offensive action.

There continues to be little interest in the Egyptian campaign.

According to reports from four Regions, there appears to be “a renewed call for greater sacrifices and a simpler mode of living, provided it affects all sections of the community equally”; on the other hand, from London Region comes the report that “in spite of the realisation of the seriousness of the position, it does not seem to have inspired the urge towards self-sacrifice that was found after the fall of France”.

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

2. Russia

Increased anxiety, and in some cases “dismay” and “grave foreboding”, are reported this week about the position in Russia, more particularly about “the rapid progress in the Caucasus and the threat to Stalingrad”. Considerable sympathy for the Russians is expressed.

Though a minority still have confidence in a Russian counterblow, this confidence appears to be fading into “a belief in the ability of the Soviet forces to hold the German offensive: they will be stopped in the hilly country”. In most cases, however, “the best that people hope is that Russia may halt the Germans”; while in Northern Ireland people are said “to be beginning to resign themselves to a Russian collapse in the Caucasus”.

Other reactions follow on the lines reported last week, but come from fewer Regions. Briefly, they show (a) an expectation of renewed heavy air raids on this country - or possibly invasion - should Russia make a separate peace or “her armies be immobilised through Germany cutting them off from vital oil supplies”; (b) fears of “a stab in the back” by Japan.

The Prime Minister : Eight Regions report “a current rumour” that Mr. Churchill is in Russia, and speculation is rife as to the reason for his visit. The most common interpretation is that “he is arranging for a Second Front”.

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

3. The Second Front

The desire for a Second Front continues, as does the realisation of the difficulties of establishing one. Discussion follows on the lines previously reported and the main feelings expressed are:-

  1. Suspicion that anti-Russian sentiments “in high places” are responsible for our failure to open up a Second Front, as it is hoped “that Germany and Russia will exhaust one another”.

  2. Humiliation and irritation that we are not strong enough to establish one.

  3. A greater readiness to leave decisions to the Prime Minister and his advisers.

  4. Suspicion of agitators for a Second Front. (“The Government should publish some of their past activities”.)

  5. Concern lest we should be too late.

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

4. Lady Astor's speech at Southport

Strong comment and considerable indignation are reported to be widespread in nine Regions over Lady Astor's speech about Russia. It is described as being “in the worst taste and deplorably mischievous”, and is stated on the one hand to have caused a “fury of indignation among Russophiles”, and on the other, to have been a source of “embarrassed comfort to the Right”. In Plymouth “the volume and variety of the criticisms and their sources is especially noteworthy”. There, where there has been “a united front from deep blue to brightest red hitherto”, she is said to be “helping to create disunity”. In four Regions her attitude is believed to represent the Government's opinion, and the Ministry of Information is criticised for not exercising greater caution in its choice of speakers.

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

5. India

The firm stand taken by the Government appears to have been received with “almost universal approval”. “Even those members of the public who have sympathised with Indian aspirations consider that “the Congress leaders are so dangerously irresponsible that they must be treated as rebels”.

Hostility to Gandhi - who is variously described as “India's Quisling No. 1”, “the supreme blackguard of the British Empire” and “a thorough twister” - seems to be widespread; it ranges from “dislike” to assertions that “he ought to be shot or strung up”. His “talk of asking Japan to be kind to China” is felt to be “crazy”.

Anxiety is reported about India's participation in the war effort, which is expected to be lessened, despite Mr. Amery's “claim that the measures adopted will prevent sabotage of the war effort”. Concern is also felt lest disorder in India should affect our ability “to stop the Japanese”.

The minority who criticise the Government's action do so on the grounds that Home Rule for India is long overdue, and that if India were “allowed to rule herself, there would be an overnight transformation in India's disloyalty to the British Crown”.

Discussion is said to be limited, however, by the apparent remoteness of India and by the public's lack of knowledge on the subject. It is suggested that “the time is ripe for broadcasts and articles on the lines of Mr. Amery's Postscript on the involved Indian position”.

Mr. Amery's broadcast : Mr. Amery's broadcast appears to have aroused little interest, and to have been heard by only a small proportion of the public. But among those who did hear it, his statement was almost unanimously praised as being fair and lucid. There was, however, some feeling that he was trying “to make the best of a bad job”. The news of the strong Indian membership of the Government is reported to have “attracted pleased attention”.

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

6. The war in the air

R.A.F. raids : Comments on the recent R.A.F. raids on Germany are reported from eleven Regions, in seven of which it is felt that “in the light of the statements made on our policy to bomb Germany with ever increasing ferocity” these raids are neither regular enough nor sufficiently drastic. It is asked why the 1000 bomber raids are not materialising; according to Postal Censorship, “the much boasted 1000 bomber raids seem to have finished with the second.... a better effect would have been got by starting first and talking afterwards”.

There is a renewal of hopes that with the longer nights “the R.A.F. will blow a bloody big hole where Berlin is”.

Some dissatisfaction is reported at the brevity of our raids. People are said to remember the twelve hour raids here in the winter of 1940, “and hope that in the coming winter the German people will be kept out of bed from dusk till dawn”.

Our losses : Comments about these range from speculations as to whether they are heavy or light to some disbelief of the figures announced; it is asked why the Air Ministry gives out our losses so promptly, since this gives news to the enemy and does not assist home morale. This practice is contrasted with official reticence over shipping losses.

German raids on this country : Although in one Region recent German raids on this country are interpreted as “a sign that we are hurting them”, speculations are reported from four others over the likelihood that “the coming winter will not be a quiet one”; in the London Region some slight increase is reported in the number of people going to shelters.

Recent raids on Edinburgh and St. Andrews are thought to have been due to faulty blackouts, and anxiety is reported from Clydebank, where fears of renewed raids are said to exist; it appears, however, that anxiety is greater over the prospect of homelessness and dependence on charity than over the possibility of death or damage to property.

The new German incendiary bombs : The tackling of the new German incendiary bombs is reported to be causing “strong feeling” in the London Region. It is said that in different areas wardens and police have received contrary instructions; “in some places they have been told to make it widely known, in others that it was ‘highly confidential’”. It is felt that failure to warn the public of the danger is “criminal”, and will give rise to “far more talk and exaggeration, with a consequent danger to morale”.

Our defences and “other devices” : Some concern, “not unmixed with amusement”, is reported over our new A.A. defences; the damage they are said to do is thought to rival that caused by the enemy, and wardens and fire-watchers are reported “unwilling to go out in a raid”.

From two Regions it is alleged that during recent raids “no defence of any kind was put up by A.A. guns or fighters”. Hostile aircraft are said to have been “getting about all over the country without molestation”.

Air Marshal Sir Arthur Harris's broadcast : Reactions to Air Marshal Harris's broadcast continue on the same lines as those reported last week. In four out of five Regional comments the view is taken that “threats are not getting us anywhere”. The broadcast is also described as “an attempt to out-Goebbel Goebbels”. From one Region it is reported to have had a good effect, providing a “much needed fillip to morale”.

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

7. U.S. troops in Great Britain

Reports from nine Regions indicate that, on the whole, the American troops are settling down well in this country. They appear to be very welcome in a number of Regions. In illustration of this feeling an extract from Postal Censorship may be quoted “... a bunch of your boys stationed up north. Honestly you couldn't have sent better ambassadors of good will. They're just great”. Adverse comment seems to be diminishing; the Tobruk story, “which still crops up” in the South Western Region, “is resented by those who have had actual contact with the troops”; in the North Western Region it is reported to have ceased.

A report from the Eastern Region mentions that a greater coldness has been observed between U.S. and British troops than between U.S. troops and the civilian population. This seems to be partly due to sensitiveness on the part of our troops over the disparity between their pay and that of the Americans. The Americans are reported to “persist in treating them to double whiskies, and the difficulty of returning these results in our men appearing diffident and stand-offish. It is suggested that Americans should be told only to treat with beer”.

Few difficulties appear to have arisen over the question of food where this is rationed, but the Americans are thought less well to understand the situation as regards things other than food. Their light-hearted purchase of bicycles and their use of taxis forms the subject of comment, and there is some concern lest “the great spending power of U.S. troops may render even more scarce such goods as are in short supply”.

Coloured troops : The good behaviour and manners of the coloured troops is approved in three Regions.

Trial of U.S. forces : In connection with the new law applying to the U.S. forces, it is felt in two Regions that, where crimes may have occurred against civilians, this law may operate to the detriment of British nationals, more especially in [Text Missing] “matrimonial and bastardy cases”.

(3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 13, 16, 21 Manchester P.C.)

8. Egypt

From four Regions this week interest in the Egyptian situation is reported to be at a low level, although less optimism and complacency than hitherto are also reported. The large reinforcements which Rommel is thought to be gathering “in preparation for a smashing offensive” are said to be causing disquiet among “an intelligent minority”, and concern is also expressed over the inability of our naval forces in the Mediterranean to prevent the passage of his supplies.

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

9. The Far East

The Allied attack in the Solomon Islands appears to have greatly satisfied the public. Preliminary reactions to the news are stated to be “surprise and pleasure that we are hitting back”, though a tendency is reported to reserve judgment until further news.

(1, 2, 7, 10, 13)

10. Shipping losses

There appears to be a decline in public agitation over shipping losses this week. People are reported to “think they are worse than they are, or not so bad”. It is still felt, however, that “some statement is needed to make people realise the situation is serious”.

(1, 4, 10)

11. Broadcasting and presentation of news

Resentment at the “doctoring” or “wrapping-up” of bad news is again reported this week from eight Regions, in three of which this feeling is said to be increasing. “Many people are inclined to a rather cynical belief that they are not told the whole truth, and that the press and radio are dominated by censorship”. The public, it is felt, “should not be coddled and petted in their adversities, but should be instilled with lessons of forbearance, with vivid contrasts of what our servicemen are going through on land, sea and in the air”.

An increasing tendency is also reported “not to listen-in, or to listen-in to the news headlines at the start, and if nothing good is heard, to switch off”. Two Regions mention “a sporadic listening by many” to the German news, for the following reasons:-

  1. The belief that bad news is given out more promptly by the German stations.

  2. The chance of hearing the names of prisoners of war.

  3. “A desire to hear both sides”.

Criticism is also made of the too quick and seemingly [Text Missing] irrelevant change-over from serious subjects “to trivial items of very little moment”, (e.g. “head-gear of M.P.s”). From two Regions the cry is heard for “more vital news”.

Indiscretions : The belief that “too much is divulged to the enemy by those in authority when broadcasting” continues; allegations include complaints from four Regions, that too much information is given about crops, troops and factories.

B.B.C. programmes : Appreciation continues for Lord Woolton's Postscript which has received further praise from five Regions - “a very likeable honest-sounding talk”.

Mr. Archibald Macleish's Postscript was also appreciated and it was considered “hopeful for the development of good relations between the American troops and ourselves that American spokesmen are so anxious that good relations shall be established, and should show such warm appreciation of British hospitality”.

“One Thousand Bombers” (7th Aug:): Reports from two Regions state that this was considered an excellent broadcast - “giving a far better picture of what actually takes place on these occasions than even the wordiest bulletin”.

Official announcements and instructions : From the North Eastern Region the complaint is reported that “wireless announcements of new regulations, concessions, or changes in existing rules, are made before the machinery to implement them is ready. The public make enquiries, only to find that the Local Authority is without information, or in some cases that the action to be taken is different from that outlined in the announcements”.

(1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 21 Glasgow, Manchester P.C.s)


12. Industry

Comment on industrial matters continues on familiar lines which may be summarised thus:-

(1) Workers . Criticism of workers for “looking after themselves” is reported from four Regions. Reports from South Wales indicate that absenteeism in the coal mines has not decreased, and in the North Eastern Region it is believed “that no appreciable improvement in coal production has been attained” since the announcement of the Greene award.

From war factories in Scotland it is reported that two opposing policies are being fought out among industrial workers (a) an “all-out” policy by the Communists (b) a “go-slow” policy by “the old die-hard Trade Unionists who find co-operation with the managements too great a volte face for their long established principles and beliefs”.

(2) Managements are criticised in reports from four Regions for “prolonging the war for their own gain”; “concentrating on post-war planning”; and for paying higher wages where “the cost plus system is thought to operate”.

Government Departments are criticised for alleged “wastage of manpower”; the Royal Ordnance Factory at Swynnerton being specially mentioned in this connection.

(3) Idle time in factories . Complaints of slackness come from Austin's and Rover's factories in the North Midland Region, and from Trecwn, Wales, where girls (their work is not specified) “are frequently reported to have nothing to do”.

(4) Closing of factories . Criticism of the closing down of munition factories, “when the news is looking so ominous”, comes from the Eastern and London Regions.

Cotton . Reports from the North Western Region state that the comparatively low wages and poor conditions make the industry unpopular, particularly with those wage earners “who have been directed back to the industry from munitions”.

The billeting of transferred war workers : From the Eastern Region comes an urgent demand for hostels for newly arrived war workers where they can get “a bed and a meal” before looking for lodgings; the suggestion is made that before they are billeted they should be medically examined, as “frequently people suffering from scabies, impetigo and worse, have been sent to people unaware of the state of affairs”.

“Real hardship” is said to be caused in the Bristol area by the lack of residential nurseries for transferred women war workers with small children. Such women do not become eligible “for provision, through the Local Education Committee, for the child's housing and care” until they have lived in the area for “a given period”, e.g. two weeks; and during this time it appears that no provision can be made for the child while the mother is at work.

The problem of providing meals for war workers on varying shifts, and the “wear and tear on household goods”, which such workers cause, is reported to be hard on householders, some of whom are alleged “to make life intolerable” for their guests so that no more shall be sent. Landladies in Oxford are said to be profiteering at the expense of war workers.

Part-time workers and the Essential Work Order : A report from the South Western Region suggests that the fear of being brought under Essential Work Order inhibits women from taking on part-time work. The impression that they may be “unable to leave if their domestic arrangements require it causes them to hold back”.

(1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11)

13. Food

Satisfaction with the food situation continues to be widely reported from six Regions and from Postal Censorship.

Food wastage : There are reports from five Regions of sifted flour, National Bread and oatmeal being fed to dogs, rabbits, poultry and cattle. In the North Eastern and North Western Regions there are allegations that crops are being destroyed because “they are not worth selling” at the low prices paid to producers; while in the Eastern Region a farmer is reported to be feeding milk to his live-stock “because his herd of cows were producing more than the quota allocated to his farm”.

In the South Western Region, a waste of soft fruit crops is anticipated because arrangements for their transport and distribution are alleged to be inadequate. In Cornwall, farmers expect the reduction in transport for the collection and delivery of milk to result in its souring and wastage.

Sweet rationing : Approval of sweet rationing is reported from four Regions and in Postal Censorship; the hope is expressed, however, that a larger allowance will be made to children. The “ostentatious display of sweets in the shops” has aroused speculation as to whether the ration will be generally increased, and such questions as: “Where were the chocolates these last 18 months?”.

Extra cheese ration : While complaints continue from three Regions about the extra ration, which is thought to be unnecessary, appreciation and a desire for information about ways of cooking cheese is reported from one Region.

(1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 10, 11, 12, 21, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Manchester and York P.C's)

14. Women's Fireguard Order

The Order has generally been accepted in the spirit of: “Well if I have to, I have to”, but there appears to be some feeling among women that “men dodge their responsibilities” and it is hoped that male A.R.P. wardens, older men, employers in provincial towns - who “leave the city each night for the country” - and the “dodgers” will be rounded up before the women are called upon to serve. Some apprehension is reported from men who feel “that their wives are doing as much as possible”. The Order is thought to be specially hard on women who work just under 55 hours a week and who have many domestic jobs to do, besides their work.

Miss Ellen Wilkinson's broadcast on the subject was well received in Scotland, but there are complaints from the London Region that women are confused over the Order and do not understand about hours and place of duty, on exemptions in the case of women with children at home.

(4, 5, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11)

15. Fuel economy

“The effectiveness of the fuel campaign” is noted in four Regions, but in one it is being asked why so many pits are being closed, at a time when the need for fuel and fuel economy is being stressed.

Difficulties in getting fuel supplies are reported both from people in rural areas and from war workers who miss the deliveries while they are at work.

(2, 5, 7, 9, 10, 11, 12)

16. Double Summer Time

Four Regions report that the termination of double summer time is thought to be “inexplicably absurd” in view of the present campaign for fuel economy, but reports from one Region suggest that a more “revealing” complaint is that “it makes winter nearer”.

(1, 2, 6, 10)

17. Constant topics and complaints

  1. Transport difficulties of war workers and people living in rural areas. (1, 2, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11)

  2. Waste of petrol by Army, N.F.S. and Civil Servants, and complaints of unfair allocation of special petrol allowances. (1, 4, 6, 7, 9, 10, 11, 12)

  3. Irritation at ineffectiveness of “holidays at home” appeal, and complaints of food and drink shortages “causing hardship to local residents”. (1, 5, 7, 8, 9, 10, 12)

  4. High prices and scarcity of fresh fruit, tomatoes and vegetables. (1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 10, 21 Glasgow P.C.)

  5. Grumbles by poultry keepers at the new restrictions and complaints that shopkeepers are refusing to sell dried eggs to customers who are not registered for shell eggs. (1, 4, 5, 7, 12, 21 Glasgow P.C.)

  6. Shortage of British Restaurants, and “complaints that selfish private interests are opposed to their establishment”; demands for feeding facilities for long-distance lorry drivers. (3, 4, 6, 10)

  7. Inadequacy of supplementary allowances to old age pensioners. (1, 5, 10, 12)

  8. Inadequacy of Army allowances and service pay. (1, 4, 5, 12)

  9. Careless talk by (i) war workers (ii) travellers in trains. (1, 3, 4, 5)

  10. Shortage and high price of crockery, and complaints of utility crockery being sold only in sets. (1, 5, 6, 7)

  11. Disparity in wages between (i) American and British troops (ii) factory workers and miners (iii) men and women doing the same job. (4, 7, 9, 21 Glasgow P.C.)

  12. The reservation of young unmarried men in industry. (1, 8, 9)

  13. Shopping difficulties due to lunch time and early evening closing. (2, 5, 10)

  14. Non-collection or inadequate collection of salvage. (2, 8, 10)

  15. Inadequacy of children's clothing coupons. (4, 10, 12)

  16. High price of uncontrolled goods in short supply. (5, 10)

  17. Wastage of paper in Government departments. (5, 10)

  18. Continued grievances against the suppression of the small trader. (5, 10)



1. Northern Region (Newcastle) Weekly Reports from R.I.Os.
2. North Eastern Region (Leeds)
3. North Midland Region (Nottingham)
4. Eastern Region (Cambridge)
5. London Region (London)
6. Southern Region (Reading)
7. South Western Region (Bristol)
8. Wales (Cardiff)
9. Midland (Birmingham)
10. North Western Region (Manchester)
11. Scotland (Edinburgh)
12. South Eastern Region (Tunbridge Wells)
13. Northern Ireland (Belfast)
14. Special Reports from R.I.Os.
15. Regions Adviser's Reports
16. M.O.I. Speakers' Reports
17. Local Information Committees' Reports
18. Home Press Summaries M.O.I.
19. Regional Press Summaries
20. Hansard
21. Postal Censorship
22. Police Duty Room Reports
23. Wartime Social Survey Reports
24. B.B.C. Listener Research Papers
25. B.B.C. Special Papers
26. Citizens' Advice Bureaux Reports
27. W.V.S. Reports
28. Scottish Unionist Whips' Reports
29. Liberal Party's Reports
30. Economic League's Reports
31. War Office Post Bag Summaries
32. Primary Sources

D 75183-1 2,500 D/d R.79 7/42 P R P

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