A History of the Ministry of Information, 1939-46


Weekly Report by Home Intelligence Division No. 79
Copy No. 217

8th April, 1942

In reading this report it is important to bear in mind that it is not meant to be a record of facts , except in so far as public opinion is itself a fact. It is an impartial assessment of the public's views and feelings about the war in general. It does not, therefore, imply any endorsement of comments which show the public to be ill-informed, prejudiced or inconsistent.

It is important to remember also that the public, as a rule, is more prone to criticism than to praise. When, therefore, a subject is not mentioned in this report, its absence indicates that it is arousing little comment of a critical kind.

128 129 2 130 3 132 5 133 6

Home Intelligence Division Weekly Report No. 79

8th April, 1942

(Covering the period from 30th March to 6th April, 1942)

Note: The figures in brackets refer to sources of information, a list of which was issued with all reports up to and including No. 66, 7th January, 1942.


1. General state of confidence and reaction to news

The slight rise in public spirits, mentioned in our last Report, appears to have been maintained; as does the mood of expectancy also referred to last week. This mood remains ill-defined and is described as “an air of suspense, of waiting for something significant to happen”. The reasons for the slightly improved state of public spirits are also not clearly shown, but the absence of new disasters for the Allies and signs of “British vigour and initiative” contribute to this state of mind. “The public, however, will need many more indications that we are passing from our defensive attitude to the much desired aggressive spirit before it can again be described as ‘on its toes’”. The general trend of public thought is in the direction “of attack rather than defence”, and the recent heavy raids on Germany and France, the St. Nazaire attack, and the successful passage of the Murmansk convoy, announced last week, are described as having “a tonic effect; but the public still reacts to them as spectators rather than participants in the struggle”. According to one R.I.O., “private considerations... and the lure of personal profits still weigh more with many individuals than does the cause”.

A lack of interest in the war, and a reluctance to discuss it, is mentioned by seven R.I.Os. “People seem to be concentrating on what they can do themselves”, their preoccupations being apparently with home or domestic affairs, such as Civil Defence or “digging for victory”. The general tone of most reports suggests that there is still “a sense of frustration which, though no longer at boiling point, exists as a background for discontent”. Comment and complaint, however, about individual members of the Government seem to be declining, while discussion of the “Government as a whole indicates an appreciation of each step that brings the country nearer to total war”.

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

2. St. Nazaire Raid

Reports this week confirm with emphasis those quoted in our last issue which gave praise to this exploit. It is described as “the best substitute for a Western Front so far”, “in keeping with our traditional methods of warfare”, and as “proof that there is nothing wrong with the Army after all”. Four R.I.Os mention criticism of the presentation of this news, it being noted that the German version “was put out first”; there was, however, commendation for the quick publication of the photographs.

In the North Eastern Region comment was made on the First Lord's “apologies” for the casualties. It is pointed out that “the public knows that such enterprises cannot be carried through without loss, and is impatient when “the unpleasant side of the story is treated as something the British cannot take”. Adverse comment is said to have been aroused also by Mr. Alexander's reference to the “dividends” returned by the raid.

(1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 12, 21, 32)

3. The Far East

A decline of interest in the Far East referred to in last week's Report is still evident. Although, on the whole, there is thought to be less depression, and some belief exists that Allied resistance has hardened, there are still signs, reported by three R.I.Os of “disquiet at the number of men who surrendered at Singapore”.

(1, 2, 4, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 13.)

4. India

That the situation in India seems to have aroused more interest than discussion is apparently due to common ignorance of the complex issues involved. Admiration for Sir Stafford Cripps is very great, “but this appears to be more a compliment to his personality than optimism as to the outcome of his mission”. “Cripps will do it if anyone can” seems to reflect the general feeling. He is thought “to have handled a difficult situation with courage, discretion and patience”. At the same time, fears are expressed that “India may go the same way as Burma”, and the Government is criticised in some quarters for putting forward its plan too late. “We ought to have won India by the offer of Dominion status immediately after the Atlantic charter”. The attitude of the Indian leaders is said to have caused some “surprise and bewilderment”; and the public “finds it difficult to understand the failure of the Indians to pull together when the Japs are knocking at the door”.

(2, 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, 11, 12)

5. U.S.A .

Little comment has been reported about the United States, but satisfaction is reported that “they are doing something at last”. Postal Censorship confirms some belief in U.S. support “as soon as they get into their stride”. From the same source come complaints of the behaviour of U.S. troops now in England. It is alleged that they are “all talk”, and resentment is expressed at their tone: “It's about time we came over to win the war for you”. It is felt that they are “throwing their weight about”.

(4, 11, 21, Special P.C.)

6. Russia

Admiration and sympathy for the Russians continue as before, but there is still not much comment on their activities. Anxiety is again reported by five R.I.Os at the apparent slowing down of the Red Army's progress, and about its prospects in the anticipated German offensive in the Spring.

(2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 11, 13, 21, Special P.C.)

7. Libya

The revival of interest in Libya is still faint. An advance by Rommel is still thought likely and it is felt by some that the campaign “will end in stalemate”.

(2, 4, 9, 11)

8. The Home Secretary

Nine R.I.Os allude to the Home Secretary, either in connection with his warning to the “Daily Mirror”, or with his dismissal of Sir Warren Fisher. It seems to be generally felt that in the former case Mr. Morrison's action was justified in effect, though not in principle, and alarm is said to have been caused at “this further threat to the freedom of the Press and democratic criticism”.

In the case of Sir Warren Fisher, with whom the majority appear to be in sympathy, “objection to Mr. Morrison's action is taken on the grounds of its alleged resemblance to what we are fighting against in the Hitler Regime”. On the whole the main reaction to the incident is to regard it as regrettable.

(1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 22.)

9. Broadcasting and presentation of News

“Annoyance” is expressed once again over the use of such expressions as “strategic withdrawals” and the “straightening of lines” in Burma; in this and in other respects criticism of news presentation continues along the same lines as mentioned in our Report last week, and in all our Weekly Reports since 31st December, 1941.

In this connection it is of interest that Listener Research General Report No. 78, reveals that in the past few weeks the level of listening to News Bulletins has dropped by a fifth. There is as yet, however, no conclusive evidence of an association between this phenomenon and the public's annoyance over the presentation of news.

From London Region comes the complaint that “the continued impossibility of obtaining radio valves is regrettable because it prevents members of the public hearing ‘news, propaganda, and other programmes’”.

(2, 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10, 22, 24)


10. Post-war conditions and production

Four R.I.Os and three M.O.I. Staff speakers refer this week to public interest in post-war conditions, and to a “demand to be told what sort of a post-war society our rulers envisage as the result of victory”. Two of these R.I.O's reports refer to the belief that “production would be improved if something could be done to convince workers that post-war conditions would be better than those they now enjoy”. It is suggested that “lack of faith in post-war planning, and a dread of conditions being ‘as bad, or worse than last time’, is having an adverse effect on production”. It is thought that “a definite statement by the Government - preferably by the Prime Minister - on conditions in this country after the war would do much to improve the war effort”. According to an M.O.I. Staff Speaker, at a discussion group including “men from all over Britain”, the question of whether it was any use discussing peace plans before we have won the war received a two-fold answer:

  1. “The problems are so great that unless we begin to think about them now the peace would get us - as Churchill suggested - unprepared".

  2. “The existence of real peace plans would themselves stimulate the war effort at home, impress our friends and depress our enemies”.

From one Region “great interest” is reported “among the more educated of the working-class in the all-in social insurance scheme which the Beveridge Committee is thought to be considering”.

(5, 6, 10, 12, 16)

11. Industry

There is “less comment on enforced idleness and, in fact, on the question of production generally” this week, but it is not clear whether this is due to an actual decline in dissatisfaction or to people's interest being focused on more domestic topics at Easter. One report suggests that it may be due to an “inclination to await the result of Mr. Lyttelton's appointment and the steps taken since”. According to Postal Censorship's Report on Home Opinion covering the period from mid-February to mid-March, comments on workers and labour conditions, during this period, have increased to 651, approximately 86% of which contain complaints and criticism, or show lack of enthusiasm for the war effort. The figures given for the previous month were 79% containing criticisms, out of a total of only 377 letters on this subject.

Lack of mutual confidence between workers and managements continues to be reported. There is said to be “an ingrained suspicion that managements generally are either incompetent or exploiting workers and the war situation for their own ends”. Workers are said to contrast the conditions prevailing in the same factory in peace and war. They know that “in peace-time every man is expected to do an extremely hard job of work and is got rid of if he slacks. In wartime, the same worker sees men, including himself, sometimes doing little or no work. No adequate explanation is given to him as to why this is so. In peace-time, absenteeism would mean the sack; he would respect employers more if this applied to war-time work also. He is convinced that it is to the employer's advantage to keep him hanging about doing nothing”.

The managements continue to be abused in connection with:

  1. Cost plus ten per cent system

  2. Consideration of their own post-war positions.

The managements, on the other hand, complain that “new labour is undisciplined and unwilling, because it is drafted”, and Government interference is said to be a frequent cause of resentment, “particularly when it has removed the right to sack”.

Attitude of workers : Several reports refer to the slackness and apathy of many of the workers, and Postal Censorship gives a number of extracts which confirm this; “We did no work yet, but our wages is going good, so we have a very nice time”.

According to an M.O.I. speaker, who has been visiting factories in the Sheffield and Leeds areas, as well as a number of firms in the Glasgow area, the percentage of men who “are definitely bad, and are out to do as little as they can and to make trouble”, is about 5%, but these “may infect another 15% or 20% of the workers, more particularly the young ones”. In his opinion “production would improve if all the workers fully understood the gravity of the situation”. It is suggested that “to the bulk of them, the dangers and risks of the war are impersonal: many are being more highly paid now than ever before in their lives, and are naturally anxious that the present good wages should continue”. It is suggested that “persistent propaganda is necessary to keep workers aware that they are part of the war effort” and that “the Government could do more in the way of making all workers feel that they were doing a good job of work”. This is confirmed by the R.I.O., Midland Region who says: “This point of giving workers a better understanding of how their particular job fits into the war is stressed in most factories, and better propaganda and films along these lines are asked for”.

Women in industry : According to two reports, one from Scotland, and one referring to Sheffield and Leeds, “many women, who were not in industry when the war started, are turning out more than the men in jobs where sureness of eye and manual dexterity are more important than physical strength”. The Scottish report attributes this partly to “the enthusiasm and co-operation shown by the work people”; the other attributes it to “slackness on the part of some of the men”.

(1, 2, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 15, 16, 21 Special P.C.)

12. Income tax

According to Postal Censorship's monthly Report on Home Opinion, income tax “still appears to be the strongest single factor militating against production”. Last month it was described in the same report as “one of the chief deterrents to to maximum output”. The following comment is referred to as characteristic: “Archie is not taking any overtime as he has to pay 8/6d. weekly in income tax for six months; its kept out of his wages, so he says he isn't going to work late and then pay tax”. The R.I.O., Midland Region, quotes the Labour Manager of a large brewery as stating that his men were “constantly saying they were not going to slave for reduced rates - due to deduction of tax - and that sometimes absenteeism was as much as 75%”.

A recurrence is reported from one Region of the suspicion that “the management retains the tax”.

There are again complaints of what is considered the unfair method of deducting tax in the case of out-door workers. It is pointed out that “workers earn more in the period from April 6th to October 5th than they do in the winter months, when weather and sickness play havoc with their earnings. This being so, their standard of living is already lower in the winter than in the summer, yet they have to pay tax on their larger earnings in the leaner period”.

Strong resentment is reported from Government Labour Camps in Tiree, where income tax payments are only now being exacted, with the result that “payments which ordinarily extend over 24 weeks must therefore be made within 13 weeks”.

(1, 2, 5, 9, 10, 12, 14 Northern, 21 Special P.C.)

13. Food

Although there is again little grumbling about the food situation there appears to be a growing demand for “equality in food distribution”, and a strong feeling that “luxury foods should not be at the disposal of the wealthy alone”. To quote from one report: “We do not grumble as long as things are the same for rich and poor alike. If we have equality of sacrifice we shall try to be satisfied”. Another quotation reads: “I know of people almost living on the fat of the land; it makes you wonder if it's worth while when your next door neighbour, so to speak, can get what he wants”.

Points rationing : The Points system continues to be generally appreciated and its extension to include all foodstuffs is being discussed by the public as a means whereby equal distribution could be ensured.

Meat : Housewives appear to be worried by a possible cut in the meat ration. The allowance as it is now is said to be “woefully inadequate already for households where all meals are eaten at home”.

The National Loaf : The abolition of the white loaf is said to have been accepted with very little complaint.

Soap : Only two R.I.Os refer to the subject this week. Satisfaction is said to be expressed over the extra allowance for babies, “though mothers of babies of over 12 months are disappointed not to share in it”.

(1, 2, 5, 8, 11, 21 Bristol, Cambridge, Cardiff, Carlisle, Leeds, Manchester and Newcastle P.C.s)

14. Black markets and anti-semitism

From the London and Midland Regions and from Police Duty Room Reports come references to an increase in anti-semitism, which is said to be chiefly due to the “frequent occurrence of Jewish names in Press reports of black market cases”. Other reasons given for the growth or prevalence of anti-semitism are “the many stories current of Jewish evasion of regulations and duties” and the “apparent unwillingness of Jewish leaders to take action”.

(2, 5, 9, 22)

15. Constant topics and complaints

Workers and potential workers continue to complain about the following:-

  1. Transport difficulties. (2. 8. 9. 10. 12.)

  2. Insufficient clothing coupon allowances for workers in “dirty trades”; the surrender of coupons for overalls. (5. 9. 10.)

  3. Shopping difficulties. (1. 5.)

  4. Lack of day nurseries. (5. 9.)

  5. Lack of opportunities for part-time work. (5.) Complaints also continue about:

  1. Waste of petrol by members of the Services and Civil Defence Services. It is also said that in country districts in Scotland “farmers are using up part of their tractor petrol allowance for joy-riding”. (1. 8. 11. 21 Reading P.C.)

  2. The advertising of non-procurable and non-essential goods, which is said to be “a wicked waste of paper”. (9. 10. 22.)

  3. The collection of salvage, which is said to be “not as good as it might be”. (1. 10. 11.)

  4. Disparity between Service pay and allowances and civilian wages. (8. 11.)

  5. Luxury restaurants. (2. 9.)

16. Rumours

It is again rumoured from the North Eastern Region that the “Queen Mary” and “Queen Elizabeth” have been sunk. Another rumour again current in this Region is that the tea ration is to be reduced.

In the Wigton, Cumberland, area a rumour is reported that the Germans have sent stocks of poison gas to France. It is thought this rumour may be connected with the local authority's inspection of gas masks.

A rumour in the South Eastern Region is that the basic petrol ration has been withdrawn from private motorists so that it may be kept for a “scorched earth” policy in case of invasion.

In the London Region there is a rumour that, in order to reduce consumption, all lights will be turned off at 10 p.m.; and another, that candles are to be rationed as people will use them instead of electric light.

(2, 5, 10, 12.)

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