A History of the Ministry of Information, 1939-46


Copy No. 217

1. 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.

2. It is important to remember also that the public, as a rule, is more prone to express criticism than praise. Good work or efficiency is usually taken for granted. An accurate picture will therefore tend to be critical rather than laudatory. When a subject is not mentioned in this report, its absence indicates that it is not a matter of widespread criticism.

3. In assessing the state of public feeling there are no absolutes. Findings can only be comparative. Each individual 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.

4. 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 adopted in 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.

119 121 3 122 4 123 5

Home Intelligence Division Weekly Report No. 80 .

15th April, 1942

(Covering the period from 6th to 13th April, 1942)


1. General state of confidence and reaction to news

The public's mood this week is variously described. The main trends of feeling appear to be:-

  1. Expectancy . It is widely anticipated that “things will really begin to happen soon”. Hitler is expected to strike in the East, and there is a growing belief that we shall “not be long in following suit in the west - like St. Nazaire or bigger”. As evidence for this belief, the arrival of the U.S. Chief of Staff in this country is quoted.

  2. Detachment . At the same time, lack of talk and discussion about the war is widespread. People are described as “unwilling or unable to assimilate most of the news - whether good or bad”. “The war's getting so vast, we can't hope to understand it”.

  3. A mixture of pessimistic comment on our Naval losses, the failure of the India proposals, and the continued Japanese successes in the Philippines and Burma; and restrained satisfaction at our heavy raids on Germany, the evidence that “we have tried our best in India”, the increasingly drastic steps by the Government and “the end of a hard winter and the coming of better weather”.

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

2. India

The negotiations in India appear to have been watched throughout last week with steadily growing interest by most sections of the public; indeed interest after their break-down was said actually to be greater than before. Disappointment is general, but so also is appreciation of the part played by Sir Stafford Cripps. It is widely felt that “no-one could have done more than he did”, and that his failure to achieve his object has “in no way lowered him in the public esteem - on the contrary it appears rather that his reputation has been enhanced by his tact and patience, and by his capable handling of this complex problem”. His broadcast was apparently not heard by large numbers “because of its unusual time”, but those who did hear it greatly appreciated it, particularly his reference to Russia's unity, in spite of the many nationalities.

The Government, too, is praised for “attempting to put things right at this late hour”, and it is felt that “by making all possible concessions, short of what might have been disastrous to the Allied cause, Britain has shown the world, and particularly America, that she really wants to promote better relations with India”. It is also widely felt that “the door has been left open for a new move by India”.

Although responsibility for the failure is to a great extent laid on the Indians, who are accused of “oriental haggling”, and “with whom there is a certain amount of irritation”, the following minority criticisms are made about the British attitude:-

  1. Cripps' offer came too late. “Dominion status should have been offered to India long ago”.

  2. The Indians must be aware that the concessions were only being offered because of the gravity of the war situation.

  3. Lord Halifax's speech of 8th April was “ill-timed”.

There are some suggestions that “we should now clear out of India and leave them to manage as best they can”.

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

3. The Far East

Naval losses in the Indian Ocean : The sinking within two days in the Bay of Bengal of two cruisers, the aircraft carrier “Hermes” and “x merchant ships” has been a considerable shock to the public, “who are becoming more and more worried about our naval losses”.

Some anger is expressed at the lack of protection provided for our ships, but the chief emotion appears to be one of bewilderment and confused worry at our “apparently complete inability to counter the Japanese on land, on sea and in the air”. “What is the secret of their ‘success’?” is being asked, and “why can they sink even our big ships by air attack while we only get near misses?” The stories of Japanese inefficiency, current before her entry into the war, are now entirely discredited. The announcement that dive-bombers were responsible is said to have been greeted with some bitterness, “in view of our lack of them”.

Burma : From seven Regions come reports of anxiety over our position in Burma. There is also “confusion over whether or no we have yet lost the Burma oil”. The continued air superiority of the Japanese wherever they attack is felt to be “the major danger”.

Bataan : The fall of Bataan has been accepted as the inevitable close to the resistance put up by the Americans in the Philippines. The contrast is still drawn between the American resistance and the fall of Hong Kong and Singapore. Singapore continues to be discussed locally “wherever the news of relatives missing comes through”.

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

4. Russia and a “Second Front in the West”

It is thought that the Russians are now up against stronger resistance, and speculation continues as to how they will fare in the spring. There appears, however, to be little loss of confidence in their ability to succeed, but a growing wish for us to take “a more effective share in the war in Europe, so as to relieve them when the German Spring Offensive starts”.

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

5. The Middle East

Admiration and sympathy are expressed for “the sturdy defence of Malta”. It is thought that air attacks on this island are covering the landing of enemy reinforcements in Libya, preparatory to the launching of large scale attacks in the Middle East.

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

6. The Government


Both interest in, and criticism of the Government are at present slight. Contested bye-elections are welcomed as “likely to keep the Government up to scratch”.

It is suggested that absentee M.Ps “should have their salaries docked”. “Why should there be discrimination between them and absentees in factories?”

(2, 5, 7, 8, 9)

7. Communism

From three Regions there are reports of increasing interest in the Communist Party. “They're not saying anything to which the average person could take exception”. New adherents to communist ideals are, however, said to “want their own British brand, not that of Karl Marx or Lenin”.

(3, 7, 11)

8. Invasion

While expectation of invasion of Britain continues to be slight, interest in what civilians ought to do is increasing. Invasion Committees are generally welcomed, and demands for precise instructions for civilians are growing.

(3, 4, 6, 7, 8, 10)

9. Broadcasting and presentation of news

The demand for “facts without delay and without dressing up” continues to be reported. The balancing of our losses in the Indian Ocean against one Italian cruiser is criticised. Increased listening to the German radio immediately after the preliminary announcement of exciting news is reported. “There was not a bar parlour for miles”, in one area of Scotland, “where the German version of the St. Nazaire raid wasn't being discussed”.

Digestibility of news ”: “For some time a considerable strain has been placed on the general public in the matter of assimilating knowledge”, according to one Regional report. “With the spread of the war round the world and the quick passing of campaigns from one country to another, ordinary people have learnt about new climates, geography, races, traditions, political institutions, etc., as well as military, naval and air affairs; this now seems to be affecting their ability to assimilate home news. Many individuals have recently been met who have failed to grasp a regulation applying to themselves, such as points rationing modifications, coal rationing, compulsory queueing, insurance of part-time workers, and the position of Civil Defence workers recruited into the Home Guard”. It is thought that this tendency may be aggravated by the “curtailed space in the Press allotted to those subjects, and the decreased volume of attentive listening to the final items in the B.B.C. news bulletins”.

King Haakon's visit to Bristol : “Very deep criticism” is reported from Bristol at the announcement by the B.B.C. of the King of Norway's visit to the Bristol Aircraft Co's works: this is regarded as “an open invitation” to the Germans to bomb Bristol. It is pointed out that “for two years the citizens of this country have been taught at every turn to Keep Mum, and now we hear this news being shouted from the housetop by Government spokesmen”.

Commander Kimmins' Postscript on Malta (5th April) : Appreciation of this “wonderful broadcast, which seems to have brought home to many the brave part which Malta is playing”, is reported from three Regions.

(2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 9, 10, 11, 12, 32)


10. Post-war conditions

There has been some welcome for Mr. Bevin's statement on the need for control of post-war industry; interest continues “in the sort of life people may expect when the war is won”. People's desires are described as “vague”, but the main trends of feeling appear to be:-

  1. Less privilege and more responsibility based on service.

  2. Less cut-throat competition in trade and industry.

  3. Government work at fair wages rather than a dole for unemployed.

  4. Something better than the present party representation in Parliament.

  5. Getting rid of distinctions in pay between men and women.

  6. A foreign policy which will somehow or other organise international relations on a basis of security and permanent peace.

Sir William Beveridge's proposals for an “all-in” social security scheme are said to be popular.

11. Industry

The decline in criticism about production mentioned in our last Report appears this week to be maintained; it is stated that “public opinion on production is substantially better than it was.” “The general alarm and despondency created by wild stories about industrial inefficiency is being to some extent dissipated by the facts.” On the other hand, two Regions report “a most marked wave of gossip; endless conversation passed on second-hand of idleness in war factories which, it is alleged, are impossible to trace to their origin.”

The chief subjects of discussion are now the allocation of woman power, and, in a lesser degree

  1. misconceptions over income tax;

  2. lack of mutual confidence between workers and managements.

(2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 16, 28)

Allocation of woman power : “The employment of women has once more become the main theme in industry.” Absenteeism and “hanging back” from work are still felt to be chiefly due to:

  1. Shopping difficulties.

  2. Domestic responsibilities.

  3. A feeling that well-to-do women are “shirking.”

There are growing demands that shops should stay open for women workers on two nights a week until 8 p.m., “even if they don't open till noon.” Six-hour shift systems for women are also advocated. The need for longer school hours, to coincide more with factory shifts, and for more day-nurseries, is also voiced. The feeling that women of leisure are dodging the call-up is considered in one Region to be a strong deterrent to possible volunteers.

(2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 19, 16)

Income Tax : Absenteeism or deliberate abstention from work by working men and married women is reported from four Regions, in order, it is said “to avoid having to pay income tax because, with deductions, “it doesn't pay.” Income Tax is referred to as “a stumbling block to married women”, who are said not to be undertaking war work or helping other women “because their husbands believe that all their earnings will be swallowed up in the husband's increased income tax, whilst the home will be inefficiently run”.

“A strong demand” continues from workers for “some form of vouchers for post-war credits,” and for “income tax on working men's wages to be definitely related to current earnings.” (No reports have been received since the Chancellor's budget statement.)

(2, 3, 4, 6, 28)

Lack of confidence between workers and managements : Allegations continue, though on a reduced scale. From Scotland it is suggested that they may have originated largely among sections of the public unconnected with industry; that “a general myth exists that war industry as a whole is inefficient”, and that this has resulted in “a wholesale tendency to condemn this or that element in industry.” There are now, it is said, “signs in heavy industry in Scotland that both employers and workers are beginning to take a more balanced view of industrial production.” From two other Regions, however, come allegations against workers of slackness, unpunctuality, and irresponsibility. Managements are accused of “taking the opportunity of installing new and expensive machinery in order to be better prepared for competition after the war and at the same time avoid E.P.T.” The belief continues that “cost plus 10 per cent” is widespread. The need for “the human touch in industry - individual understanding between managers and workers” is stressed in one report; it is thought to be worth as much as all the material arrangements that can be made.

(2, 3, 7, 9, 10, 11)

12. Transport

The problem of transport for workers as well as for inhabitants of rural areas is reported from six Regions; though the abolition of the basic petrol ration continues to be accepted with satisfaction by non-motorists and with good grace by motorists, real hardships are expected among villagers. Many “co-operative shopping arrangements, whereby a motorist took neighbours into local towns” are expected to come to an end, and voluntary workers with cars are saying they “will have to give up”. It is hoped that the Government has realised that the cut in the basic ration will make transport on public vehicles even more of a problem.

Industrial areas are said to be increasingly affected; one factory estimated “a loss of 350-500 man hours per day owing to lack of transport.” In two Regions the tendency to clock-off before the hour “to catch the buses” is reported, one manager being quoted as saying “we let the women off a few minutes early so that they won't get killed in the rush.”

In this connection it is pointed out that “the need for extensive feeding facilities is often linked with transport difficulties.” Lack of canteens is alleged to be a cause of added inconvenience and discomfort to workers.

The enormous amount of travelling by troops on leave is regarded as the main cause of long-distance transport difficulties.

(1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 9, 10)

13. Food

Satisfaction with the food situation continues to be generally reported.

Extension of rationing : There are indications from four Regions that “an extension of points rationing would be welcomed”. The points rationing system is said to “win complete approval, and it is asked why it cannot be extended to include all, or almost all goods”. This, it is thought would do away with:-

  1. “the advantage that the leisured have over the war workers”.

  2. “the great difficulties that exist for newcomers to any town (e.g. newly imported workers) who cannot secure the little extras and luxuries until they have served their period of approbation in the new shops”.

  3. the necessity of grocers hiding scarce commodities under the counter instead of displaying them.

The National Loaf : This is reported to have been accepted with approval in three Regions, without comment in two Regions, and philosophically in one. People are reported to be “delighted at the variety and interest of the new loaves, and there has been considerable commendation awarded to bakers”. A few cases of indigestion are reported from two Regions, together with an attitude of “We'll have to get used to it”.

Vegetables : Complaints of the scarcity of vegetables - and particularly of green vegetables - come from five Regions: complaints of their high prices come from four.

Luxury feeding : Three reports refer to public feeling about luxury feeding and “lavish hotel prices”. It is felt that “the wealthy can secure more than their share of rationed foods by feeding in expensive restaurants, and that this will continue until a maximum price for meals is imposed”.

It is also reported that “people taking their meals at home feel badly treated as compared either with those who are able to afford restaurant meals, or war workers obtaining canteen meals in addition to home rations.

Oranges : Some dissatisfaction is reported from three Regions over the distribution of oranges. It is said that the five day period has often passed before mothers with children under six know that oranges are on sale in their area; and it is thought that more local publicity is needed.

Sweets : The shortage of sweets is reported from two Regions: there is some comment on the distribution, and it is suggested that this involves some hardship to children.

(2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 21 Edinburgh, Cardiff P.O.s.)

14. Black markets

Public feeling about black markets is reported from three Regions. “In spite of the increase in the scale of punishment for black market dealings, there is still a wish for more drastic measures”. It is said that “racketeers are just as much enemies of this country as spies, and should be treated as such”.

Anti-Semitism : This is reported from three Regions, in two of which the feeling is connected with black markets, and is “supported by the obviously Jewish names of the black marketeers”.

(2, 3, 5, 10, 11)

15. Crockery shortage

A shortage of crockery is reported from eleven Regions, in four of which there are complaints of the high prices charged; profiteering is alleged, and it is suggested that the Government should control the price. Thefts of cups from canteens and cafes are reported, and in some cases “the theft of cups has reached such a scale that the proprietors have now broken off all the handles so that people would be less likely to steal them”.

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

16. Constant topics and complaints

There are continued complaints about the following subjects:-

  1. The non-collection, or inefficient or unfair collection of salvage. (2, 3, 4, 7, 8)

  2. The high wages of youths and unskilled labourers. (4, 5, 9, 10)

  3. Disparity of wages between servicemen and civilians, miners and munition workers. (4, 5, 7, 10)

  4. Careless talk by members of the Services and by workmen. (2, 8, 10, 13)

  5. Insufficient clothing coupon allowances for workers in heavy or dirty trades, such as agricultural workers, concrete workers, and dockers and shipyard workers. (5, 6, 10)

  6. Government extravagance, especially in the use of paper. (1, 3, 9)

  7. Waste of petrol by the Services, and the N.F.S., particularly since the announcement of the basic cut for civilians. (3, 4)

  8. Waste of electric light by shops and hotels. (10)

  9. The coal ration, in the mining areas of the North Midland Region. (3)

  10. Press advertising of costly or unobtainable goods. (8)

  11. Tobacconists holding up supplies for the budget. (11)

  12. The need for extra soap for miners who have no pithead baths. (8)

17. Rumours

In Cornwall, Devon, Weston, Trowbridge, and Cirencester there are “persistent rumours of attempted German landings at various places between Southampton and Lands End”. From several places in the Tunbridge Wells area and from Angmering come “slightly varying versions of the rumour that the Germans have raided the coast at Dover or Newhaven”.

Widespread rumours are reported from the Southern Region that we have lost many more ships in the Bay of Bengal than have been reported, including two large transports full of men and a great many merchant ships.

(6, 7, 12)



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 Committee 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
24. B.B.C. Listener Research Papers
25. B.B.C. Special Papers
26. Citizens' Advice Bureau 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

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