A History of the Ministry of Information, 1939-46

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Home Intelligence Division Weekly Report No. 81

22nd April, 1942

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


1. General state of confidence and reaction to news

The state of public feeling this week is less than ever susceptible to assessment. While from four Regions come reports which refer, either directly or by implication, to a sense of detachment from the war, from three other Regions it is stated that the public is showing “a more lively interest in both the home news and the news from abroad”. The tone of most reports indicates, however, that “the feeling of expectancy”, to which we have referred in our last three reports, continues and is accompanied this week by a slight rise in spirits. This is attributed to:-

  1. The bombing of Tokyo and other Japanese cities, which has been hailed as “the best news we have had for months”.

  2. The Budget, which has been generally accepted as “fair and sound, and attuned to the general public's desire for austerity”.

  3. The R.A.F.'s “non-stop offensive” over the Continent, which is said to have given people in this country “a real kick”.

  4. The good weather.

Against this slight improvement in public spirits must be set the disgust and uncertainty aroused by Laval's return to power, and the continued anxiety about our position in Burma. On balance, however, it seems that the influence of these two factors is outweighed by the points already mentioned.

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

2. The Budget

Attention this week has been focussed mainly on the “austerity” Budget which appears, on the whole, to have been very well received, or at worst, “philosophically accepted”. The public are said to have been expecting to pay more for luxuries, and to realise the necessity of doing so. To quote a Highlandman: “This wae winna be won for us by Santy Claus. We'll hiv tae pay for't. This budget brings this hame”.

Particular satisfaction and relief are expressed at the fact that direct taxation has not been increased as had been feared.

Satisfaction is also reported over:-

  1. The increase in personal allowances for married women in employment.

  2. The decision to issue certificates showing the amounts of post-war credits.

  3. The raising of the purchase tax on luxury goods.

  4. The absence of any new indirect taxation on food.

Weekly earnings : Opinion is divided over the change in the method of collecting wage earners' income tax. Although some people are reported to welcome it others seem to feel “it does not adequately meet the workers, demands for deductions of their tax from weekly earnings”. Some confusion is also reported as to how the new method will work.

Beer and tobacco : From all the Regions come reports of comments ranging from rueful good humour to “shock” at the increased prices “which will make the average evening at the pub, with three beers and a packet of cigarettes, a costly affair”.

The following specific complaints are made:-

  1. That “the poor man is being penalised”.

  2. That Servicemen will suffer as they cannot always get adequate supplies of cigarettes from canteens, and have to purchase others at the increased prices from ordinary retailers.

  3. That old-age pensioners will be hit by having to pay more for their “baccy”.

A good many people are said to ask why soft drinks, bicycles and cats were not taxed, and why “a bit was not put on” wireless licences and dog licences - (“Dogs are becoming unpopular now that railings are removed”.)

(1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 21)

3. The Far East

The bombing of Japan : The announcement of raids on Tokyo and other Japanese cities has been followed by “a wave of exultation”, and the hope that “the Americans will give them more of this”. These raids have not only satisfied a growing demand for the bombing of Tokyo, but have also been taken as an indication that “the tide is turning in this area and that American activity is increasing”.

Burma : Although there appears to be comparatively little discussion on this subject, “deep public concern” and some “bitterness” about the Burma oilfields are reported from Scotland and Northern Ireland.

India : Discussion about India has shown a sharp and sudden decline. The few reported comments are on the same lines as those mentioned in our Report last week. Some fear is now expressed, however, of possible fifth column activity in India in case of Japanese invasion.

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

4. Malta

The heroism of the people of Malta induces widespread admiration and sympathy. The King's award of the George Cross to the island, which is said to have “captured the imagination of the public”, is considered “appropriate and thoroughly deserved”.

(2, 6, 7, 9, 11, 13)

5. Russia

There is again very little comment on Russia this week. Reports of continued advances appear to be accepted by some people as a source of comfort and by a few with scepticism.

From Scotland comes a report that “a growing minority is turning away from Russia, as it is felt by ‘anti-second fronters’ that Maisky, Litvinov and others have not been helpful allies in stimulating an impossible demand for a second front”.

(2, 5, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12)

6. The War in the West

R.A.F. raids : There is considerable satisfaction at “the great scale” of recent bombing raids on Germany and Italy, and the fighter sweeps over France. The public want to know that “the Germans are being hit as hard as they ever hit Britain”, and all photographs of damage are said to be “keenly studied”.

The Augsburg raid has evoked admiration for the courage of our airmen, but opinion is divided as to whether “such losses are or are not worthwhile”.

A second front : The “non-stop” R.A.F. raids are felt by some people to be a prelude to offensive action on our part, and it is hoped that “more is coming, including invasion of Europe”.

Vichy France : The return to power of Laval “the arch-traitor and Germany's willing tool”, has been received with “disgust” and some apprehension. Fear that the French Fleet may be used against us is referred to in reports from seven Regions, and it is hoped that we will “do the Pearl Harbour act” before the Germans make use of the ships. Unless we can do this, it is felt that “things might go very badly for us in the Middle East for a time”.

There appears to be, however, more uncertainty than alarm as to what to expect from France: whether an insurrection against Laval, or the active entry of France into the war against us.

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

7. The Government

There continues to be little criticism or mention of the Government, and “a noticeable absence of any backward-looking or desire to recriminate”.

Satisfaction is expressed that Sir Stafford Cripps, “who seems to overshadow everyone lately”, will soon be home, as “hopes for the speeding up of the Home Front seem to be centred on him”. (This was, of course, before the announcement of his arrival in London.)

(3, 4, 5, 10)

8. Broadcasting and presentation of news

Little comment is reported on news presentation this week, apart from a continued demand for a more objective handling of news. There appears to be a persistent feeling that “small items of good news are magnified, while large items of bad news are glossed over and relegated to an unimportant place”. There has been some comment on the B.B.C.'s remarks on the “immobilisation of one and a half million German soldiers in Western Germany by our air raids, when we have an army here of one and a half million regulars, plus American and Canadian contingents, and two million Home Guards similarly immobilised”.

Comment is reported from two Regions on the “manner in which news of the negotiations in India fluctuated”, and on the way the Press “raised false hopes about the probable success of the negotiations”, which resulted in an “increased sense of disappointment”.

Government announcements : “Officials and social workers” are said to complain that announcements of new regulations made over the wireless are “ill-digested or only partly heard” by many of the people to whom they are addressed. “It is again urged that Government announcements should appear always in the same place in the newspapers”.

... (2, 3, 4, 5, 9, 10, 12, 14 North Western, 32)

9. War weariness among the Middle-aged

Middle-aged people, particularly those who have new burdens to bear (care of evacuees, longer hours of work, Home Guard duties etc.), are reported to be “feeling the strain” considerably. This is said to be showing itself specially among overworked middle-aged housewives, who are becoming increasingly irritated by appeals for them to dig for victory, organise salvage drives, arrange for the pooling of washing to save soap, take their holidays at home, and so on.

(6, 12)


10. Income Tax

The Budget concessions are reported “to have given rise to satisfaction generally”; five regional reports however, regret that no simplification has been attempted. One report suggests instruction on income tax matters for senior classes of all schools. “One period a week given to sensible views on citizenship and taxation would percolate quickly into the homes of the working people”. Boys and girls are thought to be “receiving better education than ever their fathers did, and would go home and argue about it”.

(1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 17)

11. Industry

Idle time and over-time : There appears to be some recrudescence of talk about “idle time in war factories”. In the Dartford district 90 men at the Vickers works at Crayford are said to have been “waiting (doing nothing on full pay) for material for five weeks”.

Needless over-time is “a sore point” in the Swindon area where it is reported that “workers must frequently stay at work on over-time when there is no work to be done”. In another case managements are accused of keeping employees on over-time when only certain workers are needed; the remainder having “to kill time” as well as possible, although they would, it is stated, feel better employed on their allotments.

(3, 4, 7, 12, 32)

Women in industry : In this week's Regional reports less specific mention is made of women in industry. In one Region “reluctance by the managements of some factories to make arrangements for part-time women workers is said to be a difficulty which is only very slowly being overcome”; but on the whole, grievances seem to be fewer. Absenteeism, however, is still reported, and it is again stated that the excuse given by most women, is the shopping difficulty. Two Regions refer to Priority Shopping cards as a solution of this problem.

(3, 4, 5, 9, 32)

Closing of industries : From Scotland “considerable concern” is reported among “employees of industries now closed because they are unessential, or lack necessary supplies”. Six hundred employees of the Edinburgh Rubber Works are said to have been “paid off”; “many of them are mobile and have little wish to leave home, so their anxiety as to the future is manifest”.


12. Passenger transport

Workers' transport difficulties are mentioned in reports from six Regions; complaints range from queueing to shortage and overcrowding of public vehicles. The problem in some areas is said to be “a very big headache for managements and workers”. At Redditch, Warwickshire, for example, “men working ten hours a day at very heavy work sometimes have to wait an hour or over for a bus - some of them having to go thirty or more miles”. From Merseyside also some anxiety is reported “at the length of time spent by young people travelling, and the fear is expressed that it may have an adverse effect on health”.

Queueing : References from two Regions to the new queueing order suggest that, although this is being obeyed, “as soon as the vehicle appears the queue disintegrates into the usual scrambling mob”.

Petrol restrictions : These are thought, in country areas, to be “rather drastic”, and to penalise “voluntary associations which have been using their cars for voluntary work”. “Anxiety and uneasiness” are reported pending the detailed working of the scheme of supplementary allowances. In the South Western Region, a general wish is reported “for a clear statement about the effects of the cut”, particularly as it affects:-

  1. Cars used by private persons for public business.

  2. Carrying of passengers by business users.

  3. The possibility of small traders being driven out of business if refused adequate petrol.

(These reports were received before the statement in the House of Commons.)

(1, 2, 4, 7, 9, 10)

13. Disparity of wages

The disparity between wages of war workers and, for instance, weavers; civilians and services; munition workers and dustmen; and British and Dominion troops cause “hard feelings”.

Some discontent is reported among the ranks in “military camps in the Gloucester area” because Italian Prisoners of war, working on farms, are said to be earning £1.18s.60. per week.

(4, 5, 8, 10)

14. Billeting difficulties

Billeting difficulties are reported from three Regions. The billeting of war workers in reception areas is said to be making the billeting of children, especially secondary school boys, more and more difficult. According to a billeting officer, “people cannot be expected to welcome a boy of sixteen who needs full board, for a few shillings a week, when they can take war workers who may be willing to pay 35/- to 50/- for partial board”. There is also some concern as to what will happen in an emergency, in areas which are scheduled to take hundreds of evacuees, as they “could not possibly be dealt with in present circumstances”.

Difficulties in finding accommodation are said to be increased in areas where “all the empty houses have been requisitioned by Local Authorities for people who may be rendered homeless in future air raids”.

(3, 5, 9, 11)

15. Food

General satisfaction with the food situation is still reported.

Vegetables : Complaints of the scarcity of green vegetables have decreased: last week they came from five Regions; this week they come from only one. Complaints of their high prices appear to have increased, however, and are reported from six Regions this week, as against four last week. This is referred to as “a major cause of irritation, and about the only black mark against the Ministry of Food at the present time”.

Restaurant meals and luxury feeding : A “general welcome” is reported from six Regions at the “promise of a ruling restricting the cost of restaurant meals”. In view of the feeling that “luxury feeding of all kinds should be controlled as soon as possible, it is hoped that the Government will not talk too long with the vested interests”. Resentment continues to be reported that “those who are better off can supplement their rations by restaurant meals” and by “luxury foods such as fresh salmon or game, which anyone of moderate means cannot buy”. There is also said to be “some feeling that luxury foods should be taxed, and that coupons should be surrendered for restaurant meals”.

Points rationing : General satisfaction with points rationing continues to be reported, the only criticism being “the Food Minister's trick of putting more things on the points without a reasonable increase in the number or value”. In view of shopping difficulties and the “effort required to secure goods in short supply”, there appears to be a fairly strong desire for points rationing to be extended to include such things as biscuits and sweets. The following remark is reported as being typical: “I would prefer to receive two ounces of biscuits every week, and receive them as my right, than get half a pound with the present effort entailed”.

There is said to be some demand for a complete list of foods on points rationing with their values, since, owing to the changes in, and additions to, the scheme, people find it hard to plan their points to the best advantage. It is suggested that “such a list should be published in the Press so that people could cut it out, or that it should be made compulsory for grocers to display it in their shops”.

The National Loaf : There has been little fresh comment about the National Loaf, but approval continues to be reported. Some disappointment is, however, mentioned that “it goes stale so quickly”: as some bakers seem to be able to avoid this, it is asked if general advice could not be given to bakers on how to counteract this tendency.

Waste of bread : It is reported from one Region that “Lord Woolton's reference to waste of bread and his statement that he did not want to ration it has been taken as a forecast of bread rationing”, and has produced the suggestion that “bread rationing would be very serious in its effect on morale and ought not to be imposed unless the position is so desperate as to make it essential”.

(1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 10, 11, 12, 13, 21 Bristol P.C. 32)

16. Constant toppics and complaints

There are continued comments about the following:-

  1. The shortage of crockery (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13)

  2. Insufficient clothing coupon allowances for workers in certain trades. (1, 5, 8, 9)

  3. The need for precise instructions for civilians in the event of invasion. (3, 6, 7, 16)

  4. Shortage of day nurseries. (4, 5, 9)

  5. The high price of furniture. (1, 6, 10)

  6. The high wages of Juveniles. (2, 11)

  7. Waste of paper by:-

    1. The Government.

    2. The use of advertising space for needless advertising.

    3. The publication of such books as “The Book for Racing Men”, issued by the Sporting Chronicle, and giving information of 2,300 race horses in training. (1, 2)

  8. Non-collection of salvage. (7, 10)

  9. Waste of petrol by the Services. (3, 5)

  10. The damage done by animals now that so many railings and gates have been removed. (3, 8)

  11. The uneconomic delivery of coal in small quantities. (1)

  12. The “frequent appearance of Jewish names in prosecutions for black market offences”. (1)



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 Advisor'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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