A History of the Ministry of Information, 1939-46


Copy No. 216

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.

99 100 2 102 4 103 5 104 6 106 8

Home Intelligence Division Weekly Report No. 82

29th April, 1942

(Covering the period from 20th to 27th April, 1942)


1. General state of confidence and reaction to news

Expectancy, which is this week reported from all Regions, appears to have become the dominant note in public feeling; it ranges from expectation of “the development of more active warfare in Europe” to “a firm conviction that this year we shall invade in the West”. This “crystallisation” of expectancy out of “the desire for a second front” is chiefly attributed to the continued air attacks on Germany and the occupied countries, and to the Commando raid on Boulogne; these are both thought to show “promise of action on a much larger scale”. The proof given by these raids “of Allied ability to hit back and hit hard” seems to have induced a feeling of optimism and a further rise in confidence.

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

2. The War in the West

The R.A.F. and Commando raids : The increasing tempo of the air offensive against Germany, especially “the repeated hammering of Rostock”, the continued R.A.F. sweeps over occupied territory, and the Commando raid on Boulogne, are said to have had “a tonic effect on public spirits” and “are welcomed for themselves and as evidence of our turning to a more aggressive spirit”. The Commando raids particularly are regarded as “a prelude to bigger things”.

The Commando raid on Boulogne : The news of this raid was eagerly received by the public, “whose appetite is now whetted for offensive action”.

From five Regions come reports, however, of people being “frankly puzzled by our failure to announce the attainment of a definite objective, as in the case of the St. Nazaire, Bruneval and the Lofoten raids”. There is some speculation as to whether this omission is due to the failure of the raid, or to the fact that its purpose was only “to spy out the land and to keep the Germans on tenterhooks”.

A second front : R.A.F. and Commando raids. The visit of General Marshall and Mr. Hopkins, Lord Beaverbrook's demand for a second front, and German precautions in the West, are additional factors making for speculation about a coming Allied offensive. Two Regional reports suggest that the prohibition of the sale of canned meat is also thought to point the same way, the question being asked: “Where is the Army going to take the corned beef?”.

Vichy France : Anxiety about the future of the French Fleet is again reported this week. Laval continues to be referred to with hatred, and “hopeful anticipation” is reported of “another but more successful attempt on his life”. The possibility of the French people revolting against his regime is once more mentioned.

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

3. Russia

There is still little comment on the actual military situation in Russia, as “the present few weeks appear to be generally regarded as an interim period before the heavy spring fighting recommences”. Admiration and gratitude for Russia, and confidence in her strength and efficiency persist. It is reported from the Eastern Region that “the appeal of Russia continues to be a tremendous force among factory workers, etc.; Russian films and talks on Russia still appear to be a major incentive to an increase in production, and there is still a steady demand for further information about Russian methods and Russian life”.

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

4. The Far East

Satisfaction continues over the bombing of Tokyo, and there are hopes that “it will soon be repeated”. But apart from this, interest in the Far East, “which is too far off to be envisaged”, seems to have declined.

Burma : Anxiety over “the continued withdrawals” appears to be felt only by a minority. These retreats are, however, said to have caused “deeper disappointment in Gloucestershire as a result of the publication of the Gloucestershire Regiment's casualty list”.

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

5. Malta

The defence of Malta and the spirit of its people continue to evoke the highest admiration. This is said, however, to be coupled with a demand for the bombing of Rome. A report from Wales stresses this point, and the question is asked: “Why is Rome spared the devastation which it deserves? Rome is no better than London or Coventry or Bristol or Swansea - there are Churches and Ministers of God in those places too”.

(1, 2, 3, 7, 8, 10, 11, 13)

6. Hitler's speech to the Reichstag

So far reports on this subject have been received from only two Regions. The speech is said to have had “nothing in it to discourage us”, and is taken to indicate that Hitler “has a packet of trouble on his own Home Front”.

(4, 9)

7. The Bath air raids

In a special report on the Bath raids the Regional Information Officer states that damage to residential areas has been heavy and widespread, and that after the second raid “communications...virtually ceased”. Many people were homeless and the rest centres were very full. But the population is said to have “stood up well” to its ordeal. “Even previously bombed-out evacuees from places like Bristol showed patience rather than complaint”. Though dazed, and angered by the damage caused to “prized buildings”, the public has given “no sign of fright”, and, though fatigued, shows “pride in having taken it”.

A considerable exodus from the town is reported and there are said to be “enormous queues for transport; the chief enquiries at the information centre were about transport and billets outside”.

The public's reactions to emergency measures seem to have been very satisfactory. The response to announcements from M.O.I. loud-speaker vans, particularly in surrounding villages, is reported to have been exceedingly good: “people immediately hurried to do as they were told”. Voluntary help on a substantial scale was given by Emergency Information Officers organised from Bristol, who acted as reliefs for M.O.I. drivers, announcers and messengers, and helped in maintaining communications.

In his report the Regional Information Officer comments on the number of motorists and sightseers who entered the town, making confusion worse confounded by causing traffic blocks.

(14 S. Western)

8. Broadcasting and presentation of news

Public dissatisfaction with the presentation of news, which has been mentioned in all our Reports since 31st December, 1941, showed a slight decline last week, and this week there appears to be no general criticism of news presentation. This decline in dissatisfaction, coinciding with a rise in expectancy and confidence - as recorded in the first section of this Report - confirms the public's tendency, which has frequently been noticed when news is bad, to transfer criticism from the news itself to the news services. (See Appendix to H.I. Weekly Report, No. 52.)

Mr. Casey's Postscript (Sunday, 18th April) : Reactions to this have been received from only five Regions, approval and disapproval being fairly evenly divided. Three reports mention some resentment that, although there was a reference to Anglo-American co-operation after the war, Russia was not mentioned. Workers on the Clydeside are reported to have taken this as confirmation of their suspicion that “high circles in this country will try to cold-shoulder Russia after the war”.

Mr. James Urquhart (the new B.B.C. announcer) : Among the very few comments that have been received, unfavourable reactions slightly predominate. Some difficulty in understanding him is reported from two Regions, together with uncertainty as to whether he is a Scot, or comes from one of the Colonies.

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


9. Industry

In spite of some “vague talk about mismanagement in factories”, the decline in criticism, mentioned in our last Report but one, is said to continue. There are also fewer stories of slackness and idle time, and from three Regions come signs of “slight appreciation” that “progress is not so bad now”; appreciation is expressed, too, for Joint Production Committees which, it is stated, “are having a good effect”. The “cost plus” system, a, “bogey still apparently encountered”, is also referred to in three Regional reports, and it is thought that “publicity about this system has not yet reached some people”.

Such dissatisfaction as is reported this week appears mainly to be centred in a desire for “a comprehensive wage policy”, allegations being made from various sources of:-

  1. high wages, particularly for young workers, and

  2. differences in rates of pay for men and women, which is said to lead to sex antagonism.

Reports from Birmingham, Clydeside and Durham indicate discontent and “a good deal of bad feeling between the sexes” in cases where men and women are working for the same rates of pay, or where women are thought to be receiving higher wages for lighter work, or lower wages than have been given to men who have been doing the same jobs. Another report says that “the general impression seems to be that women are not such good workers as men”. This view, however, is attributed to “sex jealousies rather than accurate information”.

Shopping difficulties : Shopping conditions are again the subject of criticism in various Regions, where they are said to be “harrassing women workers beyond the imagination of those in authority”. But from London and Scotland there are said to be fewer complaints on this score; in Scotland “most big firms have come to some arrangement with the women, either by letting them away early on Saturday, or allowing them a half day now and again”. Absenteeism, however, still seems to occur “mostly among the women workers”, and is once again connected with domestic and shopping claims.

War-time nurseries : The demand for these is reported from three Regions; a report from Postal Censorship suggests, however, that “they are not proving a success”; the fear being expressed that they might eventually contribute to “the break-up of family life”.

(1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 21 Manchester P.C., 32)

10. The Budget

Favourable comment on the Budget continues to be reported from most Regions, although protest is almost unanimous at the taxes on tobacco and, in a slightly lesser degree, upon beer. There seems to be a general feeling that this is a “form of rationing which discriminates unfairly against the poor”, while it “doesn't hurt the chap with a good salary”. Postal Censorship provides an extract which sums up the Budget as “fair all round, but God help the smokers”.

Old Age Pensioners : In six Regions these are specially mentioned as feeling hard hit by the increased tax on tobacco, which is mentioned as “one of their few pleasures”. From the North Midland Region the view is expressed that “the basic rate of pensions should be increased, particularly as many old people would not apply for a supplementary pension as it savours of Poor Relief. Any increase in the basic pensions rate should not operate so as to reduce the amount of Supplementary Pensions already granted”.

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

11. Income Tax

Comments from five Regions on aspects of income tax include complaints from two that, though the concessions to small papers are helpful, the tax will remain “burdensome and incomprehensible to the weekly wage earner until such time as it is put on the footing of weekly percentage deduction”. It is also thought that simplification of income tax returns is overdue. Ignorance is again reported about the system by which Post War Credits will operate.

(2, 4, 5, 8, 10)

12. Transport

Complaints about road and rail transport are still widespread. At Slough, for instance, “the situation is said to have reached a point where everyone has given it up as hopeless”. Here workers returning by long-distance bus services are said “frequently to be stranded from half an hour to an hour because of short-distance passengers crowding the buses”. Renewed instances are cited of the problem created in factories at closing time. Rolls-Royce are said to “allow the women to stop a few minutes before the men to give them a chance to avoid the rush; but other firms are less thoughtful and the women are complaining of being crushed and knocked about in the rush for buses, trams and trains”.

Among workers in one Region “who travel in open lorries, and put up with it”, some discontent has been reported over a Press report about Italian prisoners who are stated to have “struck” because they disapproved of vehicles in which they were conveyed to work, and for whom the authorities then provided luxury coaches.

Rationalisation of rail transport : Local difficulties are reported from Wales and from parts of the North Western Region, where “equal distribution of supplies of food are alleged to be throwing an additional burden upon transport”. It is said that people travel considerable distances, and from district to district, in order to purchase food a little cheaper. Amazement has been expressed at the sight of “a substantial consignment of cut flowers being sent by passenger train from Cornwall to Glasgow; a distance of about 575 miles”; it being felt that “every inch of wagon space is vital to the war effort”.

Voluntary helpers and private cars : From three Regions anxiety over the petrol cut is reported by voluntary workers who have been using their own cars while on duty. “Members of major organisations, such as the W.V.S., appear to be confident of obtaining supplementary petrol rations”, but the smaller associations, it is felt, will be very seriously affected. “All raise one major issue. If there is to be no basic allowance for personal use, but cars are kept on the road for the sake of work of a voluntary nature, who is to bear the expense of the licensing?”

(2, 4, 6, 7, 8, 10, 11, 21 Special P.C.)

13. The proposed rationing of fuel

The proposal to ration fuel is reported to have produced a very unfavourable reaction in six Regions, and a mixed reaction in four. (These Reports were received before the Debate in the House of Commons on the 28th April.) Feelings appear to range from “universal annoyance”, in the Southern Region, to a “general willingness to submit to this further rationing”, reported from the Eastern Region. “The chief objection to the proposal seems to be that, unlike other rationed commodities, there is no question in this case of saving shipping space, which has always been accepted as a good reason for restrictions”.

Comment has been reported on the following aspects of the proposal:-

  1. Government mismanagement ”: Dissatisfaction is reported from five Regions that, as coal is home produced, the need to ration it must be due to the “Government's mismanagement”.

  2. The release of miners from the Army : The feeling is reported from four Regions that “it would be better to take some of the miners out of the Forces, and increase production, rather than reduce consumption”.

  3. The difficulty of devising a fair system : It is reported from five Regions that people are unable to see how such a scheme can work, “in view of the very wide divergences in requirements”. But some belief is reported that “Sir William Beveridge cannot have overlooked the practical difficulties involved, and has suggested a means”.

  4. The army of officials ”: Dismay is reported from five Regions at the “enormous staff of officials” which it is thought will be necessary. “If all the clerks needed for working the scheme were put to coal mining, fuel wouldn't need to be rationed”; this reaction is said to have been current, even before the appearance of the Sunday Dispatch cartoon on 26th April.

  5. Difficulty of reading meters : Apprehension is reported from three Regions at the “prospect of constantly having to check the reading of gas or electricity meters”, and at the inability of the ordinary person to do this correctly.

  6. Sharing of houses : It is said that “where evacuees are billeted, sharing of coal, gas and electricity is even now a sore point, and that with rationing the tension will be seriously increased”.

  7. Miners' free coal : Speculation is reported from mining areas in two Regions as to “whether miners who have always received free coal as part of their wages are included in the coal rationing scheme”.

  8. The disadvantages of people who live alone :

  9. The special needs of people who are living in damaged houses :

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

14. Food

Satisfaction with the food situation is still generally reported.

The National Loaf : This continues to win wide approval, but minority complaints from five Regions claim that it is the cause of indigestion, bilious attacks and even “fainting turns”. It is suggested, though, that such complaints come, for the most part, either from “ill-educated persons”, or from the “mentally and physically conservative”.

Points rationing : There are again indications that any extension of this system would be welcomed.

Restaurant meals and luxury feeding : General satisfaction continues to be expressed that these are to be controlled. This is described as “another pat on the back for Lord Woolton”: the public are said to be prepared to accept a good deal of control from him, as “he says what he thinks and plays fair, and on the whole has looked after us pretty well”.

Shoppers v. workers in crowded cafés : Dissatisfaction is reported from two Regions at “well-to-do housewives taking lunch in town to avoid using their home rations, and so making workers who normally lunch in cafés wait, or even depriving them of their lunch as the cafés' stocks are exhausted before the workers are served”. There continues to be some demand that coupons should be surrendered for such meals, though there is no indication of how shoppers and workers could be distinguished in such an event.

(1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 21 Special, Glasgow, Carlisle, P.C.s)

15. Doctors' certificates

Complaints have been reported from two Regions about the abuse of doctors' certificates for obtaining (a) exemption from work: (b) extra milk: (c) special corsets. “It is said that general practitioners are being overwhelmed with these applications, that treatment received from various doctors differs considerably, and that some control in this sphere is desirable”.

(2, 4)

16. Emergency Water Supply tanks

Comment is reported from two Regions on the danger to children of these tanks, in which some children have already been drowned. Suggestions that the tanks should be covered with wire netting are said to be impracticable owing to insufficient supplies.

(5, 7)

17. Constant topics and complaints

There are continued comments on the following:-

  1. The shortage of crockery. (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13)

  2. The high price of green vegetables. (2, 5, 7)

  3. The “preponderance of Jewish names in reports on black market prosecutions”, and the “skilfulness” of Jews at avoiding military service. (2, 11, 21 Special P.C.)

  4. Waste of paper, both in advertising unobtainable goods, (“which the Government should take action to prevent”), and by Government offices; the Ministry of Home Security being mentioned. (4, 12, 32)

  5. Lack of precise instructions for civilians' duties in invasion. (6, 7)

  6. The need for “a clear Government statement on war aims and post-war intentions”. (6, 12)

  7. Waste of petrol by the Services, and by Civil Defence workers. (5, 7)

  8. The high wages of juveniles. (5, 7)

  9. The subversive activities of Jehovah's Witnesses. (3, 12)

  10. The non-collection of salvage, particularly in districts where railings are being requisitioned. (8, 11)

  11. Inequalities between Service and civilian rates of pay. (6)

  12. The high price of furniture. (9)

  13. The incivility of shop assistants. (2)

18. Rumours

It is rumoured in the Bristol area that “the B.B.C., in broadcasting about the R.A.F. raids on Rostock, announced that it was the same size as Bath - thus giving a directive for the reprisal raid”.

Haw Haw is said to have foretold the bombing of Exeter and Bath, and to have announced that “London will be bombed on Friday, Saturday and Sunday in quick succession”. (The B.B.C. states that there is no foundation for either of these rumours.)


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