A History of the Ministry of Information, 1939-46

358 359 2 360 3 361 4 363

Weekly Report by Home Intelligence
For internal circulation only .

(From 12.00 noon Monday 7th October to 12.00 noon Monday 14th October 1940)

NOTE : The figures in brackets refer to our sources of information. A list of these is given in the table at the end of this report.


1. General comments

Morale continues to be good, and its generally satisfactory state is shown by reports from many sources (2b, 10a, 14 Wales, Bristol, Reading, Inverness, 17). There are, however, certain localised patches of depression, which are directly associated with heavy bombing and lack of aerial defences. “Though morale maintains a very high standard, at the same time there is uneasiness and some degree of gloom in areas which have undergone persistent bombing” (14 Inverness). “Hastings people are depressed as the town is not defended, for it has no military importance. German planes often machine-gun the streets, and the town is half dead for hours at a time” (23).

In the first half of the week there was some complacency towards the war in general and towards night bombing (l6). This attitude towards the war had been encouraged by certain official speeches (e.g. Mr. Attlee's), while the feeling about night bombing was influenced by newspaper suggestions that the defeat of the night bomber was “only a matter of time.” Prof. Andrade, in the Daily Telegraph, suggested that “there is good reason to believe that secret inventions are bringing us nearer the time when the Germans will lose so high a percentage of their night bombers that they may cease raiding.” (25) Later in the week the intensified raids dissipated this complacency and people took a rather more gloomy view (16). Though a minority seem to believe the winter weather will prevent enemy raids, the coming long winter evenings ahead are being more discussed (16).

Three different Postal Censorship reports say that the bombing of London has increased pro-British feeling in Eire (14, Leeds, Bristol, Reading).

2. Speculation about the future (including peace aims) .

Our generalisation last week that “wherever air raids have intensified people's attitude to the future has become a short-term one” still holds good, but at the same time a higher proportion of people are reported to be expecting a long war (1c). This is said to be due in part to Rumanian and Japanese events (16). A group of young men under calling-up age anticipated a war of 3 to 6 years, while a group of older men thought 2 to 3 years more likely (16). The view that intensive bombing produces short-term thought is supported by the report that blackout fears are greater in the provinces than in London (14).

An interesting comment on peace aims comes from a Ministry speaker, who says that audiences are determined to win the war but are apprehensive about what will happen when peace comes. Will there be more unemployment? Will everyone bear their fair share in the work of re-habilitation? Will the peace terms sow the seeds of another war? Will justice be done to ex-Service men and their dependents? (26). Similar comments are reported by working-men between the ages of 18 and 20 when asked what they will do after the war (16).

Most reports show distinctly less talk about reprisals this week (ie, 3a, 7h, 16). This is attributed to satisfaction with the Prime Minister's statement, and the belief that “the R.A.F. is delivering shrewder blows on Germany than they on us” (7h). Our reports directly disagree with an analysis of the Daily Express postbag which is stated to show that 5 out of 6 people now want reprisals (25). At the same time, it is said that “reprisals” are not an ethical problem; indiscriminate bombing has caused serious economic dislocation, and this has a real military value to the enemy. Many people feel that out pilots gaining experience over Germany might go in for the random bombing of large German towns, and that the loss of sleep and production would be well worth while (6b). Another type of comment is: “Just because I know some chap in Germany is being bombed in his bed, I don't enjoy being bombed in mine” (16).

3. Alarmist and despondent talk .

The alarmist stories of refugees continue to decline. The refugees seem to be recovering from their nervous strain (7h), but some who have failed to “get a rise” out of their hosts are now saying “they don't know what it's like” (16).

In a heavy daylight raid on Bristol there were 90 fatalities, but in the official figures issued in the Bristol area only those dying in that area - 30 in number - were mentioned. Many more deaths occurred in the Filton area. As a result of the Bristol announcement, exaggerated figures were in general circulation and there was a belief that the facts had been deliberately suppressed (7a). This clearly shows the kind of difficulties which the authorities have to anticipate.

4. Rumours .

There is little change in the amount of rumour this week (16). Only from one bookstall out of 20 is an increase reported (17). The most significant rumour has been that thousands of people in East London or in Liverpool have signed a petition for immediate peace overtures. This rumour is reported from Kettering (3a), and Bristol (7h) where it is said to be current among “usually reputable people”. This story may have been based on the deep shelter petitions organised by the Communist Party, but it is also one of the rumours which the B.B.C. monitoring service report as being instigated by the German radio (27). It is suggested from Bristol that listening to the German radio has increased because the B.B.C. is so much off the air these days (7h), but we have no certain knowledge of this.

Rumours of frustrated invasion are still current in many places - the Orkneys, the Shetlands, Brighton, Dover, Isle of Wight (14) Inverness, and letters with circumstantial accounts of thousands of bodies washed up on our shores contain abuse of the Ministry of Information for withholding the news. The enemy radio has tried very strongly to counter these rumours of frustrated invasion (27) but without success.

There are still a number of the usual Haw Haw rumours about places to be bombed (29), and a new version is that certain industrial concerns in Cardiff have not been bombed because of the German capital invested in them (26). There are also rumours that the A.A. defences of certain places, e.g. Falmouth have been taken away to protect London (7h).

5. Anti-Semitism .

Anti-Semitism is still reported in evacuation areas, even as far afield as Pembrokeshire and Cardiganshire (14 Wales). In the big area round London to which many East-enders have evacuated anti-Semitic remarks are common (6d, 14, 16). A new development is that London Jews who have stayed behind are themselves showing signs of turning against the Jewish evacuees (16). In some evacuation areas people are refusing to give billets to Jews. In certain London shelters the Jews are segregated from the Cockneys (16, 22), and remarks are made that the Jews arrive earliest at the shelters (22). Though the strong family and property ties of the Jews naturally cause comments (22), there is little evidence to suggest that in fact Jews are behaving any worse or better than Cockneys. If anything, the naturalised alien minorities tend to arrive at shelters before either Jews or Cockneys (23).

6. Drink .

The high wages of munition and other workers has aroused fears, particularly in Scotland, of excessive drinking (28). In bombed areas, however, the public houses are said to be much emptier at an early hour than formerly (2b), and a detailed report on drink in Scotland (11) shows that the position is not serious. There has been a slight but steady decrease in arrests for drunkenness in Scotland since war began but drink prices have increased considerably and it may be that the police are more lenient or more fully occupied than before. In the early days of “Going to it” there was a good deal of extra drinking because of the high wages and overtime, and the extra strain of the work, but it was mainly among unskilled labourers who had been unemployed for a long time. In the great majority of cases the extra drinking did not last. It is stated that the number of women in Scottish bars (including many in uniform) has considerably increased, but that beer is replacing cocktails. There is some anxiety about alleged excessive drinking by troops in Scotland and there are said to be indications that this is leading to impropriety in a certain number of cases. There is no public agreement about the remedy for the situation; earlier closing has actually been found to increase sales and the “no treating” rule would be very unpopular. The probable solution is propaganda in favour of mild drinking, and alternative recreations.


1. Air raids .

(a) General reactions . This week's reports show that air raids are beginning to be accepted as part of an unpleasant routine. As one letter-writer puts it “one gets used to everything, and we are no longer frightened; we turn over and go to sleep” (14 Leeds). A few people are extremely frightened by the heavy night raids, but many show “extraordinary resilience” (14 Bristol). The behaviour of children is largely determined by that of the grown ups around them.

A special study of the attitude of those whose homes have been destroyed shows “an astonishing degree of readjustment, provided they were in a shelter and that none of the family were killed. After a short period of great depression and shock, they wash their hands of past responsibilities and think about starting again, unless they are weak types. But those who have left a habitable home behind find it difficult to start thinking of another; this is increased by the double responsibility” (16). L.C.C. school teachers who have taken over Rest Centres from the P.A.Cs are doing magnificent work. Though untrained in welfare work they are showing initiative, energy and kindness, and the atmosphere of the centres is much improved (5).

Need for normal work and amusement is felt by many people “while we worked at our jobs nervousness and even the knowledge that a raid was on left us completely. But as soon as we dived into the shelters...a feeling of nervousness and danger quickly returned” (14). Among young people some reversion to normal amusements is shown by a slight increase in the numbers present at dance halls, whist drives etc., “because it takes you out of yourself” (14, 16). In London people are not using profitably what leisure they have: in shelters a majority of people do nothing.

There is satisfaction in places such as Manchester, where the A.A. barrage has improved (10b) but the South coast towns such as Brighton, Hastings and Shoreham are anxious about the apparent absence of A.A. defences (7c).

(b) Sleep . The majority of people in heavily bombed areas are not receiving adequate sleep, but an improvement in the situation has been noticed. It seems that a “genuine adaptation” is taking place (16). Lord Horder comments on the value of transferring workers to sleep in the country occasionally.

(c) Shelters . The press controversy about deep shelters continues, and both central and local authorities are receiving deputations to urge construction of deep shelters. Tenants' Defence Leagues, Vigilance Committees, etc. continue to press for “better A.R.P.” Lack of occupation for children in shelters is having a bad effect on them and their mothers (22). Practical suggestions are urgently needed. The anxiety about the effects of cold and damp in Anderson shelters is still expressed (14, 16).

2. Evacuation

Official schemes of evacuation “on the whole have worked well”. The daily registration of mothers and children in London is now at the rate of 8,000, although the numbers who actually travel are always considerably below full strength.

Much planless evacuation is still going on and causing a great deal of dislocation and some antagonism in many areas. This planless evacuation is largely westwards, particularly into Region V1. The billeting of penniless “refugees” is made more difficult by the large numbers with money to spend who make their own arrangements.

The reception of evacuees and “refugees” varies considerably. Local authorities, although complaining of the burden on them, have risen to the emergency with good will and often efficiency. The efforts of voluntary organisations are also highly praised.

Despite their eagerness for jobs, there is some prejudice against employing evacuees “in case they re-evacuate”, but in other areas they are settling down. “Whatever happens to the majority it seems likely that many of those who have left London will not return to it after the war.”

Complaints about profiteering in billets are not confined to any particular district, but “the richer type of refugee are mainly affected”. “Some people with comparatively small incomes rent rooms in safe areas in case they have to evacuate, and so prevent the use of them by those in more urgent need. Residents as well as refugees complain of this”. There is a good deal of criticism that richer homes evade billeting. Arrangements in many rural Rest Centres are unsatisfactory.

(4, 6d, 14, 16, 23, 25).

3. Trade and Commerce .

The public are still confused and the trade apprehensive about the Purchase Tax, and suggestions have been received that more should be said about its value, “not only for raising money, but also for decreasing consumption” (1e). “There is still no significant interest in the Tax among the mass of people” (16). Apprehension is reported in Northern Ireland about whether the people who are thrown out of work by the Purchase Tax will be reabsorbed into war and export industries. It is feared there may be serious unemployment there (12b).

In reception areas in the Southern region evacuation has caused a temporary shortage of retail goods (6b). The attitude of small retail shopkeepers towards evacuees is not one of wholehearted approval. Many of the evacuees are not registered for rationing in the shops of their new town (16). The tradesmen like to serve their regular customers first and the evacuees make this difficult. There are complaints that the quota for tobacconists and confectioners is based on last year's sales and that now the quota should be increased at the expense of some of the London shops.

4. Labour .

The high wages of armament and defence workers are strongly criticised by some, “owing to their lavish spending habits” (11h). “Though a fair proportion of these wages are saved, this is by no means universal” (1e). Reports suggest that Sir Robert Kindersley's radio talks on saving do not mean much to this type of workers, and that influential labour leaders might have a greater appeal for them.


1. Dakar and de Gaulle .

Interest in Dakar and de Gaulle has greatly declined though there are a few comments about “loss of prestige” and “a shocking fiasco” (14 Wales, Bristol and Leeds). De Gaulle's prestige has apparently recovered a little, and some people, when specifically questioned, say that “he can't be so bad if Churchill thinks he's a good man” (16). “The Prime Minister's statement about Dakar seems to have satisfied much of the public” (7h).

2. Political events .

The only additional comment since last week on the Cabinet changes is surprise that Morrison was left out of the War Cabinet (1c).

The Prime Minister's speech aroused less interest than usual; all comments, apart from those in the Press, were favourable. The speech has received less publicity than any previous ones. The greatest interest was shown in the air raid insurance scheme, but some small householders are worried as they fear the insurance money will not be paid until after the war (7h). People felt that the gloomy tone of the peroration made it ring true, and this was much appreciated (14). For the first time sympathetic papers criticised a speech of the Prime Minister - the Mirror, for its too optimistic note, and the Herald “for its unjustified rebuke of the Press” (25).

3. The Near East and the Far East .

There is but limited interest in Japan. Her attitude is not regarded as a direct threat, but people are concerned because it seems likely that the war will spread still wider in her direction (16).

Regional Information Officers reports show public interest and some confusion and anxiety about the Near East (1a, 1c, 6b, 6f, 7h). The confusion is confirmed from other sources (16).

Typical questions which people are asking are: “Has Russia been squared, so that when the Axis gets to Turkey she will be too intimidated to resist?” (6b). “The Fifth Column and propaganda conquered Rumania without a single shot; are we doing enough in Turkey, Iran and Iraq?” (6f). “Once more we are leaving the initiative to the enemy; why are we not more aggressive towards Italy?” (1c). There is some demand for “educative broadcasts” on the strategic, economic and political problems in the Near East; the public are said to be interested but ignorant (1c).


There is still much criticism of the official air raid bulletins. People still object to the phrase: “A few people were killed” (2b); and unnecessary anxiety, aroused when it is vaguely said that “a large hospital in the London area” or “a well-known public school in the Home counties” has been bombed, is commented on in the Times (25) and also by the headmaster of Rugby school (9e).

The most severe criticism has been aroused in all parts of London by the official bulletin which stated “that the raids on Monday night were on a somewhat smaller scale than the previous night”, when in fact they were heavier (5).

Two reports from Scotland criticise a picture of Lambeth people dancing on the ruins of their homes. It is described as “ghoulish” and “in the very worst taste” (28). In general, criticism of the Press has slightly increased this week. This is more probably due to bewilderment about the news rather than to antagonism (16).


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