A History of the Ministry of Information, 1939-46

346 347 2 348 3 349 4 350 5

Weekly Report by Home Intelligence
For internal circulation only .

(From 12 noon Monday 21st October to 12 noon Monday 28th 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 .

On the whole people in London have been more cheerful this week (16). This appears to be due to the slackening off of air raids. The ups and downs in cheerfulness still seem to depend first on the amount of local bombing, and secondly on the amount of bombing in the whole country as shown by official bulletins (16).

A decline in bombing is usually associated with increased interest in general events (rather than local ones), but this has not been noticed during the past week. In casual conversation there has been hardly any mention of the Balkans, Egypt, or France (16). One local information committee reports that in the first three weeks of October there were more grumbles than during the whole of August and September; this was attributed to diminished fears of invasion (3c).

Anxiety about London's ability to stand up to the cumulative effects of raids throughout the winter is reported from Leeds and Bristol (2h, 7a). Some London information committees express the same feeling (5h).

A Southampton police report says: “if large numbers of people, made homeless by raids, are herded together for too long, dissatisfaction and a defeatist spirit creeps in, whether grievances are fancied or real” (15).

Intensive raids at Coventry are said to have upset the newer and younger factory workers (9c), though elsewhere in the Midland region severe bombing is being taken with increasing calm (9h).

Compulsory billeting has created strong feeling in certain areas among the middle and upper-middle classes. This infliction of the poor on the better off is epitomised by one of the latter as “Communism mixed with Hitlerism” (7h).

Alarmist talk by refugees and evacuees has now almost ceased (7h, 16).

2. Speculation about the future, including peace aims .

Expectation of a short war has now practically vanished (3a, 14 Edinburgh P.C., Manchester P.C.). Though most people seem to be thinking little about peace aims , interest in this subject among the educated minority is once more increasing (2h, 5h, 7h, 9b, 14 Inverness P.C. 16). One postal censorship unit records that reparations are mentioned for the first time (14 Inverness P.C.).

Talk about reprisals is limited. Many still favour them, but there is little hysterical expression of this point of view, and even less criticism because they are not undertaken (16). At the same time, it is hoped by many people that we shall attack the Italians as vigorously as possible by sea and air (3a, 3e, 11h) and that we shall soon bomb the Rumanian oil wells (1a, 11h).

3. Rumours .

There have been fewer rumours this week (16, 7h), though the usual crop of Haw Haws come from Ashchurch, Eastbourne, Hailsham, Lewes, Polegate and Rochester (29). In a good many places in North Wales Haw Haw is reported as saying: “You may think you're safe in North Wales, but your turn is coming!” (8). Rumours are not uncommon that the lull in raids is due to our use of a secret weapon (16) Some people believe that places which exhibit German planes “receive special attention” from bombers; so strong was this feeling in Streatham that a Messerschmitt exhibited in aid of a Spitfire fund was removed “in deference to public opinion” (16, Streatham News, October 18).

4. Anti-Semitism .

Anti-Semitism is still reported, but seems less strong than it was (16). Windsor is said to be “packed with” Jews (14 Reading P.C., 22), and hundreds who arrived at Swindon were not very welcome (7h). Llandudno has been referred to as “Jerusalem by the sea” (14 Manchester P.C.). The Southampton police report the distribution of printed and written anti-Jewish slogans (6b), and some anti-Semitic remarks are still made about tube shelterers (16).

5. Eire and Northern Ireland .

The attitude to the war of people of Eire and Northern Ireland during September is the subject of a special postal censorship study (14); its conclusions are summarised below.

Eire . Invasion is widely anticipated; the majority of those who expect Germany to be the invader are pessimistic about Eire's chances. Manoeuvres by the Local Security Force were said to show up the country's unpreparedness. Many believe that England will be the invader, and “a considerable number think they will be better off under Hitler”. Although the constant noise of planes at night makes many people nervous, most of them are “listless and fatalistic” about the blackout and shelters. De Valera is the only Irish politician mentioned, and, though he is much criticised, the I.R.A. is blamed even more. The bombing of London has produced “a great if somewhat reluctant surge of admiration for the British people.” There is still a good deal of anti-British feeling. Churchill is praised by a minority; the majority recall his anti-Irish sympathies in the past. The only point on which all Eire writers agree is the demand for the return of Northern Ireland. The arrival of Irish refugees from England is frequently mentioned, but there is little sympathy for their plight. Many writers complain of a shortage of English news in the Irish broadcasts and newspapers.

Northern Ireland . In contrast with Eire the views expressed in Northern Ireland are absolutely clear cut. There are four types of correspondents:- Orangemen, loyal but tolerant Protestants, loyal Catholics, and I.R.A. With the first three groups Churchill is very popular; there is little or no praise for Lord Craigavon, who is widely criticised, and not only by Catholics. Many complain that Catholics are thrown out of their jobs, and that they are not allowed to join the Home Guard; even some Orangemen protest that Catholicism should not be regarded as evidence of disloyalty. Many young Catholics are said to be crossing the border to join the Eire Forces. Among patriotic sections there is as much anti-Italian feeling as anti-German. There is dissatisfaction because men who refuse to go and work in England lose their unemployment benefit (14 Glasgow P.C.)


1. Air raids .

(a) General reactions . Despite the slackening of raids, particularly in the London area, air-raid victims still have many serious difficulties. The numerous separate authorities, with whom arrangements have to be made, cause much delay and consequent distress among the homeless, and reports again emphasise the need for centralised bureaux where everything can be dealt with at a single visit (5b, 16). In some areas, there has been criticism of Assistance Board officials for lack of sympathy in dealing with applications of air raid victims (5h) and those claiming supplementary pensions (34).

(b) Attitude to Aerial Defence . In spite of the decrease in bombing, there is still some scepticism and dissatisfaction about the barrage (3c, 5h, 7h), though this feeling has been partly offset “by Joubert's hopeful references to night fighters, and by the implications of the secret air defences debate” (16).

In the London area some people prefer mobile guns rather than those on fixed sites, as these are believed to attract raiders (5h). It is also thought that certain landmarks e.g. the Crystal Palace towers, are used by the enemy as guides (5c).

Contradictory press references to the effects of bad weather on bombing have confused the public. For example, the Daily Mail (October 28) carries the headline: “Winter will halt raiders”; this is followed by a sub-headline: “The R.A.F. cannot be held up”. Yet later in the week both the Press and the B.B.C. announced that “owing to bad weather we did not conduct any raids on Germany” (16).

(c) Shelters . Improvement in public shelter arrangements continues slowly. There are fewer complaints about lack of amenities, but there is severe criticism in some bombed districts, mostly outside London, about shortage of shelters (5a, 14 Inverness P.C., 26). Lack of school shelters is also complained of at Blythe, Watford and Kings Lynn (23, 25). There is, however, no new evidence about further demands for deep shelters.

From a study of those sheltering in the Tubes, “it seems that about 1 Londoner in 25 shelters in the Tubes more or less regularly, though not necessarily going there every night. Much the largest single group is still that which uses home shelters” (16). One of the major difficulties in home shelters is dampness (5h, 14); this is also reported in many public shelters in the London area (5c).

A growth is noticeable in corporate feeling in public shelters. “An interesting feature is the apparently increasing habit of people going to the Tilbury shelter for a companionable evening and a cheap meal served by the Salvation Army canteen. Many people do this and then go back to their homes to sleep” (16).

(d) Sirens . There has been a slight revival of the siren controversy because in several areas bombs have recently fallen without warning. “This feeling is particularly strong in the South Eastern, Eastern, and Midland regions, and the south-east of Scotland” (23). In some places, the one-minute siren is criticised as too short; it is said also that there is often not enough time between warnings and bombs (1c, 3a, 5e, 15).

(e) Civil Defence Services . The fatigue of Air Raid Wardens is again mentioned, and there are even reports of their being asleep on duty (16). In several London districts untrained “volunteers” have been taking on the Wardens' duties so as to give the latter some relief. There are complaints in the Hull district about the reduction in the number of paid wardens in an area where the population has lately increased. Thus the duties of the already overworked wardens have been greatly added to (2d).

(f) Black-out . The longer and darker nights are increasing conscientiousness about the black-out; and anxiety about infringements is growing. The lights of cars (both civilian and military), factories, pit mound fires, and signals, and railway and tram ‘flashes’ are causing complaints in many districts (2h, 5h, 9a, 23, 34).

2. Evacuation

Evacuation continues, though it is slackening. The response to the Government's ‘mother and children scheme’ seems to vary directly with the severity of the raids, and this week it has been small. At the same time, in some places at present excluded from the full evacuation scheme, such as Cricklewood and Wembley, there are requests for their inclusion (16, 23).

There is ill-feeling towards the upper and upper-middle classes in some reception areas because of their attempts to avoid taking in evacuees. Cambridge, Dereham, Penzance and Wisbech are mentioned in particular (4d, 4h, 7a, 23, 25). In the North-eastern region, there are even protests by the landed classes about the possibility of compulsory billeting in large empty houses (2d).

The old and infirm are still in serious difficulties about evacuation. Although those living in shelters or Rest Centres are being sent to hospitals or infirmaries in the country, this is only a small proportion of the numbers who want to be evacuated. The Government's private assisted evacuation scheme depends on the old people finding their own billets, which few of them are able to do; whole families are therefore restrained from going, because they are unwilling to leave dependent relatives behind (5h, 25). Another difficulty is that some old people are semi-cripples and cannot therefore go to shelters at night, so that relations feel compelled to stay with them during raids (5b).

There is still much confusion both among landlords and evacuees about liabilities for rent, rates, etc.

3. Health

As reported last week, there is still a demand for organised rest periods out of London for A.R.P. workers (16); reports also urge strongly that similar arrangements should be made for heavy industrial workers “on whom the effects of prolonged shifts are becoming noticeable” (3c).

4. Food .

There are “persistent demands” for an extension of the categories of workers who are entitled to extra rations. This is said to apply particularly to miners, who want more bacon (3e, 9c), and to many housewives who find the cooking fat ration inadequate (7).

5. Trade and Commerce .

Apart from a recent “rush on shops”, particularly for articles of clothing, there is no sign of any public reaction to the purchase tax (11h, 16), though trade criticism of it continues, “and is particularly strong in the Potteries” (9c).

6. G.P.O. & Censorship .

Delay in postal services is much criticised (5b, 14 Inverness P.C.). There are also many complaints about the comparative postal charges for letters to soldiers at home and abroad (2b).

7. Transport .

Travel facilities, particularly bus services, are the cause of widespread complaints, especially in districts where the population has been increased by evacuees; in some districts the inadequacy of the services is a serious inconvenience to industrial workers (6f, 7h, 26).


1. Official communiqués . The recent official announcement that “on September 16th many German troops were embarked only to be taken off because invasion plans were stopped by the sustained offensive of the R.A.F” has been taken by many of the public to mean that the attempted invasion rumours had a basis in fact. As a result there have been difficulties for some M.O.I. officials who had attempted to kill what was thought to be a false rumour (1a), and the incident is said to have injured the “standing of our official news service in general and the M.O.I. in particular” (6d). There is still some concern about the press publication of unconfirmed news, which is not afterwards either officially confirmed or denied (e.g. the alleged naval engagement off the Isle of Wight) (3c).

Criticism of the stereotyped announcements of bombing damage is once more becoming prominent (5h, 16).

In some places the public are sensitive to press mention of new buildings or new industrial undertakings, as it is feared that these may attract the enemy bombers (2h).

2. Political affairs .

The Prime Minister's broadcast to the French was very well received (1c, 6b, 7h), but there were fewer comments than usual (7h, 16). There is still evidence of feeling against Lord Halifax, but it is less than last week (3e, 20).

3. Events abroad .

During the week events abroad have produced little effect on the public as a whole. People are said to be confused, and speculation is vague and uninformed (7h, 16). General de Gaulle has been hardly mentioned at all, and the same applies to the Far East. What interest there has been in the Near East has taken the form of anxiety (6b, 7h, 16). Some think that we are lagging behind in the diplomatic field (3a), that we have been out-manoeuvred in Rumania, and that the same is likely to happen in Spain and Turkey (3e). There is speculation as to whether we have the right men on the spot, and whether our secret service is as efficient as it might be (3e).

4. Broadcasting .

A further detailed study by Listener Research (32) has been made on the subject of radio listening during air raids. It was confirmed that even in London the great majority of people shelter in their own homes; the great majority therefore still have access to a radio set. Comparatively few people have radio sets in their private garden shelters and the number of sets in public shelters is negligible. In any place when severe raids begin, there is general reluctance to keep the radio on (the reasons for this were discussed in last week's report), but as raids become more frequent people once more start listening, particularly to the news and to light entertainments. The general deterioration of reception during air raids at night has caused both bewilderment and resentment. Most people are quite unaware of why this happens. A typical comment comes from the Leicester Information Committee: “The British command of the air does not extend to the ether” (3c).

The disappearance of J. B. Priestley from the air has been regretted by the great majority, though a few accused him of being too partisan (5a, 14). In spite of his explanation that it was his own decision to cease broadcasting, many people have suggested that “there is something behind it”, and that he has been forced to stop (1e, 3e, 16, 25).

There are requests that official announcements should be made a little earlier in the evenings “to avoid clashing with warnings” (3e).

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