A History of the Ministry of Information, 1939-46

342 338 3 344 5

Weekly Report by Home Intelligence - No. 5
For internal circulation only .

(From 12 noon Monday 28th October to 12 noon Monday 4th November 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. In this report the order of the references has been revised.


1. General comments .

The cheerfulness of Londoners, noted last week, has continued (23).

Reports from many sources (R.I.Os. Postal Censorship, etc.) continue to point out that morale is steady and that people are determined to go on to ultimate victory; but a “strain of war weariness” in letters (21 Manchester and Bristol P.Cs), and a feeling of stalemate in the war (2e, 8h) are reported from four sources.

The heavy bombing of Coventry has produced a similar sequence of events to that which happened at the beginning of London's blitzkrieg. It seems that the reaction of an urban community to heavy bombing is fairly consistent:-

1) A large group of jittery people of all classes evacuate, irrespective of any government scheme. From Coventry they went to Stratford-on-Avon, Kidderminster, Budleigh, Warwick, Kenilworth, Alcester, etc. (9h).

2) The more nervous people who remain because they lack initiative or are unable to get away, go at night to the safest possible place. In London, this is the tube. At Coventry, it is the surrounding country; about 20,000 people are said to go to villages every night; many sleep in the fields or woods, and some in cars and charabancs which run special excursions for this purpose (9e).

3) Complaints are made of inadequate aerial defence, and demands for deep shelters are fanned partly by the “Communist” party (6b). At the same time petty grumbling vanishes.

4) There are requests that soldiers should help to clear away debris and to relieve A.R.P. workers (9e).

5) In provincial areas there are complaints that local bombing is not given enough prominence in official communiqués (14).

6) The morale of most people is affected very little by severe bombing, and improves quickly when raids slacken.

7) A sympton of this recovery seems to be an increase in minor grumbles, but major grumbles arising from the raids soon subside.

Billeting is one of the most serious causes of discontent this week (16, 23, 24, 34). The enthusiasm of the hosts is dying down, and friction, where hosts and evacuees are of different social classes, is growing; it is discussed in detail later in this report.

2. Speculation about the future, including peace aims .

People now seem prepared for a long war and a difficult winter (2e); some think that the winter will weaken the enemy more than us, and make him an easy target for our officially predicted aerial superiority (21 Cardiff P.C.).

Interest in peace aims is still relatively slight (23) except among the intellectual classes. Some anticipate without optimism peace-time conditions which will be “nearly as bad” as the war (21 Inverness P.C.). There is evidence of a growing ruthlessness in the public's attitude towards the Germans, though the desire for immediate reprisals remains limited. This ruthlessness is shown by the following extract from a letter: “We must not be so lenient to the swines as we were in 1918 and must keep them well screwed down” (21 Inverness P.C.). A police report records criticism of the “excessive humanitarianism of the officer who ordered the broadcasting of the position of the survivors of the sunk Italian warship” (22, Herefordshire). The enthusiasm of an Aberdeen audience at an M.O.I. meeting when the speaker was excessively bellicose (16) shows the same tendency. These reports suggest that in the absence of definite peace aims, there may be a growth of violent and indiscriminate anti-German feeling.

On the subject of immediate reprisals against Germany there are two main views. Some think the official policy of bombing only military objectives is the most effective one, while others believe that our airmen (especially the Canadians) are not too particular about their targets if there is difficulty in finding primary objectives (15). The demand for reprisals and the vigorous bombardment of Italy (particularly of her hydro-electric plants) is as strong as ever (3a, 15). We are accused of an excessively gentlemanly attitude towards Italy and this is attributed by some to Lord Halifax's supposedly catholic sympathies (7f, 21 Inverness P.C.).

3. Rumours .

Rumours have not been very widespread (14, 23). Stories of exaggerated bomb damage still circulate (23). There are several new Naval rumours; for example the new battleship Beatty is said to have been sunk during her trials as she was leaving the Clyde. This was apparently published as a Rome radio report in the Western Mail and South Wales News, and has not been denied (21 Cardiff P.C.).

Two other Service rumours allege that landings are being made by our Forces in France and Holland (2e), and that American planes are considered inferior by the R.A.F. who hate flying them (this was heard from R.A.F. men on two occasions) (8h).

German airmen who have baled out are said to have been given a rough passage, East Enders stringing them up to lampposts, and Canadians executing them (21 Leeds P.C.).

4. Anti-Semitism .

There are still reports of anti-Semitism in reception areas (21 Manchester, Bristol P.C.).

5. Extremist activities .

Reports show that “Communists” are still trying to exploit the shelter situation and roof-spotter system at Letchworth, Southampton, Reading, Oxford and elsewhere (4b, 6b). Accounts in the Daily Worker of riots outside the Tilbury shelter were greatly exaggerated (14, 16, 34).

Since intensive bombing began conscientious objection is said to be losing ground steadily, even in Wales (21 Cardiff P.C., 34).


1. Air raids .

(a) General reactions . In London anxiety about raids and fear of being made homeless seem to be decreasing, partly because the air offensive has slackened and also because shelter conditions are improving (5h). In the Midlands, however, particularly in Birmingham and Coventry, “people have been very disturbed by the severity of recent night raids” (9h).

(b) Shelters . Complaints about lack of public and school shelters are still reported from a number of districts (7h, 14, 16, 17 Southern, N. Western, Midland, Eastern, 21).

Improvements in London shelters continue to be made fairly quickly. But in the East End, a number of wholly unsuitable and insanitary places have been commandeered as shelters by the public, and, whatever was done structurally, it is doubtful if they could be made satisfactory (5b).

There is still some anxiety about dampness in Anderson shelters (1h, 21 Manchester).

(c) Sirens . Certain districts continue to complain about timing and inaudibility of sirens (3e, 17 Southern, 17 North Western).

(d) Evacuation . On the basis of many reports (4b, 5c, 8h, 16, 17 North Eastern, Southern, South Eastern, 21 Manchester P.C., 23, 24) the situation may be summarised as follows:-

1. In spite of the complications produced by voluntary refugees, the Government evacuees were at first well received - far better than last year; hosts felt that the evacuees were this time in genuine need. In many areas, however, certain well-to-do people would not take in evacuees, and compulsory billeting had to be resorted to. The authorities were often reluctant to do this as the unco-operative people were usually of some influence locally. The extent of the voluntary refugee problem is shown by the figures for one region (North-Midland):- official evacuees 108,762, voluntary refugees 82,297.

2. Friction between hosts and evacuees is now rapidly growing for several reasons:-

  1. social incompatabilities.

  2. the use of one kitchen by two or more women.

  3. the unco-operative attitude of hosts, and the untidy and dirty habits of evacuees.

  4. over-crowding.

  5. the splitting up of families.

  6. lack of occupation for evacuee women.

All these factors, especially the last, helped to make the first evacuation a failure, and there is a great danger that the same thing may happen again. This is particularly stressed by experienced social workers.

3. Another difficulty is that Assistance Board offices are often a long way from the evacuees' new homes, and billeting allowances make no provision for travelling expenses.

4. Solutions which have proved satisfactory are as follows:-

  1. billeting of one or more families in empty houses. This works well, provided the incapacity of most evacuees to pay anything like full rent and rates and to provide furniture is allowed for.

  2. communal mid-day meals in halls. These are of great value, especially if cooked by the evacuees themselves. They standardise treatment of evacuees, relieve hosts of kitchen pressure, and give occupation to the evacuee women.

  3. day nurseries have been organised in the same halls, so that evacuee women may go out to work, leaving their young children out of the way of the hosts. Sewing parties once or twice a week for evacuee women have also been successful.

5. An indirect reason why many women return home with their children is because they fear that their husbands are not being properly looked after. When they return, the husbands often give up night work or A.R.P. duties to look after their families. The husbands are anxious that their wives and children should remain evacuated. Hostels for the men are the solution which has been most generally suggested.

6. The unevacuated adolescents are also a serious problem. Often their families are evacuated and they have no occupation in the evenings. The clubs which used to cater for them have in many cases closed down or been taken over for other purposes. As a result the adolescents are behaving badly and there is an increase in juvenile crime.

(e) Roof Spotters . According to the R.I.O., South Western Region, the recent raid on Filton aerodrome has seriously affected confidence in the system, as it is now thought the spotter's warning does not allow enough time for workers to reach the shelters, which are some way from the factory buildings. The position is slightly better at night, though serious stoppages of work, more among the men than the women, now follow ‘alerts’ during the day (14 Bristol).

In some places contradicting signals by spotters on different buildings cause confusion (1c, 5a). Other spotters, especially those of the L.P.T.B. are said to be insufficiently trained for the job (5b).

2. Trade and Commerce . Many people are said to think that the Purchase Tax is likely to affect small incomes and small traders more seriously than large ones. (3a, 16, 17 Southern, Midland, 34). There is much buying by the public of goods advertised as being pre-tax stock (23).

3. Transport .

There are still many complaints about bus and train services (1a, 6b, 17 Southern). Dislocation of traffic in the Midlands is largely due to raids, and is causing much inconvenience to industrial workers; if delays get worse, it is feared production may suffer seriously (9h).

4. Agriculture .

Reports from rural areas show an increasing amount of criticism by farmers of the Government's price fixing scheme, and of the decisions of local Agricultural Committees. The former complaint has been mentioned many times in the past few weeks (6, 7, 8h, 9h, 11, 16, 17).

5. Relations between Civilians and the Services .

Many reports show that there is still a demand that the army should be used in clearing away raid debris and assisting in A.R.P. work generally (5h, 9e, 17 Eastern).

In some areas farmers also would welcome military help in filling in bomb craters in their fields (7h)

6. G.P.O. and Censorship .

There are continued complaints about delay in postal, telegraph, and more particularly telephone services throughout the country (1e, 5a, 16, 17 N. Eastern, 21 Leeds P.C., Manchester P.C.).


1. Official communiqués .

From many sources comes criticism of the fact that the sinking of the Empress of Britain was first announced by the Germans and then confirmed by our official news (3e, 4b, 6d, 22). People fear that this will encourage listening to the German radio and that belief in its accuracy will be increased. There is no evidence in fact to show an increase in such listening. The Ministry of Information is blamed for deficiencies in the news services of the War Departments (3e).

Once more there are criticisms both that too little and too much news is released. There are complaints that heavy raids in Birmingham, Lancashire and Cheshire have been given little prominence in official communiqués (9a, 21 Manchester P.C.). On the other hand, it is feared that details of escapes from enemy occupied territory and accounts of builders collecting at Coventry for making munition works may help the enemy; if these are published, people fail to see why the name of a place at which the Queen inspected Girl Guides is suppressed (22 Northumberland).

2. Affairs abroad .

At first, the Italian attack aroused limited interest (23, 6b). Many people thought that Greece would be over-run in a few days, but were not unduly alarmed. Another large group welcomed the invasion as a good chance for us to hit Mussolini hard, and to set up air bases from which to bomb the Rumanian oil wells; it was even suggested rather naively that the invasion “provided the opportunity for a victorious battle against a not overwhelmingly strong enemy” (1c, 3e, 4b, 6b, 8h, 23). Some people were anxious about our ability to give Greece the help which she needed without seriously weakening our Forces in Africa (8h). As the week went on without any overwhelming defeat for the Greeks, optimism has increased; this has been further encouraged by the statement (subsequently denied) that Russia was sending planes to Greece and Mr. Alexander's announcement that British aid had begun (23).

Otherwise there has been little interest in affairs abroad. People speak of the Vichy Government with “complete contempt” (8f), and in some areas the activities of Laval and Petain are said to be causing “anger and contempt for the French nation as a whole” (8h).

3. Broadcasting .

From a great number of sources, there are reports of strong feeling because J.B. Priestley's broadcasts have stopped. It is said that “sinister influences” (2e) and the “old-school-tie brigade” have been at work (15). His views on social reform appear to be shared by the great majority (3c, 21 Manchester P.C., Bristol P.C., Reading P.C., 22, 23). “All he says and hopes for, is so exactly what we all feel and dread will not come true” (21 Reading P.C.)

There are a number of requests for more authoritative explanations of war events and factual statements on the lines of those of Joubert. It is also suggested that a specific time each week should be set aside for important speeches, as the notice given is often too short (1a, 3e).

345 6


1 R.I.O. Northern Region (Newcastle) a Oct. 28
b Oct. 29
c Oct. 30
d Oct. 31
e Nov. 1
f Nov. 2
g Nov. 4
h weekly report
2 R.I.O. North-Eastern Region (Leeds)
3 R.I.O. North-Midland Region (Nottingham)
4 R.I.O. Eastern Region (Cambridge)
5 R.I.O. London Region (London)
6 R.I.O. Southern Region (Reading)
7 R.I.O. South-Western Region (Bristol)
8 R.I.O. Wales (Cardiff)
9 R.I.O. Midland Region (Birmingham)
10 R.I.O. North-Western Region (Manchester)
11 R.I.O. Scotland
12 R.I.O. South-Eastern Region (Tunbridge Wells)
13 R.I.O. Northern Ireland (Belfast)
14 Special reports from R.I.Os.
15 Fortnightly Intelligence reports from R.I.O. Scotland
16 Home Press Summaries (M.O.I.)
17 Regional Press Summaries (M.O.I.)
18 Grievances in Hansard (M.O.I.)
19 Anti-Lie Bureau reports (M.O.I.)
20 M.O.I. speakers' reports.
21 Postal Censorship reports
22 Police duty-room reports from Chief Constables
23 Mass Observation reports
24 War-time Social Survey reports
25 B.B.C. monitoring service reports
26 B.B.C. listener research reports
27 B.B.C. special reports
28 Citizens' Advice Bureaux reports
29 Association of Welfare Supervisors' reports
30 Scottish Unionist Whip's Intelligence reports
31 Economic League's monthly reports
32 W.H. Smith's reports
33 Granada Cinema managers' reports
34 Reports from primary sources.


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