A History of the Ministry of Information, 1939-46

334 337 4 340 5 341 6

Weekly Report by Home Intelligence - No. 6 .
For internal circulation only .

(From 12 noon Monday November 4th to 12 noon Monday November 11th, 1940)

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


1. General comments .

As usual, when morale is good, grumbles are on the increase. The main complaints are: rising prices (1c, 21 Manchester P.C.); anomalies in rates of pay in the Services, and between skilled and unskilled workers (6h); billeting difficulties of hosts and evacuees (21 Special, Bristol, 23); problems of rent for evacuated and bombed property; and compensation difficulties of raid victims, particularly among the middle-classes (5d).

Raids at Coventry have produced some depression (21 Manchester P.C.) A Ministry speaker who has visited a number of factories and shelters says: “there would be support for any plausible peace proposals” (9c).

In the North Midland region, some are said to be feeling “a spirit of frustration; people are still saving, knitting and working for the war; they feel we shall win in the end, but when victory comes it won't matter very much to them.” (3c). This comment is similar in theme to a recent article by Priestley in the News Chronicle (16).

In academic circles in Scotland gloomy opinions are reported; the view is not that Hitler will win, but there is little prospect of his being beaten (11h).

In spite of the weak spots, reports from R.I.Os, the Postal Censorship, and other sources, show the determination of all classes to carry on to ultimate victory; nor is this determination associated with any over-optimism (2h, 11h, 21 Special P.C., 23, 32, 35 Portsmouth). The latest News Chronicle Gallup survey records 80% of the British people as being quite confident that Britain will win the war (16).

2. Reprisals, peace aims, and the future .

It seems that discussion about what is going to happen after the war is increasing; the majority, when they speak of it at all, are afraid “things will be just as bad afterwards” (7h, 14 Southern, 21 Special P.C.). But among the more clear-cut comments from the Postal Censorship are forecasts that the younger generation will play a big part in altering things for the better, that “the old-school tie will be burned at the stake”, and that there will be “a return to the land” (21 Special P.C.).

The demand for bombing reprisals against Germany is still small, but against Italy it is continually growing greater. There are many complaints that our policy is lacking in “guts”, and that some influence in the Government is preventing vigorous measures (1h, 3c, 7h, 11h, 20, 35 Plymouth). The Foreign Office is described as “flabby” and “sluggish”. Press stories of the Pope blessing Italian soldiers have roused some anger against the Papacy; many people are said to believe that Lord Halifax's religious sympathies prevent Rome from being attacked by the R.A.F., and diplomatic or strategic reasons appear not to have been thought of. There seems to be a possibility that anti-Catholic feeling may grow, particularly in view of Eire's attitude in connection with the Naval bases.

There is more evidence of ruthless feelings towards the Germans; this is brought out particularly strongly in a Special Postal Censorship Report for October. “Such phrases as ‘the foul filth that is Germany’ and ‘the inate bestiality of all Germans’ occur over and over again in letters, also expressions of the writers' bitter hate for all things German.” There is indignation at any suggestion of turning the other cheek, and there are many demands for full revenge.

3. Rumours .

There is little change in the amount of rumour. In country districts Haw Haw rumours are still fairly common, but are relatively rare in towns which have been heavily bombed (14, 27, 34). Tales of bomb damage also seem to be fewer and telephone censors say the introduction of the buzzer system (a buzzer being sounded when phone conversations are indiscreet) has led to a great reduction in the number of indiscreet conversations. The same report says that the worst offenders are shipping companies and serving soldiers and sailors (35 Liverpool).

The frustrated invasion rumour is still heard, and people remain convinced that large numbers of German bodies have been washed up on our shores (3h, 12h).

4. Anti-Semitism .

There are still reports of anti-Semitism in some London shelters and in reception areas where there is special irritation each weekend when Jewish families are joined by their relatives working in London (6b, 23, 34).

5. Extremist Activities .

There are suggestions that the activities of the Communist Party, exerted through the A.R.P. Co-ordinating Committees and the Shop Stewards Movement, call for counter-measures (4, 6d, 11h). The Daily Worker is now printed in Glasgow and there are allegations that London Communists who have moved up there are “making trouble” (11h).

6. Eire and Northern Ireland .

There is some feeling about Eire's refusal to allow us to use her ports. The general feeling appears to be that Eire is another of the small countries which fail to realise that they must take sides or go under (23). No reports of opinion inside Eire have been received by us since the Prime Minister mentioned the question of the ports.

A special report (34) by a careful observer in Dublin and County Cork confirms the growth of warm feeling towards England as a result of the air-raids. In Dublin, however, a growing hostility to Germany is not always associated with increasing enthusiasm for England, and Churchill is unpopular, as “being against Ireland” and “standing for the old school tie”. In the rural parts of County Cork, friendship for England is widespread, particularly among the poor, and there is a rumour that De Valera has received a substantial loan from England for Irish Defence. Churchill they regard as a “grand wicked chap”. The country people would welcome English evacuee mothers and children, especially if they were of Irish descent. The L.S.F. is reported to be increasingly well run, and to be bringing together all classes, except the extremists, on a democratic basis. Postal Censorship reports confirm most of these observations, and add the fact that there are many complaints of rising prices (21 Manchester, Edinburgh P.C.).

In Northern Ireland, the two main pre-occupations have been Belfast's first air raid alarm, (which had a mixed reception, some treating it coolly and others being rather panicky), and unemployment. The linen and flax industries have been seriously hit and there are 70,000 registered unemployed. Many complaints are made that no steps are being taken to remedy the situation (13h, 17, 21 Manchester, Glasgow, Bristol P.C.).

7. Adolescents in London .

A special study of this subject has been made among probation officers, social workers, Ministry of Labour officials, Girl Guide officers, and wardens and secretaries of clubs for young people (34). The position of London's boys and girls between the ages of 14 and 18 is serious, since their earnings are considerably greater than before the war, the families of many of them have been evacuated, and they are bored and disgruntled at having to spend every evening and night in shelters. Many of the clubs which normally cater for them have shut down, either from lack of funds, or because they have been taken over for other purposes. Some have carried on, working during the daytime or at week-ends, but these are of limited value only. As a result, juvenile delinquency and general bad behaviour have increased considerably; some of the boys have taken to looting. The solutions suggested are the establishment of special shelter clubs where they may also spend the night. Failing these, parts of large public shelters might be partitioned off to make places for quiet amusements. Social workers point out that these unoccupied adolescents are a fertile breeding ground for the more extreme political philosophies (34).


1. Air raids .

(a) General reactions . The realisation that raids are just “part of war-time conditions”, and a determination to accept them as such, are increasingly evident (5d, 12d, 21 Special, S. Western, 35 London). Those who have had little experience of them seem more prone to exaggeration and self-pity than others who have been badly bombed (12d, 21 Cambs. 35 Portsmouth, Plymouth). The complaints of the real raid victims are rather of the “appalling delays caused by red tape in the allocation of relief”, and of the brusqueness of certain officials in dealing with their claims (1b, 5h, 9c, 16, 21 Special P.C.). Delays in removing furniture from damaged houses, and in the salvage and clearance of debris, are also much criticised (5a, 9c, 16, 17 Eastern).

(b) Aerial defence . There is still some criticism of our defence. This seems to come mostly from places which have only lately had their first experience of severe bombing (5h, 7h, 9a, 11h, 12a, 23). Reports show widespread ignorance and misapprehension about the strategy of aerial defence, and it is frequently suggested that there is a need for continuous explanations on this subject (34). Lack of camouflage on certain conspicuous buildings is still the cause of much criticism (35).

(c) Shelters . Fewer complaints have been reported about conditions in shelters. In many districts, however, there is still said to be too few, particularly in schools (16, 17 Eastern, N. Midland, S. Western, Southern, 21 S. Western, 23). Demands for deep shelters are again reported from certain places (5h, 9c, 16, 17 S. Western, Southern, 34).

Anxiety about dampness in Anderson and public shelters continues (17 S. Western).

It is said that insufficient care is given to the fitting up of shelter bunks in the East End, and that the best use is not being made of the available space (5d).

(d) Black-out . Anxiety about infringements of the black-out is reported from many places, and particularly about the lights of cars, trains, trams, etc. (2h, 5h, 7h, 11h, 16, 17 N. Midland, Eastern, S. Western, 35). It is suggested that the B.B.C. should continue to warn early risers in the 7 and 8 o'clock news not to show lights (3h).

(e) Evacuation . Many evacuees, and landlords also, are uncertain of their legal position with regard to rents, rates, and other standing charges on evacuated property. Reports show the growing need for further official announcements about these matters, the special difficulties of which are dealt with in a detailed report on the subject (5a, 34). In certain badly bombed districts the position is a serious one for landlords who, in addition to losing most of their tenants, may also have lost much of their property.

There are more reports of anxiety among old people who wish to evacuate but cannot do so. Some who are not infirm, and do not come under the Government scheme, have nowhere to go. “Many of them sit in tears at the offices of local authorities begging to be sent away” (5a). Others, who might take advantage of the scheme, cannot afford to do so. “Most of them live on a pension of 10/- a week, plus their ‘supplementary’ of a few extra shillings. This is assessed for a limited period by the Assistance Board, and may be withdrawn if the applicant is evacuated to an institution or hospital (5d). This summary of old peoples' difficulties is not exhaustive.

Unwillingness to accept evacuees is again reported from several districts (10e, 16, 17 N. Midland, 21 S. Western, 34). Profiteering in billets is alleged in a few areas (16, 17 Eastern). People with large houses and enough local ‘pull’ prefer refugees to evacuees, as they are a more paying proposition (7h, 17 Eastern, S. Western and Midland).

In certain districts, particularly Harrow, Enfield, and Wembley, there are still demands for an extension of the Government evacuation scheme (5h, 6b). People who voluntarily evacuated from London at the beginning of the war now want to know if they are entitled to a billeting allowance (5a). The suggestion has been made that resident families in the same district should join forces and live together in the same house, so as to leave one vacant for evacuees of a different social class (34).

2. Food .

Complaints are reported from a few districts about a shortage of rationed foods, also of cheese, sultanas and raisins (1h, 6d, 7d, 21 S. Western). Much of this trouble seems to be due to the presence of evacuees, and it is alleged that insufficient allowance has been made for them by those responsible for food distribution arrangements (1h, 6b, 5c).

3. Trade and Commerce .

There are signs that “awareness of the Purchase Tax is increasing” (23). According to the Postal Censorship, the Tax comes in for a good deal of criticism. “There is a great deal of confusion about it and irritation among traders” (31). The commonest complaint still seems to be that “it is unfair on the poorer classes (23). The middle classes are said to be “stocking up like mad” with goods of all kinds (16, 22, 34).

4. Transport .

Reports show that there is still much dissatisfaction about the state of road and rail transport (2b, 11h, 16, 17 Southern). In Birmingham and Coventry the problem “threatens to become acute in industrial centres” (9a). In the Home Counties, too, “dissatisfaction is growing rather than dwindling” (6b).

5. G.P.O. and Postal Censorship .

Criticism is still made of delays in postal and telephone services, though complaints are rather fewer than last week (1d, 3c, 16).

6. Coal .

Much dissatisfaction is reported about coal distribution. In some places the stocks are said to be extremely low, and “demands are already far beyond the supplies available” (1h, 3h, 6b, 16, 17 S. Western).


1. The war in general .

The two most talked of events this week have been the war in Greece and the re-election of Roosevelt. Except in those areas which are experiencing their first heavy bombing (such as Scotland), raids are no longer the main topic of conversation (11h, 23). People are once more thinking about the other theatres of war (5h). The heavy shipping losses have been relatively little noticed (3c, 11h).

2. Official communiqués .

There are still complaints about the way in which the sinking of the Empress of Britain was announced. At first, it was said she had exploded as a result of bombing, while the Germans claimed that she was sunk by a torpedo. Our later official announcement that the U-boat which sunk her had been destroyed, once more confirms in the public mind the speed and accuracy of German news service (23). The Ministry of Information is criticised for this apparent muddle (11h). There are still complaints because only London and Merseyside are named in Home Security communiqués (16).

3. Political affairs .

The Prime Minister's speech in Parliament roused less enthusiasm and interest than usual. His reference to 1943-4 was not generally taken too seriously (3h, 11h, 23). Two newspapers (the Mail and the Sketch) were openly critical of certain parts of the speech (16).

The special Postal Censorship Report for October contains the following statement: “The one desire of the British Public seems to be: Government of the people, for the people, by Mr. Churchill; but there is a distinct and growing uneasiness, amid all the admiration shown for him, at his becoming the leader of the Conservative Party.” This matter is not raised by reports from other sources.

An analysis of discussions at 62 newspaper bookstalls in the past fortnight on the popularity of broadcast speakers, shows that the Prime Minister is the most popular in 34 cases, Bevin second in 24, J.B. Priestley third in 10, and Morrison fourth in 9 (32). Bevin's popularity is confirmed by the special Postal Censorship Report.

4. Affairs abroad .

Reports show that, throughout the week, interest in, and optimism about, the war in Greece have steadily increased. However, after Norway and Dakar, people are taking the good news extremely cautiously, and will not be surprised, but only very disappointed, if Greece is overrun and we once more beat a strategic retreat (1c, 3c, 3h, 11h, 7h, 23).

5. Broadcasting .

Listening to German broadcasting is said to be increasing in certain parts of London, because of its recent priority with the news (5h). A small statistical enquiry by the Lincolnshire Information Committee showed a surprisingly high number of listeners to the German radio. The reasons given for listening were the good quality of the musical programmes and of the reception (3c).

6. Films .

A recent news reel film which showed air-raid casualties being taken out from damaged houses was unpopular (23).

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