A History of the Ministry of Information, 1939-46

327 328 2 330 4

Weekly Report by Home Intelligence - No. 7 .
For internal circulation only

(From 12 noon Monday November 11th to 12 noon Monday November 18th, 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 .

The successful naval action at Taranto provided the greatest tonic the public has had “for a long time” (35 Ireland T.C., 7h, 23), and came just “when people were growing more and more insistent in their demands for definite action against Italy” (11h, 5h). Interest was deflected from raids at home to the war in the Mediterranean.

A special report on Coventry is attached.

2. Reprisals, peace aims and the future .

Postal Censorship reports indicate a growing number of people who “speculate about the future of the war and the peace” (21 Edin., Inverness P.C.). The majority think the war will be a long one (23), “Mr. Churchill now thinks 1943-4; it will soon be 1950 we are fighting for” (21 Inverness P.C.), but a few are more complacent and are “said to be talking about the war ending towards the end of next year” (12a, 21 Tunbridge Wells P.C.).

Desire for reprisals against Italy are widely expressed, often in the strongest terms (3a, 8d, 16, 22), and the opinion is given that “Italian morale is weak and the Italian Government could be compelled to sue for a separate peace” (11h).

3. Rumours .

There has been no appreciable change in the number or significance of rumours reported this week, except for the special case of Coventry. A slight increase has been noticed in Scotland where raids have been somewhat heavier lately (21 Edin. P.C.).

Haw Haw rumours are reported to be increasing, especially among the middle-classes (34)


1. Air raids .

(a) General reactions . Reports again indicate that the general reactions to bombing, particularly where it has been heavy, is a stoical acceptance of its terrors and a determination to carry on as usual (5f, 16, 21 Cambs., Inverness P.C., 22, 35 London, Manchester, Liverpool T.C.). Problems of relief, salvage, repairs and compensation still cause much anxiety (5c, 9h, 16, 23, 37).

Among the middle-classes it is reported that hardship is caused by having to pay a valuation fee against compensation for house property destroyed by enemy action (34). “There is also said to be “impatience at the delay in the introduction of the Government's insurance scheme” (5h).

Both the public and the press continue to be critical of delays in clearing away debris (16, 17 Southern, Midland, 23).

(b) Aerial defence . There is still a belief that local defences are inadequate, particularly in the South-Western Region where apprehension seems to be growing. Complaints are reported from Bristol, Plymouth, Falmouth and Penzance (7b, 14 Bristol, 35 Plymouth T.C.). Anxiety persists also in certain parts of Scotland and in the Midlands. Even before the raid on Coventry many people were “disturbed at the apparent lack of challenge to enemy planes which come over in daylight”. This feeling of insecurity, reported also from Birmingham and Leicester, is said to have been increased by “the glowing accounts of London's barrage” (3d, 9g, 37).

(c) Shelters . Lack of school and public shelters is still reported from many places (5c, 14 Bristol, 17 Southern, N. Western, S. Western, Wales, 21 Edin. P.C., 35 Plymouth T.C.). On the other hand, the demand for deep shelters seems to have slackened.

It seems that “the tendency to shelter at home is increasing” (5e, 11h, 23). This is often attributed to lack of heating in Anderson shelters or to their dampness; this is said to be becoming an extremely serious problem (5c, 16, 17 N. Midland, Southern, S. Western, 23). Another cause seems to be distrust or dislike of surface shelters, of which, “even in dangerous areas, less use is being made” (5f, 22, 17 Wales).

(d) Black-out . There has apparently been a small increase in black-out offences (10h, 17). Yet at the same time impatience and anxiety about infringements are growing. In many areas there are even complaints that restrictions are not adequate (16, 21, 22 Edin.P.C.). Unscreened lights at dusk, before the black-out has begun, are said to be a “danger” and “a source of growing apprehension” (17 Eastern, 22).

(e) Sirens . Fewer complaints have been received about lack of warnings, but a special report from Penzance says that there is considerable anxiety there following a recent severe raid, of which no warning was given (14 S. Western, 17 S. Western). Some apprehension has also been reported from parts of Scotland (17 Scotland, 34).

2. Civil Defence .

There are growing complaints from all parts of the country about the lack of winter clothing for Civil Defence workers, and to a lesser extent about their equipment (16, 17 N. Midland, S. Western, Southern, Eastern, Wales). It is suggested that these defects account for the lack of volunteers from which some areas are suffering. So serious is the position in certain districts that wardens and rescue squads have refused to continue their duties until proper provision has been made for them in the way of clothing, and until their general conditions have been improved (16, 17 Wales, S. Western, N. Western).

3. Evacuation .

Arrangements for relief of the homeless still seems to be entangled with red tape, and are perhaps increased by the tactlessness and unsympathetic behaviour of certain officials which has again been reported (5f, 16, 17 Southern, S. Western, 23, 24, 37). The need for communal feeding centres is stressed in several reports (5c, 8d, 16, 17 S. Western, 23, 34.).

Fewer complaints about billeting difficulties have been received, but allegations of profiteering show a slight increase (5b, 16, 17 N. Western, S. Western, 21 S. Western P.C., 22). There are also more comments on “the vulgar power of money”, by which evacuees are said to be driven out to make room for those who can afford to pay more (16, 17 N. Western).

Unwillingness to accept evacuees is again reported from several districts (5b, 16, 17 N. Western, S. Western, 21 S. Western, P.C., 22). In certain places, however, the evacuees themselves are strongly criticised. The Postal Censorship (S. Western Region) reports that “not a single letter has been noted this week in which they are well spoken of”.

Old people who wish to get away are still “a big problem”; so are “young sick people, who also find it difficult to make evacuation arrangements” (5b, 16, 23).

An urgent need of clothes, particularly shoes and Wellington boots, for evacuee children in the country, is mentioned in reports from many parts of the London area (5b).

An article in the Times, 19th November, criticised in detail the working and administration of the Government's evacuation schemes (16).

4. Health .

The possibility of epidemics during the winter seems to be causing increasing concern to the public. Comment is made upon “the tardiness of putting the promised health measures into effect” (5h, 34), and a reassurance of the steps being taken is suggested (5c, 16, 17 S. Western, 23, 35 Plymouth T.C., 37).

5. Food .

There is a considerable increase in complaints about shortage of rationed as well as unrationed foods; in many districts prices grumbles are secondary to those about supplies, (7h, 9e, 12g, 14 S. Western, 21 S. Western, 21 Cambs., 22, 23). Though it seems to be generally thought that evacuees are the main cause of shortages, there is a good deal of comment about distribution arrangements, which are said to have been made without due allowance for local increases in population (1h, 9e, 17 N. Western, 17 S. Western, 35 Plymouth T.C.).

In the S. Western Region it is said that “the shortage of some foods is said to be due to the troops' preference for buying things in shops rather than at N.A.A.F.I. canteens, where the prices are said to be higher (7h).

A shortage of cheese, which is reported from Wales, is said to be a serious matter for the miners “as this is one of the staple foods for their ‘snacks’” (8h).

6. Transport .

There is more and stronger criticism about the transport situation in many districts, and particularly of bus services in the London area (1h, 7h, 16, 17 Southern, 17 S. Western, 20, 23, 34, 37). The effect of increasing delays upon trade and industry is again emphasised (3d, 7h, 9h, 16, 17 Southern).

7. Trade and Commerce .

The method of applying the Purchase Tax still comes in for considerable criticism in the press (16). The Tax itself seems to be “slowly though increasingly felt by the public” (23).

There is also criticism of a report that certain medical supplies needed by the Red Cross are not exempt from the Tax (8d).

8. Coal .

There are more reports about lack of coal supplies. The tone of complaints on this subject is becoming more emphatic (12e, 16, 17 S. Western, Wales, N. Midland, N. Western, 23).


1. The War in general .

The chief topics of discussion this week seem to have been the action of the fleet Air Arm at Taranto, the bombing of Coventry, Molotov's visit to Berlin, and the fight put up by the Jervis Bay.

Comments about Taranto are enthusiastic but somewhat cautious (11f, 16). “Whilst people do not express definite optimism about the results of this action, it is felt that at last we are taking the offensive in one theatre of the war” (6d). “Pleasure at the news from Taranto is tempered by suspicion” (23). Discussion on the situation in Greece itself shows a similar reserve (2h, 11f); but admiration for the Greeks - and detestation of the Italians - increases (3a, 8d, 12a, 16, 21 Edin., Glasgow P.C., 22).

The coincidence of Molotov's visit with the more dramatic events of the week seems to have overshadowed its significance; on the whole the event seems to have aroused only limited interest (1c, 6b, 16, 23).

Great praise is given to the action of the Jervis Bay, though this is often coupled with surprise and some dismay “that such an important convoy should have been entrusted to a single armed merchant cruiser.” (2h, 6d, 11f, 16, 17 N. Eastern).

2. Political affairs .

The Postal Censorship reports some criticism of Mr. Churchill, though the bulk of opinion, except from Eire, is entirely approving. “While there is absolute confidence in our power to win”, says one letter, “there is no confidence in the direction of our affairs at present” (21 Bristol P.C.). Another letter suggests that “he is too timorous, too cautious in home affairs” (21 Inverness P.C.). Letters from Eire are said to show “growing pro-British feeling as to the outcome of the war, but there is an increased amount of anti-Churchill comment (21 Leeds P.C.).

Feeling against Lord Halifax continues (3g, 16, 21 Manchester, Leeds P.C., 23, 32).

3. Affairs abroad .

The re-election of President Roosevelt has been greeted with overwhelming satisfaction (1a, 13h, 16, 21 Bristol, Wales P.C., 22, 23). A few reports from Eire are rather lukewarm in their enthusiasm (21 Leeds P.C.).

Eire . Eire's refusal to grant the use of naval bases to Great Britain continues to rankle. “Feeling against Eire and its attitude to neutrality is growing rapidly” (11f). This comment is typical of many which have been received on the subject (2h, 16, 17 S. Western, 23). Discussion of this problem, and arguments about the bombing of Rome, are said to have “stirred up a religious controversy and considerable bitterness between Catholics” (1e, 21 Inverness P.C.).

4. Broadcasting .

Reports indicate a slight but continuous increase in the number of people listening to Germany. The chief reason for this is said to be the poor reception of B.B.C. programmes (8h, 13h, 21 Inverness P.C., 23, 30).

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