A History of the Ministry of Information, 1939-46

322 324 3 325 4

Weekly Report by Home Intelligence - No. 8
For internal circulation only .

(From 12 noon Monday 18th November to 12 noon Monday 25th November 1940)

Note : This report will in future be issued on Fridays and will next appear on 6th December.

(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 .

Determined endurance in the Midlands and a cheerful confidence elsewhere are the prevailing sentiments which appear this week (3h, 8b, 21 Leeds, Wales, Bristol, Carlisle, Manchester P.C., 23, 32, 35 Plymouth T.C.).

“Italian failures” and the “intensification of our offensive” are reasons given for the latter (8b, 34), but there are some expressions of disappointment that “Taranto was not followed up by more offensive action” (6d).

2. Reprisals, peace aims and the future .

Speculation about peace aims and the future has diminished this week, largely, it seems, because interest is focussed on events abroad as well as at home.

Reprisals “for Coventry” against Germany, and also against Italy, are mentioned by several newspapers (16, 17 Wales), and are said to be “demanded” by certain sections of the public (2h, 20, 32). But there is little direct evidence of a strong public desire for the bombing of civilian objectives (23, 34). The term “reprisals” often seems to be confused with an intensified bombing of important targets. Some people believe the severe raid on Hamburg following the raid on Coventry was meant to be a “reprisal” (34).

3. Rumour .

Few significant rumours have been reported. The story that “U-boat crews are using the Eire coast” persists (1c, 21 Manchester P.C.). Some people attribute the slackening of raids on London to a belief that the raiders are Italians “who can't take it” (34).

The beginning of an “epidemic of spy stories” is reported from Scotland. Several of these are about fatal accidents to airmen due to “sabotage” (11e).

4. Aliens .

Some newspapers continue to ask for “a more humane policy towards aliens, and that “a better use should be made of them to further our war effort” (16).


1. Air raids .

(a) General reactions . There have been fewer comments this week on the way people are standing up to raids. Their toughness of spirit, and “indifference” seems now to be taken for granted (3d, 9d). Wales alone reports any sign of “jitters”. “Since the Coventry raid many have reverted to sleeping in their shelters” (8b). Of Coventry itself the telephone censorship reports that “the morale, as disclosed by intercepted conversations, is of the highest order, notwithstanding the town's ordeal.” Elsewhere it is again stated that people in the more heavily bombed areas are standing up to it magnificently” (5f, 6f, 16, 21 Leeds P.C., 34, 35 London, Manchester, Liverpool T.C.).

The difficulties of homeless people continue. Lack of information about their liabilities for rent and other standing charges “is causing much confusion and hardship”. Attention has been drawn to special problems of this nature which affect “people whose houses were being bought through building societies (5b).

There is still criticism of delay in repairing damaged property and in removing personal belongings from bombed houses (5c, 16). “A tremendous outcry” is reported in one area where “property damaged ten weeks ago is still covered with tarpaulins” (17 Eastern).

More cases have been reported of people “taking advantage at Rest Centres of facilities to which they are not entitled (5b).

(b) Aerial defence . Criticism of defences which, apart from local complaints, had lately declined, has sprung up again this week (2h, 7h, 23, 35 Plymouth T.C.). In the press and from other sources there have been comments on the “harm done by premature” and optimistic announcements” of our progress in methods to defeat the night bomber; Churchill and Joubert are both criticised for “raising false hopes” (6d, 11e, 16). After the raid at Leicester on 21st November, there were “strong comments on the insignificance of the anti-aircraft defences” (14 N. Midland).

The camouflage question, which has been dormant for some time, is revived in a complaint from people living near the M.O.I. “who are extremely nervous about its visibility as a target”. It is suggested that it should be made less conspicuous. (34, 36).

(c) Shelters . There are persistent complaints from many parts of the country about dampness in shelters, as well as about their shortage (2d, 5a, 6d, 10h, 11f, 14 Belfast, 16, 17 N. Eastern, 21 Reading P.C., 23, 34, 35 Plymouth T.C.). More reports have been received of people sleeping at home as their shelters have been too wet to use. About shelter bunks, however, there is some satisfaction. “Approval” and enthusiasm “for them has been expressed in one London district”, though this is qualified by a statement that “the speed and efficiency with which they are fitted up differs greatly in the various boroughs” (23).

The reactions of the press to Lord Horder's report were wholly approving, though there has been much criticism about the way in which the Government handled the matter (16, 17 N. Eastern, Eastern). There is not yet much evidence of the public's attitude to the subject. The criticisms of the press are on account of delay in issuing the report, and of the mutilations and addenda which have been made. These are said to “suggest that the Government wanted to disarm as much criticism as it possibly could before issuing it” (2f).

Several papers commented approvingly on the recommendation that local authorities should take swift and independent action to improve conditions in their own districts (16).

(d) Civil defence services . It is reported that in some parts of London rescue squads need more cranes and other gear (16). Comment has also been made on the need for better arrangements for feeding firemen while they are at work.

(e) Sirens . Criticism of siren policy seems to be dying down. There are still a few complaints from places where there have been raids without warnings or where sirens have sounded after raids have begun (3h, 11e, 17 Eastern).

(f) Black-out . There have also been fewer complaints about infringements of the black-out, though anxiety on the part of the public seems to persist in certain areas (5a, 6b, 17 N. Midland, Eastern, S. Eastern, S. Western).

2. Evacuation .

Many of the problems referred to in the earlier reports have again been mentioned this week. In some areas hosts and evacuees continue a campaign of mutual back-biting. “The evasion of billeting by wealthy householders” is again reported; and old people are still said to be “a serious problem” (2h, 5c, 8b, 16, 17 Eastern, Southern, 21 Bristol, Wales P.C., 23, 35 Plymouth T.C.).

Questions of rents, storage of furniture, and the cost of maintaining two homes are said to be leading “to the return of some evacuees to heavily bombed areas” (1c, 5b).

While certain difficulties seem to have lessened (e.g. complaints of overcrowding and of profiteering), new problems are coming to light. “The social needs of evacuees are much more serious than the general public imagines” says one report. “The social centres and welfare committees arranged by the W.V.S. have met some of the more urgent needs, but it is felt that a considerable extension of this type of work is necessary (3c, 5d, 16, 28, 34).

A report from London Region says that “foster parents and evacuated children are the cause of much anxiety when parents who are themselves evacuated leave no address, and thus lose touch with their families (5a).

There are still demands for re-classification of evacuation areas around London. Requests have been reported from Beckenham, Bromley, Carshalton, Cheam, Finchley, Wembley (5a).

The press is beginning to show some anxiety about “the linked problems of evacuation and education”, though apart from a limited number of regional reports, there have so far been few references to this from other sources. According to one paper “92,000 juveniles are running wild in London”. Another says: “In Ramsgate alone there are 600 children without education of any sort”.

3. Health .

There are still reports from many places of anxiety about health troubles during the winter (2h, 5a, 11h, 16, 17 Northern, Midland, 32).

The difficulty of finding doctors at night for civil emergencies is mentioned in several areas (5e, 16, 34).

4. Food .

Food shortages are still reported in several districts (6b, 8c, 16, 17 S. Western, 23, 35 Plymouth T.C.).

It is suggested that “in view of the rapid increase in comments about rising prices there should be more official explanation about the related problems of supply, prices and wages (1c).

5. Trade and Commerce .

Though little reaction has been reported this week to the effects of the Purchase Tax, Mass Observation reports that this, “and the all round” rise in the cost of living, are now beginning to be seriously felt, especially among the poorer sections of the community. "Price grumbles are coming up again strongly” (23).


1. The war in general .

Though glad to hear of the success at Koritza, people are still “chary of giving the Greeks unqualified praise”, or of being too complacent about the position generally, for fear “of a setback”. Germany is expected to “take a hand there soon” (7h, 11e, 16, 34).

There is some comment on the serious threat to our Atlantic shipping from submarines and bombers (6b, 16).

2. Political matters .

Press criticism of our foreign policy and of Lord Halifax, has been intensified this week (16), and is reported also from other sources (2e, 21, 23, 1c). “Britain must adopt a more active diplomacy,” and “it is rather disturbing that German foreign policy seems to be more effective than our own” (21 Reading P.C.). The Glasgow press stresses that “many want a Foreign Secretary in the House of Commons” (16). Sir Samuel Hoare also comes in for some censure (2f): “Why is he kept in Madrid when his pre-war policy is universally condemned?” (14 Scotland).

“Catholic influence” is again alleged to be the reason why we do not bomb Rome (3e, 11e).

3. Home affairs .

Postal censorship reveals obsession both in England and in Eire with the Irish ports (21 Cambs, Carlisle, Bristol, Manchester, Reading P.C.).

There is some apprehension in Eire about the possibility of invasion by Britain or Germany. Many writers in Eire “blame de Valera's short-sighted policy” (21 Carlisle, Manchester P.C.). “Approximately 70% of the comments show that both English and Irish writers desire greater co-operation between the two countries. 30% show sympathy for de Valera's policy and difficulties" (21 Cambs. P.C.).

4. Official speeches and announcements .

Mr. Greenwood's statement about damage done by the R.A.F. was criticised as being “over-optimistic” in many quarters (16, 35 Plymouth T.C., 17 S. Western).

Mr. Bevin's speech had a mixed reception (16, 17 Northern, 32).

5. Broadcasting .

There have been more complaints in the press, as well as from our own sources, about “the jeering and sneering manner of some of our news broadcasts”, especially those referring to Italy” (14 N. Eastern). “The boasting tone of announcers is causing disgust” (14 Scotland, 16, 34).

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