A History of the Ministry of Information, 1939-46

314 315 2 316 3 317 4 320 7

Weekly Report by Home Intelligence - No. 9 .
For internal circulation only .

(From 12 noon Monday 25th November to 12 noon Wednesday, 4th December, 1940)

NOTE : This report will in future be issued on Wednesdays and the next will appear on Wednesday, 11th 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 .

The main events of the ten days covered by this report have been the heavy raids on provincial towns. As in the past, their effect has been to produce a “grim optimism”, but there are some signs of strain. After Bristol's raid on 30th November, it was reported that “there was no crying or whining and no talk of stopping the war”. Since the raid, some 3,000 people have been walking several miles each night to shelter in a tunnel scheduled for 200 only (7h). Plymouth's raids were accepted by the people as inevitable, and they are said to be fully prepared for more to follow (7h, 35 Plymouth T.C.). The Southampton raid of 30th November was also faced bravely; but “it would be a mistake to assume that there is now no undercurrent of despondency and anxiety, especially among women...a relatively small city seems more susceptible to shock than a widely flung community like London” (6d). Here, as at Coventry, there has been a nightly exodus of people to the surrounding country (6d, 14 Southern, 16). On 3rd December, it was reported that “morale is shaken but unbroken; however, the more that can be done for it, the better.” There is no anti-war talk, but if constant raiding continues, some defeatism is anticipated, in particular among the women. The R.I.O. stresses the need for an objective and authoritative radio talk on the extent of our bombing damage in Germany (14 Southern). The Leicester raid caused more surprise than shock, as the people imagined that their town was “low on the list of places to be bombed” (23).

In Coventry, as the shock of the raid wore off, grumbling steadily increased. There is feeling that as soon as things are straightened out another raid will put them back where they were. Political activity and exploitation of the situation has been very slight, and anti-war sentiment inconspicuous; feeling in favour of reprisals has increased, but is still not marked. Optimism is less obvious than it was in the East End after the early days of the blitz (23).

There is still indignation in those provincial towns - Birmingham, Bristol, Southampton, Plymouth, Birkenhead, etc. - which, although severely raided, have been described anonymously in official communiqués (6d, 14 Midland, S. Western, 21 Special P.C., 35 Plymouth T.C.).

In London the quieter nights have made those who sleep in their homes or in private shelters more cheerful; but the chronic habituees of the deeper public shelters and tubes have been more depressed, as their discomfort is no longer mitigated by thoughts of what they are escaping (5x). Some “war weariness” is reported from Brixton, Woolwich and West Ham (5x). Christmas is usually looked forward to as a pleasant break in the middle of the winter. This year these cheerful anticipations are largely absent; the emptiness of the shops and the lack of “Christmas fare” is commented on (21 Cambs. P.C., 23).

The exaggerated hopes of an early conquest of the night bomber, produced by press articles (apparently officially inspired) have now led to severe disappointment, particularly in the heavily raided provincial towns (3h, 14 Southern, 23).

In general, morale continues steady, and there is a general feeling that we shall win in the end, but only after a long struggle (1c, 7h, 21 Glasgow, Bristol, Leeds Special P.C.). In no less than 82 out of 88 returns from railway bookstalls, are the public described as being “confident of final victory” (32). At the same time, the Special Postal Censorship report for November, while emphasising the confidence and pride of the people as a whole, notes a larger number of writers than usual who show poor morale:-

1. Many complain of the strain of raids. More of these complaints come from London and Liverpool than from the new centres of attack in the provinces.

2. A number of intelligent working-class writers adopt the attitude that “England can never win, so why not end this useless slaughter?” This attitude is coupled with the suggestion that the war is “an upper-class financial racket”, run at the expense of the people. Such an attitude has been almost entirely absent from previous mails, and the uniformity of the opinions expressed lead the Censorship authorities to suggest that they are not spontaneous, but rather the result of political propaganda.

3. Some people are upset by loneliness due to the scattering of friends and relations.

2. Reprisals, peace aims and the future .

Reprisals are still demanded more by those who have not directly suffered from bombing than by raid victims; the women appear to be “more bloodthirsty than the men” (5x, 23). The word “indiscriminate” as applied to bombing is widely misunderstood, some thinking that it means “accidental” (23). A Mass Observation investigation showed about 45% each way, and the rest with no opinion; this agrees very closely with a British Institute of Public Opinion survey published recently in the News Chronicle (16, 23).

Postal Censorship reports show a large number of people who feel that no peace can be considered which does not ensure that Germany will never again be able to declare war on the people of England. This is the commonest type of comment on post-war policy. Many writers want to exterminate, or at least ostracise, the whole German race (21 Special P.C.).

On the whole, people are showing little interest in peace aims. “Mention of constructive planning for a new Europe is completely absent from letters at present” (21 Special P.C.). There seems to be a trace of war weariness which dulls people's capacity for looking ahead in a constructive way, and the continued emphasis on negative sacrifice which has characterised speeches of Government spokesmen has added to this (23).

The Special Postal Censorship study shows that, among letter-writers, those who speculate about the future are of the following types:-

1. Those who think it is too early to look ahead.

2. Those who think that some constructive planning should be undertaken, but have no idea along what lines.

3. Those who hope for violent levelling of class distinction and a redistribution of wealth.

4. Those who are pleased at the present levelling of class distinctions and believe that they will never reappear after the war.

5. A very large body of writers who assume that a socialist state is inevitable after the war, with the present Labour leaders as the right wing in a democratic parliament.

6. A large number who look forward to an Anglo-American Federation as the only basis for world reconstruction.

The press interest in the rebuilding of England (16) and the criticism of the lack of scope of the new Ministry of Works and Buildings has found no reflection in reports on public opinion.

3. Rumours .

Rumours have increased slightly (23, 32). Stories that the damage and casualties at Coventry were much more severe than official announcements made out, have spread widely (3h, 14 Midland, 32); and there is a popular belief that Polish airmen were very annoyed at not being allowed to take off to intercept the night raiders attacking both Coventry and Birmingham (32). The popularity of the Polish forces with the public is also stressed in postal censorship reports (16 Special P.C.). A rumour of martial law in Southampton following its heavy raid is reported from Portsmouth (35 Portsmouth T.C.).

A rumour that Liverpool dock-workers are deliberately “going slow” in order to earn extra overtime pay is said to be causing high feeling among the public in that town (32).

Rumours attributed to Haw Haw are reported from a number of places - Portsmouth, Newcastle, Leeds, Bristol, Weston-super-Mare, Exeter, Barnstaple and Northampton (1c, 7h, 21 Leeds P.C., 23, 35 Portsmouth T.C.). They take the usual form of predictions of bombing, and of promised return visits after raids.

4. Anti-Semitism .

The Special Postal Censorship report for November records a slight increase in anti-Semitic feeling (21 Special P.C.). In Blackpool, Jews from London and Brighton are accused of buying houses, furnishing them with second-hand furniture, and selling and letting them at extortionate prices (21 Inverness P.C.). Some of the Jews themselves confess to their fears in raids and envy the calm of the English (21 Special P.C.).


1. Air raids .

(a) General . Within the last ten days a large number of sources - from which only the press conspicuously differs - have indicated a slight but distinct decline in cheerfulness. This is largely attributed to the persistence, and in some cases the intensification, of air raids (5f, 6d, 9d, 21 Special, Wales P.C., 23, 34, 35 London T.C.). At the same time, there are still many reports of the public's fortitude and determination to carry on, especially in areas which have been severely bombed. “The (Birmingham) public is determined not to allow even worse punishment to get them down” (35 Plymouth T.C.). Bristol and Plymouth were said to have “taken the blow wonderfully” (7d); Southampton's “immediate reaction was admirable” (6d).

In a detailed report on the Bristol raid of 24th November, the R.I.O., Southern Region, strongly emphasises the need for a future policy of “instructing the public about the problems of sanitation and of emergency methods of dealing with it if the water supply should fail".

(b) Aerial Defence . Criticism continues, mainly of the defences in the Midlands and Southern England (3h, 7d, 9e, 13a, 16, 23, 32). The popular idea of defence seems to centre round the use of fighter planes, irrespective of technical or strategical considerations, and it is again suggested that more explanation of these points is needed (23).

(c) Shelters . There are still a very large number of complaints about shelter conditions, among which dampness and inefficient sanitary arrangements predominate. The press and many other sources are still extremely critical of the delay in dealing with the whole problem (4g, 5a, 9e, 16, 17 N. Midland, N. Western, Eastern, 21 Special P.C., 23, 33, 35 Edinburgh T.C., Manchester T.C.).

Comments from the Postal Censorship show that “as winter hardships increase, public feeling is growing stronger against the conditions in shelters, and the tendency is to use them as little as possible” (21 Special P.C.). This seems to apply particularly to surface shelters, which are said to be neglected “owing to their general discomfort and lack of warmth” (4h, 21 Special P.C., 23). Reports show some increase in demands for deep shelters (4f, 5f, 16, 21 Special P.C., 23).

(d) Black-out . Police Duty Room reports show that “complaints are still numerous” (22) and “early morning offenders” are said to cause some anxiety (4h, 17 Midland). References to the black-out from other sources have declined.

2. Evacuation .

Last week's remarks about evacuation still hold good. There are the same problems and complaints. The poor, the well-to-do, the old, the young, whether they be hosts or evacuees, each have their separate grievances, and seem to unite only in their disapproval of the billeting authorities (3c, 4e, 5f, 7d, 8d, 9e, 16, 21 Special P.C., 23, 35 Portsmouth T.C.).

Comment from the Telephone Censorship gives a fair summary of opinion on the subject as shown by our reports: “The public is making the best of a bad job which they feel someone has muddled somewhere” (35 Plymouth T.C.).

Communal feeding seems to be one of the few matters of which there is no criticism. There are more reports of its success from London, Wales, the Midlands and Northern England (5c, 8b, 16, 17 Midland, 23).

Ebbw Vale District Council reports that there is a serious lack of clothing, and particularly of boots, for “necessitous evacuees” (14 Wales); this complaint is borne out by other reports (5h, 9a).

The R.I.O. Southern Region says that more Information Bureaux are needed, and suggests that there should also be more provision for the recreation and entertainment of evacuees.

3. Trade and Commerce .

As the public becomes increasingly aware of the way in which it is affected by the Purchase Tax more grievances are coming to light. People who have lost their homes through bombing complain of having to pay the tax on goods bought to replace those which have been lost (9a). There are also complaints about the tax being imposed on Service uniforms. Some junior officers already find it impossible to buy their full equipment with the allowance made for this purpose, and the tax increases the amount by which they are out of pocket. It is also suggested that uniforms for voluntary organisations engaged on war work, such as the W.V.S., should not be taxed. The suggested solution of these problems is that “the Tax should be retained, but that higher grants should be made in individual cases" (1e).

4. Labour .

Serious trouble is reported in letters from contractors' camps in Scotland. Complaints are made about bad food, drunkenness, and accidents at work. The Camps complained about are: Castle Dobbie, Inchindown, Invergordon: Balfour Beatty, Orkney: W.J.R. Watson's, Verkie, Shetland. (21 Inverness P.C.).

A shortage of labour is reported from various parts of London. A Chelsea Works Manager complains that only old and infirm people are offered by the Exchange. Stepney and Bermondsey are also said to be affected by the shortage (5x).

5. Transport .

There are still many reports of delay in road and rail traffic particularly in the Midlands and the Home Counties (6b, 16, 17 S. Western, 22, 23). In Birmingham and Coventry motorists are criticised for not giving enough help (17 Midland).

6. Coal .

Lack of supplies are still reported in several areas, among which Coventry is said to be feeling the shortage acutely. In London many merchants are said to be complaining of “chaotic conditions” (1e, 5b, 9h, 16, 17 S. Western, 23).

The South Staffordshire Information Committee reports that “miners' leaders are viewing very seriously the increase in absenteeism. The Mines Department,” says this report “appear to take very little interest.” The main causes of this trouble seem to be lack of shelter accommodation for the miners' families, and transport difficulties, especially for night shifts after raids. Strong complaints have been made also about the men's food, which is said to be “inadequate and of poor quality”. “It is essential”, says the Committee, “for the food question to be settled, as under present conditions the men cannot carry on for more than two or three days on end” (14 Midland).

7. Agriculture .

Throughout the Scottish press Mr. Ernest Brown's speech on 28th November, about Scotland's agricultural policy, is said to be “satisfactory as far as it goes”; but the general comment is that “it doesn't go very far” (16).


1. Official communiqués and broadcasting .

From all parts of the country there are reports of “indignation and exasperation” at recent broadcasts and official communiqués about the bombing of large provincial towns. For these the B.B.C. is largely blamed, though the Ministry of Information is also criticised; the public does not differentiate at all clearly between the sources of official statements. People fail to understand why the names of some towns are announced, while others are suppressed, even when they have been mentioned on the German radio. They point out that descriptions of damage and behaviour of the public have often not coincided with the facts. In particular, the announcements implying that industry in Coventry was not badly affected, and that Birmingham was almost normal the day after its heavy raid, have created “serious distrust of official news” (8b, 9c, 12b, 14 Midland, 32, 35 Plymouth T.C.). There are reports from many sources that this combination of official reticence with official inaccuracy and over-optimism has led to a considerable increase in listening to the German radio; its reception is still stated in many places to be better than that of the B.B.C. (5x, 6d, 8h, 9c, 14 Midland, 22). Only in the Eastern region is Haw Haw listening said not to have increased. (4).

On the other hand; the B.B.C. is also violently criticised for “careless talk”, which contrasts with the continued radio requests to the public to be discreet.

In a recent official announcement the full address of part of the Air Ministry in Worcester was given. The Worcester press is indignant and the public agitated at what is regarded as gratuitous help to the enemy (14 Midland). Similar complaints followed a broadcast in which a Welsh M.P. named the steel works at which Anderson shelters are made (14 Wales).

2. Political affairs .

Several reports indicate that public feeling is in agreement with the widespread press comment that we are not mobilising our manpower and industry as fully as we should; in particular, it is said that the time for voluntary efforts is past and that we should now resort to compulsion, both in industry and labour (6d, 16, 32). It is also suggested that apart from the Prime Minister there is not enough drive among members of the Cabinet (9a).

There is still some criticism of Lord Halifax, coupled with suggestions that our foreign policy should be directed by younger men (3h, 13a).

A summary of a special report from Scotland on Communist activity in Scottish industry is attached as an appendix to this report.

3. Foreign affairs .

The events in Albania continue to cause great satisfaction, but there is evidence from several sources that people are still not prepared to accept these successes on their face value. Events in Norway and the ultimate defeat of the Finns are still remembered, and it is expected that sooner or later Germany will take a hand in the situation (1a, 2a, 8b, 13a, 23, 32). Only one report suggests that people feel we should be helping Greece more vigorously (2a).

There has been very little interest among the public in the Indian situation (4h, 5x, 23). Well over fifty per cent of people questioned had no opinion about India. Mr. Gandhi was mentioned by about 1 in 12 only. Of those who held definite views, opinion was divided as to whether we or the Indians were to blame for the present situation (23). Interest in Spain was equally limited, and a majority of those who held definite views thought that she would not enter the war; some added that it would not matter greatly even if she did so (23).

There has been singularly little comment on our serious merchant shipping losses.



The causes of the rather lower state of morale at present appear to be as follows (in order of importance):-

1. The heavy provincial raids. The effect of these has been serious only in the areas acutely concerned. There is some evidence of anxiety in towns (e.g. Exeter) which anticipate raids in the near future and fear that their defences are inadequate.

2. The disappointment over the discovery that the semi-official press predictions of an early conquest of the night bomber were unfounded.

3. The inconsistencies on official account of bombing - sometimes naming towns, and sometimes not doing so, and often giving what the public regard as over-optimistic accounts of damage - have produced a distrust in official news generally.

4. The increasing scarcity of many goods and the rises in prices, due to the Purchase Tax, etc.

5. Shelter difficulties. The delay in equipping public shelters, and the dampness and coldness of surface and Anderson shelters are causing concern.

6. Evacuation and billeting difficulties.

7. “War-weariness” - a feeling that Christmas is not going to provide the traditional break in the winter and a sense of frustration about the war generally. A feeling that there is nothing positive to look forward to in the future.

8. Some doubt about the “totality” of our industrial war effort.

9. Shipping losses.

It seems extremely important to avoid “heartening talk”, unaccompanied by official explanation of the above points.


1 R.I.O. Northern Region (Newcastle) a Nov. 25
b Nov. 26
c Nov. 27
d Nov. 28
e Nov. 29
f Nov. 30
g Dec. 2
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)
5x Special London Reports)
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 (Edinburgh)
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.)
321 819 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 Whips Intelligence reports
31 Economic League's monthly reports
32 W.H. Smith's reports
33 Granada Cinema managers' reports
34 Reports from primary sources
35 Telephone Censorship Summaries
36 War Office reports
37 W.V.S. reports.


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