A History of the Ministry of Information, 1939-46

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Weekly Report by Home Intelligence - No. 10 .
For internal circulation only .

(From 12 noon Wednesday, 4th December to 12 noon Wednesday, 11th December, 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. The report will continue to be issued on Wednesdays.


1. General comments .

There are no marked changes in morale reported this week. Following the heavy provincial raids there have been the usual grumbles about the unpreparedness of the authorities (25, 38). In Birmingham, the absence of heavy raids for 3 days “has steadied public morale enormously and the nightly trek out from the city has considerably diminished” (9f); but one report mentions people saying “if only all the munitions factories had been hit, they would stop bombing us” (14 Birmingham). In Bristol, the R.I.O. reports that in the poorer districts (particularly Knowle West, Bedminster, and South Mead) there is much talk of having been let down by the Government, and of the possibility of a negotiated peace. These reports come from such divergent sources as University lecturers, social workers, company directors and doctors. The feeling is said to be particularly marked among the women. The R.I.O. showed these reports to the Regional Commissioner, who considers that “now that the services are returning to normal, morale will be maintained at a high level.” He is perfectly happy about the present position and has no evidence of any exodus from the city (14 Bristol).

Among more responsible upper and middle-class people in Bristol, it is said that the B.B.C. and official reports of the raids have produced a serious distrust of official news. People of the town are disappointed in the way the news was handled, that their raids have not been given the same publicity as Coventry, and that they have had no visit from the King. A public announcement that no such visit was to take place was booed (14 Bristol).

In most places which have not yet been blitzed, the view is prevalent that their turn is coming soon. This is reported from Welsh industrial centres (8h), Leeds, Bradford, Sheffield, York and Hull (2a) Worcester (25), and also in large Scottish towns (11h). Though there is naturally some trepidation, the attitude is usually “we can take it as well as London and the Midlands” (2a). In Glasgow the lack of raids is attributed to the inability of enemy bombers to reach the town (22 Glasgow P.C.). In the North-Eastern region, a similar freedom from raids is thought to be due to the Germans not having enough planes to bomb more than one area at a time (2a).

Many Londoners expressed mild chagrin at not being the centre of the stage last week. Sunday's heavy raid created no serious upset of morale but rather a sense of excitement (5x, 25).

In places which have not been bombed there are reports of some complacency and a tendency to relax concentration on the war effort (4a, 11a). “War-weariness” is also still noticed (4a, 5x, 25).

Many reports stress the need for emphasis on our damage to Germany (5x, 14 Bristol, 38). In particular photographs of damage would be extremely welcome. The Ministry's map of bombing in Germany is regarded as a first-rate piece of propaganda (5x, 38).

The seriousness of the shipping losses is beginning to penetrate to the public, but interest in the subject is still limited (2a, 3h, 5x).

2. Reprisals, peace aims and the future .

Demands for reprisals come almost entirely from places which have not suffered severe bombing (3h, 9h, 14 Wales); in the Welsh area it is reported that the majority are content that we should continue to aim at military objectives as they feel this is the soundest war policy - also some of our bombs are bound to fall on houses. They much prefer, however, to hear of bombs on Germany rather than the Low Countries or occupied France (14 Wales). In London a decline in talk of reprisals is recorded. At Barking, when some Nazi airmen were buried, a woman put a wreath on a coffin inscribed “To some mother's son”; the crowd showed no hostile feeling at this action and appeared rather to approve (5x).

The feeling that Germany must not escape “without scars” (as she is thought to have done after the last war) continues to be strong (14 Wales); a majority appear to think that we should impose much more severe peace terms on Germany than after the last war (22 Special P.C.). A Gallup survey by the British Institute of Public Opinion found 68% of the public in favour of “more severe peace terms”, 17% favouring “less severe”, and 15% “don't knows” (18 News Chronicle).

The increasing press interest in peace aims and post-war reconstruction is beginning to produce some effect in London (5x), though the provinces still report little interest, except among more thoughtful people. Working-class people in London think that the Labour members of the Government are “in to stay” and look forward to a post-war socialist state (5x).

3. Rumours .

Haw Haw rumours continue extremely prevalent, taking the usual form of bombing predictions. It must be emphasised that these rumours bear little or no relation to actual broadcasts from Germany, though reports continue to record a great increase in the amount of listening to the German radio (7h, 8h, 11h, 12c, 13h, 14 Wales, 23 Bristol T.C.). In the South Western region it has been noticed that Haw Haw rumours tend to occur in towns which are having War-Weapons Weeks - e.g. Brighton. Places from which Haw Haw rumours are reported are Oxford, Cambridge, Bristol, Exeter, Cheltenham, Leeds, Plymouth, East London, Nottingham, Southampton and Worcester, (2a, 5x, 7h, 14 S. Eastern, Cambridge, 25, 29, 35, 38). Many reports ask that some official action shall be taken to counteract these rumours, and that categorical denials shall be made; the reports also stress the point that the greatest counteracting force would be a more informative official news service.

4. Extremist activities .

After the raids in Bristol, the Daily Worker Defence League issued typewritten handouts giving instructions to the public about where to go and what to do if their homes had been damaged. In case of difficulties, the handouts suggested that people should go for help to the offices of the local A.R.P. Campaign Committee (a Communist organisation) (7h). Advice bureau for raid victims have also been set up in London by the Communist Party (5x).

Fascist propaganda is reported to be going on in a quiet and underground way in Hoxton, Shoreditch and St. Pancras. “It will be different when Hitler comes” is the usual argument, and poverty is used as a spearpoint of grievance. Reports suggest that “Mosley's money is still circulating and if supplies dried up the propaganda would cease” (5x, 38).

5. Northern Ireland .

Increasing unemployment in Northern Ireland from seasonal causes is leading to considerable criticism of the Government's failure to use the available manpower. The difficulties in establishing armament factories in this area are not realised by the public. Only about 600 refugees from the bombed cities of England have reached Northern Ireland, so that no reception problem has arisen (13h). It is alleged that fake petrol coupons, price 2d each, are being imported to Northern Ireland from Eire (22 Leeds P.C.).

6. Eire .

A special report on Eire from a competent observer makes the following points (confirmed by Postal Censorship reports):-

1. On the Irish ports question, the great majority are adamant and it is believed that pressure would only increase their resistance. An approach via U.S.A., provided there was no question of pressure, is considered the most hopeful line.

2. The bad effect of the Irish ports announcement on Eire opinion has now been largely offset by the relaxation in travel restrictions to Eire.

3. The heavy bombing of English towns has aroused great feelings of horror, but the reaction of the Irish is to say “look what would happen to us if we handed over the ports.”

4. While British popularity has declined somewhat over the ports question, the belief that Britain is going to win in the end has steadily increased.

5. Italian stocks are on the down-grade and the successful resistance of Greece makes many people draw an analogy between Greece and Ireland. Russia is extremely unpopular.

6. The Local Security Force is proving a great success, and as a result of local efforts to raise funds for it, many rural activities analogous to the Women's Institutes and village dances are developing for the first time.

7. Culturally speaking, Eire at the moment is on the up-grade and there is an increasing interest in art and literature, particularly if “home produced”. It is generally believed that England is indifferent to Eire's cultural activities, and it would help much if this idea could be dispelled (38).

7. Adolescents .

The high wages which adolescents can now earn, and the absence of paternal control (with fathers in the Forces and on night shifts) are said to be lowering both the conscientiousness and responsibility of the young people to parents and employers alike (Chesterfield I.C., 3h).


1. Air Raids

(a) General . Special reports from R.I.Os at Birmingham and Bristol (and vigorous comment in the “Daily Express”, 6th December) stress the urgent importance of local authorities of all large towns preparing at once to deal with blitz chaos (14 Bristol, Midland, 18). Among points specially mentioned are the need to provide:-

(1) Facilities for distribution of news, posters, and official announcements.

(2) An official messenger service (cycle or motor-cycle).

(3) Information bureaux, and registration centres for population movements.

(4) Emergency health measures (anti-typhoid inoculation, emergency sanitation, and water supply).

(5) Other emergency public utility services (stocks of fuel and candles, public transport).

(6) Emergency feeding arrangements, including mobile canteens and communal feeding centres.

(7) Adequate Rest Centre accommodation outside the town, with stocks of clothes.

The Press and other sources continue to emphasise the hardship and bitterness caused by delay in settling questions of rent, compensation, and pensions (5x, 18). The forms and regulations dealing with compensation and pensions are said to be so full of elegant verbiage that the ordinary public cannot understand them. (5h, 30, 38). Variations in the allowances granted to raid victims by different Assistance Boards are also causing a good deal of annoyance (5x).

Delay in repairing damaged houses, and in the removal of furniture from them, is a recurrent sore, for which local authorities are held responsible (5x). Sometimes there appears to be a genuine shortage of repair materials, but often householders complain that builders are ready to do the work but that local authorities will not pass their estimates (5x).

The telephone censorship summary contains repeated complaints about the lack of a proper system of fire-watchers in Bristol raids. “Far more should have been employed in warehouses and uninhabited shops” - “Much material damage could have been avoided” etc., etc. (23 Bristol T.C., 38). It is also suggested that more help should have been given to the Civil Defence Services by the Home Guard (38).

(b) Shelters . Complaints about shortage and dampness of shelters are still widely reported (4c, 5x, 14 N. Midland, 18, 19 Eastern, Southern, S. Western, Wales, N. Western, 38).

There seems to be some increase in the demand for deep shelters (4b, 19 Eastern, Southern, 22 Special P.C., 25). It is believed, however, that these demands are largely fostered by Vigilance Committees, etc.

“People sleeping in shelters”, says a special London report, “are more and more tending to form committees among themselves, often Communist in character, to look after their own interests and to arrange entertainment” (5x). In Birmingham also “shelter policy is under examination, and unofficial committees of social workers have been formed to ascertain conditions at first hand” (9c). It is suggested in the “Sunday Times” that “it might be wise to concentrate responsibility for improvement and maintenance of shelters in the hands of one central authority since the Government is now bearing the whole cost” (18). The press (lay and medical) suggest also that a medical “shelter chief” is needed (18).

2. Evacuation .

Evacuation problems continue to bulk large. Their nature has been indicated in previous reports. The size of the problem is shown by official figures quoted in the Economist (18). In reception areas there are about 1,500,000 official evacuees (excluding the enormous numbers of unofficial evacuees); on top of this, accommodation has to be found for about 1,000,000 soldiers.

On the good side of the picture, the following points are reported:-

  1. Evacuation succeeds best where large empty houses have been taken over as hostels, and staffed by social workers of various kinds.

  2. School-children without parents have been dealt with most successfully in school camps. The proportion of children removed from these camps has been far smaller than from private billets.

  3. In private billets, the greatest success has been achieved where the evacuees and hosts are of the same social class. Valuable palliatives for the difficulties of private evacuation have been communal feeding for evacuees, and arrangements whereby all the children (whether evacuees or hosts) go to school on the same days and not on alternate days (so as to give hosts at least 3 days a week free from all children).

  4. Hostels for non-evacuated fathers and adolescents have proved most valuable, but many more are needed.

On the bad side, the following points are specially noted, though there are many others:-

  1. Those who refuse to evacuate themselves or their children represent a “hard core”, - apathetic and “afraid of the unknown”.

  2. The children remaining in London are becoming increasingly undisciplined; some parents are unenthusiastic about the reintroduction of compulsory education, and suggest that their children will have to travel long distances to unbombed schools.

  3. Many old people still want to get away, but cannot find billets. Many of those who have been evacuated to country institutions are still untraced by their relatives.

  4. Women and children are steadily trickling back to London. The reasons for this are:- less intense raiding of London; unhappiness and boredom in the country - they feel unwelcome among strangers and often have nothing to do and nowhere to go; the cold of the country and winter conditions generally; desire of wives to live with their husbands, and look after them - as well as fear of “other women”; financial straits of husbands, who cannot afford to pay rent at home and send maintenance.

  5. In spite of this returning movement, in some London boroughs recently heavily bombed (e.g: Heston and Isleworth, Finchley, Wembley, etc.) there are requests that they should be made evacuation areas.

  6. Many parents are deliberately using evacuation to get rid of their responsibilities. They refuse to buy the necessary clothes for their children, and often children and hosts have heard nothing from the parents since evacuation. In such cases, it is very difficult to find out if the parents are victims of raids or merely evading obligations.

  7. Key-workers are joining their evacuated families and finding jobs in reception areas.

(Refs:- 5x special report, 5h, 6d, 18, 19).

3. Food .

There are an increasing number of serious grumbles about the price increases and shortages (5h, 18, 19 Eastern, 22, 25). Queues outside food shops are reported in the Northern region (1c). There is, too, some grumbling about the Milk Rationing Scheme (5d, 18, 19 N. Midland), and about the ban on bananas, which are much eaten by the poorer classes (5c, 18, 25). For the first time, Lord Woolton comes in for criticism, and he is accused of treating certain food-shortages too light-heartedly (11a).


1. The war in general .

The Greek advance in Albania continues to give widespread satisfaction and no slowing down is expected, except in some intellectual circles. Coupled with the usual suggestions that we ought to hit the Italians harder, many people add that we should do more to help the Greeks, even at some risk to ourselves, both by harrying Italian supply routes and by aggressive action in Libya or East Africa (3h, 4a, 5x, 8h, 9c, 11a, 11h, 13h, 25). No reports have yet been received on the public's reaction to the British attack in Egypt.

2. Official communiques and broadcasting .

Dissatisfaction over the reticence of official raid communiqués, and the loss of faith in official news continues to be reported (2c, 11h, 14 S. Western).

A listener research study (the data collected between October 20th and 25th) aimed at discovering how many people listened to the radio during raids; the distribution of the civil population was as follows:-

Civil defence duties - 12%
Public shelters - 17%
Private accommodation - 71%

Of the people in private accommodation, 18% were in private shelters outside their houses and 25% in shelter rooms, while 28% ignored the raid. A detailed study of listening showed that where there was an alert without a raid, there was little or no decline in the volume of listening, whereas in areas with a raid about two-thirds of the normal number listened (28).

The War Commentary broadcasts are stated to be increasingly popular (8h, 35).

3. Political affairs .

There is the usual crop of criticism about Lord Halifax, and some even suggest that the Foreign Office views the retreat of the Italians as a “cruel disappointment” (11h, 16).

From one region it is stated that there is some demand for the re-establishment of local Government elections. A more critical interest is now said to be taken in local Government than in peace time and people feel that elections would do something to increase efficiency and to prevent local councilors regarding themselves as “little dictators” (1c).




1 R.I.O. Northern Region (Newcastle) a. Dec. 4
2 R.I.O. North-Eastern Region (Leeds) b. Dec. 5
3 R.I.O. North-Midland Region (Nottingham) c. Dec. 6
4 R.I.O. Eastern Region (Cambridge) d. Dec. 7
5 R.I.O. London Region (London) e. Dec. 9
5x Special London reports f. Dec. 10
6 R.I.O. Southern Region (Reading) g. Dec. 11
7 R.I.O. South-Western Region (Bristol) h. = weekly report
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.O's
15 Fortnightly Intelligence reports from R.I.O. Scotland
16 M.O.I. speakers' reports
17 Local Information Committees' reports
18 Home Press Summaries (M.O.I.)
19 Regional Press Summaries (M.O.I.)
20 Grievances in Hansard (M.O.I.)
21 Anti-Lie Bureau reports (M.O.I.)
22 Postal Censorship reports
23 Telephone Censorship Summaries
24 Police duty-room reports from Chief Constables
25 Mass Observation reports
26 War-time Social Survey reports
27 B.B.C. monitoring service reports
28 B.B.C. listener research reports
29 B.B.C. special reports
30 Citizens' Advice Bureaux reports
31 Association of Welfare Supervisors' reports
32 W.V.S. reports
33 Scottish Unionist Whip's Intelligence reports
34 Economic League's monthly reports
35 W.H. Smith's reports
36 War Office Postbag reports
37 Telephone Censorship Summaries
38 Reports from primary sources

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