A History of the Ministry of Information, 1939-46

301 302 2 303 3

Weekly Report by Home Intelligence - No. 11 .
For internal circulation only

(From 12 noon Wednesday 11 th December to 12 noon Wednesday 18th December, 1940)

Note : The figures in brackets refer to sources of information. It is proposed to issue the next report on Wednesday, 1st January, 1941, covering a two-weekly period. Urgent matters arising before then will be dealt with in special reports if necessary.


1. General morale and reactions to news .

Reports stress that people in all walks of life are both more cheerful and more confident following the continuous good news from Egypt and Albania (1a, 1c, 2c, 4h, 5x, 6d, 8h, 11h, 13h). Whereas people enjoyed the Greek successes by proxy, in Egypt they feel our Army has justified itself, and they can genuinely share the glory. No set-backs are anticipated in Libya; some people think that Italy will be rapidly and completely knocked out of the war, and a few that the end of the war is in sight (1a, 4h, 5x). The thought that we are at last “hitting Italy hard” is said to be all the more pleasing because it had been hoped for, for so long (9a). Interest in news has greatly increased, and it is reported that, in many public houses, there is now complete silence when the news is being broadcast; this has not happened for some months (1c).

In the provincial towns which have been blitzed, determination continues, though there are some weak spots. The general tenor of telephone conversations from Bristol is less cheerful than a week ago (23 Bristol T.C.). While anti-war sentiments are rare or absent, reports say that there is a negative attitude of resignation (38). The Local Information Committee suggests that more propaganda is needed among the women “to offset the effects of raids” (7h). It seems that, immediately after a severe raid, one pats oneself on the back for one's courage and endurance. There is, too, so much to be done that there is little time for contemplation. After a few days, the most acute problems have been settled, and the haloes have worn somewhat thin; realities have to be faced by those who have lost their homes, their jobs, or their businesses (7h, 23 Bristol T.C., 38). Telephone Censors say that the morale of Southampton, as they hear it, is excellent; complaints have been remarkably rare, and there is a tone of defiance. In Portsmouth, on the other hand, there is expectation and resignation. “People seem to feel that they are getting no public credit for their continued fortitude” (23 Portsmouth T.C.). Sheffield is said to be “in good heart, with the people tired but not glum” (14 Leeds, 38). While the great majority welcome the publication of the names of the blitzed towns, a few fear that if this is combined with the information that the town is carrying on, it is an invitation to the enemy to return (12a).

High prices and scarcity of goods are the main causes of widespread grumbling (5x, 22 Cambridge P.C., 25). More people are attributing these to the shipping losses, and some are anticipating a serious food shortage next year (1c, 4h, 5x, 22 Cambridge P.C., 24). At the same time, the shortages are generally regarded as a price worth paying for victory (5x, 22 Cambridge P.C.). Concern about shipping losses was also increased by Mr. Churchill's references to the coastal command (4h). While the reasons for not regularly announcing enemy submarine sinkings are appreciated, there are requests for some general statement about what the Navy is doing to protect merchant shipping (1c, 7h).

People are looking forward a little more to Christmas (5x), though there is confusion about travelling facilities. In Somerset, for instance, there is a persistent rumour that people will not be allowed to travel by rail after December 20th (4f).

War-weariness is reported here and there, but is less in evidence than in the last few weeks (5x, 22 Carlisle P.C.).

There is very little interest in India (3h, 6f, 38).

The possibility of invasion appears to have vanished from the public mind, but no reports have been received since Lord Beaverbrook's speech.

2. Reprisals .

The demand for reprisals is increasing, especially in places where there has not been much bombing (1c, 6d, 8h, 17 Rutland and Lincoln, 18, 19). In Bristol, a growing number of people are said to favour mass raids on the centres of large German towns, both as an “act of self-defence”, and as a sound military move. Businessmen in particular point out that the destruction of offices and public services produces a number of bottle-necks in industries far removed from the scene of the raid (8h, 23 Bristol T.C., 38). In the Southern region, people are reported to be getting a little tired of the slogan “Britain can take it”, and they are stirred more by reports such as that of “400 Krupps workmen killed”. They believe, moreover, that when bad weather prevents our carrying out bombing raids, the bad weather is over the target areas. On these occasions, they think that German towns should be indiscriminately bombed. Reports suggest that, if this is a misapprehension, it should be corrected. People are also growing more sceptical about our damage to Germany; an authoritative denial should, they think, have followed Hitler's speech when he said that none of his war factories had been seriously damaged (6d). It is said, too, that “something more convincing than Joubert is required on the subject of our bombing of Germany” (3h). In passing, it may be said that people are mildly sorry to be hearing no more from Joubert; they attribute the discontinuance of his broadcasts to the fact that “he gave away too much, and was too optimistic about beating the night bomber” (5x).

3. Peace aims .

The increasing press interest in peace aims (18, 19) is associated with an increasing public interest (1a, 3h, 5x, 22 Inverness P.C.). This is by no means confined only to the more intelligent people. The working-classes are concerned, particularly with the problems of unemployment and social reconstruction (1a, 3h, 5x). In the international sphere, an army of occupation in Germany, and a European or Anglo-American Federation are mentioned (5x, 22 Inverness P.C.). No reports have been received on reactions to Mr. Morrison's suggestion of an international air police force.

In a recent British Institute of Public Opinion Survey, 43% of people favoured publication of our war aims, 35% were against this, and the rest held no opinion (18).

4. Rumours .

Reports come from many sources on the growth of Haw Haw rumours and of his predicting a blitz of Peterborough, Bristol, Guildford, Nottingham, Cambridge, Reading, Aldershot, Haslemere, Andover, Bournemouth, etc. (3h, 4b, 5x, 6d, 6f, 24, 38). It is said that these rumours are causing widespread and genuine anxiety; absenteeism at one engineering works is said to have followed one Haw Haw rumour (Peterborough, 3h). These rumours are often spread by people who are normally responsible and sensible (3h, 7, 38).

Gross exaggerations of bombing damage are also circulating, though less than formerly (2c, 23 Bristol T.C.).

5. Extremist activity .

Communist propaganda is increasing. The coming “Peoples' Convention” is being widely advertised by circulars and other means and A.R.P. Co-ordinating Committees, the Shop Stewards' Movement, and unofficial committees in public shelters are active in the exploitation of grievances (5x, 12h, 38).

The Shop Stewards' Movement is becoming more active on Clydeside, and many workers are unaware that, in addition to their usual Trade Union subscription, they are paying an unofficial levy of 3d or 6d per week to the Shop Stewards' Consultative Conference (11h).

National press publicity has been given to Communist interrupters at public speeches. In a press conference at Edinburgh, Mr. Bevin stressed the point that a few Communist interrupters wanted all the publicity they could get, and that 9/10 of his meeting went off in an orderly manner. Yet the press devoted almost all of their reports to the 5 minutes of sensational interruptions (11h).

It is reported that the Daily Worker is the only newspaper on sale in many public shelters (5x). As a result, it is bought by many who might prefer other papers. In shelters, also, it has been found that the provision of counter-attractions - films, lectures, etc. have caused the activities of Communist shelter committees to be neglected (5x). In the North Eastern Region, Communist house-to-house canvassing on the subject of inadequate shelter provision is going on (14 N. Eastern).

In factories, film displays have proved to be a successful way of combating subversive anti-war propaganda (38 Regions Adviser's report).


6. Air raids .

(a) General . With the slackening of the blitz there has been a decline in criticism of arrangements for air raid after-care. Complaints have mostly come from Birmingham and Southampton, where it is said there are not enough Rest Centres (5x, 6d, 9c, 18). The Regions Adviser reports that in certain bombed districts instructions to “Boil all water” have been issued to people who have lost both gas and electricity. This point has apparently been used by Communists “to show that the authorities have made no serious effort to understand the problems of the people.” It is suggested that the phrase: “Drink only boiled water or milk” would be more suitable (38).

The press is emphatic about the need for authorities in unbombed areas to plan “the co-ordination of public services” to deal with the possible effects of severe raiding (18, 19 Northern).

On the whole, the Government's Compensation Bill has been very well received by the press, though there is so far little evidence of what the public thinks about it. Some criticism has been made in the papers of “the disparity between payment for damage and total loss of property”, and also of the fact that “insurance of moveable business property is compulsory, while that of private goods and chattels is voluntary” (18).

(b) Sirens . In spite of the decrease in raids, there has been some revival, particularly in the S. Western region, of complaints about the inaudibility of sirens (4h, 19 Eastern, S. Western).

(c) Black-out . Anxiety about the black-out is still fairly common. Early morning offenders and motorists are given most of the blame (2c, 6f, 19 Eastern, S. Western, N. Western, 22 Manchester, Carlisle P.C., 24).

7. Shelters .

Dampness continues to be one of the biggest shelter grievances; there are complaints about it from many districts (3h, 5d, 18, 19 N.-Midland, Eastern, N. Western, 22 Manchester, Carlisle).

8. Evacuation .

There is still a small but steady trickle of evacuees returning from reception areas to their homes. The slackening of raids on London, and the increased severity of those on the provinces are among the reasons given for this. (4h, 5x, 12e, 18, 24). Others are said to be, the return of school children for Christmas holidays, (1c) and postal delays, which cause wives to return home as they are not able to hear regularly from their husbands (5h).

Complaints from reception areas seem to be dying down, particularly where communal feeding and welfare centres have been started (7h, 8h, 19 Eastern). It is said, however, that in some places billeting officers have threatened to resign when asked to enforce compulsory billeting (4h).

Difficulties are still reported about the removal of furniture from evacuees' homes (4b).

9. Health .

There have been few comments about health matters this week. The R.I.O. Scotland suggests that as the word “inoculation” is associated with “painful after effects” an alternative should be used. It is suggested also that the appeal to be inoculated should be made “not to parents but to children themselves” - e.g. badges should be given to all children who have been treated, and children's comic papers, strip cartoons, etc. should publicise the chance of winning these badges (11h).

It is reported that not more than 7% of the staff in a large Tilbury factory have accepted free inoculation against diphtheria and colds (5c).

10. Labour .

The press is still critical of unemployment figures and of delay in turning over non-essential industries to war-time production. “Progress of the Government's training schemes are disappointing” - “We are still fumbling and delaying on the industrial side of our war effort” - “The process must be quicker if next year's army and industrial needs are to be met.” (18, 19 Northern). These are typical of many references to the industrial situation.

The Advisory Committee of the London Region have asked that in view of many enquiries from both employers and workers there should be an official announcement about hours and conditions of work on Christmas and Boxing days.

11. Transport .

There is still a large number of complaints about transport difficulties, particularly of passenger traffic during rush hours. The London, Southern and Midland regions seem to be among the worst sufferers, the position in Birmingham being reported as “still acute” (5x, 6f, 9a). Troubles are also reported in the Northern, N. Eastern, N. Midland, Eastern, Southern & N. Western regions, and there is still much criticism in the press (1c, 2e, 18, 19 Eastern, Southern, N. Midland, N. Western).

12. Coal .

The press also continues to be strongly critical of the coal shortage, of which there are reports from many sources (6f, 18, 19 Southern, S. Western, 20, 25, 38).

13. Trade and Commerce .

The R.I.O. Belfast reports that firms in Northern Ireland are complaining of the effects of the Excess Profits Tax and of “the difficulties in which Ulster traders find themselves (as a result of it) compared with traders in Eire” (14 Belfast).

14. Food .

The food situation is giving rise to rapidly increasing grumbles. Though prices are causing a good many complaints, shortages of both rationed and unrationed foods are the cause of even more (2e, 5c, 7h, 8h, 11h, 18, 19 N. Midland, Eastern, Southern, 20, 22 Glasgow, Cambridge P.C., 25). The foods, apart from dairy produce, which seem to be mostly affected, are vegetables, particularly onions, lemons, bananas and other fruit, biscuits and confectionery. In some places milk also is said to be scarce, and in certain areas the free milk scheme for schools is no longer in operation (5x, 6b, 19 Southern, 22 Glasgow P.C., 38). “Inequalities of distribution” are blamed for many of these shortages (1a, 19 Eastern, Southern), though there are also complaints that price control seems immediately to diminish supplies (5c, 22 Manchester, Carlisle P.C.)




1 R.I.O. Northern Region (Newcastle)
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.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.) a. Dec. 11
19 Regional Press Summaries (M.O.I.) b. Dec. 12
20 Grievances in Hansard (M.O.I.) c. Dec. 13
21 Anti-Lie Bureau reports (M.O.I.) d. Dec. 14
22 Postal Censorship reports e. Dec. 16
23 Telephone Censorship Summaries f. Dec. 17
24 Police duty-room reports from Chief Constables g. Dec. 18
25 Mass Observation reports h = weekly report
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 report
37 Telephone Censorship Summaries
38 Reports from primary sources

We use cookies to track usage and preferences.

Privacy & Cookie Policy Accept & Close