A History of the Ministry of Information, 1939-46
(From 12 noon Wednesday 18th December to 12 noon Tuesday 24th December, 1940)
I GENERAL COMMENTS
1. General morale and Reaction to News .
The continuing good news from Africa and Greece has made people feel justified in forgetting the war for a little and thinking instead of Christmas and their families (5x, 9c, 22 Glasgow, Leeds, Cardiff P.C., 23 Plymouth T.C.). There are suggestions that some are over-optimistic about the recent successes, forgetting that it is the Italians and not the Germans who are being beaten (1c, 1h, 11c). The most conservative of these expect that Tunis and Syria will join de Gaulle (8h), while others think that the war will now be much shorter (1h). The Prime Minister's and Lord Beaverbrook's references to invasion aroused a passing interest; people were glad to hear that the Army would remain keyed up over Christmas; but the prospect of invasion is for the most part shadowy and there is no alarm (4a, 8h, 12a). The lull in the raids on the South of England has led to speculations of unpleasant surprises in store, but there is no agitation at the prospect (5x, 8h).
There are requests that the names of the regiments taking part in the Egyptian campaign should be announced as soon as possible (1c).
Raid communiqués are still criticised. Statements that industrial damage in blitzed towns is small, is resented, both as an inaccuracy and as an invitation to the enemy to return and complete the job (17 Sheffield). Grimsby is upset because the Daily Mirror described it as a second Devonport; people are afraid this may attract the attention of the Germans (3h).
2. Reprisals .
Increasing bitterness towards the whole German race is still reported. Liberal-minded people fear this “may make the peace more difficult to win” (1h, 5x, 22 Inverness P.C., 23 Bristol T.C.). In a special study made by Local Information Committees in the North-Eastern Region, it was found that about 58% of people favoured reprisals. The percentage favouring reprisals was smaller among the more intelligent. The number who thought reprisals would break German morale was roughly equal to the number who thought these would strengthen it (14 Leeds).
It is again suggested that the time has come to stop the slogan “Britain can take it” (1h). The public is now more concerned about “giving it.”
3. Rumours .
Haw Haw rumours continue (1h, 3h, 5x, 6a). A broadcast by W.A. Sinclair is suggested as an antidote (3h).
The only other common rumour is that large numbers of corpses in bombed public shelters are to remain there, the shelters being bricked up to form communal catafalques (6a, 8h, 22 Inverness P.C.)
4. Extremist Activities .
The Communists continue to proselytise for the People's Convention. It is suggested that the vagueness of its aims gains the support of left-wing psychopaths. Such people attend protest meetings, trades union meetings, left book club discussions, etc., en masse outnumbering the more moderate and more apathetic majorities (11c). The Communist Party is active among unemployed Durham miners who are discontented with the Government's solution of putting the younger miners into the Army and the older ones to coalfields in other parts of the country, as this impoverishes the district (1h). Wherever the physical condition of public shelters is improved, and entertainments, films and talks instituted, it is noticed that subversive propaganda fails. This has been specially marked in Bermondsey, where there is now not a single Communist shelter committee (5x).
5. Eire .
A special monthly postal censorship report on opinion in Eire (22 Special P.O.) makes, among others, the following points:-
a. Fear of invasion is less, but fear of trouble over the ports is great. The majority want to keep out of the war (though a majority of Irish in England are indignant at their country's attitude).
b. Anti-British feeling is less in evidence, but the blitz in England has increased the fear that any deviation from neutrality will land the towns of Ireland in a worse plight, since they are thought to have no A.A. defences.
c. On the need for abolishing partition, the South is unanimous.
d. It is useless to expect rational or logical thought or sentiment in Eire. The historical, the religious, the mythical, and the frankly ridiculous continually obtrude themselves. Hopes that a Hitler victory will settle partition are expressed in the same town in which a Spitfire fund is organised; the wife of a German embassy official wins a fur coat in a raffle in aid of another Spitfire fund; and the Local Security Force refuse to patrol a certain beach in Donegal after 12 at night “because they are afraid of the fairies.”
6. Northern Ireland .
The same report (22 Special P.C.) makes the following points about the North:-
a. On the subject of the ports, Northern Ireland echoes with mournful voice “We told you so!”
b. The death of Lord Craigavon will make no difference to the feelings of the North about partition. “Always remember that Ulster is yours - British” King-Hall's broadcast was widely resented.
c. There are many complaints of unemployment, and of the sending of men to work in England, instead of finding them work at home.
d. The religious controversy “still rages fiercely.”
II SPECIAL COMMENTS
During the past few weeks acclimatisation to the dangers and difficulties of the blitz has steadily continued. As conditions have improved or been remedied, there has been a progressive decline in the old grumbles about aerial defence, shelters, evacuation, property troubles, and so forth. The outstanding grumbles at the moment are about different matters.
7. Food .
Scarcity of food seems to be causing the most concern, though, in view of the extent to which shortages have been reported, there are surprisingly few complaints. There is “an increased realisation that shortage of food and luxuries must be faced” (5f, 17, 22 Cambridge, Edinburgh P.C., 38).
It seems to be commonly supposed that distribution arrangements, (particularly in reception areas), and control of prices are the main causes of shortages (4d, 6a, 9h, 14 Scotland, 18, 19 Eastern, 22 Cambridge P.C.). The importance of the shipping losses is still not fully realised.
8. Coal .
In view of an official announcement early in the year that there would be adequate coal supplies this winter, comments on the present shortage are, to put it mildly, ironical. There have been many complaints, mostly from Southern England. Shortages have been reported this week in: Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Berkshire, Surrey, Hampshire, Isle of Wight, Somerset, Devon and Cornwall, as well as in many parts of London (5c, 6a, 17, 18, 19 Southern, 22 Bristol P.C., 23 Plymouth T.C., 25, 38).
9. Transport .
Complaints about the inadequacy of local bus services in the provinces are as numerous as ever (6a, 9h, 19 Eastern, S. Western, N. Western, N-Midland, Southern). There are still, too, complaints that the services drive recklessly (6a, 19 N. Midland, 38).
|1 R.I.O. Northern Region (Newcastle)||
a. Dec. 18
b. Dec. 19
c. Dec. 20
d. Dec. 21
e. Dec. 23
f. Dec. 24
g. Dec. 25
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.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|