A History of the Ministry of Information, 1939-46


No. 27 .
Monday, 17th June, 1940 .


Over the week-end throughout all parts of England there was a feeling of gloomy apprehension. As usual this was most obvious among the middle classes and the women, and least obvious among the working classes. Coupled with this was a large volume of criticism of our voluntary active and passive defence measures. Everyone felt that compulsory conscription for the L.D.V. and A.R.P. was essential, and that we could still do more towards increasing our industrial war effort. In many parts there was outspoken criticism of our former Government.

The collapse of France was everywhere considered as a possibility.

The reaction to the capitulation of the French, as announced on the 1 o'clock news, has been one of confusion and shock, but hardly surprise. From all parts come reports of bewilderment and great anxiety. Two questions are uppermost in people's minds. The first is the fate of the B.E.F. Will a second Dunkirk be possible? What of those of the B.E.F. who were in the Maginot Line? The second great question is, what is happening to the French Navy and Air Force? Are they going to fight on with us? If not, things are indeed black. Two centres in London report a short wave broadcast from America between 2 and 3 p.m. stating that the French Air Force and Navy continue to fight. These reports have had a most heartening effect.

Throughout the country there is a demand for immediate leadership and guidance as to our attitude. The public are ready and determined to follow the Prime Minister if he gives the word, but if that word is not given there are signs that morale may change rapidly for the worst. Some reports express fear that our Government may go abroad, others that the Government itself may give in. A few feel all is over. The public expect to hear tonight from either Duff Cooper, Churchill, or even the King, what attitude we are going to adopt and what can be done to save the country. Unless one of these leaders speaks tonight, it is certain that a defeatist attitude will gain ground, and the divorce of feeling between the people and the Government will be gravely accentuated.





(over the week-end, before 1 o'clock news)

NOTTINGHAM (North Midland) Stronger feeling against Chamberlain Government “half hearted elements in high places”. Increasing indignation at slowness of call up “turn playing fields into drill grounds; don't wait for rifles”.

CARDIFF (Wales) Collapse of France expected; no condemnation but rather self-criticism. Growing feeling against week-end joy-riders in private cars.

BELFAST (Northern Ireland) Germany expected to violate Eire's neutrality. Early statement by Churchill hoped for.

MANCHESTER (North Western) Voluntary recruiting for civil defence unsatisfactory. Evacuation of women and children to Dominions (J.B. Priestley's suggestion) has caught popular fancy.

BRISTOL (South Western) Widespread feeling for expulsion of all Chamberlain's Ministers, even amongst staunchest Tories. Evacuees given excellent reception. Ex-Servicemen in passive defence services indignant that they are banned from joining L.D.V.

LEEDS (North Eastern) Growing and impressive volume of criticism of “the authorities”. B.E.F. openly criticise War Office. Organisation of L.D.V. Failure of mobilisation of man-power and woman-power widely criticised. Popular joke at Harrogate is “Germans wont bomb Harrogate because of the Air Ministry”.

EDINBURGH (Scotland) Rising anger at our general unpreparedness for acute trouble, especially persistence of voluntary principle.

READING (Southern) Demand for definite instructions and leadership grows, and attempts at recruiting for A.R.P. provoked questions as to why Government does not conscript everybody. Middle class like idea of sending children to Canada. Criticism of old National Government is fed by angry stories of lack of material by B.E.F. and lack of equipment for L.D.V. Call up still thought much too slow. Public would welcome a heartening broadcast by Churchill or Duff Cooper immediately.

BIRMINGHAM (Midland) People have a sense of frustration; they want something to do but have no lead. Working class supports idea of Canada for the children.

CAMBRIDGE (Eastern) General and grave feeling that manpower is still not being utilised to the full.


The public generally anticipated the capitulation of France. The West End was filled with people last night going to cinemas, with a general air of expectancy. Much criticism of Saturday night's speeches. Voices too old - depressing and devitalising (Grigg, Kindersley and Amery). Business and professional women extremely annoyed at their non-mobilisation by Government. Evacuation continues normally.


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