A History of the Ministry of Information, 1939-46


No. 21
Monday, 10th June, 1940


Anxiety has deepened over the week-end and optimism about the outcome of the battle is very much less in evidence. There is general realisation of the critical nature of present operations. There is disquiet on several counts: Weygand's standfast order is taken as an SOS, (comparisons with Gamelin's ‘Conquer or die’ are obvious); reports on the progress of the battle invite comparison with those of the Sedan break-through; there is a feeling that ‘the full story behind events in France has not yet been told’.

People's comments vary with the source of news and some confusion has been caused by the different tone of the wireless and of the various newspapers. The public is becoming quick to notice and comment upon conflicting statements. The indiscriminate machine-gunning of a South coast town was reported in the press and denied on the wireless, while later editions of the newspapers still carried the old story. There was some criticism also of this morning's bulletin on the naval engagement in northern waters. On all sides the question was asked “What does this hide?”.

The course of events in France is dispelling the superficial expression of anti-French feeling. That feeling, however, is still latent and may have to be reckoned with in the future. At present Weygand is always mentioned with confidence in our reports and the Gamelin situation has been lost to consciousness.

There are over-optimistic references to the help which America will give. Interviewed, many people said they thought America would send large numbers of planes in the immediate future.

A constant source of dissatisfaction is the failure of professional and middle-class people (especially women) to become fully absorbed in the war effort. A defect in mobilisation is obvious from many of our reports.

Our observers report a growth in the feeling which has been latent for some time of “the inevitability of German aggression”. It has been a particular objective of German propaganda to foster this feeling and extreme care should be taken to eliminate from press and wireless anything which gives support, whether direct or indirect, to this feeling. The trajectory of events is powerful enough without the addition of ill-considered embroideries.

The low poll at the Newcastle by-election was due largely to the opinion that the election should never have been held


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NOTTINGHAM (North Midland) Well-to-do people are thinking about possible evacuation but are rather ashamed of it. Feeling towards America rather bitter “Only interested in dollars”. Business circles show definite anti-Russian feeling but realisation of need for co-operation. Strong growth of pro-French feeling thanks to stout French resistance. Most people very willing to help Belgian refugees, though Dutch are considered wealthy enough to fend for themselves.

CARDIFF (Wales) Great satisfaction at Home Defence measures in practical form. French residents show a little bitterness at disproportionate size of our war effort. Maurice Healy's postscript, it is suggested, should take more thought of women as they are more anxious and nervy than men. Priestley's postscript not popular “clever generalities leading nowhere”. Folded newspapers showing headlines are used instead of placards. Very little chalking up. Great discontent about 1,000 Irishmen employed on building defence works in Anglesey. They openly express anti-British and anti-Royalist feeling. “A useful Fifth Column nucleus”. The work is at Port Rhosneigr.

BELFAST (Northern Ireland) Priestley's broadcast not making a deep impression, “Did not put steel into us”. Growing anti-alien feeling. A.R.P. still lacking in efficiency and it is felt greater use of local engineering facilities is called for in munitions production.

MANCHESTER (North Western) Vulnerability of Ireland causing anxiety; public sceptical about de Valera's ability to cope with it.

BRISTOL . (South Western) Aircraft workers showing great enthusiasm in response to Bevin's appeal. Most towns demand stronger bombing of Berlin. Luxury rationing cheerfully accepted though it will mean stocks going down to half.

LEEDS (North Eastern) Growing demand for bombing of Berlin. This morning's Admiralty announcement felt to be unsatisfactory in view of German claim of victory. Much talk about shooting of motorists, especially if shooters should be L.D.V. men. A number of people, serious minded, fear France may give in if Germans break through effectively.

NEWCASTLE (Northern) One centre reports great satisfaction at efficiency of A.R.P. on Friday night. Some interest aroused by new British Broadcasting Station, though its propaganda value is considered small.

EDINBURGH (Scotland) Criticism of slowness of call-up. Chalking up of newspaper bills only occurs in main City streets. Some feeling about mounting war debt to America. A continuance of broadcast of Gram Swing would be welcome. Bombing of Berlin received with enthusiasm. More details would be appreciated instead of lengthy reports of R.A.F. exploits behind the lines.

READING (Southern) Still too much R.A.F. news “Their exploits fill the papers but don't stop the Germans”. Request that B.B.C. should stress official and unofficial news items more carefully, and that voluntary system should be abandoned in favour of compulsion for A.R.P. and L.D.V. Growing impatience with motorist joy-riders at weekends. Criticism that mile-stones in New Forest are turfed over and not removed and that there are still too many hotel signs about.

BIRMINGHAM (Midland) Requests for information about equipment situation of B.E.F. to allay anxiety very common. Much criticism of haphazard way that road hold-ups of motorists are done by police and military. From Newport, Shropshire, comes suggestion that private businesses should close from Saturday to Tuesday and that workers therein should relieve factory workers for their essential holiday. From this town, too, comes request for trained observer attached to French Forces to describe their activities to us.

CAMBRIDGE (Eastern) Further reports show air raids have had no serious effect on morale. Each successive night fewer people left their houses for garden shelters. Steady private evacuation of adults continues from coastal towns. Directions wanted by public as to their actions if strangers ask the way.

TUNBRIDGE WELLS (South Eastern) Request for a clear definition of our material gains, if any, in Norway. Voluntary evacuation of South East coastal towns is estimated at 20%. At Folkestone only 50% of inhabitants are said to remain. Bus Companies may have to shut down. Private car owners in Kent and Sussex cannot get more than 1 - 2 gallons at a time, even for 3 gallon coupons. People assume this to be due to threat of invasion. Contradiction of statement about machine-gunning of civilians in a South East coast town with substitution of “searchlight units” has shaken public's faith in our news. People point to circumstantial stories in Press describing how public pick up bullets in the street, etc. Increasing precautions taken by public over telephone calls of official information.


The public is quiet but expectant. Gravity of the situation is realised though no evidence of lack of confidence in the final result has been discovered. Pinner and Harrow: Some anti-French feeling reported, particularly from old ex-Servicemen. Reactions to news of evacuation on Thursday; surprise but willingness to abide by the Government's decision as “they know best”, (Stepney and Bow). Shoreditch and Bethnal Green report some confusion as to whether evacuation is to the East or to the West as they were originally to have gone East. News from Norway has produced dismay and some confusion in view of previous broadcasts. Priestley's broadcast fairly well received. Mixed reception for Hugh Dalton. Morden: Many comments that allowances for aliens exceed those to wives of our soldiers.


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