A History of the Ministry of Information, 1939-46

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May 18th .

This report has been put together hurriedly from a series of reports sent in by our observers over the last few months. In particular, the material collected since May 10th is analysed and an attempt is made to show the implication for morale of present events.

For the sake of speed conclusions are given first:-


On May 18th people are by no means prepared for the shock which awaits them. Many will undoubtedly manage to make themselves feel that bad news is not really bad, but many fewer people will be able to do this than in previous months, and the propaganda of events is inescapable.

It is suggested that the shock of the news can be offset by doing several things. There will be immediate necessity to ease the burden on each individual mind, to relieve personal fear, and to steady the bewilderment which by its nature leads to feelings of inferiority and futility.

(1) It is imperative that people should not be rallied by the stock trick of recent years, “the reassuring picture.”

(2) At the same time it is bad to give people flat facts and to allow the exploitation of personal fears and negative imaginative terrors.

(3) Fear needs to be expressive not repressive.

(4) Thus, while private individual fears are bad, socialised fears can be made positive and turned to account.

(5) Where personal fears exist an attempt should be made to liberate them. The fear of parachutists was strongly felt and privately held, particularly among women. Eden's broadcast offering an active solution (even though a partial one) was something aggressive and all our reports show that the broadcast did much to allay personal fears by transference to corporate action.

(6) People should be made to share their fears: to fraternise: be neighbourly. Street unities should be thought out. Social workers should make personal visits. A.R.P. wardens should call personally. Those who play civic roles should be urged to show themselves. The Queen might tour the streets. It is important to stimulate a feeling of being a united nation (at the level of the street as well as at the level of the Cabinet).

(7) Civilian leaders should be chosen and quickly built up. Some would be national figures, e.g. the Duchess of Kent, Gracie Fields, (for women specially).

(8) Interpreters should be chosen and be constantly at work. It is necessary for the news and for events to be interpreted and explained. Retreat and disillusionment engender bewilderment without the help of interpreted facts. Facts, even bad ones, are some protection against bewilderment and suspicion. Interpreters like Vernon Bartlett should be constantly broadcasting, explaining each fresh phase and answering the many questions which remain unanswered hour by hour.

(9) Even at the eleventh hour people are seeking and needing a positive purpose , something aggressive, dynamic, beyond themselves, worth dying for, not just survival or “blood, sweat, and tears.”

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