A History of the Ministry of Information, 1939-46


No. 55
Daily Report on MORALE
Monday, 22nd July, 1940

Morale is high: people are cheerful and determined.

(1) References to Hitler's “peace” speech have practically disappeared from public conversation.

(2) The spirit of people in raided districts is admirable. Our reports, however, all contain reference to

the siren controversy

the shelter-conscious attitude of the working-class population

the need for making shelters warm and damp-proof in preparation for the winter

the efficiency of the Civil Defence services

(3) The population is in no need of exhortation either to be cheerful or calm: there is need of explanation. Recent legislation has taken people by surprise and there has been insufficient warning of coming instructions and regulations. Verbatims illustrate this: “There's too much talking at people nowadays” “We're not jittery; I suppose they are” “If only they'd explain a bit more there wouldn't be so much resentment”. The Ministry of Information is not popular - partly because its functions and activities are not understood.

(4) The Silent Column campaign continues to be widely criticised in spite of official assurances. The relationship between the campaign and prosecutions for defeatist talk and rumours is considered sinister.

(5) The victimisation of Conscientious Objectors and treatment of aliens continues to provoke anger and suspicion in intellectual circles.

(6) Certain campaigns which have aroused public annoyance, e.g. aluminium, brick and concrete shelters, salvage, recruitment of female labour, have been inadequately organised and the public has been quick to recognise this general defect.



22.7.40 .

Although reports from Belfast and Cambridge state that Nicolson's speech has removed some of the misapprehension about the Silent Column campaign, and Newcastle feels that it is now set in proper perspective, there is criticism from Reading that “the Government does not trust the people as much as it ought to.” Both Tunbridge Wells and Cardiff complain that the military are the worst offenders “against whom no disciplinary action appears to be taken.” In Scotland people are asking why the campaign was called “the Silent Column”. In Bristol some people are complaining that together with the new War Courts our regime is becoming dangerously akin to the one we are fighting.

NOTTINGHAM (North Midland) Road defences are much appreciated. Belief that Italy is vulnerable to sea and air attack. Complaint that rural schools should provide adequate shelters and that the police do not always take seriously reports of lighting infringements. Government publicity is considered too “wordy”, and so little read.

CARDIFF (Wales) Closing the Burma Road has revived resentment against the appeasement group in the Government. Criticism that many shops, in turning out customers and locking doors during air raids, cause congestion in the streets.

MANCHESTER (North Western) General Smuts' address welcomed. Some women shocked by month's casualties and feel that announcement should be in smaller doses. Some bitterness about C.O.s registered on Ministry of Labour's evidence.

BRISTOL (South Western) Morale still high in Bristol and Plymouth, particularly among working-class. Increased strengthening of defences having good effect on morale. Return of children to evacuated areas causing some concern. Suggested that gossip about dates of invasion has had an adverse effect.

LEEDS (North Eastern) Apathy said to be growing in S. Yorkshire mining areas. Priestley's talk last night received special praise. More people now saying that “they are being talked at too much”.

NEWCASTLE (Northern) Hitler's speech generally regarded as a confession of weakness and intended for internal consumption. Complaints about the marked difference in the meat ration allowed to troops and heavy industrial workers. Reports from Scarborough on serious effect of defence regulations on shopkeepers, etc. who feel they are facing ruin.

READING (Southern) Defeatism decreasing although still existing in isolated pockets among white collars and workers. Paragraph in Minister's letter of 19th July dealing with evacuation, caused criticism and confusion.

BIRMINGHAM (Midland) Smuts broadcast is a topic of conversation in Midlands. Criticism that it is not necessary to say who is going to read B.B.C. bulletins, and complaints of repetition and dullness. “All they want is the news.” Strong demand from Walsall and West Bromwich for more military bands.

CAMBRIDGE (Eastern) German occupation of most of the Continent has caused less interest in the fate of individual countries under Nazi rule. Feeling that a more aggressive policy should be launched, encouraged by week-end speeches.

TUNBRIDGE WELLS (South Eastern) Concern that agreement with Japan is having a bad influence on our relations with U.S. and U.S.S.R. Internment of distinguished refugees causes anxiety in intellectual circles as to whether best use is being made of potential allies. Adverse comment on the number of Jews of military age suffering from heart trouble and varicose veins;

BELFAST (Northern Ireland) State of preparedness prevails in spite of raids. Anti-gossip week generally welcomed. Morale high.

EDINBURGH (Scotland) Uneasiness about absence of air raid warnings reported from Glasgow. Stories of food for France from Red Cross sources raises queries on efficacy of blockade. Account of six Hurricanes routing 80 enemy planes in 15 minutes received with scepticism. Smuts' speech well received.




People cheerful and optimistic at weekend when Hitler failed to invade Britain on Friday as threatened. General feeling now that war will last a long time as invasion cannot succeed and we shall then settle down to hammering away at Germany by R.A.F. Strong resentment still felt among all classes at Silent Column Campaign and at police prosecutions for spreading rumour, which are considered “ridiculous”. M.O.I. becoming unpopular again; much of this feeling directed against the Minister. Indignation expressed at what people say to be “a policy which is turning us into a nation of spies.” Labour Party Candidates meeting agreed that prosecutions for idle talking were upsetting public morale seriously. People in new positions of minor authority accused of officiousness and bullying manner, reminiscent some say “of the early days of the Nazis.” Statement issued by Ministry on Saturday has helped to relieve public to some extent, but harm has gone too deep to be so quickly cured. Need for creches in factory area considered imperative by observers. Brixton reports food waste and clean paper mixed with other rubbish; local people take little trouble to separate it as authorities have not given strong lead. West Indian and West African communities of London nervous of German attack on West Africa since capitulation of France; question whether large well-equipped native force is trained to act with British Fleet against German thrust from north. Most coloured people reported anxious to pull weight in war effort; unable to, except in St. Pancras where twenty are A.R.P. wardens. Some dismissals because of colour. Grievance that students of Aggrey House who volunteered for civil defence at beginning of war not yet made use of. Strong feeling in Barnet that Belgian refugees, given hospitality and money, are ungrateful and uncooperative.

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