A History of the Ministry of Information, 1939-46


No. 39
Tuesday, 2nd July, 1940


There is little change in morale: people are still waiting, most with “grim determination”, others with increasing nervous tension, some with restless criticism.

There is an increase in rumour, and yesterday (the day before Hitler's threatened invasion date) there were many reports of parachute landings and invading troops. Today there is still much talk of the imminence of invasion, often supported by references to “official” statements that the invasion is only a matter of hours (Nicolson, Chamberlain).

In spite of this atmosphere of tension people are not depressed. Many people say they think our defence preparations are inadequate but at the same time they say “We shall beat them off”, “We'll teach them a lesson”, “Let them come”.

There is evidence that political exhortations and ‘wireless pep talks’ are not being well received. People are asking for more information and above all for positive guidance. Ellen Wilkinson's broadcast, however, although in the nature of a ‘morale’ talk, was widely commented upon as “young and vigorous”, “giving a lead”. Many people heard her for the first time: “They ought to make her a general; she would tell us what to do”.

Reports from some rural districts show that the departure to Canada of the wealthy and influential has been strongly criticised.

The indiscriminate internment of aliens is strongly deprecated in intellectual circles and the distress which internment has brought is being reflected in morale.

Air-raids are taken calmly and morale is high in districts where there have been continuous warnings, e.g. Bristol. There is little evidence that air-raids are affecting morale adversely although there is need for further definition in siren policy.


165 166 2


2.7.40 .

Siren policy continues to be criticised. Grimsby welcomes the reduction in alarms. Boston, however, is apprehensive at the lack of sirens, and a denial of any change in policy by the Nottingham A.R.P. controller, has been received with scepticism and derision. From Cardiff comes the complaint that fighter planes are conspicuous by their absence during raids, and this is looked upon as a potential source of anti-R.A.F. feeling such as followed Dunkirk. Bristol reports that employers of labour are asking for a limitation of sirens to avoid industrial fatigue. Leeds reports perturbation in the district because people no longer trust the sirens. In Sheffield there is a common belief that sirens are not being sounded so that industry may continue. Hull reports general indignation because on 5 nights last week aeroplanes roared overhead and on some of these nights bombs were dropped and yet no sirens sounded. Many people in Hull are passing the nights in their cellars because they cannot trust the sirens. From Thornaby-on-Tees comes the report that public uncertainty about sirens has led to the appointment of street patrol of two men to watch each night for air raids, as a private venture. Reading reports that bombing unaccompanied by warnings continues to be taken calmly. At Stoke uneasiness is said to be developing about the non-sounding of sirens. The town has twice been bombed with only a yellow warning. In working-class streets, private vigilance committees are being formed to look out for hostile raiders. Cambridge states that people are in some degree reconciled to the modified siren system, though there is no lessening of the belief that many of the aeroplanes heard at night are German.

Requests that news bulletins should be broadcast only at 1 p.m. and 9 p.m. continue to be received, and information committees stress the bad effect which continued listening to repetitive news has on women.

Rumours of places bombed and parachutists seen continue common.

J.B. Priestley's broadcast on the subject of martial music has been widely welcomed and many suggestions have come in that parades of troops would have a very heartening effect on the public.

NOTTINGHAM (North Midland) There is a general movement to get children to bed earlier and many families are camping out in air raid shelters, to the delight of the children.

CARDIFF (Wales) Ellen Wilkinson's broadcast considered highly appropriate. M.O.I. film “Behind the Guns” now showing and is popular.

BELFAST (Northern Ireland) De Gaulle's action in appointing French commanders has revived questioning about fate of French fleet. Hore Belisha's speech advocating national defence policy for Ireland received critically by majority, because it ignores neutrality of Eire. Big increase in shelters arranged in Belfast. Loan of £50,000 by Ulster firm to Belfast for war expenditure has had excellent effect on public feeling.

MANCHESTER (North Western) Fatigue among people as a result of night raiding is becoming more marked. Possible invasion of Eire is much discussed and there is no confidence in the powers of the Eire government to resist invasion.

BRISTOL (South Western) Bath has reacted admirably to this morning's raid. From Cornwall come complaints of inadequate defence and of the small strength of the L.D.V. After a succession of night raids and alarms Bristol remains steady and trade and business are normal.

LEEDS (North Eastern) It is not uncommon to find people in this region who say that though Germany cannot beat Britain, it is impossible to see how Britain can beat Germany. A large German bomber flew low over Hull yesterday and no one troubled to go into shelters; crowd outside Labour Exchange cheered when A.A. guns went into action. Leeds newspapers and public are campaigning against “useless” building, i.e. building for peace time purposes.

EDINBURGH (Scotland) A report from Aberdeen states that crowds flocked to see a burning school immediately after the “all clear” siren on Sunday; had the raids been renewed they would have been in grave danger. Enquiries are being received about arrangements for looking after children whose parents have been killed in air raids.

NEWCASTLE (Northern) The cancellation of the traditional local holiday on Tyneside last week produced no dissatisfaction. In Sunderland reports state that rivalry is growing between the L.D.V. and A.R.P. personnel. L.D.Vs are ordering wardens off the streets during air raids.

READING (Southern) Reading Information Committee consider that Chamberlain's broadcast has strengthened neither him nor the Government; the Conservative and business elements were as strongly in favour of his resignation as the Labour contingent. The opposition to Chamberlain is not retrospective but represents nervousness as to whether even now the Government is as resolute and efficient as it should be. The question as to whether workers would really be worse off under Hitler is still being discussed in a comparatively small section of the community. Impatience at the withholding of news, particularly naval and merchant ship losses, and the names of places bombed, is making itself felt, and suggestions have been received that an explanation of the service needs for this reticence would be welcome.

BIRMINGHAM (Midland) Parachutist rumours were rife yesterday before the official denial.

CAMBRIDGE (Eastern) Coastal evacuation by the elderly and infirm is brisk. The belief is still common that to-day is the day for invasion.

TUNBRIDGE WELLS (South Eastern) Voluntary evacuation from Folkestone was accelerated by the first police notice; a second message broadcast from loud-speaker vans was often imperfectly heard and this created some alarm and indignation. Free railway vouchers are being issued to voluntary evacuees. The Folkestone Express and Hythe Reporter have ceased publication. Not all are confident that the Government will find them work and shelter, but some of the poor look forward to a holiday at Government expense.




2nd July, 1940

Further evidence from all districts that people are not outwardly nervous of air raids and that last week's warning increased their confidence in themselves and their shelters. More reports of appreciation of Priestley's Sunday night talk. News of bombing in Wales very disturbing to parents with children evacuated there. Clerkenwell: “A few children have been brought back from Wales; if fares were not so high probably more would have come." Shoreditch Care Committee Worker states majority of mothers with children evacuated, full of praise for treatment of their children. Some in Oxfordshire and some in Cornwall; teachers “write glowing accounts of wonderful summer holiday.” Hackney: “200 children have had medical examination for Dominions”. Islington: “Mothers not anxious to send children to Dominions and need re-assuring that children will not be whisked away without their consent. Many would like under fives to be sent into country, especially with elder brothers and sisters. Some grievance where boy and girl of same family are sent to different parts of England, entailing extra postal expense.”

Greenwich Metal Works: “Chamberlain's stock among workers very low; City: “Widespread belief that damage done by German bombers much more serious than stated. Deptford: “People expect that if things get hot the Government will do something to get them out of it. They always rely on everyone else and take little responsibility themselves. Some dock labourers absorbed in A.R.P. but many unemployed. Others waiting to be called up”.

Hendon: “People disturbed at large number of aliens not interned in district. Do not suspect them of being 5th column but their fear of the Gestapo so strong that they are already defeatist and may easily panic.”


We use cookies to track usage and preferences.

Privacy & Cookie Policy Accept & Close