A History of the Ministry of Information, 1939-46


No. 26
Saturday, 15th June, 1940


The fall of Paris has brought some slight relaxation of tension. The heart is heavy and sadness broods over conversation. There is relief that Paris has been spared by withdrawal and opinions about the strategic value of the capital are confused. There is disquiet but no feeling of panic.

Paris has brought to the forefront the whole problem of evacuation. Pertinent questions are being asked about our own preparations and there is clear evidence of a popular demand for further instruction and information. Many people are asking whether the Government have a well-considered evacuation scheme or whether the blow, if it falls, will find us without a plan.

Hitler's expected ‘peace offensive’ finds a place in many conversations and Harold Nicolson's speech was generally welcomed.

There is some evidence that Dutch and Belgian refugees are somewhat demoralised by the course of events and their attitude is having a bad effect on those in contact with them. Hitler's ‘prophecies’ are getting a wide currency and the tendency to discuss his phenomenal powers needs immediate discouragement. Such phrases as “He's a genius”, “What's the date for London?”, “He's uncanny” are frequent in overheard conversations.

Criticism of our war effort is strongly on the increase. Blame falls on various authorities: vaguely, ‘those at the top’; specifically, the Civil Servants, Chamberlain, the voluntary system. The L.D.V. is considered amateurish and ill-organised. On all sides there is a demand for recruitment without equipment and the mobilisation of willing civilians. Reports from several working-class organisations show that there is serious discontent at the obvious inability to mobilise manpower.

Nevertheless the determination to win is untarnished “even though we fight alone”.




15.6.40 .

NOTTINGHAM (North Midland) Strong feeling that some form of preliminary military training should be compulsory for young men employed in shops and elsewhere. Eden criticised as being too slow. Suggestion that Sports broadcasts should be stopped owing to their likelihood of making unfavourable impressions on the French. Demand that Duff Cooper should broadcast “at least once a week”.

CARDIFF (Wales) Drilling of new recruits should be begun without delay, and without waiting for uniforms and equipment which should be ready after the first few weeks of their training. “More sober” tone of B.B.C. news is welcomed.

BELFAST (Northern Ireland) Munition workers keen for increased output. Leading factories work two twelve-hour shifts daily. British Legion and regimental associations are to co-operate in forming special detachment of volunteer defence force, for guarding vital points at night.

MANCHESTER (North Western) Uneven working of the voluntary system is criticised, and more definite orders would be welcomed. Public opinion is ahead of Government action in continuing to permit racing, sporting fixtures, luxury motoring, etc.

BRISTOL (South Western) Criticism of stock speeches by public men. Demand for deeds rather than words, particularly in handling campaign against Italy. Strong resentment expressed in Bath at full pay holidays for 4,000 evacuated (Admiralty) Civil Servants. Similar criticism of joy riding holiday-makers from Taunton and district; disgust expressed by local residents. Cornish A.R.P. and L.D.V. arrangements said to be badly organised and quite inadequate; the latter's potential resistance no more “effective than pea-shooters”, partly owing to shortage of rifles. In Penzance no public or private shelters, and very few gas masks to be seen.

LEEDS (North Eastern) Criticism on all sides of dilatory methods of Government in organising industrial and man-power “What would the French think if they could walk through Leeds now and see all the B.E.F. lying about and civilians still undisturbed by war.” “Why are so many not yet called up?” “Why are there so many idle women?” “What is wrong with the War Office?” These remarks are given as typical.

EDINBURGH (Scotland) Precision of Hitler's time-table increasing tendency towards fatalism. Newspapers criticised for sensational treatment of this week's bad news. Widely expressed preference for B.B.C's bulletins.

NEWCASTLE (Northern) Evacuation from Scarborough continues, though this is less noticeable among the poorer classes. Heavy gunfire heard there yesterday caused some alarm.

READING (Southern) “Steady growth of a demand for the substitution of business-like compulsion for amateurish voluntary system. This applies to everything, from evacuation to the L.D.C.” Evacuation has so far gone satisfactorily, and it is thought that this would be stimulated by reports of emergency evacuation in France.

BIRMINGHAM (Midland) Frequent rumours of the presence of enemy aircraft in the vicinity are attributed to careless talk by the Observer Corps. These stories continue in spite of official Air Ministry denials.

CAMBRIDGE (Eastern) There is some resentment, mostly among men, at the alarm caused to their wives by irresponsible conversation among members of the B.E.F. who have returned from France. The effect of this is to induce a fatalistic attitude. There is some nervousness at the possibility of the civil population being evacuated, though this subject is not at present discussed very widely.

TUNBRIDGE WELLS (South Eastern) Dartford factories are said to be slack for want of material and Sunday workers receive double pay for less work than they do ordinarily. At a Sevenoaks meeting to discuss voluntary savings it was suggested that the Government should indicate the articles on which it would be considered patriotic to spend one's money. Concern was expressed at the adverse effect on trade which was likely to result from misguided restrictions on spending.




People returning from Paris say there was talk in France that the French are carrying the whole of the battle and the British are not doing their share. Considerable anxiety everywhere that we are not helping as much as we should. More anger against lack of preparedness and even talk of “Lynching Chamberlain and the old gang if things get very bad”. Paddington reports map of London superimposed on map of Paris (News Chronicle Thursday) has made great impression on working people. “More propaganda of this direct type might wake people up”. Most social workers report lack of understanding of true significance of events. People still “living for the moment” in many poor districts. They suggest talks given to small groups of these people by responsible people known in the neighbourhood. These talks must be in language they understand. Many people of this type find wireless voices too impersonal and language too academic to affect them personally. Stories brought home by B.E.F. wake families to realisation of danger and have affected evacuation figures. C.A.B. Secretaries report “Terrifying effect” of sentence in Macdonald's evacuation speech in House e.g. “the Government cannot absolutely guarantee the children's safety”. Women ran about housing estates crying and wanting to get children back. Children's enthusiasm to get away into country for “Holiday” has decided many parents to register them. Care Committee workers report “The people simply don't know what is happening. If the authorities want to prevent panic among women and children in crowded working-class districts, compulsory evacuation will be necessary”. Children under five have shown great terror in air raid tests (Chelsea).

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