A History of the Ministry of Information, 1939-46


No. 28
Tuesday, 18th June, 1940


Morale is little changed since yesterday although the Prime Minister's short broadcast had a steadying effect. His speech was referred to widely in conversation and it was generally recognised that the Prime Minister was unable to say more. “An interim lead” sums up the comments. Although there is still confusion there is some tendency to think that the situation is not quite as catastrophic as it seemed at first. In some districts the shock is reported to be over and determination is rallying.

Recovery takes the form of an urgent demand for strong leadership and for more realistic measures for home defence. Allied with this demand is continued criticism of ‘those in authority’, ‘those at the top’, ‘cumbersome old machinery’. Anti-Chamberlainism is very strong in certain quarters especially among industrial workers.

There is extremely little anti-French feeling and the P.M's. remarks about ‘the French people’ are fully in line with public opinion.

There is increasing restlessness among those who are still immobilised. Reports show serious dissatisfaction that willing help is untapped: (‘spurned’ is the word frequently used).

Reports from working-class districts show an increasing dissociation of leaders and led: many women say about Hitler “He won't hurt us: it's the bosses he's after: we'll probably be better off when he comes”.

From certain areas (Cornwall, E. Yorks., London) defeatism is reported but, in the main, there is determination to carry on with the war and to fight to a finish. Many people express relief (of a quite unrealistic kind) that at last “There are no more Allies”. At the same time there is a good deal of wishful thinking about Russia, Turkey and America. Many men are prepared to “turn this island into a fortress” and would be glad to see many women and children and “if necessary the Government” go to Canada. The number of women making inquiries about taking or sending children to the Dominions is hourly increasing.

An attempt to assess answers to the question “Do you think the war will go on?” showed that about 75% expected the war to continue, 15% did not expect the war to continue, 10% doubtful (84% men compared with 65% women thought the war would continue). The inquiry was conducted yesterday afternoon and evening. A further question designed to test reaction to fighting alone showed that approximately 50% contemplated with confidence fighting alone (25% doubtful, 25% could not contemplate this situation with anything like confidence). Gas-mask carrying has increased by about one-third over last week.


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18.6.40 .

NOTTINGHAM (North Midland) Compulsory evacuation of children to Canada much discussed. People receiving persuasive cables of invitation from Canada. Nottingham women want to be armed with rifles and hand grenades. Forcibly expressed desire from many parts for Government to use compulsory powers to the full, in conscripting labour and defence forces. Grimsby district ask for more A.R.P. films as an excellent antidote to panic.

CARDIFF (Wales) Almost universal opinion that every fit man should be put into training and armed as soon as possible. Reduce reserved occupations to a minimum. If necessary, send children and non-effectives abroad. In North Wales invasion of Ireland is widely envisaged.

BELFAST (Northern Ireland) Volunteers continue to enrol for Ulster home defence forces. Good response to salvage campaign for scrap metal and waste paper.

MANCHESTER (North Western) Public ready to make this country a fortress, but say that unless they are organised “the Jerries will arrive to find many still in the streets with their hands in their pockets”. Delay in arrangements for evacuating women and children to Canada is causing bitter comment of the “too late as usual” type.

BRISTOL (South Western) Wide feeling that our supply departments have failed. 12,000 men employed at G.W.R. workshops at Swindon asking why no armaments are being made there for machinery is quite suitable. In Cornwall compulsory billeting of evacuees from Poplar is causing friction. Strong desire for industrial conscription, though manufacturers allege Civil Service could not do it efficiently or rapidly. They suggest trade organisations for the job.

LEEDS (North Eastern) Most of public are criticising our war effort and particularly Chamberlain and “the old gang”. People demand that whole nation should be armed. “We have half a million ex-Servicemen in the country who should be armed at once”.

EDINBURGH (Scotland) Distrust and suspicion of previous Government is growing and there is even some spread to the present Government. “Are we doing everything that can be done”. Not only people in executive positions but also ordinary working classes are demanding that Government should take over and make use of every able-bodied man. It is suggested Government should order all private gardens to grow at least 50% foodstuffs. 150 volunteer motor mechanics in Edinburgh ready for aircraft work are still marking time.

NEWCASTLE (Northern) Newcastle and Scarborough report growing anger against members of previous Government still in Cabinet. Restlessness among people in less important reserved occupations and among middle-aged ex-Servicemen who feel Government should give them a chance to do more to help. Workers at Cargo Fleet Ironworks near Middlesborough have offered to work 16 hours a day if necessary. Public need educating about what a peace with Germany now would really involve. Nicolson's broadcast was a step in this direction.

READING (Southern) Demand for strong leadership from Government in civil defence and preparedness is unabated. In Southampton and Portsmouth registration of children continues very slack. Criticism of slowness of call up gathers force in all quarters.

BIRMINGHAM (Midland) Working classes blame Mr. Chamberlain and ex-Government for our present difficulties. Much feeling at delay in conscription for A.R.P. and other services. Too many people still doing nothing for war effort. “The willing horse is getting fed up”. Considerable criticism of B.B.C. news, particularly the continuous repetition of “stale stuff”.

CAMBRIDGE (Eastern) Public urging that every sort of man-power should be tapped and used. No desire to wash previous Government's dirty linen in public if only present one will get on with the job. Many centres enquiring about overseas evacuation for women and children. Move appears to be popular even with working classes.

TUNBRIDGE WELLS (South Eastern) General feeling that Government has not grappled effectively with situation. Thousands eagerly waiting to be told what to do to serve. Great criticism of B.B.C. for monotonous and needless repetition of stale news and for use of Herr Hitler and Signor Mussolini. Public expect 10 days comparative peace until after Hitler's Versailles speech.




Divisional Controller of Labour reports atmosphere strained in most districts yesterday, calm today. Marylebone District segregated large number of women Aliens from British subjects to prevent expression of feeling of being crowded out. Canning Town Works tension yesterday, normal today. Kodak Works, Harrow, staff depressed but not panicky. Hampstead. Influx of Belgian Refugees asking to be moved out of London. Very emotional; know what war is; might panic and upset local people. N.C.S.S. Many enquiries yesterday and today about possibility of sending children at once to the Dominions. Hampstead, Poplar, Pinner, Harrow, Richmond report same inquiries. Mothers would like to go with children in some cases. Other women volunteering to accompany parties. Isleworth. Suggestion 3 to 4,000 Dentists over-age eligible for commissions should be used in national emergency. Welfare Supervisors (representing 10,000 workers) report definite statement should be made soon about holidays. This question agitating staffs. Men in many districts rushed to Recruiting Offices yesterday and today. Were turned down and told to wait for registration. Much dissatisfaction the result and criticism of present Government. Much criticism also growing of Chamberlain and old leaders. Even accused of treachery.

Home Intelligence .

18th June, 1940.

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