A History of the Ministry of Information, 1939-46


No. 16
Tuesday, 4th June, 1940 .


The dominant topic of conversation today is the Paris air raid which has affected people in a special way. Paris, for this purpose, is London and the reality of air raids on London has been brought home. The newspaper reports of the raid were fairly restrained; in fact our reports show that this restraint was often looked at with suspicion. People were puzzled that only seventeen out of three hundred planes were brought down: they believed with some confidence that a very large proportion would be brought down in a raid on “the capital”. They have largely forgotten Baldwin's once familiar tag “the bomber will always get through”. An important reaction, however, has been the desire for retaliation. Verbatim reports show that there is an active desire for revenge and the fear of consequences is not entering into public calculation.

The B.E.F. is falling to a lesser place in public consciousness and it is now possible to say in general terms that the retreat is accepted as a ‘victory’, as a ‘lasting achievement’, as a sign that ‘we cannot ultimately be beaten’, that ‘we shall always turn a tight corner to our advantage’. It is thus evident that the press has overplayed the event with consequences which require detailed attention.

Now that public attention is no longer strongly focused on the B.E.F. there are signs of a return to the oscillation of public opinion which has been remarked over the last three weeks. This frequent oscillation cannot, under any conditions, be regarded as a really healthy sign.

A valued reporter just returned from a comprehensive tour in Wales and Northern and Eastern England confirms yesterday's assessment that morale on the whole is ‘too high’. There is no defeatism but at the same time there is still an inadequate realisation of the facts of the situation. There is no doubt that people are prepared to face facts but they cannot do so unless facts are given their proper value and are adequately assessed.

Anti-French feeling has strongly declined today: there seems no doubt that this is one of the results of the Paris air raid and the identification of Paris and London as capitals. The French are suffering what we shall soon suffer. The French are, therefore, more nearly ourselves than at any previous time.

Duff Cooper's air raid behaviour, (as reported in the press), has received comment in many of our reports today. It is said that apparently he was not obeying instructions designed for civilian protection!




4th June 1940.

NOTTINGHAM (North Midland) Criticism of use of petrol by public for shopping and pub crawling. Visitors from London contrast lack of preparedness for aerial attack and much greater calmness of population in this region as compared with London. Paris air raid has created interest and speculation rather than alarm.

CARDIFF (Wales) Some criticism of references to ample supplies of bread and butter by Duff Cooper in Paris. Also criticism of his account of officials leaving shelters before “All clear” signal. Evacuees have been kindly received by South Wales women and social workers report that their arrivial has had a good effect on their morale. Industrial work continues maximal.

BELFAST (Northern Ireland) Publication of local names in casualty lists is increasing determination and stimulating war effort rather than diffusing depression. Satisfaction at recruiting drive for Ulster Units. No upset at Paris bombing. General opinion favours severe retaliation.

MANCHESTER (North Western) Broadcasts by Labour leaders are having excellent effect. Sporadic coal strikes have stopped but subversive communist elements are still having their say. Another speech from a trusted miner's leader would help.

BRISTOL (South Western) 40 editors in the region have informed R.I.O. of B.E.F. stories of aerial inferiority. There is some consequent public uneasiness. Many complaints of “joy-riding”. Still complaints that there is no work for public anxious to help war effort. Many South Western people think public is still not taking the war seriously enough.

LEEDS (North Eastern) At Halifax workers compelled an employer to open factory for Sunday work. No anti-French feeling in Leeds. Great satisfaction of round-up of Fascists yesterday. Labour Exchanges report increasing release of men for war work. Dyers Union has given one week's strike notice to local large firm (Baldwin's) because firm will not pay extra 2/6d per week demanded.

EDINBURGH (Scotland) B.E.F. speaking freely of lack of planes and also giving news of friends killed in action before War Office has time to inform next of kin. West Fife miners refuse to forgo their holidays; this has produced threats of a boycott by East Fife householders. Complaints made about unguarded points of importance. Growing tendency to trust B.B.C. News rather than newspapers. Duff Cooper's broadcasts greatly appreciated and discussed but hope expressed he will keep out of films (Mr. Attlee's cap is said to have had a depressing effect on picture-goers.) M.O.I. criticised for lack of publicity for British Naval and Air leaders.

NEWCASTLE (Northern) Keen interest in local Home Defence measures. Ashington older retired miners eager to return to work. Same at Seaham Harbour. 3 centres report difficulty in getting petrol. Complaints common that when people answer broadcast appeals local offices have no information available.

READING (Southern) Growing stories of R.A.F. v. B.E.F. controversy. Southampton welcomed French troops enthusiastically. Disquiet in Isle of Wight over nationality of an aeroplane shot down. No official information as to whether it was Allied or enemy. A resident at Wargrave reports that about 1 a.m. on Friday he heard a violent anti-British propaganda talk in French on wave-length between 1975 and 2000. Name of Station he thought was “Poste Francais Revolutionnaire”. Nervousness about aliens and Fifth Columnists continues. Employers hesitate to take aliens on. High wages in dockyards and factories are taking men from rural areas and from less highly paid but no less important jobs.

BIRMINGHAM (Midland) Worcester and Hereford report B.E.F. men cat-calling at films extolling R.A.F. Other centres report failure of B.E.F. men to realise importance of R.A.F. work behind the line.

CAMBRIDGE (Eastern) East coast towns rather anxious at blowing up of piers by Army. Still some private adult evacuation going on. Many people still feel State is not using them for national work as they would like to be used.

TUNBRIDGE WELLS (South Eastern) Police raid on B.U.F. at Canterbury very popular. Canterbury people reported quiet and determined. Dover townsman says: “We don't leave Dover until Channel is full of German seamen”. Public are returning to Brighton hotels. People in munition centre at Dartford very steady.


Reaction to Paris air raids in most parts is one of rather sober fatalism: “It brings it nearer, doesn't it”. There is no panic and very poor response to evacuation. “If we are going to be killed, let's all be killed together.” Excellence of non-alarmist reports of Paris air raids is stressed. Neither poor nor suburban people showed fear. Evacuation issue is confused because of Belgian refugee children arriving to be billeted in evacuation areas. People say: “Why not keep our own children?” Some Croydon residents have evacuated in response to a request because aerodrome is so near, but not the majority.





4th June, 1940.

The rumour situation seems to be easier again today. Rumours are fewer but are generally speaking less irresponsible. There is, as yesterday a preponderance of stories about the B.E.F.'s disparagement of R.A.F. activities in France. These stories are wide spread, some of them are well authenticated but a good many amount to no more than hearsay.

Rumours from the Eastern Region continue to foreshadow general evacuation of East Coast Districts.

There is a rumour from Newcastle that the issue of petrol coupons will be stopped as from tomorrow. It is said that in some parts of the district there is considerable difficulty in getting petrol.

The Chief Constable of York is said to have been arrested as a German. This is a repetition of a rumour that was circulated several days ago and it is a type of rumour which has lately been extremely prevalent.

From Guildford it is said that troops passing through certain stations on their way back from France have been throwing live 303 bullets to children as souvenirs. This matter has already been taken up by the Military Authorities. It is typical of the sort of rumour which has been circulating since the return of the B.E.F.

Spies, parachutists and Haw Haw have all been lying low for the last few days, and feature hardly at all in the rumours we have received today.


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