A History of the Ministry of Information, 1939-46


No. 17
Wednesday, 5th June, 1940


The final evacuation of the B.E.F. has brought with it a certain feeling of depression. There is a deflation of tension without a corresponding increase in resolve.

The grave tone of Churchill's speech made some impression and may have contributed in some measure to the rather pessimistic atmosphere of today. It should be remarked, however, that only the Daily Mirror and the Daily Worker gave Churchill's speech headline value - (“We Never Surrender”, “Not Blind to Colossal Military Disaster”). The contents of the speech were on the whole expected but some apprehension has been caused throughout the country on account of the P.M's. reference to ‘fighting alone’. This has led to some slight increase in doubt about the intentions of our Ally. Consequently our close study of anti-French feeling shows that it has increased over yesterday, (when the Paris air-raid had brought close identification with the French). That a swing in feeling has so slight a cause is in itself a matter of anxiety.

News of bombing reprisals was welcomed and many people are demanding the bombing of Berlin.

The Paris air raid continued to hold attention and the revised casualty numbers and the fresh figures given for attacking planes and bombers brought down brought suspicious comment. Many people remarked that the disaster had been purposely minimised.

The B.E.F. continue to express their feelings about the R.A.F.

There are signs that Fifth Column hysteria is reaching dangerous proportions in some towns and villages: there are fewer rumours but more accusations.

A small statistical survey shows that there is a tendency to attribute Hitler's success so far to his own superior efficiency and preparedness rather than to blame our own deficiencies. The answer to a question designed to test confidence showed that two-thirds were confident that whatever Hitler's next step might be we should be able to deal with it effectively; one-sixth were doubtful; very few indeed were pessimistic. These results show that recrimination is still very low and that there is a substantial body of fully-confident opinion. These are excellent bases for a sound morale and the conclusion is inevitable that this morale is ripe for canalisation in a positive and aggressive direction.




5th June, 1940.

CARDIFF (Wales) Churchill's speech “very impressive”. Success of French military missions' description of France's sacrifice, and consequent responsibility of this country for maximum war effort. Discontent among L.D.V. owing to lack of information about their duties.

BELFAST (Northern Ireland) Criticism of reference in Churchill's speech to “fighting alone”. Growing demand for stricter precautions against Fifth Column activity and control of aliens. Agitation about vital defence matters in Northern Ireland reaching Germany through Eire.

MANCHESTER (North Western) Churchill's speech well received. Tribute to R.A.F. welcomed in view of B.E.F's recent criticisms. New B.B.C. announcer “depressing and too emotional”.

BRISTOL (South Western) Keen interest in anti-Fifth Column action. Local preparations for dealing with parachutists.

LEEDS (North Eastern) Industry pre-occupied with holiday question. Emphasis on necessity of rest periods for workers engaged 12 hours daily, 7 days a week. Situation intensified by labour shortage. Leeds and Hull report satisfaction at arrest of Fascists. Huddersfield weavers threaten to strike owing to employment of Austrian-Czech worker. Wakefield Council dismisses C.O's from all its services. 100% increase shown in Doncaster Miners' War Savings last week.

EDINBURGH (Scotland) Apprehension of Scotland being Hitler's next victim, as no indication of this has been given by Germany. High spirits of B.E.F. soldiers inducing feelings of optimism, more obvious among men than women.

NEWCASTLE (Northern) Continued complaints about lack of equipment for L.D.V., and in slowness of their organization. Speculation among employers as to Minister of Labour's proposals for enforcing over-time.

READING (Southern) General satisfaction at rounding up of Fascists Perturbation of rural community facing prospect of having to harbour evacuated sheep. Some nervousness expressed about ability of France to withstand impending German attacks.

BIRMINGHAM (Midland) Churchill's speech has had “excellent effects”. Signs of determination among workers to make up deficiencies in war material.

CAMBRIDGE (Eastern) Position of Italy continues to cause speculation, but not apprehension. Resolution adopted at Ministry's Advisory Committee advocated stronger measures against Fifth Columnists. Criticism of Government's evacuation announcement on ground that it offers no directive for public action in the event of substantial aerial attack or attempted invasion.

TUNBRIDGE WELLS (South Eastern) Criticism of reference to “fighting alone” in Churchill's speech. Some tendency still to regard Dunkirk as a victory. Proposed anti-gossip week at Chatham promised every support.

247 2


Substantial failure reported in all districts of Government's evacuation plans, particularly as these apply to children under 5. General admiration for way in which Dunkirk evacuation was carried out, but much resentment about alleged lack of troops' equipment. Strong criticism is also made of inequalities in allowances made to soldiers' wives and maintenance cost of German prisoners, the latter being 3/6d more than the former. Need is expressed in poor districts for creches where young children can be looked after while their mothers are working, as in some places neighbours are refusing responsibility of taking in other people's children for fear of air raids. A certain number of large firms and factories are inaugurating campaigns of their own to encourage their workers to make the maximum war effort. Criticisms made of the new B.B.C. announcer who was described as having a “plum pudding voice”, and was compared unfavourably to Haw Haw.




5th June, 1940.

Rumours seem less in evidence than yesterday; several regions report that rumours have either died down or greatly decreased, and the majority of those in circulation are of little significance. No single subject of rumour is abroad in remote regions simultaneously.

Lord Haw-Haw is alleged to have stated that the Darlington Town Hall Clock is 2 minutes slow, which in fact it is. Eastern Region has supported a long-lived rumour to the effect that Bremen announced that the Hoffman Ball Bearing works at Chelmsford would not be left standing after June 2nd.

The suppression of the names of arrested Fascists in the Leeds area has given rumour-mongers plenty of scope in supplying them.

Two parachutists are said to have been caught in Sussex, and round Birmingham it is widely stated that spies are being apprehended, and the informants rewarded with £5.

Little has been forthcoming about the B.E.F. and imaginative stories of new British invisible rays, and flame throwers, and unfounded rationing restrictions make up the total.

We use cookies to track usage and preferences.

Privacy & Cookie Policy Accept & Close