A History of the Ministry of Information, 1939-46


No. 15
Monday, 3rd June, 1940


The emotional relief and elation to which attention was drawn in Saturday's report continue. It is remarked that morale is almost “too good” in certain regions, an effect which is the result of (i) the stimulating influence of the returned B.E.F. and (ii) the failure to realise the full significance of the Flanders evacuation.

Relief at the successful evacuation continues temporarily to overshadow the fear of air raids and invasion, at home.

Preoccupation with civilian evacuation has not lessened: the value of evacuation is questioned by some; others urge that the Government should decide and then issue compulsory instructions; many working-class households in London seem determined to resist the evacuation of their children and protest that London is as safe as anywhere.

A growing feeling against Belgian refugees has been noticed; some of this appears to be due to the preferential billeting rates for foreign refugees. The story that they have taken up accommodation which the B.E.F. required in crossing the Channel is also responsible for some antagonism.

The return of our soldiers from Flanders and their dissemination throughout the country has everywhere stiffened morale, but it has brought to the forefront certain critical discussions. In particular the B.E.F. are found to be stating on all sides that the R.A.F. was not in evidence during the retreat. These first-hand stories are throwing some doubt on the truthfulness of the broadcast news reports of R.A.F. exploits. Another subject assuming considerable importance is criticism of those responsible for the inadequate mechanical equipment which has been the cause of so many unnecessary casualties. When the present mood of emotional relief has died down this subject may assume considerable critical importance.

Anti-Italian feeling has strongly increased





NOTTINGHAM (North Midland) Entry of Italy into war expected but no dismay at the prospect. A war veteran suggests a “Dunkirk Medal” similar to Mons Medal of last war; this he thinks would have great psychological value. Some criticisms of B.B.C. for announcing reverses as though they were victories, “tone too congratulatory”. Kettering: good effect on local morale from Canadian troops billeted there. Their toughness and efficiency awaken feelings of true Empire co-operation.

CARDIFF (Wales) Criticism of broadcast of effect of economic strain in Germany as enhancing excessively present feeling of elation. Eden's speech warmly praised. Returning troops question “Where are our aeroplanes”? This has raised bitter criticism of previous Cabinet. Request that “I was Hitler's prisoner” be re-broadcast at 9.30 p.m. this week, as 11 p.m. was too late for many. Returning troops demand stronger measures against aliens. New evacuees warmly welcomed in South Wales valleys.

BELFAST (Northern Ireland) Eden's speech “reassuring”. Probability of Italy's entry into war much commented on and satisfaction expressed at our threat of strong measures. Lively interest in energetic steps of Eire authorities to strengthen Home Defence.

MANCHESTER (North Western) Eden's broadcast “timely and effective”. Entry of Italy into war expected and will produce no consternation here. A few French Officers have been insulted in streets by mistake for Belgians. French Consul is issuing special badges.

BRISTOL (South Western) B.E.F. men's stories of sky black with Nazi planes and few British ones creating disquiet and distrust of Air Ministry News Bulletins; “Are they minor exploits only?” Offers of service to Employment Exchanges yield unsatisfactory answers unless people offering are on Unemployment Register. Frustration results and patriotic ardour is damped.

LEEDS (North Eastern) Ministry of Labour officials report “no absenteeism from yesterday's Sunday work”. People seem to be waiting without panic for Hitler's next step. Feeling in Halifax against Irish labourers. Demand in South Yorkshire for better protection of local pits against 5th columnists. Shortage of engineers intense in Leeds. Still dissatisfaction on holiday ban for non-war workers “Soldiers get leave; why not civilians?”.

EDINBURGH (Scotland) Attitude towards Italy becoming defiant. Uncertainty in West about attitude of Eire Government. A clear statement broadcast by de Valera would relieve many loyal Irish in Scotland. Growing feeling for Conscription for Civil Defence and war work, so as to settle conflicting claims. Glasgow employers willing to obey direct orders from Ministry of Labour. A.R.P. exhibition at Stonehaven had remarkable response.

READING (Southern) Maurice Healy considered too propitiatory towards Italy last night. “Why tolerate Mussolini's abuse. Let us take initiative and make him choose between real neutrality and real belligerency”. Returning B.E.F. troops stimulate discussion on our lack of planes. Home Defence precautions, hold-ups on roads and B.E.F. stories are waking people up but complacency is still by no means eradicated. Satisfaction at more soldiers on guard at key points. Criticism of tendency to accept a uniform too readily as a credential; registration cards should bear a photograph.

BIRMINGHAM (Midland) Criticism that newspaper reports make B.E.F. appear a rabble and do not stress the martial side of the picture. B.E.F. soldiers reported to have said that R.A.F. were not in evidence over battle front.

CAMBRIDGE (Eastern) Invasion fears rather less “was Harold Nicholson exaggerating?” General approval at evacuation of children from coastal towns still need for authoritative guidance to adults on subject of voluntary evacuation.

TUNBRIDGE WELLS (South Eastern) East Grinstead phlegmatic after bombs last night “it is a pity no more damage was done, as people were left quite unperturbed and unaware of dangers ahead”. Complaints that A.A. village signs and names on A.A. boxes are inadequately obliterated. Returning B.E.F. are making strong criticisms of lack of R.A.F. planes.

NEWCASTLE (Northern) Strong complaints by North Shields trawler men at removal of their Bren guns. Previously they had one gun per ship; now one per 4 or 5 ships. Durham firms annoyed at manner rather than fact of commandeering wagons for mounting machine guns. Gateshead firm has had to cut down production from sickness, thanks to extra long hours.

LONDON Much gossip everywhere and among all classes surrounding stories of the B.E.F. Returning men have warm praise for Navy but strong criticism that R.A.F. “was conspicuous by its absence”. They express appreciation and comradeship for French and Belgian soldiers. Hostility expressed by West End staff towards new B.B.C. announcer. “Too pompous and heavy; almost as if the Nazis had taken over already.” Richmond Citizens' Advice Bureau reports much discontent locally as women who have suffered financially because of the war, offering themselves for munitions work are told there is none for them. They resent being helped by Unemployment Assistance when they could do national work. This is also reported as being a source of grumbling by the Business and Professional Women's Clubs. Richmond: “growing anti-alien feeling leading to refusal to allow Belgian refugee children to join play centre. Shop assistants becoming insolent to people with foreign accents. Refugees expressing fear. Local grumbling amongst poor people that refugees are given more money than Old Age pensioners and unemployed.” Paddington, Marylebone, Kensington: “amongst all classes dislike of Belgians is growing. They cause shortage of butter and are disagreeable people. Children being received in London areas from which own children are evacuated. Would rather keep own children. Why should our ships be used to carry Belgian refugees when they are needed for our own people?” Discontent also expressed that more money is paid for billeting Belgian refugee children than English ones. Hammersmith, Dulwich: “people booing Belgian refugees in streets.” Downham Community Centre: “people full of rumours, inclined to be panicky. Few have wireless and feel cut off from events.” Evacuation not backed up. “We want to die together”. Chelsea Borough Housing: “Very few children registered for evacuation here. Fathers chiefly against it as they say country is as dangerous as London.” Praise heard everywhere for Mr. Eden's speech as “it explained the situation.” Criticism of delivery.


3rd June 1940.




There is little to add to what was said on Saturday about rumours, except that fewer were reported today.

It is widely and persistently stated that men of the B.E.F., returning from Dunkirk, are extremely bitter about the absence of British aeroplanes, and the meagre help given them by the R.A.F. during the embarkation from the beaches.

In some cases this feeling is said to be directed towards the personnel of the R.A.F. who have been publicly jeered at by soldiers who have returned from France. Evidence of the strength and spread of this feeling is very marked and its repercussions, unless checked by some statement, or explanation of the facts, are likely to be most unfortunate in both military and civilian circles.

In general, rumours follow the same trend as usual; the majority are juvenile, imaginative fictions of an alarmist nature; a few have a more practical, or at least, understandable basis. It is said, for instance, that the Germans have been using dum dum bullets. This has been “confirmed” by interviews in the Press with men who are said to have witnessed this fact.

There are more rumours again today of impending evacuations from the East Coast towns, new gases, parachute nuns, and so on; but for the first time Haw Haw seems to be rather less in evidence than of late.

Home Intelligence

3rd June, 1940.

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