A History of the Ministry of Information, 1939-46


No. 18
Thursday, 6th June, 1940


News of the fresh offensive has brought anxiety but people are in a tired state of mind and reaction is distinctly slower. Several observers report that some people are finding it increasingly difficult to listen to the news: they have become somewhat desensitised. Comment on the news is cautious and restrained as well as generally apprehensive. There is some suspicion, too, in the remark that the present French communiqués (“unimportant strategic withdrawals”) have a dangerous similarity to those made just before the break through at Sedan.

There is some ground for suggesting that, from the point of view of morale, the new German attack has come in time to prevent a wave of depression which yesterday's reports showed was developing.

This morning's air raids on Britain were received calmly and the early communiqués were warmly approved. The effect of this prompt news on the spread of rumours was noticeable.

Personal grumbles have fallen to a low place in public conversation: national grumbles (lack of planes, etc.) have obscured them.

Yesterday at Mansfield a civilian was fined 10 gns. and 5 gns. costs for falsely attributing a rumour to Haw Haw. The case has received wide publicity.

Over the whole country newspaper placards have been replaced by pencillings and blackboard chalkings. The degree of irresponsibility they display is considerable but their effect is certainly less prejudicial to public morale than printed posters. False statements have been noticed, e.g. “Italy has come in”, “Big German Defeat”, “All the Good News” but nevertheless morale continues steady!

Sir Hugh Ellis's broadcast was widely commented upon but stirred no great feeling. Typical comments: ‘very interesting’, ‘quite useful’, ‘of course you should stay at home and barricade yourself’, ‘not bad but I've had enough of that kind of thing’, ‘a good broadcaster’. Informed comment suggests that the broadcast was not sufficiently realistic. One correspondent wrote ‘I wasn't very greatly interested: he should have told us what to do now ’.

STELLAR BULLETIN . An eminent astrologer and his publisher both capable of spreading alarmist reports, have predicted that Monday and Tuesday, June 10th and 11th are ‘fatal days’. Large-scale invasion is indicated and danger to the Royal Family to whom it would be hazardous ‘to cross water’.


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NOTTINGHAM (North Midland) Some local evacuation of monied people on a small scale. Dutch and Belgian refugees not popular as it is felt that they should work for their food, also unpopularity due to Fifth Column fears. Dissatisfaction at America's attitude has diminished in last week with rising hopes that she will help actively.

CARDIFF (Wales) Remotest areas still apprehensive about parachute invasion. Wide popular misapprehension about extent of France occupied by Germany as newspaper maps only show northern France and this appears largely occupied. Uneasiness that food stores in Wales will not allow for great influx of evacuees and refugees from South and East. Many requests for repeat broadcast of “I was Hitler's prisoner”, and several suggestions that broadcast “Information to the enemy” should be repeated earlier than 10.30 when most industrial workers are in bed.

BELFAST (Northern Ireland) Following Ulster P.M.'s conference with British leaders, hopes high that Ulster Eire border will be more strictly guarded. Six typical listeners comment thus on Haw Haw's onslaught on British morale: “By exaggeration and ranting he defeated his own purpose; his silliest broadcast yet”.

MANCHESTER (North Western) Bevin's new E.P's acceptable to both employers and men. Coal trade hope miners retain freedom to move from pit to pit. Fifth Column hysteria growing; needs damping down. Evacuation of wealthier classes fairly common. Belgians and wealthier Dutch Jewish refugees unpopular. Public sceptical about help from America.

BRISTOL (South Western) French military officer received magnificent reception from 8,000 Aero workers whom he addressed at Bristol. West Country holiday resorts still anxious about methods of rapid instruction of public on beaches in times of emergency. Need for mobile loud speakers stressed. Voluntary local evacuation negligible. Pacifist literature read mainly by small groups under influence of Quakers; public opinion hostile to these views.

LEEDS (North Eastern) Churchill's speech well received. Working classes all favour getting help from Russia if possible. Five educated Roman Catholics all strongly opposed Russia, however.

EDINBURGH (Scotland) General annoyance at delay in revealing full number of casualties in Paris air raid. Growing feeling that there are too many news bulletins and too much repetition. Two persons when challenged by sentries suddenly produced identity cards from hip-pockets. Danger of this practice is stressed as sentries may think they are reaching for “something else”.

NEWCASTLE (Northern) Public very interested but calm following incendiary bomb locally. Anti-war activities weaker in last two weeks. Probably following hostility of crowds. Protest by unemployed occurred at open-air meeting when importance of greater production was emphasised.

READING (Southern) French troops warmly welcomed on South Coast and French speakers generally in demand. A comprehensive balance sheet of losses on both sides in the Battle of the Ports would be welcomed, as statements so far have been piece-meal. Satisfaction at increased local defence measures. Criticism of voluntary system of local defence. Aliens dismissed from factories in Weybridge and Newbury on demand of fellow workers. False air raid alarm at Basingstoke last night caused (1) increased black-out (2) people went into street (3) people phoned local Exchange.

BIRMINGHAM (Midland) Still some criticism of French allowing first German break through. Publicity of causes of breakthrough would be welcomed. C.O. milkman chased by crowd of angry women at Cannock.

CAMBRIDGE (Eastern) Air raid warning early this morning caused no undue alarm. Prompt broadcast of Air Ministry's communiqué widely welcomed. West Norfolk suspicious about Fifth Columnists. Hugh Ellis's broadcast “timely”.

TUNBRIDGE WELLS (South Eastern) People in raided area of North Kent calm and steady. Comment general on slackness of sentries; several people record how they have walked into places supposed to be guarded by sentries. Popular impression is that armed civilians are better sentries than soldiers. Armed sentries in Kent are using unshielded lights to stop traffic. It is pointed out that motorists have every excuse for ignoring such lights.


Air raids near Greenwich and Deptford this morning taken with interest and calmness; no panic; people's great relief was that their children were safe. Many observers report a widespread feeling that French are proposing to sue for a separate peace. This may be due to misinterpretation of Churchill's speech or some think to deliberate malicious talk. French War communiqués are distrusted as people feel they have proved over optimistic in the past. Sir Hugh Ellis's talk was well received; no apprehension raised by it “just what we wanted to know”. “Good home truths”. One query was “who are the properly authorised people who will give us information?” Evacuation figures improving in some districts. It is automatically assumed that under fives will stay at home as they cannot be evacuated with schools. Factories report no complaints at overtime work and growing enthusiasm for Home Defence. Feeling against aliens still very strong. Some complaints of harrowing News Reel pictures Hospitals bombed, etc. One report of defeatist talk in the City “why not give in to Hitler now”.





6th June, 1940 .

Rumours continue to show a slight decrease; the majority, which are still wild and obvious inventions, do not appear to be widely believed. Others of a circumstantial nature are excepted more readily. The following extract from the Log Book of the Anti-Lies Bureau gives examples of this type, and indicates the actions which have been taken in each case.

Source and Area Rumour Action
G.M. Robertson, Wimborne Cranford School Caretaker at 4. a.m. on June 1st heard Haw Haw threaten Wimborne Checked. No such broadcast at that hour. Informant asked for Wavelength, set etc., and told that such language was foreign to Haw Haw's technique. M.I.5. Radio Security Dept; also informed.
H.J. Keefe, Wembley B.E.F. Officers fought to be evacuated before their men. Story spread by Mrs. Watson, 145, Empire Court, Wembley. Informed Scotland Yard, and asked them to send an Officer to reprimand and warn Mrs. Watson.
Mrs. Sprigge, Dorking Rumours against local Chemist, Radio Shop, School and Aliens. R.I.O. informed that if rumours are sufficiently current material will be supplied to him for issue to the local Press or Authorities.
Librarian of London Corporation. Reports concern of himself and colleagues at inability to check borrowers of Ordnance Survey and other detailed maps of England. Home Office advised. Points for their consideration are drafted in co-operation with London School of Economic Librarian. M.I.5 informed after discussion between these two Departments. Ministry proposal was agreed and sent to Joint Executive Committee of Government Departments.


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