A History of the Ministry of Information, 1939-46


No. 9
Monday, 27th May, 1940
( including Sunday, 26th May )


Reports show a certain steadiness of morale over the weekend. This is partly due to acceptance of what is believed to be a deliberate policy of restricting news. One gets the impression that opinions are being withheld and emotions held in suspense deliberately. It must be remembered, however, that this suspension of feeling (which gives an appearance of steadiness and calm) is arrived at partly at the expense of identification with the events in France. Official statements about the undesirability of liberating news give people an excuse for not carrying on with the process of facing up to the facts. The result is a small but significant increase in fatalism. Absence of news as a deliberate policy may increase this. Absence of news must be combined with a continuous interpretation of the background situation if morale is to be kept good and the public identified with the war effort . By the withholding of news the public has been given a mandate to delay judgment and not to worry. There is distinct advantage, however, in preventing by these means the violent day to day swings of opinion and feeling. A slackening of the news tempo has certain definite advantages at the present time.

On the other hand, the continued detailed publication of German claims and communiqués in the press has an effect of cancelling out this relief and detachment.

Anti-French feeling commented upon last Friday has not during the weekend found such overt expression. This may be the result of the news blanket. There have been a number of comments upon the dismissal of the French generals, the most frequent being that this shows that something must have been very seriously wrong at the top. There is, at the same time, relief that mistakes have been discovered and culprits replaced. The net feeling is vague disquiet.

Morale in the provinces and in the countryside continues to be noticeably higher than in London.

Reports from the Regions indicate some satisfaction over the development of plans for the mobilisation of manpower.

“The whiter the collar the less the assurance” is the report of our Regional Information Officer at Reading.

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Newcastle . (Northern) Everyone knows where Friday's air raid was. Enquiries as to whether new legislation prevents men leaving important jobs need answering. 19 members of Durham Light Infantry are telling alarming stories of wiping out of a D.L.I. battalion at Boulogne, and of confusion among wounded, etc. at the quayside; the result is some public anxiety and anger. Cinema attendances poor, especially on the coast.

Leeds . (North Eastern) Upset caused locally because sirens in North Riding are said to have gone off after bombs were dropped. Comment: “We're alright, but people are the top are wrong”. Jubilation in Hull at Fascist round up and demand for further action.

Nottingham (North Midland) Satisfaction at Ironside's appointment. Upset at demand for 12 bore cartridges for anti-parachute troops, on account of their known ineffectiveness compared with rifles and revolvers.

Cambridge (Eastern) Very good attendance at Churches. Local air raids taken calmly. Complaints about excessive personal ‘phone calls, also excessive number of calls from London newspaper offices for first hand interviews. Eastern Regional Commissioner wishes to discourage these.

Reading (Southern) Church attendances up. Bitterness towards Germans increases, thanks to refugee stories. Allied counter offensive anxiously awaited. Oxford optimistic. Demand for sub-machine guns for parashots in Guildford. Defeatist talk in Godalming on Saturday due to rumour that the R.A.F. had been entirely flown back to defend Britain.

Bristol (South Western) Good response to Mr. Bevin among local Trade Unionists in Aircraft factory. Some anxiety over the hills and moors in the West as parachute landing sites.

Cardiff (Wales) Satisfaction at dismissal of 15 French Generals “House needed putting in order”. Sunday services well attended. Increasing demand for round up of Communists as well as Fascists. Criticism of excess R.A.F. Bulletins in contrast to other Services.

Birmingham (Midland) Some surprise at the lack of air raids and parachutists: “They think Allies have something up their sleeve”. Harold Nicholson's broadcast about rumour widely welcomed and needed.

Manchester (North Western) Excellent spirit in factories. Rumours still growing. Nicholson's broadcast thought not to have had enough punch. Dill, Ironside change accepted as good evidence of new drive.

Scotland - Edinburgh. West Coast expecting severe treatment in raids, after MacDonald's statement. Broadcast request for 12 bore cartridges unsettling as further lack of arms comparable with those of enemy. Complaints from Glasgow on lack of action in organising parachute Defence Corps. Stiffer attitude to aliens demanded. Eire regarded as possible seat for enemy action.

Tunbridge Wells (South Eastern) Evacuation of school children being taken very quietly. Rumours common in Brighton area only. Current gossip that wounded are bringing back stories of a hasty and ignominious retreat. Some confusion in Coast town hospitals as to what is to become of the wounded whom they are now taking in.

Belfast (Northern Ireland) German violation of Eire as a possibility has made people nervous. Division of opinion over Conscription: majority against it for fear of disloyalist section.

London Suspense; people getting on with their own affairs; some fatalism while waiting for news. More cheerfulness shown than on Saturday: “We have turned a corner”. Under-current of anxiety is present, especially among women who realise the sacrifice of life: “We shall win-but at what a price”. Sunday services well attended; some emotionalism displayed. Evacuation talked of on Housing Estates. Mothers wish their children should get out before anything happens. Bermondsey very “though” People will defend themselves to the last. Parents there would resist compulsory evacuation. They say of Fascism: “Your child is not your own”. Labour conditions normal. Bevin's speech approved by officials, employers and work-people. “The country's moving”, is heard everywhere. Nicholson's speech was approved by educated classes; not listened to by working-classes who listen regularly to Haw Haw at 9.15. Serious defeatist talk in Fulham working class and A.R.P. posts due to rumour of King and Government about to go to Canada. Cinema audiences thin. Comedies and musicals preferred to serious and war pictures. New internment of aliens approved. B.B.C. suggested as possible source of spying. Mistrust of the French expressed.



Fewer rumours have been reported today, but those which have come in show an increase in 5th Column stories. There is no doubt that great many people believe that many rumours are being circulated by Nazi agents, a theory to which credence is given by the nature of the stories themselves which often seem to have no other point than to create confusion and alarm. Typical of these is the report that the full forces of the R.A.F. are to be withdrawn from France and used for Home Defence purposes.

Another tale of the same sort is that Mr. Churchill's visit to France was to ensure that they would not conclude a separate peace; the obvious implication being that this was at least a possibility.

It is still being stated, and apparently widely believed, that many stories are being put about by Haw Haw. Whether this is true or not, the effect on those who believe this is to make them regard Haw Haw as a kind of omniscient being.

There are the usual fatuous inventions today, such as that the Isle of Wight has been invaded, that bombs were dropped in Barking on Friday, and that the population of Herne Bay is to be evacuated. In addition to these there have been repetitions of Nuns, parachutists, bombings, etc., and also a report that the Duke of Windsor has gone to America.

27th May, 1940.

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