A History of the Ministry of Information, 1939-46


No. 37
Saturday, 29th June, 1940


Although the optimistic trend of the last few days continues events have brought about increasing confusion in the public mind. The Russian move, the situation in Syria, the whereabouts of French ex-Ministers, American politics and uncertainty about the sounding of sirens have all combined to increase bewilderment and suspicion. The commonest verbatim recorded is “There's something behind all this” or “I wonder what's the real truth”. People are asking for enlightenment and instruction.

In coastal regions considerable confusion about evacuation exists and this has added to the general uncertainty. Many middle class families of small means are enquiring what their position will be under compulsory evacuation and there is evidence that provisional plans for last minute evacuation are being made by family groups. There is more anger at the Channel Islands raid than over any previous raid on this country but press accounts have left an impression of planless evacuation and of a defenceless civilian population. Stories of jettisoned food and supplies have brought critical comment.

Air-raids were taken calmly and the public is becoming increasingly ‘shelter-conscious’.

There is much speculation on the French situation particularly in those places where French soldiers and sailors mix freely with the civilian population. On the whole these men have been very well received by British civilians but the mixture of races and opinions among the French forces has been the subject of much speculation and inquiry.

Against this background of uncertainty the British Government's recognition of General de Gaulle has given encouragement and stability to the public.

There is a strong rumour that Hitler's efforts against this country will begin on Monday and his prediction that “all will be over by August 15th” is widely repeated. People do not “believe” the prediction but it is freely passed from mouth to mouth and evidence shows that the “inevitability of Hitler” is an important factor in public morale.

There is no change, however, in recent generalisation: morale is healthy and the confidence and determination of the people is ready for mobilisation and for translation into vigorous action.


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29.6.40 .

Concern and indignation are reported from several regions at the bombing of the Channel Islands immediately following their demilitarisation. Manchester reports much anxiety among the 9,000 Channel Island child evacuees there. There is speculation about whether the Germans will use Jersey as a base for air attacks on England.

Many regions express concern and some confusion about the sounding of air raid warnings. Cardiff states that the south part of the region has been raided nightly for the past few nights and sometimes there have been sirens and no bombs, sometimes bombs and no sirens, and sometimes both. The public wish to know what is the policy about the sounding of sirens. At 9.32 this morning an enemy plane flew over Bristol; the public watched this with great interest, as no sirens had been sounded. Rumours are rife in the region that sirens are to be discontinued. Leeds reports a rumour that sirens will now be sounded only immediately before a raid and this is disturbing women and children who think that they will not have time to reach shelters. Newcastle reports that alarms have been sounded only after bombing although the presence of enemy planes was well-known before that; many requests have been received for a statement on the present Government policy about the sounding of sirens. Cambridge reports that the absence of sirens has, on the whole, had a good effect, though many people are convinced that enemy planes have been over and are surprised that there have been no warnings. There is in this region a very wide belief that the Government's policy on sounding sirens has been modified and this has caused some apprehension among women. Night flying for training purposes seems to be contributing towards disturbed sleep.

NOTTINGHAM (North Midland) People seem to be discriminating more between the French Government and the French people and to be criticising less. General disappointment at the news from Syria. No great concern at the fate of Rumania which is regarded as “another poor dithering sheep about to be dismembered by the wolves”. In spite of official denials there are further reports of mistrust of Hoare's activity in Spain. Republican nomination in America is well received.

CARDIFF (Wales) People anticipate a turn of events in our favour in connection with Russia. Many suggestions have been received that L.D.V. barricades should have red and yellow lights to distinguish them from road repair works.

MANCHESTER (North Western) Recognition of de Gaulle widely approved, but following Syrian news a common comment is “too late again”. Very little interest in fate of Rumania.

BELFAST (Northern Ireland) Hope is expressed that Beveridge's survey of man-power will include Northern Ireland, so that Ulster's 60,000 unemployed may be rapidly absorbed in war work. Hooper's broadcast welcomed as a warning against both over-confidence and fatalistic defeatism. Many people are reported to think that there is some ground for Haw Haw's attack on B.B.C. and British newspaper editorials for glossing over unpleasant facts. Majority view is that news should be more candid when things are going badly; “we can take it”.

BRISTOL (South Western) Anti-gossip campaign in Plymouth is having good effect.

LEEDS (North Eastern) Chief air raid warden of Hull reports no weakening of morale as a result of recent raids. Industrial fatigue is stated to be not yet noticeable in the Leeds area. The militarisation of the coastal zone is popular.

EDINBURGH (Scotland) The Eastern District Commissioner's scheme of volunteer labour reported yesterday has had a remarkable response (140 recruits on first day, 700 on second, and 711 on the third). German broadcasts on fine social conditions in Germany are stated to be having an effect; even members of Forces contrast the alleged superiority of German working class conditions with those in this country, and a small section of working class people are reported to be saying quite openly that only the rich have anything to lose by a Hitler victory.

NEWCASTLE (Northern) Information committee at Sunderland express unanimous view that morale is being affected badly by publicity for “no holidays and unlimited overtime” to increase production, while there are still 6,000 unemployed in the town.

READING (Southern) Indications that parts of French empire are obeying Bordeaux are reviving anxiety about the French fleet. News that Government is ready to apply compulsory evacuation when necessary is generally welcomed as showing decision in leadership. Southampton, however, is anxious for fear that this should happen before it is militarily necessary.

BIRMINGHAM (Midland) Further demand for improved armament of L.D.V., as public believe its importance has much increased as enemy planes are about so frequently.

CAMBRIDGE (Eastern) West Norfolk intensely concerned about the fate in northern France of the 7th Battalion Royal Norfolk Regiment.

TUNBRIDGE WELLS (South Eastern) Kent & Sussex optimistic that as “Hitler never comes in by front door,” he may not start with them. Still a few complaints about inefficiency of L.D.V. People living in Kent are reported to be garaging their cars near London to avoid leaving them behind in the event of evacuation.


Surbiton: “people's confidence increased since the putting up of barricades on Kingston by-pass. Movement of population in district due to some people going out to the West and others coming in from the South and South East coast. Local feeling that Belgian refugees billeted in neighbourhood should do useful work. Clapham: “people cheerful on whole, though bus drivers and some A.F.S. workers express some defeatism.” Shepherd's Bush: “continuing local grievance that Belgian refugees have privileges denied to English people. This causing much grumbling.” People answering appeal to work on land during holidays reported snubbed at local Labour Exchanges. Divisional Controller of Labour states that appeal was made before machinery existed to deal with it. Resulting irritation and annoyance on the part of both officials and public. “Lack of proper camouflaging of important buildings in various districts” reports welfare supervisor of large Dairy. Brixton: Certain press publicity has inspired confidence in Anderson shelters. Those who owned one used it on Monday night, whereas many other people did not leave their beds.” Barking: “neighbours getting together and arranging communal use of stirrup-pumps and plans for taking in neighbours if houses are destroyed. Local people worried by foreigners rowing ashore from ships anchored in Thames. On Thursday seven Dutch seamen came ashore and joined in talk in the “Crooked Billet”, River Road, Creek's Mouth, Barking - small public house in lonely neighbourhood near large power station. Other people present very apprehensive.” Suburban reports show middle classes still enquiring about Dominion evacuation scheme and large percentage anxious for their children to go.

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