A History of the Ministry of Information, 1939-46


No. 51
Daily Report on MORALE
Tuesday, 16th July, 1940

There is little change in morale.

(1) Further comments on Gardner's broadcast confirm yesterday's impression that the majority who listened approved of this presentation There are protests from women and local press correspondents on the subject.

(2) Evidence suggests that, although the siren controversy continues acutely, the public in raided areas is becoming acclimatised to air raids. Damage is accepted philosophically. Absence of detailed information is resented, and is one of the causes of rumour. On the other hand many people fear that the mention of localities, except in the vaguest terms, would endanger evacuated children.

(3) There is increasing confidence in Civil Defence services, the R.A.F. and the Navy.

(4) Prosecutions for “defeatist” talk are beginning to be a topic of conversation. Many people think that grumbling is in the British tradition, and there is nervousness at the way the Act may be interpreted.

(5) The internment of aliens is still causing dismay in certain circles, and rumours circulate that all aliens will be evacuated, without notice, to the Dominions. There is distress and bitterness among the friends and relatives of interned aliens. At the same time it should be understood that internment of aliens has popular support.

(6) There is great disappointment at the postponement of the plan for evacuating children to the Dominions. There was initial resistance among the public to sending children abroad: vigorous publicity overcame that resistance, and the results of a statistical survey showed that the parents of approximately 1,000,000 children were prepared for them to go. The effect of a reversal of policy has promoted sharp recrimination against the rich, whose children were enabled to sail. But a kindly attitude is brought to light: “Rich children won't miss their parents so much - they're accustomed to travelling.” The psychological effect of the scheme and its publicity has been bad.

(7) There is evidence that the “Silent Column” campaign, although receiving public response, is not having a desirable psychological effect. Social workers and observers report increasing suspicion and unneighbourliness.

(8) Anti-Chamberlain feeling continues to grow.




16.7.40 .

Reports continue to confirm the widespread approval of the Premier's speech on Sunday night.

NOTTINGHAM (North Midland) Report from Grimsby that rumours of compulsory evacuation from towns on South and East coast cause apprehension to residents.

Absence of definite news concerning air raid casualties is generating gossip. Doubts are widely expressed as to whether Air Ministry bulletins give the truth and the whole truth. A Grimsby businessman has had 700 copies of Duff Cooper's “Letter” made and circulated. Several requests for New British Broadcasting Station to be jammed received from Leicester.

CARDIFF (Wales) Great cleavage of opinion prevails regarding siren warnings. Groups for working stirrup-pumps, etc. increasing, with a consequent growth of confidence. The rise in wages is affecting institutions, hospitals, etc., which cannot afford to compete for domestic staff.

MANCHESTER (North Western) Prosecutions for careless talk are causing some anxiety, and it is suggested that there is no outlet for healthy grumbling. People are asking if there is something of importance they do not know about the Moyale situation. Friendly treatment of French soldiers causes some jealousy amongst British troops who are under active service conditions.

BRISTOL (South Western) Reports from Falmouth say that people are beginning to realise that they have to put up with raids and tension is eased. Dorset reports some uneasiness that there may be compulsory evacuation in the coastal regions. Swanage complains of lack of public shelters. Exeter citizens are demanding the camouflage of petrol storage tanks following a reported German claim that these had been damaged. Cornwall concerned that additional filters for civilian respirators have not been fitted.

LEEDS (North Eastern) Confidence increasing in L.D.V. following further issues of rifles. One report states that Government's refusal to give enough facts makes people think there is something in the background it dares not reveal, and in this way it is responsible for spreading speculative talk. Some uneasiness at the news of fires at 3 paper mills sharing a Government contract for war material. Workers at these factories are eager for a military guard or rifles for their own use.

NEWCASTLE (Northern) Many comments received on the extent to which yellow warnings become known to the civilian population. Rural areas complain about Ministry of Supply's delay in stating price to be paid for last wool clip, and delay in payment.

READING (Southern) Warnings and air raids are losing some of their terror, and in the areas affected population is becoming accustomed to take shelter rapidly and calmly. Many believe that high losses inflicted on the enemy by R.A.F. may cause Hitler to pause. Aluminium appeal still causes confusion. Prospect of increased taxation of small incomes causes anxiety.

BIRMINGHAM (Midland) Public beginning to wonder whether Hitler will not adopt a policy of blockade rather than of sudden attack. Walsall, Wednesbury and Worcester Town Councils have decided to dismiss C.O. employees.

CAMBRIDGE (Eastern) Suggested that the announcement by radio or press, of Hitler's programme in relation to dates tends to impress women, in particular, with the inevitability of Hitler's successes. Evacuation from the coastline continues, but the public is confused between the “stay put” injunction to the South coast and the “please leave” injunction to the East coast.

TUNBRIDGE WELLS (South Eastern) Confusion over evacuation continues, with demand for more explicit instructions. Anti-gossip campaign and heavy penalties imposed on rumour-mongers is having effect.

BELFAST (Northern Ireland) Speculation about delayed invasion. Unofficial announcement that Purchase Tax is to be confined to luxuries gives satisfaction to artisan population.

EDINBURGH (Scotland) Renewal of mild complaint about our supposed inactivity in Africa and the Mediterranean. Official and Press presentation of Moyale withdrawal as either insignificant or masterly receives hostile criticism.




Feeling of confidence increasing, largely due to fact that nothing serious has happened yet. Some people thinking tide has turned and beginning to grow complacent. “Hitler daren't come to London”, typical working class comment expressing this view. Reference in Churchill's speech to defending every street in London has drawn comment: “we shall not be sold out as the French were by their Government.” Dismay expressed by relatives and friends at rumours that interned aliens will be sent to Canada without appeal or second tribunal. Intellectual circles uneasy at arbitrary treatment of refugees; e.g. several Italians who lived for years in England taken on Arandora Star without trial; remaining Italians bitter at apparent injustice. Police action seems on whole to have been as considerate as possible; Italian families helping each other. Contact in Chelsea writes: “extreme right wing opinion still considers Russia more dangerous enemy than Germany; Franco considered hero in spite of German and Italian sympathies as he saved Spain from Communism.” Some anti-Semitism discovered in different districts which might become aggressive on provocation. More expressions of irritation at absence of casualty figures and opinion that exaggerated numbers will fly round as rumour if details of raids are not given. Greenwich: “more publicity should be given to offer of American Seamen's Union to man boat without wages to take children to U.S. Statement asked for that Government will stay here and not go overseas; this feeling linked with fact that upper class children have arrived in America. Antagonistic sentiment rising against rich people in consequence.” Harrow: “disappointment that there is no war work for women in spite of appeals. Growing unemployment among luxury trade West End workers; majority unprepared to move to other districts for work.” Complaints that newspaper vendors are chalking up defeatist placards in West End. Manager of branch of Big Five Bank considers wrong impression given by newspaper reports that people leaving Channel Islands were refused money at banks. Fears publication of such statements might cause mistrust of security of banks. Confusion over billeting reported in districts taking evacuated people from coastal areas; householders afraid they will have penniless people on their hands. Complaints from several quarters that tea rationing is particularly hard on old age pensioners.

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