A History of the Ministry of Information, 1939-46


No. 50
Daily Report on MORALE
Monday, 15th July, 1940

There is little change in morale: people are cheerful. Reports show that there is some slackening in the intensification of effort, and that people are beginning to think that “Hitler will not come after all”.

Air raids continue to be taken without panic. A careful investigation in a raided area showed:

  1. There is still uncertainty about siren policy.

  2. The bringing down of raiders in the area has a psychological effect immensely greater than the military advantage gained.

  3. Most people have become “shelter conscious” and in the case of many women this feeling is in danger of being exaggerated.

  4. As yet there is little anger against the German raiders, especially among women. Casualties are regarded fatalistically and damage accepted philosophically.

  5. Most working class women are convinced that children are as safe in vulnerable areas as anywhere else.

A small survey of reaction to Charles Gardner's broadcast description of the Channel air battle (London 300 interviews) showed that nearly 50% heard the broadcast, and that many who had not listened to it had heard about it. A considerable majority spoke enthusiastically of the broadcast. Of those who did not like it many were women whose comments showed that they did not think war was a game. “A battle isn't a Boat Race”. “His callous Oxford accent made it worse” “It might have been a football match: I don't like football commentaries.” It is evident, however, that the broadcast excited a high degree of interest. Highly emotional arguments were put forward on both sides and the broadcast is a topic of conversation today.




15.7.40 .

Reports from all regions agree that the Premier's speech last night won universal approval, and the assurance that there will be no peace discussion was welcome and heartening. A typical comment from Bristol is “that's the sort of thing we want and he's the fellow we can follow”. Reference to 1942 elicits much comment. Reading R.I.O. reports more spontaneous messages of commendation than after any other important speech.

CARDIFF (Wales) The public in the south of the region is acclimatised to warnings and raids, but in the north concern is felt about insufficiency of public refuges and A.A. defences. Still many complaints that the ‘all clear’ too closely resembles the warning signal. Previous peace movement enthusiasts are beginning to show pugnacity under the stress of bombing. Some anxiety expressed whether we are not broadcasting too much information to the enemy; e.g. how to counteract invasion.

MANCHESTER (North Western) Public is beginning to wonder what is happening in North Africa, and strategic retreats and the apologetic air of some of our statements causes disquiet. Many people wonder whether it is unpatriotic to take holidays.

BRISTOL (South Western) Marksmanship of Bristol A.A. batteries thought to be poor. More people receiving news of air raid damage with the detachment they previously showed to road fatalities. Anxiety in Devon and Cornwall has been partly allayed by the obvious speed-up of defence. Suggestions persist that railway officials are a source of rumour.

LEEDS (North Eastern) Determination still strong. Usual complaints received against unnecessary motoring, building, etc.

NEWCASTLE (Northern) The experience of air raids seems to have given people steadiness and there has been a lessening of anxiety during the past week. Satisfaction is expressed at the steps taken to counter rumour-mongering. Many people are still puzzled that aluminium articles should continue to be on sale after the recent appeal.

READING (Southern) Home defence measures on the South coast are welcome despite the restrictions they involve. Disquiet is caused by the fact that political leaders should ask the country to stand fast against invasion, and yet evacuate their children in spite of the example of the King and Queen.

CAMBRIDGE (Eastern) The air raid siren policy is not discussed with same intensity as during the past few days, but there is a tendency to attribute the frequent sounding of sirens at night at Norwich as a mild attempt by the Fighter Command to “get their own back" on the population for complaining of the absence of sirens.

TUNBRIDGE WELLS (South Eastern) Criticism constantly received of the wording of official statements. An announcement that the Germans have made a statement “which was a lie” would be better understood than “which was entirely disproved.”

Evacuation from Chatham has affected many tradesman.

BIRMINGHAM (Midland) Recent bombing attacks on Germany, and British fighters chasing raiders away successfully is a tonic to people who have experienced raiding planes during the past fortnight. Leamington urges that motor cyclists be incorporated in local defence.

BELFAST (Northern Ireland) Intense indignation at I.R.A. outrage, which destroyed Ministry of Food's stores. Some dissatisfaction over butter and margarine rationing among artisans' wives. Recruiting campaign for Home Defence battalion is being intensified.

EDINBURGH (Scotland) Failure to sound siren in Aberdeen during Friday's air raids has aroused intense feeling, and the chief constable who is in charge of civil defence is being booed in the streets. There is evidence, however, that opinion is almost equally divided between support of, and opposition to, the no-siren policy. There is a strong expectation of intensified air raids in the near future. Adverse comments that Duff Cooper has evacuated his son to America. Many thousands of new ration books have not yet been issued and in some places shopkeepers are taking the risk of supplying housewives for whom they can vouch without ration books.




Churchill's talk much appreciated. Reports to-day show people cheerful and confident in consequence. Priestley's talk liked by majority. Chelsea: “widespread indignation that rich people have gone to America with children while Government scheme has been postponed; great satisfaction expressed that princesses have not been sent”. Some disapproval at wealthy people riding in cars on Sundays; waste of petrol grumbled at. Observers at yesterday's march of French volunteers remarked that there should have been more pageantry and a band to encourage the Frenchmen; great friendliness shown by English crowd and some cheering. More complaints from soldiers at cost of tobacco and cigarettes in England after getting them free in France. Watford: “aliens arriving in district after leaving defence area; most are unemployed and English residents are inclined to be suspicious of them.” Expression of feeling among intelligent people that there should be greater discipline everywhere and that severe measures would be accepted as a relief. Albert Docks: Some thousands of unemployed dock workers in district as port is half closed. Men classed as being in reserved occupation and cannot get other local work. Statement asked for as to whether these dockers will be needed in Port of London or should apply for work elsewhere. Bethnal Green: “few complaints about tea rationing but extravagance of some people brought to light; e.g. one family of three using quarter of pound a day. Real hardship where different members of family work on shifts as fresh pots of tea must be brewed for meals at different times.” Office workers providing own tea complain they will be hard hit. Walham Green: “two hundred women receiving unemployment pay between 11.0 and 11.30 a.m. one day last week. Large number of women recently thrown out of work in neighbourhood. Much criticism of Government heard during this time by women, and references to Bevin's recent appeal. Typical remarks from poorer women, “the Germans find plenty of work for their women” and “our Government don't trouble about unemployment”.

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