A History of the Ministry of Information, 1939-46


No. 33
Monday, 24th June, 1940


Sunday was a day of rumours about the armistice terms. Their acceptance by the French Government did not come as a surprise. The effect of French “capitulation” has in no way minimised the prevailing determination to ‘fight to a finish’, although there are signs of increasing doubt that we shall now be able to obtain “absolute victory”. Nevertheless the common feeling throughout the country is one of strong resolution (apart from the pockets of defeatism to which attention has repeatedly been drawn).

At all levels of society the opinion is bitterly and vigorously expressed that the French people have been betrayed by “the politicians”. Indignation against French leaders grew strongly over the weekend: it increased after the announcement of the terms. There are no signs that this indignation is directed against the French people with whom there is considerable sympathy.

The speed with which the French situation has moved to its climax has caused bewilderment and confusion and the political complexion of Petain's government required time for its proper appreciation. That appreciation has now penetrated the popular mind and the effect of it is to bring to the front those doubts about our own leadership which have been finding expression in criticisms of Government action. There is no escaping the tenor of our reports: leadership is in jeopardy.

From all regions demands for more “instructions” are reported - particularly on evacuation and general preparedness. There is a strong desire to get non-combatants, especially children, out of the country. The word “blockade” is frequently mentioned but now the phrase means the blockade of this country. Dangers from Eire are often discussed and there is a rapidly growing feeling that the Government should take positive action before it is too late.

Our reports show some increase of anti-Semitic feeling due in certain regions (Leeds, London) to accounts that wealthy Jews are “panicking to the U.S.A.”




24.6.40 .

NOTTINGHAM (North Midland) Considerable gloom caused by French capitulation. Bordeaux Government harshly criticised. Hope of good results from de Gaulle's broadcast. Some lack of confidence in measures taken to prevent invasion. Civil Service criticised for excessive use of red tape in connection with National Service. Official mind must adjust itself to higher speed necessary for war efficiency. Feeling that money is being spent too freely on luxury articles, and that petrol is being used for too much joy-riding.

CARDIFF (Wales) Although people are calm and agree that war must be fought to a finish there is some doubt in view of the present circumstances, of the way in which we are to obtain absolute victory. Uneasiness expressed about preparations for aiding Eire should invasion be attempted in that quarter. “People are in a very receptive mood for instructions,” and the B.B.C. should devote more time to these and less to entertainment.

BELFAST (Northern Ireland) Disgust, but no surprise, expressed at French acceptance of armistice. Bitterness against Petain Cabinet, but sympathy for the French people. Danger of invasion from Eire thought to be increasingly likely. Suspicion that “another Casement plot is being hatched”.

MANCHESTER (North Western) France's signing of armistice regarded as “another betrayal”. De Gaulle's broadcast made a good impression, but hope of our gaining control of the French Navy and Air Force is disappearing.

BRISTOL (South Western) Strong criticism of Petain's capitulation, but sympathy with French nation. Recent raids have increased awareness of need for private A.R.P. arrangements. Inadequacy of news bulletins about air raids causes many rumours. More precise mention of localities might avoid this difficulty.

LEEDS (North Eastern) Resentment and bitterness against Germany increases, and is coupled with similar feelings against Civil Service and to some extent the Government, for tardy allocation of war work. Anti-Semitism is said to be seriously increasing; this is due partly to rumoured attempts of rich Jews to leave the country.

EDINBURGH (Scotland) French capitulation regarded as treachery. Presence of French troops in Glasgow is vaguely disturbing, as people are uncertain of their attitude. Deep and growing distrust of Eire in the West; uncertainty about her position increased by ambiguities of De Valera's speech.

NEWCASTLE (Northern) France's acceptance of terms has caused serious public concern, though evidence of undue pessimism or defeatism is rare. Indignation at lack of provision for loss of French coal market and inadequacy of arrangements for alternative use for storage of coal.

READING (Southern) Atmosphere calm. This is attributable to opposite causes, (a) reasoned determination to face unpleasant situation of which the implications are well realised; (b) inability to grasp full significance of our present position. But such slight nervousness and defeatism as there is may be said to be offset by determination of the majority to see things through. Demand for more tangible evidence of the efficiency of the war effort. Coupled with this is a feeling that tired and inefficient members of the Government should be got rid of.

BIRMINGHAM (Midland) People standing up well to bad news. “So far from being upset, the prevailing spirit is one of intense patriotism”. Considerable hope derived from belief that French Colonial Empire means to fight on.

CAMBRIDGE (Eastern) Appearance on Saturday of “invader” poster gave rise to distinct alarm. Criticism of the wording which is said to be too frightening. Apprehension somewhat allayed, however, by presence of troops in so many places. Disgust expressed at Petain's action; no criticism of the French people, though some disparagement of the French Army by the B.E.F.

TUNBRIDGE WELLS (South Eastern) Consolation is being found in the belief that we have heard the worst. Some confusion as to our attitude towards French refugees. Hope that adequate precautions will be taken to ensure that these do not include Fifth Columnists.



24th June, 1940 .

Mothers from Bromley, Bow, Deptford and Dagenham expressing non-prompted approval of billets for children in and near Oxford. Afraid of sending children to the Dominions as they would not be able to visit them. Evidence of mounting personal anger against Hitler in poor districts, (East End, North Kensington and Paddington etc.,) “He's a devil - 'ardly human, upsetting our lives like this”. Expectancy but not actual fear of air-raids expressed and much fatalism “if your name is not on his list, he won't get you”. Older women care chiefly what happens to their children and if they are safe they will not worry for themselves. Two problems emerge: probability of jamming and crowding on narrow stairs of tenement buildings during air-raids, and non-co-operation of older women with A.R.P. instructions. “My boys 'ad to carry me downstairs when the last warning went; rather die in my bed I would.” Staff Managers and Welfare Workers report staffs calm, but depressed. All working as usual. West Ham; “People tending to stay at home, only running to shops and back quickly; largely due to children attending schools given option to remain at school shelters or return home in raid. Mothers feel they must be at home in case children come back. Confusion and panic in roads of children running home and mothers meeting them may ensue.” Kodak Factory, Harrow, trying to arrange for children to be sent to sister factory in U.S.A. Churchill's message considered too severe in some quarters on French. J.B. Priestley appreciated “can put himself in position of man in street, so listener does not feel alone”. Bevin's speech approved. Shakespeare's, considered unhelpful; “people want to know if Government wish children to go to Dominions.” Strong statement (Southall) that Royal Family must go on functioning here or much alarm would be caused. Princesses could go to Canada without bad effects. “People would send their children too if they went”, states social worker.

Home Intelligence.


For the information of the Authorities concerned the following points have been extracted from the various reports received to-day by Home Intelligence Division:-

M.I.7 . Lack of confidence is expressed in and around Nottingham in the adequacy of precautions against invasion. Rightly or wrongly this is giving rise to a good deal of apprehension locally.

Southampton reports anxiety about possible attack on Channel Islands, (enquiries were received about this last week), and asks for reassurances.

Business firms are asking by what means they can obtain weapons for the defence of their premises.

A report from Sheerness says that the public are unable to distinguish between the air-raid warning and the Raiders Passed signals. “It is suggested that the latter should take the form of 2 sharp detached notes instead of a long drawn out wail”.

M.I.5 . Sheerness also reports several Nazi sympathisers among Dockyard employees; it is said that casual labourers are taken on without sufficient enquiry.

HOME SECURITY The wording of the “invader” poster seems to have caused much alarm in certain areas, and a brisk increase in evacuation arrangements was noticeable in various East Coast districts as soon as it was exhibited.

Many inquiries have been received about the possibility of Southall becoming an evacuation area; the Local Council has been inundated with questions on this point.

Criticisms have been made of insufficiency of equipment issued to A.R.P. workers. Those without steel helmets, for instance, are expected to make their way to their posts during raids without any kind of protection.

MINISTRY OF LABOUR Fatigue amongst industrial workers is reported from Newcastle where it is said to be causing some concern. The institution of a rota system to alleviate this trouble would be welcomed.


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