A History of the Ministry of Information, 1939-46


No. 40
Wednesday, 3rd July, 1940


In an atmosphere of waiting the public is, in large measure, calm and determined. There are, however, significant pockets of defeatism and growing dissatisfaction on certain questions. One of these causes of uneasiness is the continued controversy over the sounding of sirens. Public opinion is still perplexed about official intentions over air-raid warnings and looks for a strong statement of definite policy. This lack of confidence in warnings is in marked contrast with growing confidence in shelters. There are new examples of the voluntary manning of shelters in the public interest.

There is still a good deal of confusion about what compulsory evacuation from coastal areas will mean and there is evidence that many families have prepared their own schemes of ‘crash evacuation’.

In certain areas increasing signs of defence preparations have brought confidence: in others the ‘flimsy defences’ set up by the L.D.V. receive strong comment.

Yesterday's air-raids received more comment than usual. This appears to be due in part to the increasing strain of the general situation and in part to the siren controversy. Behaviour in air-raids was excellent.

In many reports we find requests for martial music and other emotional outlets for public feeling.

There is a very strong movement developing against the ‘men of Munich’. Further reports on Chamberlain's broadcast show that it had a depressing effect, although it had little influence on the ‘anti-Chamberlain movement’.

Waste of paper comes in for a good deal of public comment.

Observers recently returned from tours in the North and in South Wales give stirring accounts of the fine spirit of the people and of their determination to resist to the end.


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3.7.40 .

The question of sirens is still anxiously discussed. From Nottingham come reports that opinion is about equally divided for and against sounding sirens as early as possible; the view is stressed that factory workers should continue at their posts even as our troops have to do. Cardiff reports that the controversy is still active and, in spite of the Home Secretary's statement, a really definite ruling would be welcome. Newcastle reports considerable public anger at Jarrow where an “all clear” signal was followed by bombs one-and-a-half minutes later, just as people were leaving their shelters. In all public places last night there was strong criticism of this as casualties were numerous. Crowds of sightseers after the raid impeded the work of civil defence personnel and the Regional Commissioner is issuing a statement on the subject to the public, asking them to be more sensible. At Newcastle enemy aircraft were seen by thousands of people leaving work and no siren was sounded until nearly 10 minutes after bombs had been dropped. There was no A.A. fire and no fighter planes were seen; this led to some public criticism. Reading reports that there is a growing public feeling in favour of taking some risk and having a good night's rest. From Cambridge come reports of public speculation about casualties in the raids on the North-east coast; people are inclined to attribute this to the absence of sirens. In this region feeling now is favouring the early sounding of sirens; some have expressed the view that the limited sounding has been deliberately adopted to make people think the raids are smaller than they are. Hertfordshire newspapers are at present forced to describe raids in the immediate locality as having occurred in “South-east England”.

To-day ten reports of unfavourable reactions to Chamberlain's speech have been received (from Paddington, Finsbury, Aldgate, Chelsea, Taunton, Chatham, Weeden, Daventry, Bradford, and Tunbridge Wells). No favourable reactions have been reported.

Rumours of parachutists in limited numbers are circulating in Oxford, Rugby, (where Henley is named as the site of descent) and Daventry.

NOTTINGHAM (North Midland) Interest in Overseas evacuation is considerable, and many regard it as a quid pro quo (the Dominions send us troops we send them children). Elimination of our Continental allies has produced indifference among large sections of the public to foreign affaris. Norman's speech on war loan received without enthusiasm.

CARDIFF (Wales) Uneasiness over the fate of the French fleet continues. There is some disappointment that we have not yet taken more active measures against Italy. Defences being built in the south part of this region appear to anticipate attack from the east, and there is some public comment that this indicates that the prospect of invasion from the west is not treated seriously enough.

BELFAST (Northern Ireland) Anticipation of air raids is leading to a public demand for shelters in all urban areas. Only isolated requests for inclusion of Ulster in Overseas evacuation scheme.

MANCHESTER (North Western) Some criticisms of the excessive zeal of the L.D.V. are heard.

BRISTOL (South Western) Daylight raids are welcomed by the public as a change from the more disturbing night raids. In many cases office staff have continued work in shelters. On the whole raids are accepted calmly and philosophically though in rural districts some middle aged people are reported to be jumpy.

READING (Southern) Rumours of places bombed are rife.

TUNBRIDGE WELLS (South Eastern) Increasing coastal defence measures are leading to some anxiety at Dartford and in the Canterbury district. The voluntary evacuation of Thanet has produced a vicious circle and tradesmen are having to leave as there is no more business. Compulsory evacuation is looked upon as a certainty in the near future and the working class people are anticipating that the Government will have to look after them. Many miners have left the Kent collieries to seek employment in pits in other parts of the country.

LEEDS (North Eastern) Satisfaction is expressed at the recent Government restrictions - e.g. the coastal ban, as indicating a stronger determination to conduct the war with vigour. Requests are being made for a clearer definition of siren policy. There is considerable anxiety in rural parts at the large number of fields which are eminently suitable for landing grounds.

EDINBURGH (Scotland) The flimsy nature of road defences has led to public comment and the alleged absence of our fighters when enemy bombers have been over is also leading to grumbles. Continued favourable reports of Ellen Wilkinson's broadcast are received. The appearance of Spitfires over Aberdeen last night had a heartening effect on the public.




3rd July, 1940 .

Marylebone Road Labour Exchange: “Big register of English and aliens in Women's Department; some ill-feeling against aliens who are supposed to try and get first pick of jobs.” St. Pancras: “Chief reason for non-evacuation among very poor is that parents cannot afford clothes and shoes needed by children in the country.” Woolwich, Matchless Motor Cycles: “Big innovation in factory, e.g. introduction of music during working hours, has surprising effect of changing mood of depression to cheerfulness.” Fulham: “Mothers no longer making inquiries about evacuation of under fives to country.” Carter Paterson: “Good response to appeal for Civil Defence and L.D.V. Each Depot organising own L.D.V; local territorials helping by giving instructions and lending rifles. Firm not yet equipped but has provided own armlets.” Chelsea Housing Estate: “Ellen Wilkinson's talk appreciated. Tenants making great effort to do something themselves. More salvage collected from one block of flats than ever before. Some children brought back from Surrey; railway fares too high to bring others back from Wales.” Euston: “Housing Estate Commissioners have supplied fire fighting apparatus to tenants and are arranging demonstrations in using them.” Priestley's stirring broadcast had noticeably cheering effect on merchant-seamen in Red Ensign Club. Business and Professional Women's Club of London: “annoyance of having to rise in the night for air-raid warnings. Most people admitted to extreme tiredness after disturbed nights. Large number of women have now decided to remain in bed until they hear gunfire to prevent loss of energy caused by lack of sleep.”

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