A History of the Ministry of Information, 1939-46


No. 41
Daily Report on MORALE
Thursday, 4th July, 1940

There is little change in morale: most people are still waiting with considerable cheerfulness and determination.

1. News of the French Fleet has been the chief topic of interest during the morning. Last night rumours gathered and spread on this subject.

2. There is little interest in the Balkan situation. People do not know what to think.

3. Daylight raids were taken very calmly: the siren controversy is less acute. There are many requests for more details of raids over this country or for further explanation about the need for secrecy. Information about raids is very quickly carried by telephone or letter to all parts of the country. The amount of rumour about raids is high.

4. There is some growth of anti-Semitism.

5. The torpedoing of the Arandora Star is reported to have affected the growing interest in Dominions evacuation for children.

6. An important cause of complaint is the inability of Labour Exchanges and other bodies to absorb willing labour.

7. A record of overheard conversations yesterday showed that Hitler's failure to begin his invasion on the projected date (July 2nd) was widely commented on. “Well he didn't do it this time”, “Don't speak too soon”, “Perhaps the Channel Islands began it”, “We ought to have the flags out - he didn't do it after all”, “You're tempting Providence”, “It won't be over on August 15th either”.

8. The N.U.R. anti-appeasement resolution is a strong topic of conversation.




4.7.40 .

News about the French fleet has been received in all regions with satisfaction and relief, though there is considerable regret that we should have had to take action against some elements of the French fleet. The public are most anxious to learn what are the full gains in ships. It is felt that this strong action gives welcome evidence of Government vigour and decision. Edinburgh records that this impression has been strengthened by the Government's strong reply to Japan about the Burma road.

Favourable reactions to Chamberlain's speech are recorded in Parkstone Quay and Clacton, but unfavourable ones from Marylebone and Sandown, I.O.W. From Glasgow comes a report that Clydeside workers were greatly angered by a passage in Chamberlain's interview with the American press; this passage was taken to mean that the workers did not start working really hard until the bombs began to fall, and that the workers themselves are primarily responsible for the present lack of supplies.

The siren controversy is now dying down.

Requests for more detailed news of places bombed continue to be received, as many observers feel that the absence of definite news is the greatest cause of the present spate of rumours about bomb damage. Reiteration of the service reasons for the present policy is suggested from some quarters.

Nottingham (North Midland) From Kettering it is reported that there is some apprehension in connection with Hitler's timetable and the way he has kept to it. Lincoln reports some defeatist talk, taking the form of doubt as to whether we should be worse off under Hitler than at present.

Cardiff (Wales) First two daylight raid warnings at Cardiff yesterday were taken in an exemplary manner; much haste but no panic. Crowds formed outside public shelters and there was some confusion after the ‘all clear’ in the dispersal of the crowds to buses and trams. The presence of the Dutch army in Pembrokeshire is viewed with some distrust, and many of the public doubt their efficiency, and in some cases even their loyalty.

Belfast (Northern Ireland) Projected voluntary evacuation of Belfast school-children taken calmly. Some public questioning about state of West coast harbours in Eire, as potential enemy submarine bases. Test mobilisation of defence volunteers in Antrim and Down produced excellent response.

Manchester (North Western) Supply of arms to L.D.V. has raised spirits. Some criticism of appointment of Lord Milne on ground of age. Many people doubt wisdom of the old men and long for fresh vigorous young minds. Sinking of Arandora Star has raised doubts about safety of children being evacuated overseas.

Bristol (South Western) In face of day and night raids nerves are becoming steadier. Report from a poor area “if you had been in the public shelter here during yesterday's raid you would know why people say Hitler has taken on an impossible task.” Growing demand for heavier air raid reprisals against Germany. There are requests from “safe” areas for shelters.

Leeds (North Eastern) People are becoming increasingly confident in the efficiency of the R.A.F., and attribute the fewer alarms to the powers of the Fighter Command. Confidence in the services is high but there is still feeling that civil administration could be more vigorous.

Edinburgh (Scotland) In Glasgow thought of overseas evacuation is deterring people from registering their children for home evacuation, for fear that compulsory overseas evacuation may be adopted once the children have left home.

Newcastle (Northern) Favourable comments on Priestley's broadcast continue to be received. Overseas evacuation very popular in Middlesbrough (over 2,000 applications). Some adverse criticism of damage by bombs being shown on news reels. Many people are furnishing their shelters as part of their homes. In Tuesday's daylight raid in Newcastle many of advertised public shelters are stated to have been locked and people could not get in.

Reading (Southern) Exaggerated rumours of bomb damage are very common. Anxiety is reported in Portsmouth and Southampton at the heavy increase in mercantile losses recently.

Birmingham (Midland) As a result of bombs being dropped in some areas with a yellow warning only, headmistresses in Wolverhampton have suggested that schools should be privately warned early so that children may be got to safety in good time.

Cambridge (Eastern) Daylight raids on East coast were taken extremely calmly though it is felt that the case for sirens is greater during the day than at night. On the whole, however, the public approves of the sparing use of sirens. A curious feature of these raids is the absence of public bitterness towards the raiders. Many working-class people are now sleeping in shelters. Spirit of L.D.V. in east Suffolk reported excellent. Some criticism of placidity of B.B.C. postscripts - timorous and dull.

Tunbridge Wells (South Eastern) The public in Kent and Sussex were more thrilled than alarmed by yesterday's abortive raiding. Still doubt in Folkestone about situation in connection with compulsory evacuation. Brighton indignant at Press story that seafront has been taken over by military.


Reports show people less apprehensive of air raids since warning last week. Instructions given about sirens welcomed in last night's talk. Chief anxiety among people who are still trying to decide whether to send their children to the country or not. Hendon Community Association: “Women tenants objected violently to speaker who talked down to them in phrases such as ‘looking after the old man’. Pride themselves on knowing what to do in an emergency and on relying on themselves in time of danger.” London Professional Women's Club reports members' suspicion that Air Ministry casualty lists are incomplete after talking with R.A.F. men. Lewisham: “Many enquiries at C.A.B.s by refugees from Channel Islands who have become separated from relations. Difficult to get information about these people.” Holland Park: “Blast and splinter-proof shelters being erected in side streets. Speculation in neighbourhood as to whether people should go out of their houses at night to take refuge in them.” A certain amount of disquiet is reported from several districts over the non-publication of news heard privately, such as the sinking of a transport or other ships, and damage done in air raids on this country. Brompton: “Grumbling in neighbourhood because local Labour Exchanges cannot help people to get farm work after broadcast appeal.” Dagenham Labour Exchange states appeals for National Service have resulted in several hundred women applying each week for such work, whereas Exchange can only place 50 to 70 a week. Women go away dissatisfied and annoyed, but Exchange officials are unable to help them further. Most have family ties and cannot move to districts where there might be work for them. Local problem of low morale in Irish quarter of Dagenham where approx. 300 men are at work. Wives very nervous of air raids. People living in small houses near military objectives such as Croydon aerodrome and Woolwich Arsenal anxious as stray bombs are bound to miss their objectives. Westminster C.O.S. reports people in locality have excellent communal spirit and are helping to make air raid shelters attractive. Standard Telephones, New Southgate: “a growing feeling amongst working class women that they would be as well off under Hitler as they are now. These women have considerable influence as they run the family and try to make ends meet. Propaganda asked for.”


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