A History of the Ministry of Information, 1939-46


No. 29
Wednesday, 19th June, 1940


On the whole there is slightly less depression today but people are reluctant to discuss the situation and are awaiting the publication of Hitler's terms to France.

Churchill's speech was awaited anxiously and when heard was the subject of varied reactions. What he said was considered courageous and hopeful and the speech was welcomed for its frankness. “He gives bad news frankly”, “Cool and businesslike”, “The sort of facts and figures we want”. On the other hand there was widespread comment on his delivery and his references to France has brought a recrudescence of anti-French feeling.

The latency of anti-French feeling must never be forgotten. A few days ago sympathy swamped it but it found indirect expression in a common phrase “At last we have no Allies, now we fight alone”. There has never been much sympathy with the French point of view but there are some indications that the present wave of anti-French feeling is bringing to the surface antagonism against “French politicians”, “Corruption in high quarters”, “Traitors”.

This feeling finds some parallel in active criticisms of our own leadership. Accusations of ‘inefficiency’ are common but as yet there is no universal scapegoat. “There's been inefficiency somewhere - you mark my words”, “Why haven't we enough armaments? That's what I want to know”. Among a higher level of appreciation there is continued criticism of ‘the Civil Service’, ‘those in charge of the L.D.V.’, ‘Chamberlain’.

Joubert's broadcast was welcomed for its practical tone.

Press photographs of Princess Juliana and her children in Canada have come in for scathing comment.

The raid in Cambridgeshire was received calmly. (It will be the subject of a special report tomorrow).

There are undoubtedly pockets of defeatism and overheards record a number of phrases like “if we're going to lose, why go on?”, “I suppose we can only wait for Hitler now” but in the main there is a dogged determination to see the thing through. It should be recorded, however, that in many working-class districts this determination is accompanied by some anxiety about the efficient conduct of the war and about the credentials of ‘those at the top’.


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19.6.40 .

NOTTINGHAM (North Midland) Complaints about vague nature of past reports of bombing on English soil (particularly Daily Telegraph of June 11 - “in last few days hundreds of German planes have dropped bombs in this country in the hope of immobilising our fighters”). This causes alarmist speculation. Criticism that returning B.E.F. had not proper railway warrants for leave. A gunsmith reports he cannot dispose of his stock of guns to police or Government. Public questioning about possibility of removing names from shops of Nottingham Co-operative Society.

CARDIFF (Wales) Growing feeling for evacuation of women and children abroad. Commonest question is still “What of the French Navy?” Growing anxiety in Western counties about possibility of invasion from Eire. Presence of evacuees makes public ask “Are Government taking invasion fear seriously?” People enquiring about desirability of storing an iron ration. “Is this unpatriotic?” An authoritative statement would be welcomed. Growing opinion among workers that Russia will soon be more actively in war on our side. M.O.I. pamphlet on invasion hoped to be available in Welsh, or alternatively that translations will be available as public posters.

BELFAST (Northern Ireland) Increasing irritation at Eire neutrality while Eire depends on British aid for defence. Disappointment that Government has not placed more war orders in Ulster which has 60,000 unemployed.

MANCHESTER (North Western) Anxiety common about fate of French Fleet and Air Force, also potentiality of Italian submarines to interfere with Atlantic shipping. Growing demand for conscription for home defence, A.R.P. and big labour battalions to deal with bombing damage.

BRISTOL (South Western) Some anxiety on coast about possibility of invasion from Eire. News of German terms to France eagerly awaited; comment is “I expect we shall hear it first from Haw Haw”.

LEEDS (North Eastern) Growing campaign that Race meetings and the like should be stopped. Still much criticism on the lack of Government vigour. B.E.F. men in Leeds last night said “If real trouble starts in England, and if civilians are not armed we will go home to defend our families”. One soldier said “There'll be real mutiny among the lads if they think their own folk are not being protected.

EDINBURGH (Scotland) Public still feel strongly need for more active and obvious defence measures. General public in Glasgow, and Dundee, still not sufficiently alive to situation. Glasgow observer suggests Dominion troops should be marched through the streets instead of being moved unobtrusively in trains. West of Scotland suspicious of Eire since ambiguous De Valera speech. Feeling that Irish potato diggers should not be allowed in Scotland this season.

NEWCASTLE (Northern) Evacuation of children to Canada is seriously discussed for the first time, though mainly among middle classes. Many well-to-do people evacuating from Scarborough. Ashington anxious that loss of French coal market may cause unemployment. Two Communist meetings in Durham abandoned owing to hostile attitude of public. M.O.I. invasion pamphlet well received.

READING (Southern) Public restive at slow call-up. Mayor of Southampton asked to start drilling men himself. Portsmouth public houses organise anti-Haw Haw league to stop listening. Tickler's, Aspro's and firms on Slough trading estate organising their own private defence forces with great enthusiasm. They borrow L.D.V. rifles during day and ex-N.C.O.s train them

BIRMINGHAM (Midland) Many demands for more complete armament of L.D.V. Public advocate L.D.V. being placed under regular officers or ex-N.C.O.s rather than the squire or the local amateur. Working men trust experienced N.C.O.s far more than retired colonels or majors. Some part of public expect Hitler to demobilise much of his army and blockade us rather than invade us.

CAMBRIDGE (Eastern) Public took widespread raiding last night very calmly and to-day have settled down quickly to their normal work. Majority remained in their own homes. Few alarmist rumours as a result of the raid.

TUNBRIDGE WELLS (South Eastern) First air raid alarm in Tunbridge Wells taken very calmly. No evidence of hotel residents wishing to leave as a result. Great confidence in our A.A. defence and R.A.F. To-day a rush to A.R.P. depots to get Contex filters for gas masks.




Ex-Service Men disturbed by “Large number of young men about streets and getting exemption”. Slight anti-French feeling expressed since Mr. Churchill's phrase “Holding France to her Treaty obligations”. Shopping districts, people subdued “just carrying on”. Wandsworth - better class people discussing evacuation to Dominions. This reported also from St. John's Wood. Poorer districts, Hammersmith, Fulham, Lambeth - working class talking a great deal about scheme but not anxious for children to go unless they have relatives in Australia or Canada. Silvertown, Venesta Factory (1600 workers) calm today after guns audible last night. Most people slept through them. Some dismay expressed at civilian casualties, but reason given “They must have gone outside to look instead of taking cover”. Air Marshal's speech gave just the right directions they were needing. Evidence that it calmed fears. Venesta Factory dissatisfaction that 120 volunteers for L.D.V. still not armed. Men's enthusiasm being lost; grumbling spreading through factory. Hammersmith - Serious complaints of local Labour Exchange treatment of volunteers for National Service. Hampstead some anti-Semitic feeling rising at Jews talking about leaving the country. This is not reflected in other districts. St. John's Wood reports “Local Jews excessively patriotic”. Willesden - Complaints that men registered but not yet called up cannot get employment, hardship cases reported. Fulham - Evacuation well backed up. People now taking it “very seriously knowing there is no possibility of the children coming back this time.” Lambeth - “Scheme for evacuating under 5s badly needed. Islington - Children sent to Mercott, Islip, Oxfordship are complaining about billets and urging mothers to fetch them home at once. “Some of the teachers have told them they were as well off in London”. Housing Manager afraid mothers will be trying to bring their children back. Mitcham - Complaints that district is arbitrarily divided into “Neutral” and “Danger” Areas. Line of demarcation divides same street. Mothers in “Neutral” part anxious to get children away, causing local trouble.

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