A History of the Ministry of Information, 1939-46


No. 69
Daily Report on MORALE
Wednesday, 7th August, 1940

Good weather and holiday spirit have made a valuable contribution to continued cheerfulness. Fatigue has been lessened.

The announcement of prosecutions for food waste has been well received and many reports comment on the sympathetic way in which it was put across to the public and commend the way in which the authorities apparently thought it wise to take the public into their confidence. There is a general willingness on the part of housewives to co-operate in salvage schemes: at the same time there is strong criticism of high fruit prices and the waste which this must bring. There is also continuous criticism of waste of paper by Government authorities and other bodies. (Advertisements come in for special comment).

The siren controversy continues. There is further evidence that people are not taking cover in daylight raids and that those who are left in strongly vulnerable areas tend to regard themselves as “too tough to take cover”. Reports from Ipswich suggest that quite a number of people have been adversely affected by continuous alarms.

Special attention is drawn to reports from Scotland which show that suspicion has been strongly roused of the truthfulness of official bulletins. Penicuik was bombed last night and the news soon spread: nevertheless the 8 o'clock news bulletin this morning stated

“There is no news of any enemy air attacks on this country last night. Agency reports speak of aircraft, believed to be enemy, having been heard over South-west England and Wales, but so far there is no indication of bombs having been dropped”.

This bulletin roused strong criticism.

There is evidence that the public is dissatisfied at the action of the police (and wardens) in collecting the German leaflets dropped on this country. These would be valued as souvenirs and many people declare they would like to read with their own eyes what was written in the leaflets. It has been suggested that reproductions of the leaflets should be made for circulation, and this would satisfy those who are dissatisfied as well as convincing opinion abroad of our sincerity.




1. NORTHERN (Newcastle) Full public discussion of invasion in the course of past four weeks has converted nervous heartiness into genuine confidence. Demands for aggressive action against Italians. Several quarters report Ministry of Food propaganda is having excellent results; many women are passing war-time cookery hints heard over wireless around among their friends. Still some anxiety about food distribution during invasion and requests for explanatory propaganda. Buses continue a most common place for gossip and rumours in country districts.

3. NORTH-MIDLAND (Nottingham) Northamptonshire has taken air raids well. Suggestions received that A.R.P. officials should give instruction on A.R.P. matters based on the technical experiences of recent raids. In Nottingham many feel householders still need instruction on dealing with incendiary bombs. Birchall's broadcast popular. Balloon Barrage film enthusiastically received, but M.O.I. film on Food thought ineffective. Rutland complains at high pay of munition workers as compared with Service pay.

Invasion fears definitely diminished; general impression is that danger is now remote. General slackness of public and Forces reported in Grimsby, and martial music suggested as a remedy.

7. SOUTH-WESTERN (Bristol) No anxiety at Italian invasion of Somaliland. Prospect of invasion of Britain faced calmly. Surprise and a little anxiety in Dorset that there have been no raids for a week. Stronger hatred of Germans in Dorset than elsewhere in region attributed to low machine-gunning attacks in this county. Anti-waste measures regarded as an obvious necessity. Local censorship on Irish mail reveals general morale high with great confidence in Prime Minister; cancellation of holidays philosophically accepted; letters also show some complaints about absence of sirens, and a growing tendency to stay in bed after sirens have sounded.

9. MIDLAND (Birmingham) People continue calmly confident. Rural areas in Herefordshire report perturbation at number of planes heard overhead at night. Public still doubtful as to whether they should tell strangers the way and whether they should demand to see their identity cards first. Criticism that B.B.C. announcers change the tones of their voices too obviously when dealing with bad news or enemy stupidity.

11. SCOTLAND (Edinburgh) Satisfaction at reaction of Japanese to Britain's stronger line. Growing disquiet in academic and professional circles at treatment of friendly aliens. Some suspicion reported that Government regards Nazism as enemy of Britain rather than enemy of freedom. News of bombing of Penicuik is being passed round by word of mouth thus tending to heighten distrust of R.A.F. bulletins since morning news stated there was no air activity during the night. Keen appreciation of Duff Cooper's broadcast in spite of criticism in press correspondence columns. Glasgow Postal Censorship on Irish mail reports morale very good; comments on high prices and unemployment in Glasgow; Irish soldiers in west of Scotland reported contented. Ministry of Food's advertisements with recipes widely appreciated by many housewives.

13. NORTHERN IRELAND (Belfast) No nervousness at invasion threats. General comment “enemy troops may land, but Hitler will be sorry he sent them.” Some concern at invasion of Somaliland and at extent of British shipping losses. Several sources report belief that air raid damage in England is much bigger than communiqués admit. Increased contributions to British Exchequer by Ulster approved by majority. Ministry of Food order for preventing waste generally approved. Parents urging school holidays in Ulster should be extended to middle of September in view of invasion threats.




People everywhere reported to be in excellent spirits and quite cheerful. At the moment the war is somewhat in the background; those who can are trying to get holidays. It is felt that reminders like Mr. Churchill's message are needed from time to time to counteract complacency. Too much stress laid on the need for bolstering up morale - “leave us alone and we will be all right”. Very little comment about the war in Africa though some people rather uneasy about the situation; feel that we have not made sufficient preparation despite the time at our disposal. Willesden reports growing antipathy towards refugees - mostly Belgian in this area. Some children still being brought back from reception areas on very slight pretext. Some discontent among professional nurses over amount earned by Voluntary Auxiliaries with little training. Grievances still reported about inadequacy of army allowances and unsympathetic treatment at Assistance Board Offices. Discontent also over women's employment and brusque treatment at Labour Exchanges. Some grumbling over billeting rates for evacuees from coast compared with refugees' allowances. Confusion over siren reported from outlying areas: people with children worried when bombardment starts without warning, also when raid is over and no “all clear” is given; this means people spend more time in shelters than is necessary. News given out about our air activities, although spectacular and wholly admirable, loses effect by similarity of reports. Bitter feeling still reported amongst young men who volunteered for army not yet called up and unable to get employment. Hardship reported in East London on account of the internment of aliens, leaving families practically destitute: some internees resident in this country for over forty years, many infirm and old, deserving of better treatment. Salvage scheme now fully inaugurated in most districts and people enthusiastic; also “Digging for Victory” in suburban areas. Women in certain London districts agitated about proposal to introduce vitamin B into white bread - say that wholemeal bread as supplied to upper classes would meet the case. One London factory with 400 men in Home Guard still without uniforms and rifles.

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