A History of the Ministry of Information, 1939-46


No. 30
Thursday, 20th June 1940 .


There continues to be a slight improvement in the atmosphere of depression which followed the French capitulation. There is a decline in interest in Hitler's expected peace terms, but this is coupled with a definite increase in anti-French feeling, showing itself in such phrases as “We're better off without the French”, “We should have looked after ourselves all along”. If the French capitulation ultimately includes the French Navy and Air Force some regions anticipate a growth of very bitter feeling.

The air raids and warnings last night have on the whole been taken very calmly; “not as bad as we expected”. At the same time areas where bombs fell before sirens sounded are very critical and this reinforces a widespread demand for making A.R.P. a compulsory rather than a voluntary service. The raiding in Wales has strengthened the popular belief that evacuation is not synonymous with safety and the value of “scatter” as a rational air raid precaution needs emphasis. One region is very critical of the newspaper methods of presenting air raid news. It is too alarmist and emphasises the number of casualties, rather than their minute numerical proportion. Two regions report demands by the public for full details of the night's air raids in the 7 o'clock news, “as a reward for hours of discomfort in the shelters”.

Several regions report pockets of defeatism especially among lower middle class women and the small “white collar” men. Their reasoning is “suppose we do lose the war, what difference will it make to us; we could not be any worse off under Hitler; it's the bosses he's after.” At the same time, from the better artisan classes, from the workers, and from young business men in all the regions come increasing volumes of criticism of the delay by the Government in utilising their services. Their enthusiasm is repeatedly being damped by unsympathetic treatment in Labour Exchanges, and by lack of keenness and efficiency among local leaders of the L.D.V. There are indications that their feelings may find an outlet either in the organisation of private “armies” or in an intensified anti-Government anger at what they consider to be “a betrayal by bureaucracy”. Such remarks as “arm the civilian population as a whole”, “make A.R.P. and L.D.V. compulsory”, “why doesn't the Government use its compulsory powers instead of talking about them?” have become increasingly common in the past week. It is possible that these two groups - the unenthusiastic selfish minority and the enthusiastic but thwarted majority might, unless dealt with both by propaganda and by utilisation of their enthusiasm, coalesce to form a large body of people who were definitely convinced that democracy had let them down.


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20th June, 1940 .

NOTTINGHAM (North Midland) Continued feeling that Government should make greater use of Emergency Powers to harness the strength of the country. Air raids in Lincolnshire taken very calmly; neither raid was as bad as people expected. In Peterborough great dissatisfaction that no siren was sounded until bombs had actually dropped; also criticism that Peterborough has not been made a protected area. Duff Cooper's speech liked but considered a little too literal. Suggestions that all Officers should now wear battle dress as England is now a battle front.

CARDIFF (Wales) Public conduct during first air raid in South Wales excellent, people very calm. D.C's broadcast “really good”. Much criticism of B.B.C. remarks about bad German economic position; public sceptical and sarcastic.

BELFAST (Northern Ireland) News of raid in South Wales makes public expect raiders in Northern Ireland soon. Uneasiness following resignation of Parliamentary Secretary to Ulster Finance Ministry, and his call for reconstruction of Ulster Government.

MANCHESTER (North Western) Some suggestion that Hitler has lost his touch; he should have given Petain a quick honourable peace and then betrayed him. A.R.P. functioned smoothly in Region's first raid. Public reaction was pride that we are all in it.

BRISTOL (South Western) Air Raid in Taunton area caused excitement but little alarm. It may well have a healthy effect on A.R.P. complacency throughout the region. Demands on all sides that every male member of public should be armed. D.C's speech had “poor reception” owing to long quotation.

LEEDS (North Eastern) Last night's air raid found people increasingly calm. Men in all walks of life express suspicion of those in high places; very intense criticism of voluntary A.R.P. and L.D.V. “Government makes good speeches but still acts too slowly”. Business men and working classes make demands “Train the men and arm the people”. “Train us now in mufti without arms if necessary”. High A.R.P. officials in Leeds, York, Hull and Bradford express view that A.R.P. should be compulsory. Harrogate and Bridlington are reported to be the most defeatist towns in the Region.

EDINBURGH (Scotland) Anti-French feeling is once again appearing. Air raid warning in Dundee last night produced every example of imprudent public behaviour. Cross section of Glasgow Firm showed overwhelming majority in favour of Overseas evacuation. Under £5 a week people were divided 50/50 as to whether mothers should accompany children; over £5 a week people insisted that mothers should go.

NEWCASTLE (Northern) Improvement reported in public behaviour at Middlesbrough and West Hartlepool where bombs were dropped last night and in Newcastle and Durham where there was a warning; no panic and no evidence of evacuation of these towns. Much confusion about motor car lights in air raids. Repeated authoritative statements needed. Town and County Councils have sent messages to P.M. welcoming his speech and pledging their support. Many criticisms about Government delay in utilising services of individuals, and about slow call up following registration.

READING (Southern) If France gives in to German demands public resentment is likely to be very great. Growing hostile criticism of “Selfish” attitude of America. P.M. speech has done a lot of good. Care is however, necessary that no more optimistic speeches are falsified by subsequent events. Instances of this are suggestions on B.B.C. that Germany will be facing a severe famine next Winter, that petrol stocks in Germany are nearly exhausted and that American help is soon likely to be substantial.

BIRMINGHAM (Midland) D.Cs speech very well received, especially by the women. Many reports of talk among working and lower middle classes that “they would be just as well off under Hitler” Also further continuing criticisms of administration and some demand for action against members of late Government for “bungling”.

CAMBRIDGE (Eastern) Raids taken calmly. In West Suffolk public upset that bombs were dropped before warnings were sounded. Public over a radius of 50 miles know which Cambridgeshire town suffered special damage on Wednesday. Strong feeling against indiscriminate use of cars for joy-riding, particularly those used for visiting places of entertainment. D.C's broadcast “Not up to his usual standard”, “Too prosy”. Widespread scepticism and impatience at use of history as a background for present events by statesmen. Public do not doubt their own spirit or courage; their fear is for our own Government's inefficiency and slowness in making the best use of the country's resources.

TUNBRIDGE WELLS (South Eastern) Public taking air raid warnings calmly and sensibly. They are getting to bed early so as to get as much sleep as possible. They feel strongly that 8 o'clock news should reward them with full details of the night's raid after they have spent 4 or 5 hours in shelters. Villages still concerned at L.D.Vs lack of equipment “Where are the 5 million rifles from the last war?” “Why is ammunition concentrated in dumps which could be destroyed instead of distributed to the L.D.V.




Duff Cooper's speech criticised on the whole. Considered “vague and too poetical” after Churchill's realistic talk. Some feeling reported that “France has failed us”. Camden Town people did not understand suggestion about union with France. Guy's Hospital: many old people asking advice as to whether they should get out of London now. M.O.I. pamphlet considered “a good idea” by many people, but on the whole “disappointing”. Federation of Women's Employment reports “inundated with inquiries about employment from women of professional class and well educated type - ages 25 to 60. Discontent felt when no employment available.” Industrial Welfare Society reports some signs of over-fatigue shown by juveniles at present rate of work. Wandsworth and Battersea registration for evacuation still going on, but many people saying “London is as safe as anywhere”. “Dominions evacuation would be more popular among working class if mothers could go too”. Care Committee worker Cowley estate: “rush of volunteers for A.R.P. work on the estate, showing change of attitude since last week.” Inquiries still made everywhere about French Navy. Chiswick: strong complaint that “women whose husbands are prisoners in Germany lose their allowance after 6 weeks.” U.A.B. and P.A.C. allowances “quite ridiculous in view of increased cost of living”. Typical remarks made by such women are these: “the Government have taken our husbands - they won't get our children.” This is having bad effect in neighbourhood. Suburbs and residential districts of London report hundreds of inquiries about Dominions scheme for evacuation.


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