A History of the Ministry of Information, 1939-46


No. 24
Thursday, 13th June, 1940


Depression and pessimism are at a high level but reaction is ‘flat’ and without high emotion. People are waiting for the fall of Paris which is regarded as inevitable although the feeling is widespread that this will not mean the end of the war either for France or for ourselves.

At the same time belief in ultimate victory is still general although this belief is now qualified by such comments as: “We might as well commit suicide if we didn't go on believing in victory”, “I dare not contemplate anything else but victory”, “I suppose in the end we shall win”, “The cost of winning does not bear thinking about”.

Nevertheless morale is still good: over-confidence has everywhere disappeared and there is a determined facing up to the course of events. Long-continued anxiety is having a bad effect on the morale of middle-class women: “Women who have work to do get along alright; those who sit at home and listen to the news all day are decidedly jittery”.

There is a high degree of questioning about the amount of our help to France and great anxiety that all possible aid shall be sent (even at the expense of our own home defences) immediately to France.

Italy occupies second place in public reaction. Contempt at Italian intervention is high and the public is still thinking in terms of energetic aggressive action on our part. All news of such action is welcomed and already there is surprise that our attack has not been more formidable and widespread.

A statistical survey of Margate, Ramsgate and Broadstairs (conducted over the week June 4th - 9th) enabled an estimate to be made of the state of morale of those visited. A generalised assessment shows:

Good Medium Bad Don't Know
Total interviewed 68% 27% 3½% 1½%
Breaking down this result according to sex we find -
Men interviewed 81% 18% 1% 0
Women interviewed 60% 33% 5% 1½%

A further analysis shows that morale is lower among women over 40. It should be remembered that there is a high degree of voluntary evacuation from these towns which has probably had the effect of leaving behind those with higher morale.

The Communist candidate at Bow and Bromley (Lansbury's old seat) polled 506 votes (losing her deposit). Total poll slightly higher than of late (32.5%). The Communist failed to record local Pacifist tendencies, although stop-the-war feeling was still fairly high. (This section of the electorate did not go to the poll). The Communist election cries were anti-Chamberlain and anti-upper class and emphasis was laid on domestic issues.


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NOTTINGHAM (North Midland) Landladies welcome B.E.F. billeted on them. Some ill-feeling between soldiers and civilians because soldiers criticise young civilians, and old soldiers of last war criticise unsoldierly appearance of Army to-day. Satisfaction at 300 planes from America. Strong criticism of unnecessary dismalness of five minute religious feature just before 8 a.m. news. The lugubriousness of the Scottish gentleman too often resembles a preparation for the worst.

CARDIFF (Wales) Anti-gossip propaganda having excellent effect. Severe criticism from many quarters at frivolous B.B.C. broadcast adjacent to the 6 o'clock news announcing the entry of Italy into the war.

BELFAST (Northern Ireland) “Go to it” broadcast widely welcomed by industrial agricultural, aircraft and shipyard workers. Public approval of decision of Grand Orange Lodge to cancel July 12th demonstrations so that war work may go on. Satisfaction at penalties for spreading alarmist and depressing statements. In spite of Sabbatarian feeling crops are to be gathered on fine Sundays.

MANCHESTER (North Western) Regional Committee making a drive on A.R.P. with newspapers helping, but local authorities lukewarm about voluntary scheme. No evidence of increase of class feeling. Evacuation to Dominions scheme attracting interest; details hoped for. Farmers anxious about autumn shortage of labour.

BRISTOL (South Western) Rumour-mongering less. Demand for detailed casualty list of Calais fighting.

EDINBURGH (Scotland) Strong feeling among ex-Servicemen that L.D.V. is amateurish and ill-equipped. In some parts volunteers cannot be got for day duties while suitable men are idle and drawing Unemployment assistance.

LEEDS (North Eastern) Strong anti-Chamberlain feeling on account of our apparent inability to help France. Business people in Leeds think we shall soon be fighting without France as our ally. Still criticism about number of men who are not being drafted into war work. Working-class criticise B.B.C. for putting on a record about hanging the washing on the Siegfried Line immediately after the 6 p.m. news. Song considered badly out-of-date.

NEWCASTLE (Northern) Desmond McCarthy's talk on Robinson Crusoe depressed less intellectual section of population. Wealthier people are leaving Scarborough where considerable activity at night is producing signs of strain in the civilian population.

READING (Southern) Rumours slumping heavily due to anti-rumour campaign, publicity given to prosecution, co-operation of regional press, sobering gravity of situation, and greater flow of news since Italy came in. Details demanded of loss of Glorious and accompanying ships. Air raid warnings taken calmly on coast. Workers complain that alarms without bombs unnecessarily slow their work.

BIRMINGHAM (Midland) Widespread complaint of B.B.C. news bulletins on grounds of excessive senseless repetition and out of date background material. Wolverhampton Corporation dismissed for the duration C.O's. Leamington Rotary Club withdraws support of “lifts for Service men” labels on cars on account of parachute menace.

CAMBRDIGE (Eastern) Military preparations at Clacton and Harwich have aroused apprehension; in other coastal towns the effect has been the reverse. Private evacuation continues.

TUNBRIDGE WELLS (South Eastern) Children in Preparatory Schools at Tunbridge Wells are being evacuated in large numbers to Somerset. Thanet towns very depressed. More than 50% of inhabitants now voluntarily evacuated; remainder have come to the conclusion that the Government does not intend to take any measures to remedy their plight. Evangelical old ladies in Tunbridge Wells satisfied at bombing of Italian Catholics. Public presses for strong punishment of officials who leave maps and documents about. General feeling is that police are not bestirring themselves enough in dealing with Fifth Columnists and Pacifist organisers.


Public anxiously awaiting news from France. They watch the number of miles the Germans are reported to be from Paris and translate it into terms of London. The working-classes appear to expect the fall of Paris but think the Germans will then over-reach themselves and come to a standstill. Evacuation is still the main topic of interest. Those under five who have arranged to go to Nursery Schools have gone willingly, though most mothers like to keep their youngest with them. The 13½ and 14 are not being registered as the present conditions of evacuation forbid their returning to London so that families will lose their earning capacity for the rest of the war. West Ham women are staying away from their houses for short periods only so as not to be caught in raids. 500 Belgian refugees kindly received in Southall. Inhabitants have found them surprisingly nice, though families who have husbands or sons in the Army are critical of the young Belgian refugees of military age. All poor class areas report strong appreciation of Duff Cooper's speech. Shoreditch and Bethnal Green 100% delighted: “Why are we paying M.P's £600 a year to criticise a fighter like him”. Yesterday's gas mask count 3.30 to 4.30 p.m. Notting Hill Gate of 408 people 13.3% were carrying masks (11.1% of the men and 15.5% of the women).


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