A History of the Ministry of Information, 1939-46


Wednesday, 22nd May, 1940


There was a considerable depression in all parts of the country following the 6 o'clock news yesterday. Reynaud's remark that “only a miracle could save France” appears to have been too baldly given and it had a bad effect. Duff Cooper's speech at 9 p.m. had, however, a most stimulating and counteracting effect though there were some criticisms of his classical references. Only in Manchester was it disliked. The possibility of invasion is faced with anxiety but with confidence in the ultimate outcome. There is a continued demand for truthful news however black it may be, particularly if it can be given out before German claims are heard. The bombing of Germany is welcomed and people are prepared for reprisals. There is a wide demand for more work of wartime importance and disappointment when it is not forthcoming.


22nd May, 1940.

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Reaction to bombs and anti-aircraft guns in East Sussex is pleasurable excitement rather than alarm. Duff Cooper's broadcast produced “new heart”.


No panic. Realisation of our vulnerability. Reynaud caused much speculation. Demand for franker news, and clearer differentiation - especially B.B.C. - between official and unofficial, and factual and conjectural. Want stronger action against aliens. Liked Duff Cooper.


Morale improved. Disappointment wide at inability of firms to get Government work. Want more authoritative statements on news, especially to counter German statements subsequently proved to be true. Demand for a lead for action for civilian population. Dorset upset at lack of air-raid shelters. Some anti-Dutch and anti-Belgian refugee feeling.


No weakening of morale, though much anxiety about war news. Duff Cooper's speech approved. Spurt in intensity of war production.


“Only a miracle can save France” (6 p.m. news) put fear of God into people. They were heartened by longer statement at 9 p.m. Reports of industrial production held up and workers sacked through lack of supplies. Duff Cooper's speech “good”.


Rural areas quiet, urban anxious. They regarded Duff Cooper's speech as “soothing syrup” and did not like it. “French have let us down but will stage a come-back”. A Trade Union row is brewing about Beaverbrook appeal.


Duff Cooper's speech welcomed. He balanced Reynaud. People are ready for reprisals. In Newark, heavy losses in Norway have stiffened pro-war feeling.


Depressed by 6 o'clock news. Cheered by Duff Cooper at 9 p.m. Request for Duff Cooper weekly or even more often. Air activity off Harwich had no effect on population who are used to it. Women more anxious everywhere than men.


Morale good. “Rock-like calm”. Duff Cooper's speech welcomed. Grave but necessary. Growing anti-alien feeling. Internment of Dutch refugees advocated.


People stunned by bad news. Morale better since then. Reynaud came as a shock. Duff Cooper counteracted it. Less uneasy afterwards. Bernard Stubbs' eye witness account of an air raid much criticised as “individualist”. Individuals do not matter now. Much feeling that we have been let down by France and by our own High Command. Beaverbrook's 24-hour shift speech criticised; “too late now”. Everyone wants full-time war work. Request for armed guards at

Post Offices, Town Halls, Police Stations, Railway Stations - to increase confidence. Growing anti-alien feeling, especially anti-Italian. Dutch and Belgian refugees had good effect locally. Religio-pacifist Welsh press now calling Germans “barbarians”.


Today's news of Arras is welcomed. Ready for further sacrifices if there is intention to take military initiative. Bombing of Germany welcomed although our own risk is increased.


No alarm. Growing anti-Fifth Column feeling. Difficulty over arming anti-parachute troops is fear of arms reaching subversive elements. Depressing effect of Reynaud counteracted by Duff Cooper. Dutch and Belgian refugees welcomed, but need for rigid precautions stressed.


General anxiety but confidence in the ultimate issue. Women more depressed than men. The possibility of invasion openly faced. Some suggestions that France's mistakes have been due to treachery. Occasional half-joking defeatist remarks heard. Reynaud's speech as reported in 6 o'clock news produced severe depression, satisfactorily counteracted by Duff Cooper. News of recapture of Arras this afternoon caused rise of spirits but people do not accept good news readily for fear of its subsequent contradiction. Much Fifth column suspicion. Elderly clergyman booed in Hyde Park as Fifth Columnist. Innocent people may soon be molested. W.V.S. have started a housewives' service to aid A.R.P. work in Hornsey. Women unable to leave their homes are training in first-aid and putting up H.S. outside their houses to show they will take in the slightly wounded to save wardens' time. Fitting of new gas-mask filters has produced no alarm whatever. Unemployed workers at Dagenham complain that not enough effort is being made. London shows same reactions as the provinces but more quickly and to a greater degree.



In general the rumour situation remains unchanged. There are still a very large number, some undoubtedly emanating from the German wireless, and others which are simply fatuous originating in imaginative and excitable minds. There is ground for believing that many of both sorts are widely believed. Among those reported to-day, and which seem to be of significance, are stories that Mr. Churchill went to Paris to prevent the French Government from “packing up there and then”, that there are a million Colonial troops in France to suppress disorder in the French Army, that Mussolini is planning to enter the war on May 25th, (this being the 20th anniversary of Italy's entrance into the last war).

There are persistent rumours about General Gamelin - that he has shot himself - about a German invasion of Wales through Eire, and there is the usual crop of parachute and bombing rumours from all parts of the country. A large number of others which have been reported, some purporting to have been put about by the German radio, are for the most part fantastic but harmless.

Home Intelligence.

22nd May, 1940.

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