A History of the Ministry of Information, 1939-46


Thursday, 23rd May, 1940


In general there is a noticeable increase in cheerfulness and general calm, a distinct decrease in pessimism and nervousness. The intense gloom which affected London particularly yesterday is not conspicuous today.

However, there is little over-optimism.

Today's reports suggest that there is a growing basis for a more durable morale. People are rallied not simply by what appears to be better news, but also, though to a lesser extent , by facing up to the facts and by feeling that they are now taking a more active part in the war.

There is an increased tendency to say that there has been disgraceful neglect in the past, that something must have been badly wrong at the top. With this goes a new feeling that a big effort is going to be required and that the new government is tackling the problem realistically. Verbatims reflect this:

“Well, everyone's in it now.”

“I'm prepared to do anything.”

“It looks as if we're going to do something really big now.”

Many of these reactions come from the Emergency Powers Bill, which has had an excellent reception, particularly from men and from working-class people. In certain districts there is criticism e.g. “We're imitating the Nazis now it comes to the point.”

The importance of the new Bill is that it has made people more conscious of their part in the war and of the seriousness of the situation. It is a nail in the coffin of wishful thinking. In the minds of many the Bill means compulsion, and there is a growing tendency for compulsory powers to be welcomed. The Bill provides an important background for action (the kind of background which has been lacking so far). It is important that the Bill should constantly be interpreted, explained, and followed up by suitable propaganda. As far as one can judge people feel the Bill makes for national unity, and for that reason it has been welcomed.

London morale still lags behind that of provincial towns and of the countryside. In London some social workers express doubt about the effect of air raids upon the working-class population.

54% of the electorate voted in the Middleton by-election. A notable increase over recent by-elections. Fascist candidate lost deposit.

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The Emergency Powers Bill is received with general satisfaction. “The Bill was overdue.” “The Government means business.” The call to complete Identity Cards called forth some alarmed comment. It was thought that more explanation of the need should have been given.


The E.P.B. well received. “Just what was wanted.” Some confusion about the need for filling in the Identity Cards. “What for?” “To whom will they have to be shown?” “Why are photographs not attached?”

No need for special posters. Large crop of rumours yesterday.

Northern Ireland

E.P.B. well received. Increase of work now expected. Readiness to meet any new demands. Meeting of 500 Belfast Dockers at the Coal Quay to consider the question of expediting coal discharge. Demand for further action about parachute corps.


Decreased rumours. General approval for E.P.B.


Considerable growth of rumours, many of which would appear to breed defeatism.

Tunbridge Wells

E.P.B. welcomed. Strong favourable comment on Bevin's position. Some uneasiness in coastal towns, but few signs of evacuation. Rumours prevalent.


Support for E.P.B. but strong demand for immediate cooperation by the public. “We are all anxious to be up and doing.” “Tell us exactly what to do, and we will do it.” “Reveal the working machinery of the new act.”

Disruptive elements quiescent.


E.P.B. everywhere welcomed. Enthusiasm waiting to be canalised into concrete action.


E.P.B. welcomed. Continued praise of Duff-Cooper's broadcast.


Very favourable reception for E.P.B. “It should have been introduced earlier.” “It will help production”. “It will prevent skilled men moving about from one place to another.


E.P.B. excellently received by labour and employers. Anxiety about savings alleviated by Kindersley's broadcast. Some evidence that Communist opposition is declining.


Duff Cooper's speech still talked about enthusiastically. E.P.B. well received on the whole. Some criticism received from the suburbs. A social worker reports “an air of false security”. “Optimism shoots up directly when the news gives half a change.” Fewer people carrying gas masks than a week ago.



There are generally speaking fewer reports of rumours to-day, and there are none that would appear to be of major importance. With the exception of one quoted in Nottingham by a local Councillor to the effect that the B.E.F. are withdrawing from Belgium, all the rest are concerned with hypothetical nuns, bombs and parachutists. Nevertheless, a good many of these have a very unsettling effect and there seems to be no difficulty in their gaining ground. A large number of those which are brought to our notice are still reported as having their origin from the German wireless. One in particular which seems to be causing some alarm to the inhabitants at Twickenham is to the effect that Kneller Hall, the Military School situated in the district, would be one of the first places to be bombed. It may be worth noting in this connection that there is said to be a considerable amount of Fascist feeling in this area.

Home Intelligence.

23rd May, 1940.

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