A History of the Ministry of Information, 1939-46


No. 23
12th June, 1940, (Wednesday) .


The gravity of the situation is generally realised but there is a background of determination untouched by the course of events.

1. France . The Battle for Paris drives out other topics. Maurois' broadcast had a great effect. It left most people feeling that the situation was ‘desperate’, the fall of Paris ‘inevitable’. Concern is expressed that “we are not doing all we can for France now ”, “It looks as if we're hanging back”. Reports from working-class districts show that many people wonder why we are not sending more material aid immediately. A minority point out that the fall of Paris would not mean the end of the French.

Suspicion about the news from France is general. “They are hiding something from us” is a familiar expression. The accuracy of German communiqués is frequently commented upon.

2. Italy . There is a dangerous tendency to treat Italy with scorn (the cue having been taken from official broadcasts). The bombing of Libya was received with satisfaction and it is hoped that the entry of Italy into the war will provide us with an opportunity of taking the initiative.

Middle-class opinion is increasingly critical of Duff Cooper's Italian broadcast. It was considered “theatrical”, “unsuitable”, “dangerous”. There is evidence, however, that the speech was in line with the more aggressive, ‘tougher’, less sophisticated working-class feeling. At the same time it should be noted that the anti-Italian demonstrations were mainly the work of hooligans.

3. Evacuation . There has been a very high degree of voluntary evacuation from certain coastal towns (over 60% of households in Ramsgate, Margate and Broadstairs). Our observers report that compulsory evacuation of children would be accepted with good grace. “If the Government wanted us to send the children out they ought to order us all to do it”.

4. Morale of Women . A special study shows that women are increasingly more anxious and depressed than men. Evacuation problems press directly on women and food prices are a continual underlying worry.

5. Recrimination . “Chamberlain must go” is increasing although not strongly. The Civil Service is now being mentioned as bearing a special responsibility for past errors. The voluntary system (e.g. of recruiting) is coming in for a good deal of criticism.

6. Rumours . Although quantitatively rumours are less, they are still exercising strong emotional effect especially in villages.

Two rumours are prominent today: a recrudescence of the statement that the two Princesses are in Canada (in spite of today's photographs) and a club rumour that “there has been a scandal in the Home Office”.


227 228 2



NOTTINGHAM (North Midlands) It is suggested that scare war articles in Daily Mirror harm morale and should be censored or stopped. Requests have been made that news of air raids in counties should state whether alarms only were sounded or whether bombs were dropped as well, as this uncertainty breeds rumour. Some people suggest systematic jamming of Haw Haw.

CARDIFF (Wales) Andre Maurois well received but increased anxiety. Coal miners have agreed to a Sunday night-shift. B.E.F. men at Wrexham hooted R.A.F. item at cinema.

BELFAST (Northern Ireland) Disquiet caused by continued attacks on Ulster Government for alleged weakness in war effort. They have now gone too far, causing unnecessary alarm. Citizens asking for more specific advice on air raid conduct.

MANCHESTER (North Western) Satisfaction at our initiative against Italians. General view about America is that their help cannot be in time to be of great value.

BRISTOL (South Western) T.U. leaders say war with Italy will strengthen left wing determination for victory. Workers were suspicious as long as Government courted Mussolini. Now all danger of an anti-Russian line-up has passed. Motorists on Salisbury Plain refused directions by villagers. Daily Mirror anti-Haw Haw campaign has made several people listen to him for the first time. Returning B.E.F. without equipment has produced anti-Chamberlain feeling in Somerset. Country people feel that C.O's should be put to work at 2/- a day.

LEEDS (North Eastern) Anti-Chamberlain feeling common. Continued demand for bombing of Germany. Uneasiness continues that too many potential Fifth Columnists are not under lock and key.

EDINBURGH (Scotland) West of Scotland workmen not satisfied at vague threats of compulsory action under E.P.A. with no evidence of real action. They ask “ Are strikes prohibited? Are compulsory transfers to take place?” Criticism of lack of detailed news about Naval losses and about yesterday's newspaper report that hundreds of German planes had dropped bombs in this country in the last two days. Passage of homing pigeons between Ireland and West of Scotland causing anxiety as a potential method for Fifth Column Irish communications. Prohibition is suggested.

NEWCASTLE (Northern) Some slight increase of anxiety in an area normally very unexcitable.

READING (Southern) Seaport opinion asks what is behind recent increased submarine sinking. Newbury beginning to suggest stopping racing to save petrol. Irritation continues with anything which hampers industrial war effort -e.g. lack of orders in an Aircraft factory. Interest in America lukewarm. Suspicion that B.E.F. is held back by lack of materials creates growing anti-Chamberlain feeling.

BIRMINGHAM (Midland) Wide criticism of the ineffectuality of our war effort. This takes two forms: first, criticism of the voluntary system of recruiting for special duties and, secondly, criticism of the appalling ineffectiveness of the Civil Service. This is particularly common among business managers.

CAMBRIDGE (Eastern) No alarm at extension of date and area for evacuation. Much less anxiety among parents to get children away since evidence has appeared of extensive military preparation on coast line. Increasing evidence that public strike a balance between Allied and German communiqués.

TUNBRIDGE WELLS (South Eastern) Increasingly warm feeling for French and demand for reassurance that we are giving them all the help we can. Folkestone depopulated by evacuation. Eastbourne less so.


Anxiety somewhat increased and gravity of situation realised. Demand that we should give more help to French is common since Maurois' speech. Main feeling for Italians is one of contempt. Working class people continue to applaud Duff Cooper's speech though more intelligent people are more critical. Evacuation is main topic of talk among the poor. It is doubtful if even all those who are registered will go, as the rumours of a possible German landing in Ireland followed by invasion of Wales and Cornwall make the mothers doubtful as to whether there is any advantage whatever in moving their children. The mothers themselves show a growing feeling against compulsory evacuation. Insofar as it is articulated they feel it is a manifestation of the very thing we are fighting against - the right of the State to break up family life and to take away one's children.

Home Intelligence.

We use cookies to track usage and preferences.

Privacy & Cookie Policy Accept & Close