A History of the Ministry of Information, 1939-46


No. 44
Daily Report on MORALE
Monday, 8th July, 1940

General morale is maintained at a high level: from several Regions come reports which state “Morale, especially in the working classes, has never been higher”, “Factory workers are in high fettle”, “Air raids have in no way affected morale, rather the reverse.” News of aggressive air action has had an important effect in stimulating and maintaining morale. The effect of the French fleet action is still being felt and is referred to frequently as “the turn of the tide”, “hitting hard”. There is little evidence that the consequences of these actions are fully considered: aggressive actions in themselves bring forth public appreciation and enthusiasm. Verbatims indicate public temper: “Well, we've shown what we can do”, “That'll give Hitler a surprise for a change.”

In this atmosphere of public confidence and cheerful aggressiveness, the Lord Privy Seal's broadcast reference to “the coming zero hour” (with its implication that we wait Hitler's pleasure) fell on stony ground.

The public in fact is conscious of “waiting” less than usual, and although there is plenty of talk of invasion, raids and evacuation, it is dominated by the belief that aggressive action on our part is beginning.




8.7.40 .

From several regions come reports that the obstruction of fields so that enemy planes cannot land is developing on a very small scale only. There is doubt as to the best and simplest form of obstruction, also as to what authority is responsible for advising and ordering steps to be taken.

Our action against the French fleet continues to be a source of satisfaction, and many hope that we will rapidly man the surrendered ships with British crews. An intense anger has been aroused by the treachery of the French airmen who joined in the attack on Gibraltar.

Our continued raids on Germany give people great satisfaction and make them the more willing to put up with the raids in England. Strong hopes are expressed that our attacks by air will be intensified, particularly upon places where preparation for invasion are being made.

J.B. Priestley's broadcast has been everywhere approved.

Nottingham reports that the criticism of the less frequent siren warnings has almost completely died down. Cardiff reports concern in north Wales at the absence of A.A. defence measures. Bristol reports anxiety at Plymouth inasmuch as people state that a German raider was able to dodge in and out the clouds for over an hour eluding A.A. fire without a single British plane appearing. Tunbridge Wells reports that children in public playing fields had no idea what to do when the siren was sounded just before lunch on Sunday. They have instructions what to do at school and when going to and from it, but no instructions for holidays.

Ireland is much discussed as a site of invasion and there is much doubt, especially in Scotland, about the satisfaction expressed by Lord Craigavon. Many in Glasgow and Edinburgh do not share this satisfaction.

The system of volunteer labour for defence work which has been successful at Dundee has produced friction between the voluntary workers and the unemployed.

NOTTINGHAM (North Midland) Demands for vigorous attack on French fleet in German controlled ports.

CARDIFF (Wales) Further reports of criticism of Chamberlain's speech. Repetition of minor items of news all through the day on the wireless continues to be resented.

BELFAST (Northern Ireland) Evacuation of school-children going satisfactorily.

MANCHESTER (North Western) Public feeling towards L.D.V.s improved by their appearance in uniform, but criticism of their manners and activities continues. Non-publication of full casualty rates in air raids is leading to the comment that they must be very heavy.

BRISTOL (South Western) Influential Salisbury people have formed unofficial group to kill gossip and rumours. Complaints that evacuated school-teachers are not pulling their weight have been received from Devon.

LEEDS (North Eastern) Public continue eager for action rather than speeches

EDINBURGH (Scotland) Requests are for more instruction on how to prepare children for air raids and how to behave during raids.

NEWCASTLE (Northern) In some areas, owing to absence of sirens, public congregate in streets and watch for dimming of lights in local factories which occurs when yellow warning is received. Unemployed in reserved occupations who are not being called up, are reported to be indignant.

READING (Southern) Complaints of inadequate home defence measures - e.g. flimsy road defences, fields unobstructed - continue common. Puzzlement that Chamberlain should still be in office is as marked as ever. Some defeatist talk on the lines “we couldn't be worse off under Hitler”, continues to be reported from both towns and villages and an intensification of propaganda on the theme of “a day of your life under Hitler” is urged. Requests for more



8th July, 1940.

West Ham: “People becoming sceptical of evacuation and some bringing children back. No call for evacuation to Dominions.” Watford: “Neighbourhood full of troops; excellent spirit everywhere. Publicity given to harm done by civilians moving in France has roused determination to avoid similar occurrence. Excellent women's volunteer services in operation and small local groups organising themselves for fire fighting and community help. Unemployment growing of young girls under 17 normally employed in Printing Works. Too young for munitions or other women's services.” Chelsea Housing Estate: “Children arriving back from Suffolk because soldiers are posted there. Parents considering this means area no longer safe although 45 miles inland. Some taking holidays as usual though few going away for more than a day's outing. Social barriers breaking down on estate owing to shared anxieties and dangers”. Walworth: “Special National Savings drive supported admirably.” Bethnal Green: “Big increase in unemployment among cabinet, woodworkers and bespoke tailors, causing depondency in families concerned. Labour Exchanges crowded; some tenants moving from homes as they cannot afford the rent.” Some complaints in East End districts that dustmen are selling privately and making profit out of carefully collected tins, bones, paper and other salvage. Housewives angry. Expressions of mistrust among people of differing social circles of published casualty figures and other war news. Details of air raid damage received in letters circulates as rumour and becomes distorted and magnified.





For the information of the Authorities concerned the following points have been extracted from the various reports received to-day by Home Intelligence Division:-

M.I.7 . Reports have again been received from Nottingham of anxiety of farmers about the protection of their fields against possible landings from the air. Although an urgent request has been made for Obstructions to be set up over as wide an area as possible, this appeal has so far met with only small success.

It is reported from Manchester that the feelings of the Public towards the L.D.V. has been “improved by their appearance in uniform.” Nevertheless the criticism which has already been reported of their behaviour still continues.

In various parts of the Country the Public is reported as expressing a strong desire for military bands, parades and so forth.

Air Intelligence . The following is an extract from the report received from Manchester: “If the Air Ministry persists with their new policy not to give the number of dead in air raids, rumour will eventually get out of hand. Already it is being said that casualties must be pretty bad if figures cannot be given.” Criticism on these lines is contained in various other reports.

Home Security . The danger arising from the ignorance of small children of what they should do in air raids is strongly emphasised in the report from Tunbridge Wells which says, “Sirens were sounded in the street just before lunch time on Sunday, and it was clearly evident that hundreds of children in the streets and playing fields had no idea what to do. It was pitiful to see little groups of very young children so terror stricken that they could not remember their quickest way home. There was a wild scamper straight from the Common, the children running across the main road with a complete disregard for traffic.” Although instructions have been given on the action the children should take if a warning is given on their way to school or on their way home, there appears to have been no advice given to them about what they should do when playing in the streets or elsewhere.

A different aspect of this problem is touched upon in a report from Scotland which says, “The suggestion has come from various quarters that special broadcasting talks should be given on how parents should prepare children for air raids, and how to behave in the presence of children during raids.”

Newcastle reports that the Public in the Eston district wait outside factories in this area, where sirens no longer seem to be sounded, and watch for the dimming of the lights, inside which takes place when a yellow warning has been received. “When this takes place the Public enter shelters and the police have great difficulty in convincing them later on that “Cancel Caution” message has been received.”

It is stated in the Bristol report that the Cotswold Bruderhof Movement continues to be “deeply suspect”.

The Ministry of Labour . To-day's Edinburgh report includes the following comment on volunteer labour for defence work. It is said that although this has been successful in the Dundee district, it has produced serious friction between volunteers and ordinary unemployed sent by the Labour Exchange to fill sand bags etc.

“Firstly, it is almost impossible to get the unemployed to turn out. The Labour Exchange Manager was asked by the Military Officer in charge of the work to get 400 men out, (contractors having failed to get any), but only a dozen or so turned out the following morning. Secondly, the volunteers working in the evening for an hour or two fill 50 bags, while ordinary casual labourers working all day fill very much less. Thirdly, the labourers themselves are reported to object to the volunteer labour as shortening for them this easy and lucrative employment. Public resentment at the attitude of unemployed labourers is growing.”

Ministry of Supply . It is stated that people in the Hatfield (Herts) 147 district are seriously dissatisfied with the inadequacy of the Borough Council's Salvage arrangements. Although the residents in this district are careful to sort out their own refuse it is stated that no proper attempt is made at the Council's Yard to separate waste material from that which can be usefully salvaged.

Reports of a different kind but in connection with the same subject has been received from Stepney where it is stated that “tins, bones, paper etc., carefully saved for the sake of the Country, is taken by dustmen to rag and bone shops where it is sold for their own profit.” Our informant says that many women of the district are prepared to substantiate this accusation.

Home Intelligence.

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