A History of the Ministry of Information, 1939-46


No. 31
Friday, 21st June, 1940


The atmosphere of waiting continues: in this lull there is some disinclination to speculate about the immediate course of events although the fact that the French are continuing to fight keeps alive the hope that the French Navy and perhaps the French Air Force will continue to fight with us. There is no pronounced growth in anti-French feeling.

Suspense has brought restlessness and observers report many instances of personal irritation. In some cases this has heightened personal anxieties, in others there is an increase of criticism. It is important to notice that this criticism finds expression in anger at past and present inefficiencies here and not in bitterness or anger against the enemy.

A detailed study of public reaction to the recent air raids reinforces this conclusion. Air raids were taken calmly but there was no strong anger directed against the Germans nor was there strong pity for the victims. There was a certain amount of criticism directed against A.R.P. arrangements and a certain amount of surprise that so few planes were shot down. Over-confidence in the technique of defence is still a factor which must be reckoned with. Some regions report that the raids acted as ‘a mild tonic’: the effect of the tonic, however, was endogenous, not exogenous.

There was no strong reaction to Sir Hugh Ellis's broadcast. When questioned this morning many people could not recall what he said: many remarked that ‘he must be very tired’. There were no adverse comments. Many reports show how great is the public hunger for leadership and there is a growing feeling that ‘this Government is much like the last. “Fine speeches are all very well but what we want to know is what to do”. There are indications that the time is growing limited for the successful mobilisation of the public under strong leadership.


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21.6.40 .

NOTTINGHAM (North Midland) Great satisfaction at resignation of Obstructionist War Minister in America, Mr. Woodring. Changed attitude of Hearst Press considered to be due to pro-British public opinion in America. Attention is drawn to notices in Church porches as a source of information for parachutists as to their whereabouts. Complaints from Anderley (Lincs.) where bombs were dropped, that A.R.P. volunteers have never been called together for training. Visit by Press Officer to Lincolnshire reveals wide areas unprepared and unprotected; flimsy wire entanglements on coast near Mablethorpe but many miles of coast untouched; isolated wires across fields but nothing on a general scale; no evidence that L.D.V. are being mobilised in any force; hardly any guns seen except a few machine-guns near aerodromes.

CARDIFF (Wales) No bitterness against French, but universal self-recrimination which takes the form of anti-Chamberlain feeling. Sir Hugh Ellis's broadcast much appreciated. B.B.C. news still much criticised for continuous repetitions of air battles. Increasing complaints that Contex fittings for gas masks are not available in this region, though they are said to have arrived in Bristol. Workers expecting good news from Russia soon.

BELFAST (Northern Ireland) Public pleased at proposed appointment of Minister of Public Security, as it is hoped that will improve civil defence. Sporadic demands for conscription. Limited listening to New British Broadcasting Station; public do not take it seriously.

MANCHESTER (North Western) Long delay in bulletin with details of air raid damage gave rumour an unbeatable start. Some foolish behaviour (turning on of lights, etc.) reported. Much disappointment at meagre outcome and long delay over Dominion Emigration. Growing feeling that after all this Government is much like the last.

BRISTOL (South Western) Many and vague rumours of places bombed, and some alarm thereat. Public believe that Channel Islands are being compulsorily evacuated following search for billets for Channel Island people. R.I.O. requests information to allay or confirm this rumour. It has led to the view among many people that the Germans have captured the Channel Islands. Swindon draws attention to public notices “keep your cars on the road and keep men in employment” yet radio appeals to public to keep cars off roads and save petrol.

LEEDS (North Eastern) Mild air raids in this region have acted as a tonic. Criticism of voluntary system of A.R.P. etc. is general. Much feeling against advertisement headed “Let us brace ourselves to our duty”. Public say “we are braced already, why doesn't the Government tell us what to do. Fault lies in high places, not with us working people.”

EDINBURGH (Scotland) Public optimistic about America's ultimate entry into war. West of Scotland reports free discussion about large convoy of ships in Clyde. It is felt their presence constitutes an invitation to the enemy to come and attack them. Vague rumours on position of Duke of Windsor causing distress; concise authoritative statement needed. Little public reaction to invasion pamphlet; “useful, but it ought to have been signed by important people”.

NEWCASTLE (Northern) Three centres report abbreviated official communiqués about air raids gave rise to impression that damage to property and life was much greater than it really was. D.C's last speech not received favourably everywhere: “Too many important speeches too close together”. Invasion pamphlet widely approved; “clearly written, easily understood, meets a genuine need”. Section about firms organising their own defence has caused much discussion and inquiries to police about possibility of getting arms. More information on this score urgently needed.

READING (Southern) Hugh Ellis's broadcast increased public confidence that we shall beat off enemy attack. Some discussion and doubt as to how we will then defeat Germany. Public dislike stress laid on Germany's economic difficulties as they do not believe statements and B.B.C. is giving them a sop. Southampton air raids of nights before last received very calmly; Anderson shelters very efficient.

BIRMINGHAM (Midland) Continued complaints about slowness of call up; “men lose their enthusiasm waiting” important members of Regional Advisory Committee report great distrust among working people of present leadership, particularly about elements of last Government still in Cabinet.

CAMBRIDGE (Eastern) Public know we had air losses in recent raids but Air Ministry has not announced these. It is suggested if only one R.A.F. casualty had been announced without revealing locality many people would have been satisfied. Raiding of South Wales has checked civil evacuation. Public evidence of dislike of broadcast slogans that we are bound to win; also criticism of remarks about Germany's bad economic position. Sir Hugh Ellis welcomed. Personnel of A.R.P. and L.D.V. are demanding increasingly proper military discipline, also some lack of confidence in local L.D.V. leadership. Chelmsford A.R.P. personnel cannot get steel helmets while Marconi Works in neighbourhood has surplus of 3,000 helmets for its own employees.

TUNBRIDGE WELLS (South Eastern) Thanet residents will welcome more signs of military activity. People still very critical about shotguns for L.D.V., especially since they know of tremendous strength of German equipment. Public desire explanation of present position of Duke of Windsor; common question “Is he a Fascist”.



21st June, 1940

Waste of capabilities of trained women and consequent defeatism considered dangerous to morale. Women's Employment Federation reports that 9,055 women (majority London and Home Counties) registered as having special qualifications. 3,841 still seeking work, of which 2,337 are totally unemployed; rest unsatisfied. “These women causing nests of defeatism in London”. Sir Hugh Ellis's speech considered dull. “These things have been said so often before. Not enough punch”. Harrow - Kodak Factory; “Anti-French feeling growing very strong since capitulation. People remember at end of last war our solders said they would rather fight with the Germans than with the French”. With growing anti-Chamberlain feeling a desire expressed that Lloyd George should take his place in the Cabinet. “Lloyd George is the only man who would get there before Hitler”. Feeling from many districts that L.D.V. is not being armed quickly enough. City: “Churchill's leadership inspires confidence and hope of ultimate victory Many complaints about B.B.C's new interval signal: “like the tick of doom”. Hammersmith - Bitterness growing against Belgian refugees: “getting better treatment than the British; reason the butter ration is reduced”. Concern expressed in several localities (Silvertown, Harrow, Pinner) about the Duke of Windsor. “Is he safe? Is he a traitor?”. Silvertown Factory Management rebuked members of staff repeating rumour. New sense of responsibility over gossip noticed in consequence. Welfare Supervisor; “All working well on seven day week and anxious to help. Pleasure expressed at arrival of Australians and new confidence shown because of it.” Venesta Factory arranging own defences. Street defences planned in East End. Talk of Government possibly moving, reports that “people would crumple if this happened, but would be glad if Princesses got safely to Canada”. From every district reports state that people chiefly concerned with evacuation, either to Dominions or within this country. Much speculation as to which is more dangerous - town or country. Old people want lead as to whether to move now or not. West Ham “People afraid of raids; will not go far from home; not attending Clubs and Social Centres. Should be induced to go about normally”.

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