A History of the Ministry of Information, 1939-46


No. 83
Daily Report on MORALE
Friday, 23rd August, 1940

Morale continues high.

The lull in air activity has produced a decrease in interest in the news. At the same time in many areas the question of the sounding of sirens is being heatedly discussed; the volume of this controversy is by no means apparent from a study of the daily press. Large numbers of people throughout the country have now had practical experience of hearing sirens sometime after the arrival of enemy planes and the onset of bombing and A.A. fire (as happened in London last night). Reports show that the public faith in the sirens has considerably diminished, and in some places private warning systems organised by individual enterprise are functioning.

There are many signs that the Prime Minister's reference to “an offensive” has been widely welcomed.




23.8.40 .

Reports still stress the beneficial effect of the Premier's speech and Morrison's broadcast last night was also well received. The present siren policy is still causing discontent, and there are further instances of bombs dropping before the warning is sounded. Evidence is still accumulating that the public supports the decision that the blockade should not be raised. Reprisals on Berlin are asked for in view of the bombing of London, and news of action against the Italian fleet is eagerly awaited.

1. NORTHERN (Newcastle) Morale remains steady and recent events have increased confidence. The belief is widely held that any food sent to Europe to relieve hardship would certainly be diverted to German use. With the increase of attacks on industrial towns and London, many are stating that we have been too squeamish in the past and should return with interest methods used by the enemy. The new allowance for Workmen's Compensation has caused satisfaction.

3. NORTH-MIDLAND (Nottingham) Opinion has hardened in the last few weeks, and in some of the raided areas inhabitants are more angry than fearful. A report shows that most people believe official figures of German air losses. In Grimsby bombs dropped just after a train entered the station and it is suspected that enemy planes followed the train; it is suggested that trains might be stopped in populated areas after the warning had sounded. Criticism of Duff Cooper's last broadcast, that it was somewhat too boastful, has been expressed. Housewives in the Lincoln area have been reassured by the Ministry of Food's promise to take action against “rings”.

7. SOUTH-WESTERN (Bristol) The Premier's reference to the time when we shall take the offensive has had a cheering effect. In raided areas neighbourliness shows itself in offers of help to those affected by the raids. Annoyance is felt that whereas Trowbridge has had 80 warnings, Melksham, which is 4 miles away, but under different control, has only been disturbed six times. Exaggerated accounts of damage to the Aircraft factory in last night's raids are circulating in Bristol. A report from Camborne shows that the effect of whistling bombs has failed to shake morale, and many regard it as another instance of “Hitler's bark being worse than his bite.” In Camborne and Redruth communal schemes for picking blackberries and making jam are in operation. Rumour in Exeter that the local squadron secured most victories in last Sunday's air battle makes many think that the proximity of a champion squadron adds to Exeter's vulnerability.

9. MIDLAND (Birmingham) Continued criticism about the lack of sirens before bomb dropping, and some sort of intermediate warning is suggested. In several towns unofficial listening posts have been set up. There are serious complaints from several centres of a shortage of coal, although the areas are close to the S. Staffordshire coalfield, and with ample rail and canal facilities. Requests have been received for weekly casualty lists.

11. SCOTLAND (Edinburgh) The shelling of Dover has caused no consternation, and it is felt unlikely to afford the enemy much success, but more press comment on its impracticability would reassure the public. Press comments convey the impression that Japan is becoming more dangerous, and there is a strong feeling that we ought to do something about it. The release of members of the Anarchists Federation, found not guilty of charges against them, has disappointed many who knew the men were working actively against the prosecution of the war in Glasgow.

13. NORTHERN IRELAND (Belfast) Position on the Egyptian border is being watched with some uneasiness. Anger at the disclosure that 800 French planes are being placed at the disposal of the enemy, and the action of the Vichy Government is denounced as base treachery. There is no evidence of a sentimental view of the blockade. Much interest is aroused in the announcement that the Ministry of Supply is making a new survey of Ulster's deposits of iron ore and bauxite. Ulster's Spitfire fund has reached £30,000.




Widespread indignation to-day at German planes appearing over London and dropping bombs without hindrance or siren warnings for eighteen or nineteen minutes. Sir John Anderson's statement of siren policy has not cleared up situation in opinion of general public. Surprised comment reported from many people that searchlights caught and held enemy planes magnificently in their beams, but that no fighters or anti-aircraft guns were there to render them harmless. People rushing in crowds to scene of disaster before police can rope off area. Demands from responsible people that police or Home Guard should be more ruthless in preventing sight-seeing crowd from gathering both for their own sake as area may still be dangerous, and for the sake of civil defence workers and actual sufferers. Reaction of housewives with houses destroyed at first thankfulness for own safety, then anxiety about future. Common questions: “Who will pay for this damage? Where shall we live now? How shall I get my rations as my book is lost?” Rumours still current about high casualty figures in weekend raids, especially Croydon; disappointment expressed that L.I.C. boards have not carried details of local damage. Children playing in streets in poorer districts reported to run home, even if half a mile away when sirens go off; this causes confusion and entails dangerous risks. Non-attendance at emergency schools serious problem in certain districts. Petty pilfering, especially of fruit and vegetables in abandoned gardens, rife. Parents no longer insisting on children keeping law of compulsory education. In many cases mother goes out to work and leaves older children in charge of younger. Consequent evils, lowering of educational standards and neglect of medical attention leading to increase of scabies and nose, throat and teeth trouble. Suburban people reported to dread rigours of winter more than poorer people as have larger houses to heat. All however express hope that Government will set up coal depots in each Borough. Offensive spirit stated to outweigh defensive and people anxious everywhere for us to attack. Disappointment over Somaliland turning to belief that we shall “get our own back when the time comes”. W.V.S. praised highly in many districts. Townswomen's Guilds enthusiastically doing National Service by turning all available fruit into jam. Peckham reports enthusiastic reception of seven to eight hundred Belgian, French and Polish refugees changing to suspicion and resentment at number of able bodied men hanging about. All districts report widespread return of evacuated children.

Home Intelligence .

23rd August, 1940 .

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