A History of the Ministry of Information, 1939-46


No. 81
Daily Report on MORALE
Wednesday, 21st August, 1940

Morale continues high.

The Prime Minister's speech was received extremely well, according to all reports. From Northern Ireland comes the comment that it is the most forceful and heartening he has yet made. Newcastle reports that it has created a strong feeling of confidence. Two Bristol verbatim reports are as follows: “Everyone feels now that, come what will, we are top dogs; the past week has shown that we shall win no matter what slight doubts there were before.” “Bristol has implicit trust in Churchill. If he says things are all right Bristol people know they are all right; if he says they are bad, they know they are bad.” From Scotland comes the report that the three points which interested people most were, first the reference to the Russian Air Force as perhaps immobilising a large part of the German air fleet, secondly the hint that the war might not last as long as was formerly expected, and thirdly the reference to closer relations with the U.S.A. People in Scotland still seem reluctant to face up to the prospect of a long war, and the air successes of last week have strengthened the hope that the war may end quickly. There is no evidence that the Prime Minister's references to the food blockade have produced any antagonism or disagreement.

Comment on the Somaliland evacuation is still limited and Regional reports suggest that its impact is not great.

The siren controversy continues heatedly.




21.8.40 .

As usual the Prime Minister's speech yesterday has been received very well, and created a strong feeling of confidence. References to the Russian Air Force & closer relations with U.S.A. are particularly noted, and many consider this to be the most heartening speech the Premier has yet made.

1. NORTHERN (Newcastle) There is considerable public discussion on the sounding of sirens and in some towns people are losing all faith in the present policy and going to shelters immediately aircraft are heard. Reports from Stockton-on-Tees show that requests by employers for workmen in key positions to continue during raids has met with good response. Criticism is reported from several quarters that after concrete defence structures have been completed with all haste, there is considerable waste of time and money making alterations which should have been foreseen. The evacuation of Somaliland is a disappointment, but has not caused despondency.

3. NORTH-MIDLAND (Nottingham) The stimulating effect of R.A.F. successes is still apparent. Approval is still being expressed of the more informative accounts of air raids on this country, but a criticism from Leicester is that there has been no disclosure of the number of R.A.F. machines destroyed on the ground. Very few operatives in Leicester factories are carrying gas masks, and it is felt that nothing short of a gas attack would induce people to carry their masks. There is still a tendency to “watch the fun” during air raids. Arrangements for giving raid warnings are still misunderstood. Comparatively little interest is shown in African operations, but there is disappointment at the need for withdrawal from Somaliland.

7. SOUTH-WESTERN (Bristol) Weston-super-Mare reports a feeling that the Premier was a little too optimistic. There is strong feeling that the blockade of Europe should continue. The Somaliland evacuation has had little effect on public opinion, as it was anticipated, and little importance attached to it. Dissatisfaction in Exeter because there are apparently no protective fighters or A.A. guns, and the siren policy is a chief topic of conversation.

9. MIDLAND (Birmingham) Serious complaints come from all parts of the region that bombs drop before sirens have been sounded, and the feeling is that people should be afforded an opportunity to get to shelter. Railway signalmen in Litchfield feel strongly their lack of protection against flying glass and splinters. There is a feeling that an attack on Italy would probably shorten the war, and that to allow her even local successes will increase Italian morale at our expense.

11. SCOTLAND (Edinburgh) People seem still reluctant to face up to the prospect of a long war and the air success of last week has strengthened the hope that it may finish quickly. The Somaliland withdrawal has occasioned little comment in Clydebank, although freely discussed in Aberdeen. There is still a general impression amongst Clydeside shipyard and munition workers that the yards and shops have not yet properly “got down to it”. The position is better than it was, but not good enough to convince workers that Morrison's remarks in his recent speech applied to Clydeside.

13. NORTHERN IRELAND (Belfast) There is considerable speculation concerning the German plane which crashed in Co. Kerry. More than 2,000 Ulster men have registered under the order affecting men with engineering experience, including two M.P.s. Complaints are made of absence of news from London when Berlin was supplying the world with running commentaries on air attacks.




Reports from all areas show morale to be excellent. Recent air raid alarms proved that confidence has greatly increased since the beginning of the war and people showing more neighbourliness towards each other. Citizens Advice Bureaux and similar offices which were besieged by anxious people after first alarms in September were practically empty after last week's raids. Many people did not take shelter when the siren went; even men in uniform in Kensington Gardens took no notice and civilians are inclined to follow their example. Confusion still exists as to what people should do when siren goes; some employers grudge wasting time and don't encourage their staff to take shelter. Street shelters in Paddington and Bayswater without roofs owing to shortage of material. Doubt is still expressed about the accuracy of German air losses. Evacuated children still returning to London. Many areas, particularly East End, view with gravity lack of full schooling facilities for children especially those under eight. It is felt that discipline and home life in evacuation areas have practically disappeared: even quite young children forming themselves into bands of hooligans. Hoxton and Shoreditch parents, normally not anxious about education, want full time schooling restored as they are unable to control their children: Hackney and Stoke Newington where class of parents is better realise children are growing up without sufficient education. It is difficult to prosecute parents for not sending children to school and bad parents are taking advantage of this. It is felt that the progress of twenty-five years has been broken down in one. Some bitter feeling expressed about the giving up of Somaliland and French held to be responsible: no anxiety expressed about general situation in Middle East so long as the White Ensign is still flying. Churchill's speech yesterday, particularly his reference to the R.A.F., thought to be completely right - epitomises the feeling of the country. Letters from internees in Isle of Man show conditions to be good.

Home Intelligence.

21st August, 1940 .

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