A History of the Ministry of Information, 1939-46


No. 97
Daily Report on MORALE
Wednesday, 11th September, 1940

Reports now received make it possible to assess critically the effects of continued bombing in the East End. Morale is rather more strained than the newspapers suggest, whereas the damage to property seems to be less than is reported by them. The pictures of devastation and accounts of destruction weaken the resolve of people to stay put.

Organised evacuation is necessarily a slow business but is proceeding uninterruptedly. Voluntary evacuation also continues fairly steadily, though there is a tendency for those who work in badly-affected districts to evacuate themselves during the night and to return in the daytime.

Factors which contribute to the strain on morale are, of course, as much psychological as material. Listening tension (e.g. anticipation of planes and bombs) is one to which little official notice has been paid. Few people are using ear pads or understand that the diminution of noise can do much to lessen their state of anxiety. Nor does there seem to have been enough encouragement for people to try and sleep as and when they can. The fear, mostly among men, that they may lose their jobs, as has already happened in many cases in the Silvertown district, is an added anxiety, and if it were possible for some reassurance to be given that speedy efforts will be made to find other work for them this would undoubtedly have a good effect.

The need for mobile canteens is still urgent, as is the necessity for providing a hot meal every day for families evacuated from their homes.

An increase is reported in the number of people listening to Haw Haw and rumours, mostly exaggerated accounts of raid damage and casualties, have also increased considerably.

A certain amount of anti-Semitism in the East End still persists, but this is not so much on account of a marked difference in conduct between Jews and Cockneys, but because the latter, seeking a scapegoat as an outlet for emotional disturbances, pick on the traditional and nearest one. Though many Jewish people regularly congregate and sleep in the public shelters, so also do many of the Gentiles, nor is there any evidence to show that one or other predominates among those who have evacuated themselves voluntarily through fear or hysteria.

Reports from the Regions show that their attention is directed mainly towards London's sufferings and consequently their own troubles are to some extent diminished. Shelter problems are common to many districts as are also the various types and causes of anxiety associated with raids. There is, however, no sign of morale weakening, or that powers of resistance and determination are deteriorating.




11.9.40 .

1. NORTHERN (Newcastle). Inability to obtain the necessary material for the completion of shelters and their protection against damp is causing public dissatisfaction; the habit of sleeping in shelters is growing and anxiety is expressed by local authorities with regard to the danger of epidemics with the approach of bad weather. The lighting of road blocks is reported in many cases to be unsatisfactory. It is suggested that when enemy ’planes are overhead people are opening their doors to go to shelter, and many shafts of light are shown at critical moments.

3. NORTH MIDLAND (Nottingham). A report from Nottingham rural areas shows no weakening of morale, and defeatism which was apparent earlier in the war is disappearing. It is suggested that lights on railways near centres of population should be masked with cowls. Complaints are general that public shelters are being abused by a few people. There is loss of interest in salvage in some villages because dumps have not been collected. The schemes of insurance against property damage have caused widespread interest.

7. SOUTH-WESTERN (Bristol). The new siren recommendations are widely approved. There is a demand for the continued bombing of Berlin. Evacuees from London are spreading exaggerated stories of London raids. People in Exeter were much impressed by the keenness of the Home Guard to get to grips with the reported invaders during the week end. There is a current rumour in Bristol that sirens will not sound during the day and it is reported that women are keeping their children away from school on this account.

9. MIDLAND (Birmingham). The apparent absence of fighter ’planes against night raiders is still worrying many people. Local air raids are causing a crop of rumours as to the places and amount of damage caused.

11. SCOTLAND (Edinburgh). People are watching what is happening in London and forgetting their own grievances. Considerable talk among the Home Guard in the West about the call-out over the weekend is reported, and some say they will refuse to “turn out on a fool's errand again.” People are quite uncertain as to what they are supposed to do when they hear church bells. The opinion is held in Montrose that the Military Authorities should release a suitable hall for entertaining the troops.

13. NORTHERN IRELAND (Belfast). Much indignation is felt at the indiscriminate bombing of London, and a consequent satisfaction at the success of R.A.F. raids on Germany, and keen interest in news of the new incendiary weapon. The demand continues for more war industries to absorb the 70,000 unemployed. Farmers continue to protest against reductions in pork and beef prices, and the low prices generally allowed for agricultural produce.




Morale high in most districts in spite of damage and casualties. Pessimism reported among business men owing to discovery that weather conditions suit German bombers. People worried about possible further breakdown of public utility services and its effect on a population used to “all modern conveniences.” Traffic difficulties in city causing great irritation and nervous exhaustion among workers travelling in overcrowded trains. City contacts suggest working hours might be staggered or clerks allowed to work half week as little business is transacted. Crowds of sightseers might also be discouraged. Lewisham reports overcrowding of Rest Centres and people growing extremely tired from lack of sleep; workers complaining they cannot concentrate in day time. Latter condition also reported by train workers who complain particularly of noise and talk in large shelters, especially in blocks of luxury flats, by people who have little work to do by day. Wish expressed that noise and talk in shelters could be branded as “Fifth Column” activities. Reports from East End show people to be evacuating themselves from heavily bombed areas. In Isle of Dogs those who cannot evacuate themselves reported to be growing angry with authorities, stating they have been forgotten and are on an island which may at any moment be cut off and ringed with fire. Many shelters in district too badly damaged for use; gas and electricity are cut off; there is little water - all this has led to talk to-day of marching to West End to commandeer hotels and clubs. This type of talk reported also from Stepney, but in lesser degree. Bermondsey reports women and children, old people and invalids impatient to escape to less vulnerable area. Class bitterness expressed there and in Fulham by some individuals. Bermondsey Rest Centres overcrowded, with many people there since Saturday night. People in these centres nervous of remaining there as local school used for same purpose was badly bombed last week. Re-billeting is proceeding.

Home Intelligence.

11th September, 1940 .

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