A History of the Ministry of Information, 1939-46


No. 73
Daily Report on MORALE
Monday, 12th August, 1940

There is little to add to Saturday's report except further confirmation of the suspicion of news sources which continues to develop. Over the weekend the public showed great interest in the “faked photograph” episode and verbatims illustrate the strong suspicion and criticism which were shown as the story became elaborated: “Fancy taking the trouble to deny it on the wireless: there's some dirty work going on somewhere.”, “Faking photographs - just another example of what's going on behind the scenes.”, “What is the truth? You never can tell nowadays.” Many comments bitterly critical of the press were reported; others were contemptuous of “censorship”, “officialdom”. The rights and wrongs of the story were clearly not appreciated. This added to the general bewilderment. The prominence given to the story by the B.B.C. made the public feel that there was something very important behind this. The net result has been to strike another blow at public confidence.

Another subject in which the public has been at variance with the press is the prominence which has been given to the affairs of Gracie Fields. B.B.C. Listener Research has shown that Gracie Fields' popularity in her own field is unrivalled and she has become highly thought of as an individual as well as an artiste. At the beginning of press publicity (which not only recorded questions in the House but gave editorial and news comment) public opinion was favourable to Gracie. It refused to think ill of her and attributed any possible evil to her Italian husband. As the press continued to comment on the affair, however, public opinion, although not strongly antagonistic to her, has now become much more critical than it was. Reports show that people feel much of the story is hidden and that an absent person has not had a chance of defending herself.

There is considerable jubilation about our successes in the Channel air battles although there is some evidence that people feel that our planes are being lost for purely defensive reasons.


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12.8.40 .

The present phase of the war, in which we appear to be waiting for the enemy to take the initiative is causing widespread opinion that offensive action should be undertaken, particularly against the Italian navy and factories, the continental ports now in German hands, and in North Africa. Fear is expressed at the loss of prestige we shall suffer in the eyes of the natives if territory is given up in British Somaliland.

1. NORTHERN (Newcastle) The Corporations of Newcastle, Middlesbrough, and Darlington have adopted resolutions concerning the employment of C.O.s, and many individuals consider that if C.O.s were paid an equivalent rate to that received in the army there would be less public irritation on this score. An increase in comradeship and mutual helpfulness has been apparent as the result of air raids. Comparison between road and raid casualties does not meet with universal approval, and it is suggested that the real comparison is between weekly and monthly figures of air raid casualties. There is intense interest in the rate of aircraft production and it is suggested that information on our race to reach equality with Germany would be welcomed. Complaints that in some areas with few shelters, school shelters are not open to the public after school hours.

3. NORTH-MIDLAND (Nottingham) Spitfire funds have reawakened enthusiasm “to do something for the nation.” An explanation of apparent British apathy in the Mediterranean would be welcomed. Some criticism in Nottingham and Northants at the inadequacy and late release of reports of aerial activities, and a feeling that insufficient is told about the major raids on Great Britain. The decision to tax food in small tins is causing hardship in small families; many people wonder why there is a shortage of treacle and the egg shortage is a cause of complaint. In Chesterfield it is thought that workers might buy more Savings Certificates, but many of them think they cannot withdraw their investments at short notice, and hesitate to buy, for fear their present wages may not continue. General demand that fresh news should be read at the beginning of B.B.C. news bulletins.

7. SOUTH-WESTERN (Bristol) Air raids and reports of damage are the main topics of conversation. Reports from Truro and Taunton indicate that people have faced the bombing well, and, in the event of invasion, would now play their part far better than two months ago. As a result of the Portland and Weymouth raid a number of women and children have left, and the demand for shelters, permission to erect which has already been granted, is strong. A fund has been started to help those affected by damage, which was in the poorer quarter of the town, and morale generally is high. The new Order making the western counties a protected area is welcomed, and surprise is expressed that this step has not been taken before.

9. MIDLAND (Birmingham) Satisfaction that an increase in pay is granted to the army. Long hours are causing fatigue to workers and employers complain of absenteeism; this is partly due to the uncertain instructions about Bank Holiday. There is some grumbling about the absence of air raid warnings, repetition in B.B.C. news bulletins, and the comparison between the pay of soldiers and munition workers' wages.

11. SCOTLAND (Edinburgh) Sunday's air battle has strengthened confidence in our air defences and diminished local discontent at the apparent impunity of lone enemy raiders over central Scotland and the Clyde, which are not challenged by our fighters; this local discontent may become serious if there are more undefended air raids and no official explanation is forthcoming. The broadcast talk by George Anderson of S.S. Highlander was greatly appreciated. Complaints from Glasgow amongst teachers about neglected education, and from West Highland districts about food shortage caused by delay in censoring parcels. Gordon Highlanders in the extreme north of Scotland find routine boring, and want to be paratroops

13. NORTHERN IRELAND (Belfast) Satisfaction expressed at heavy losses inflicted on the enemy in Sunday's air battle, and hope that we shall be able to replace planes faster than we lose them. Widespread speculation concerning the cause of explosion which shook houses in coastal towns early this morning; one report states that an aeroplane without lights flew over the town shortly after the explosion. As a result of public criticism, Belfast A.R.P. services are to be reorganised.




Everything continues fairly quiet and practically normal in the London area. Domestic problems are of greater moment than war news. Unemployment amongst women still growing in some districts as manufacture of non-essentials decreases. Jubilation over air battles. R.A.F. highly praised in all quarters - results having a heartening effect. News from Africa carefully watched by more thinking section of population; some feel that a Government statement about the situation might help. Comments about bad effect of loudspeakers throughout the day in districts where many people working at night. Much comment still about children not attending school and a growing lack of discipline - even trained social workers finding them more difficult to manage than a year ago: irregular life having bad mental effect on children. Chelsea reports school attendance almost normal. Strong criticism that time and money spent on upholding morale in this country not really needed. Reports from most districts that salvage campaign being carried out successfully. “Stay Put” leaflet considered good.

Home Intelligence.

12th August, 1940.

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