A History of the Ministry of Information, 1939-46


No. 75
Daily Report on MORALE
Wednesday, 14th August, 1940

Morale is high: there is general satisfaction over the results of raids over our ports. There are some indications that people are beginning to believe that these intensified raids are preliminaries to a more general attack or invasion. On the other hand verbatims show a scepticism founded on previous false alarms, e.g. “News. I never listen to it. When the Germans come over I'll start thinking about invasion.”

Every day provides us with some further evidence of people's doubts about news: formulae repeatedly come in for criticism; any explanation which throws light on the background situation is welcomed. Technical descriptions, i.e. those which give the reader or listener some sense of control over the situation, are well liked and eye-witness accounts, whose authenticity can be guaranteed, are approved.

Morale in heavily raided districts is relatively undisturbed. There is increasing confidence in Civil Defence services. A working class woman is reported to have said: “Look here. I've lost everything. Not even a cup and saucer left. But I've still got my hearing and my eyesight. And my life. So I mustn't grumble.”

Further reports on the attitude of the public towards the “blockade of Europe” show that humanitarian scruples are not troubling the public conscience. There are some expressions of sympathy with the Belgians (particularly) and the Norwegians. A statistically negligible number of people are against the blockade. Many people spoken to seemed aware of the implications of Nazi propaganda on the subject.




14.8.40 .

1. NORTHERN (Newcastle) The system of air raid warnings is a main topic of conversation, and on account of the increase in these, complaints are growing about the hours of full time A.R.P. workers, for whom a 12-hour shift is a fairly regular occurrence. Further concessions in the tea ration are hoped for. The stopping of supplies of cement to local authorities which urgently require it for shelters is the subject of many complaints.

3. NORTH-MIDLAND (Nottingham) There is a genuine dread of the blackout in approaching winter months. Reports show a desire for more explanatory accounts of air battles, and contrast is made between the flippant tone of the B.B.C. announcer stating that casualties were slight and no material damage was done after a raid, and information received by post from residents of raided areas. There is general keenness to salvage waste materials. From Derby comes a demand for cheap milk for old age pensioners, a substitute for the wailing siren which tends to shock, and complaints of waste in the erection of road barriers which were almost immediately taken down.

7. SOUTH-WESTERN (Bristol) Recent R.A.F. successes are commented on with jubilation. There is a feeling that we have insufficient troops in Somaliland. Favourable comment has been received on the accuracy of bulletins describing the damage in Weymouth and Portland. Exeter and Swindon reacted excellently to their first daylight raid, and streets were quickly cleared. Renewal of night raids over Bristol is causing loss of sleep. The question is still asked why German bombers can fly over the city without being disturbed, but it is felt that on account of the good work of our fighters recently, the public will put up with sleepiness. Employers are not satisfied with Anderson's statement of their liabilities if workmen are injured or killed while working during air raids.

9. MIDLAND (Birmingham) People whose houses were demolished in last night's raid are showing a splendid spirit, although there is uneasiness regarding the sounding of warnings. There is some concern also that although civilian casualties in air raids are given as trivial, the monthly total comes as a shock. Some anxiety is reported about the position in Somaliland, and impatience expressed at our attitude towards Japan. Farmers are complaining of damage caused by foxes in cornfields.

11. SCOTLAND (Edinburgh) R.A.F. successes are warmly praised everywhere, and our official figures of German and British plane losses are not questioned, although many believe that damage is minimised. An Insurance firm reports many inquiries about insurance and compensation by the Government for property destroyed or damaged in air raids. Shortage of equipment has halted recruiting for the Home Guard in some districts, and some units are discontented with the lack of development in the training system. In many quarters it is felt that amenities for the troops should be supplemented by private hospitality, especially in small towns.

13. NORTHERN IRELAND (Belfast) There is great local interest in the export trade drive, but the linen industry, anxious to increase production is greatly hampered by flax shortage which has thrown many out of work. Satisfaction expressed that books and newspapers are exempt from Purchase Tax. British air successes are enthusiastically praised. Many watch the press for signs of internal trouble in France. The Belfast Telegraph Spitfire Fund, opened a few days ago, has already received the requisite £5,000.




Morale high in all reports. News of air battles stimulating. This exhilaration offsets disappointment that Italian territory not attacked and fears expressed in intellectual circles at our apparent weakness in Africa. Excuses made for our reverses in the Italian campaign cause annoyance to many people, especially business men with connections in towns like Kassala who feel insulted when it is given out that “Kassala is a small unimportant village”. Strong opinions heard on all sides that propaganda exhorting us to be courageous is not only unnecessary but impertinent. Personal fear of air raids on London diminishing with R.A.F. coastal successes. Tougher belligerent feeling is spreading. Working people resent number of private cars on roads using valuable petrol; express opinion that voluntary workers with labels on cars are more self-important than valuable to the community. Business and Professional Women's Club meeting unanimously expressed approval of Social Survey. Low income people glad to be questioned, report several observers, and even express gratification that Government wants to know what they think because “this is a people's war”. Streamers already being made privately in East End to celebrate victory and remarks made that “it will only be a matter now of a few months”. Urgent need for nursery centres in Deptford to relieve working women during day is reported. Willesden C.A.B. has collected 150 signatures of women who would gladly avail themselves of such facilities. Harrow reports many coastal evacuees in district; although suffering severe financial loss and anxiously seeking work these people are in good spirits and glad to sleep at night after continuous raids. Kensington reports many women living in hotels inclined to depression and gossip for lack of useful occupation. Need for social club where women can discuss problems in neighbourly fashion reported on Westminster Housing Estates. Clubs of this type now organised have greatly improved morale of similar estates in St. Pancras. Complaints still received at hardships caused by delay in allowances to soldiers' wives coming through. Finchley reports bitterness of British born subjects of unnaturalised parents at not being able to get Government work through Labour Exchanges.

Home Intelligence .

14th August, 1940 .

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