A History of the Ministry of Information, 1939-46


No. 78
Daily Report on MORALE
Saturday, 17th August, 1940

Intensified raids have not affected morale; rather the reverse: confidence is increased, opinion is stiffer and there is a feeling of growing exhilaration. The spirit of the people in raided areas is excellent.

Both Press and wireless describe, with apparent approval, the behaviour of air raid spectators, e.g. “bus is grand-stand” (Daily Telegraph) “miners cheering on slag-heaps as they watch air battle” (B.B.C. News). From these reports a confusing picture arises: official shelter policy contradicts the sanction given by Press and wireless.

People are slightly less critical of the news and rumours are much less in evidence. This is partly due to the naming of bombed places and to the demonstrations which have been provided of the falsity of German communiqués.

Air battles are obscuring other topics: there is, however, a strong undercurrent of anxiety about Africa, and an increasing interest in American affairs.


17th August, 1940

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17th August, 1940

News of air activities remains the predominant topic of conversation, and the air battles are everywhere regarded as encouraging victories. The attitude towards the war is stiffening, and there is less tendency to compare it with a sporting event. Villages in which German planes have been brought down are proud of this slender association with the exploits of the R.A.F., and the general feeling in raided areas is that “we can take it”.

2. NORTH EASTERN (Leeds) The Somaliland war is not arousing much interest. The only criticism of news is that our reports of damage to Germany by R.A.F. raids seem exaggerated when compared with reports of damage done here. A number of people quote Col. Knox's reported speech that “we are not getting the truth because warring nations only reveal such information as they desire.” There is criticism from Don Valley that the police and military, in collecting German leaflets and preventing their circulation, have led people to say there is something in them which the Government does not want people to know. Complaints from Wharsdale of inadequate transport for soldiers and munition workers.

4. EASTERN (Cambridge) The public has behaved in an exemplary manner when taking to shelters, but the frequency of warnings in some cases produces an attitude of indifference. There is general belief that damage to property is heavier than is admitted, and there is a similar attitude towards shipping losses. Now London has been attacked there is a feeling that the R.A.F. should raid military objectives in Berlin. The public are somewhat puzzled over the situation in Africa. Anxiety over trading losses continues in coastal areas, and some dissatisfaction because multiple shops are able to keep open while many local tradesmen have closed down. Criticism has been expressed in West Norfolk at the practice of private enterprises collecting scrap material in rivalry with local authorities.

6. SOUTHERN (Reading) Conversation centres far more on accounts of raiders being seen to crash than on harrowing tales of damage or casualties. Confidence and cheerfulness are noticeable everywhere, and the punishment inflicted on raiders appears more than to counteract the damage they do. In some circles there are comments on American reaction to the air raids as evidence of somewhat scrappy reports in our Press. There has been a surprising decrease in rumours. Discussion at the more intimate types of public meetings largely centres on the need for a clearer definition of our peace aims and post-war reconstruction.

8. WALES (Cardiff) Reaction to bombing is invariably one of anger and firmer determination, particularly where casualties occur. Results of air battles are anxiously awaited. In some areas, crowds which remain to watch and cheer air battles have been the cause of great anxiety to Civil Defence workers, and they deprecate the condoning of this attitude by the Press and B.B.C. Our efforts on land since the beginning of the war are being compared unfavourably with those on the sea and in the air.

10. NORTH WESTERN (Manchester) German communiqués are losing credence as their claims extend to places in which individuals can personally check their falsity. The general view is that things are working up to a crisis, but confidence is high. Disappointment expressed that Joubert should think the public not properly appreciative of the heroic action of the R.A.F., when in fact admiration is unbounded. The Lancashire business community is concerned about German propaganda in S. America alleging that cotton mills have been wrecked, and the industry in a chaotic condition; hope is expressed that adequate counter measures are being taken.

12. SOUTH EASTERN (Tunbridge Wells) The fact that this region bore the brunt of yesterday's air attacks has heightened rather than lowered morale, and people are exhilarated by the feeling that they are now in the front line. Behaviour of both public and Civil Defence workers was admirable at Northfleet, which suffered heavily as most of the bombs fell in a congested area. Most people still cannot understand why names of towns are sometimes given in announcements, and at other times only a vague reference is made. A shortage of labour for hop picking is expected.




Morale in all districts excellent even where considerable damage done by raids. In places where warning is given but no raids have taken place people are calm; they take shelter when siren goes but stand at doors to see what is happening. Epsom doctor says: “Morale good, discretion bad. People don't realise how quickly danger may shift from one point to another - they should be told more of the risks they run, this especially in regard to children”. Malden reports much damage done and dislocation in the district but public services being restored as quickly as possible. No panic noticeable and everyone anxious to help those whose homes and property have been destroyed. The spirit is wonderful. Feel that local registers should be set up everywhere to deal with problems of homeless people. Reported from South London that a statement by a responsible official that gas bombs had been dropped caused confusion and alarm. Comment received from Stoke Newington that it would be better if buses went to nearest open space or square; if they are hit there is danger of fire from petrol. Feeling in London business circles that war effort will be greatly interfered with if everyone takes cover when sirens go; action should be left to individual judgment. Still confusion about sirens and opening up of public shelters. People now realise London not immune from air raids. Confidence has increased since more details given about raids and magnificence of R.A.F. Anderson shelters now proving their worth. Bitter feeling amongst soldiers in Bethnal Green sent home on convalescent leave without pay after being wounded at Dunkirk: wife's allowance insufficient to provide for invalid husband and credit no longer given for goods in East End. Feeling amongst London exporters that trade is being stifled: difficulty in obtaining export permits, cannot send goods abroad until payment received from country of destination. Comment from Woolwich about Mr. Eden's speech - felt to be unfortunate that a Cabinet Minister when referring to our ultimate victory should have spoken of the “odds” being in our favour.

Home Intelligence .

17th August, 1940 .

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