A History of the Ministry of Information, 1939-46

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No. 2 New Series.

received by

1st October, 1940

1. Comments received on General Morale .

Public confidence in our ability to win the war by hitting Germany harder in the air and repelling invasion stimulated by Bernard Newman's tour (R.I.O. Belfast).

Some jumpiness reported in Exeter but morale not weakened and no direct or indirect sign of defeatism (R.I.O. Bristol).

“The more timorous people having gone away, the general attitude seems to have stiffened” (Bethnal Green Housing contact).

Book sales have increased lately. The public are on the whole reading light literature or books dealing with such subjects as air warfare, etc. On the other hand, sales of magazines have decreased (Lord Hambleden in a letter).

The outward mail to both Northern Ireland and Eire continues to show a smiling but grim determination to win the war (P.O. Censorship S. Wales).

From several quarters hopes of a British victory are voiced and one woman in Dublin wrote: “We will sacrifice anything to help win the war.” P.O. Censorship S. Wales to Eire).

2. Reported reactions to war experiences .

Home Guard activity arousing increased interest. Working-class Belfast women form an air raid shelter protection committee. Belfast traders report big shopping rush before Purchase Tax. (R.I.O. Belfast) Indignation in Edinburgh at lack of A.A. fire at lone raiders and absence of sirens. Requests for special explanation to Scottish public. Agitation in Glasgow in favour of deep shelters. (R.I.O. Edinburgh).

Morale continues excellent, though office workers still go to shelters the moment sirens are sounded (R.I.O. Birmingham.)

Public disturbed at Luton over bombing without A.A. retaliation (R.I.O. Cambridge.)

Evacuees in Bath talk of unbelieveable destructiveness of bombs in London. Barnstaple is reported to have taken its first bombs very well. Thousands watched routing of enemy planes by British fighters over Bristol. Demand for reprisals growing in Devon; there is said to be a prevalent idea that we refrain from bombing Berlin owing to vested interests in that capital. (R.I.O. Bristol).

Public who have lost their clothes through bombing express anger at their having to rely on charity (W.V.S. contact in Marylebone).

Horror at torpedoing of children's evacuee ship appears to be healing breach between England and Eire (P.O. Censorship S. Wales).

Following quotations stated to sum up affect of air raids: “We are quite unconcerned about it; in fact it would feel quite lonesome if we didn't hear the drone of a plane overhead.” “I've sent my forms in for the R.A.F. I've got a job and we are doing our bit, but I feel I can do more.” (P.O. Censorship S. Wales.)

3. Reported reactions to news from Home and Overseas .

Spain, Rumania and Syria are being watched attentively by intelligent people. Great things are expected of Australian troops when they get to grips with the Italians. Pacts between Axis and Japan expected to increase American aid for Britain, though entry of U.S. into war regarded as an outside chance. (R.I.O. Belfast.)

Criticism of failure to name towns other than London bombed in daylight and to announce number of casualties; mention of “A town in the Midlands” causes much unnecessary alarm. (Glasgow contact of R.I.O. Edinburgh.) Little comment on Axis-Japan pact. Criticism of alleged appeasement policy to Vichy Government over Dakar. Considerable public anxiety and confusion about Mediterranean position (R.I.O. Newcastle.)

Dakar withdrawal still rankles and there is a feeling that [Text Missing]ss of incident has not yet been heard. Japan-Axis pact has caused considerable interest but no alarm or despondency - a further stage towards drawing America into war. (R.I.O. Cambridge).

Little attention by public to Japan-Axis pact; it is regarded as putting in legal form the existing position. A speculation about effect on America. Some hopes that America will enter war on our side. (R.I.O. Bristol.)

4. Criticism of presentation of news .

Some criticism of official news sneering at an enemy who a few days later makes our Forces retire “according to plan”. (R.I.O. Birmingham.

5. Reported reception of official speeches and announcements .

“Stay Put” leaflet reported from many quarters to have been most successful and preparations for evacuation in case of invasion said to be negligible. (R.I.O. Newcastle.)

Restiveness among businessmen about lack of definite news about secret weapon which Sir Archibald Sinclair indicated might be found to combat night bombing. (City contact in London.)

King's speech very favourably commented on. (P.O. Censorship S. Wales.) Many social workers criticise complicated language used by [Text Missing] Cabinet Ministers on radio. Working-class misunderstand announcements and worry over misapprehensions. Announcements about evacuation schemes, etc. should be put up in print. (Charity Organisation Society, London.)

8. Public comments on Service matters .

It is said our prisoners of war cannot be sent tobacco, and it is asked whether Red Cross can get over this. (R.I.O. Birmingham.)

Lack of guards on French ship is alleged by Falmouth Information Committee. (R.I.O. Bristol.)

Public seeing land mines dropped by parachute mistake them for parachutists and rush towards them with dire results. Immediate announcement asked for. (Willesden C.A.B.).

Army fretting against inaction; all praise and glory going to R.A.F. Air raid near Belfast welcomed by troops as a diversion. Complaints about food at Carrickfergus and Victoria Barracks. Great appreciation of efforts of Y.M.C.A. Much praise of camps at Tenby and St. Athans. One gets impression Irish do not get on as well with English as with Scotch and Welsh. New aerodrome building at Magheragall and balloon barrage at Belfast are commented on. (P.O. Censorship S. Wales.)

9. Public comments on security matters .

Criticism of sirens at Birmingham, particularly in connection with tip and run raids. Much criticism of dirty habits of people in shelters. (R.I.O. Birmingham.)

People taking suit cases into shelters containing clothes, in case their houses are destroyed. (R.I.O. Newcastle.)

People booking places in tubes from midday onwards for the night. Why are not tickets issued to avoid crowding of platforms? (West End contact.)

No sign of chemical closets in Rebecca House, Stepney. Trek to deep shelters goes on, at night, but less sheltering in day-time. Most of East End still without gas, and much without electricity. (Bethnal Green Housing contact.)

Some people are sleeping under sandbagged railway arches, which is obviously dangerous and many travel to tube stations for the night. L.C.C. Rest Centres, formerly understaffed and equipped, have now been improved. (Member of Home Intelligence staff visit to Bermondsey.) More air raid shelters are being built in Cardiff, and in Londonderry where “they think Hitler will strike first.” (P.O. Censorship S. Wales to N. Ireland.)

10. Rumours .

Inadequate number of British troops in Egypt. (R.I.O. Newcastle.)

Many stories as a result of a recent heavy daylight raid. (R.I.O. Bristol.)

A widespread rumour that Falmouth A.A. defences have been withdrawn to serve the London area. (Falmouth L.I.C.)

People in Camberwell and Lambeth say Haw Haw [Text Missing] announced that “King's College Barracks” was to be bombed. (King's College Hospital is in Camberwell.) (Lord Hambleden's letter.)

11. Public attitude to extremist activities .

Conscientious objectors who have evacuated although seeking hospitality and work, are spreading harrowing tales, whether true or false, and “doing great harm.” (Bletchley, Bucks. R.I.O. Cambridge.)

12a. Health .

Smethwick M.O.H. reports birthrate almost lowest on record and advocates family allowances to prevent it falling further. (.R.I.O. Birmingham.)

Many cases of hardship reported as a result of boundary lines being drawn between evacuation and neutral areas in the same town. Greater elasticity in local administration urgently required. (R.I.O. Newcastle.)

Large numbers of evacuees from London and S.E. have been well received in the region and are settling down to changed circumstances without rancour. (R.I.O. Bristol.)

The building used as a Rest Centre seemed to have too much glass for safety and few people could find room to sleep in the basement passage at night. (Home Intelligence staff visit to Bermondsey.)

People coming to Rest Centres for assistance take advantage of free meals, and it is not possible always to discern genuine cases. (Public Assistance Officer, E.1. area.)

12b. Food .

Many Dundee housewives are ignorant of arrangements to provide free milk for children, and it is suggested that publicity and forms be provided at retail and small shops. Some of those taking advantage of the scheme are annoyed at having to re-enrol every three months. (R.I.O. Scotland.)

There are enormous crops of apples, and potatoes and carrots are doing well. (P.O. Censorship S. Wales to N. Ireland.)

The corn crop is a good one, but turnips and mangolds have been affected by the drought. The peat is now being brought home. (P.O. Censorship S. Wales to Eire.)

12c. Labour .

14 year-old Birmingham boys are getting 16/- per week in some factories and up to 52/- in others; many of these juveniles go from job to job in search of more money. (Member of Birmingham Education Committee to R.I.O. Birmingham.)

Much feeling that the authorities are not considering ordinary people as much as they might; i.e. delay in unemployment assistance, the need for which is consequent upon the destruction of so many factories and other places of work. In many cases Insurance Cards are destroyed or not available. (Bethnal Green Housing contact.)

Annoyance at the way in which authorities put everything in the way of doing a fair day's work. Writer applied to Port Talbot Labour Exchange and told he could not be attended to as there was an air-raid on. (P.O. Censorship N. Ireland.)

Reported from Aberownton, Glam., that “900 miners had been given notice From Bridgend, “The Ocean Colliery is swarming with men looking for work.” Again, “There is no work in Pentre nor Aberbarden. The young miners have to be called up.” (P.O. Censorship N. Ireland.)

Work is very scarce here (Belfast), as all the big places are closing down. (P.O. Censorship N. Ireland.)

12e. Pensions, etc .

Much confusion is said still to exist about the rights of landlords and tenants, the compulsory property insurance scheme, and the level of costs of repairs recognisable for grant purposes in the case of destruction of property by raids. Active publicity for these topics is immediately required. (R.I.O. Newcastle).

Bath reports that some of the refugees from London are anxious about rent and compensation for war damage. (R.I.O. Bristol.)

12 n. Education .

In spite of various problems raised by evacuation, the percentage of successes in schools and High School certificate examinations is the same as last year. (Birmingham Education Committee: R.I.O. Birmingham.)

12.r. Censorship .

Peculiar idea of the censor's activities is expressed by a writer from Kilkenny who remarks: “I wrote several times, and then a girl told me that a lot of letters were burnt sooner than censor them.” (P.O. Censorship S. Wales to Eire.)

14. Comments on miscellaneous matters .

The British spirit of sportsmanship is appreciated by an Irishman writing to Co.Cork. “Sorry to read such unsporting people at the Regatta. We don't get anything like that here, though we are a mixed race of peoples. Sport is carried on in a sportsmanlike manner, and very often the loser makes himself an honoured winner by the manner in which he takes his beating.” (P.O. Censorship S. Wales to Eire.)

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