A History of the Ministry of Information, 1939-46


No. 59
Daily Report on MORALE
Friday, 26th July, 1940

Morale is still high and people are cheerful.

1. The campaign against the Ministry of Information continues in the Press. An inquiry designed to test the amount of public feeling roused by the Silent Column campaign showed that in one large aircraft factory less than 10% of the employees had heard of the campaign: in a specimen village less than 5% of the population had heard of the campaign. On the other hand the prosecutions for defeatist talk are a general topic of conversation and a large proportion of the public have been affected by rumours, fears and criticisms.

2. Siren policy is still much commented upon and in certain areas, e.g. Edinburgh, widely criticised.

3. The long-delayed announcement about the Lancastria has had a bad effect upon morale. The loss of the Lancastria was generally known in certain districts and the news had been heard in German wireless programmes. The release of the news without adequate explanation has produced criticism and general suspicion.

4. From many districts come complaints that important official forms are written in incomprehensible language. Official instructions of this kind are often re-written for general understanding. There is also a good deal of criticism of the waste of paper involved in the wide distribution of certain official forms, e.g. transport returns.

5. Sir Philip Joubert's broadcast was widely appreciated. His accents are friendly yet determined and there is evidence that the public has increasing confidence in his authority.

There is a growing feeling that too many campaigns take the form of unconstructive prohibitions (Don't gossip, Don't spend, Don't waste, Don't listen to enemy broadcasts).




26.7.40 .

The withholding of the news of the Lancastria is the subject of much adverse criticism. The story was known in Plymouth through survivors, and a rumour that 3,000 men had been lost with her was prevalent in Leeds three weeks ago. Fears that other bad news is withheld are reported from Tunbridge Wells and Manchester, and the fact that the news was only released after publication in an American paper gives rise to the feeling that it would otherwise have been withheld longer. One comment is: “that the mass of the people has proved itself steady, and should not be treated as children.”

1. NORTHERN (Newcastle) Many complaints about Means Test for supplementary Old Age Pensions. In one centre older men are acting as unofficial scouts to watch for A.R.P. workers being called out for yellow warnings, and then warn other inhabitants who go to shelters. Miners express satisfaction at scheme for sharing British coal market.

2. NORTH-EASTERN (Leeds) Morale good. Feeling that “more is happening in the war than is revealed.” Adverse comments because farmers in the region have not made bare strips in their wheat fields as a safeguard against fire.

3. NORTH-MIDLAND (Nottingham) Munition workers are feeling the strain of long hours, but little grumbling is heard. Ex-Servicemen concerned about danger of giving ammunition to inexperienced Home Guards. People asking why waste materials cannot be given direct to Government, instead of through dealers. Mixed feeling expressed about siren policy. Complaints from county areas of shortage of shelters and Contex filters for gas masks.

4. EASTERN (Cambridge) Reports of more determined attitude of women in contrast to a month ago. Although all doubts about Silent Column are not removed there is evidence that it has checked irresponsible talk. Feeling that Hitler has postponed invasion till Rumanian oil problem is solved, gains ground.

6. SOUTHERN (Reading) Depression following collapse of France has disappeared. Propaganda about “island fortress” has caught on, but Gen. de Gaulle has not, and there appears to be little discrimination between the French Government and the people. On sea coast intensification of attacks on convoys evokes anxiety as to justification of German claims.

7. SOUTH-WESTERN (Bristol) Morale well-maintained. Public has taken Budget “in its stride”. Hitler's speech still a subject of discussion, although his feeler is rejected. Cirencester reports that few people took cover during recent dog fight. Complaints of coal supply delays from Trowbridge. Bombs dropping on an estate which rumour says Goebbels intends to inhabit have have greatly increased the rumour.

8. WALES (Cardiff) Invasion anticipated, and confidence in defences and desire to end suspense are expressed. News that over 20 planes were intercepted and shot down on their way to Wales has caused a great deal of satisfaction. Workmen want to know whether to work on if asked to continue when sirens have sounded. Rumours of lack of co-ordination between ground defences and fighters in Chepstow area, and of discontent among French sailors in Liverpool.

10 NORTH-WESTERN (Manchester) Public paying more attention to inadequacy of soldiers' pay and minor concessions are advocated. Position of French sailors in Liverpool area complicated by Meknes incident.

11. SCOTLAND (Edinburgh) Concern about lack of drainage in air raid shelters, and complaints about lack of opposition to enemy aircraft are common in the west. Adverse comment about apologetic explanation in B.B.C. news of lack of troops on Libyan frontier.

12 SOUTH-EASTERN (Tunbridge Wells) Careless talk noticed among workmen constructing buildings for Government use. Bitter complaints about prices of soft fruits, and opinion is held that speculators are responsible; hope is expressed that plum prices will be controlled. Joubert's refutation that enemy planes can be distinguished by engine note considered a good feature of his talk.

13. NORTHERN IRELAND (Belfast) Wide belief that recent Bank outrages are the work of I.R.A. seeking money for Fifth Column activities. Announcement of Eden's inspection of N. Ireland defences gives satisfaction. Boothby's statement on feeding stuffs welcomed by Ulster farmers. Continued confidence in R.A.F. superiority.

9. MIDLAND (Birmingham) Campaigns offering the public opportunity of buying fighter planes received good support, as does the collection of aluminium. Criticism from country areas that too many tramps are allowed on the road in present circumstances.




News of Lancastria sinking makes people ask if many more of our ships have not been sunk. Women with free time on hand would like to do voluntary war work but find it difficult to get as hours are limited. Mothers of large families quite content that their work is of national importance. Mitcham factory reports workers speaking less freely than usual; if war is mentioned everyone very careful of what they say. Service men accused on all sides of giving away too much information about regiments and stations; civilians disturbed and try to prevent them talking. Unemployment problem in Docks growing. M.O.I. film “Women and Munitions” rousing storms of protest by women in Woolwich and surrounding districts who cannot get munition work and want it badly. Labour Exchange manager inundated with deputations, telephone calls and visits from angry women. Arsenal having just reduced overtime, women needed still less than before. Hackney women arranging to take in each other's families if blocks of flats are hit; less neighbourliness shown in streets of private houses. Some anti-Semitism revealed in district; feeling expressed that Jewish people “get more of everything than Gentiles”. Problem of clothes chief trouble to mothers of evacuated children in East End. Mill Hill reports excellent morale in district but several nervous people not sleeping as afraid every aeroplane overhead is German. Considerable wishful thinking about European famine reported among middle class. North Kensington parents interested in scheme for compulsory physical training for children from fourteen to eighteen; communal kitchen in district proving great success. From Bethnal Green come complaints of people smoking in air raid shelters; suggest atmosphere would be unbearable in long raid and especially bad for children. Shelter amenities on local housing estate still unprovided; causing ill feeling. Epsom reports Canadian soldiers acquiring sense of grievance over delay in getting home letters. Air Marshal Joubert's talk received very favourably.

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