A History of the Ministry of Information, 1939-46


No. 96
Daily Report on MORALE
Tuesday, 10th September, 1940

Morale remains unchanged today. Voluntary and unplanned evacuation of East End families continues, and although it is largely confined to women and children, some men are also going. Families in the Deptford area are making for the hopfields in Kent, taking with them such of their belongings as they can carry, while those further west are making for the main line stations, though without any other apparent object than “to get away from it all”. There is, however, little evidence that these efforts to escape are due to defeatist feelings, but are simply because the people are thoroughly frightened.

Now that they are beginning to feel, and are being referred to, as “soldiers in the front line”, everything should be done to encourage this opinion of themselves. It would undoubtedly help if the public were made to feel that their friends and relations had died for their country, in the same sense as if they were soldiers, sailors or airmen. It might be a small but extremely telling point if, for instance, the dead were buried with Union Jacks on their coffins, or if the Services were represented at their funerals. Attentions of this kind would undoubtedly mean much at the moment.

Among other suggestions that have been made for the alleviation of the difficulties of those in the bombed areas is that field service postcards for civilians should be issued in the areas which have suffered the worst damage, so that the poor can inform their distant relatives of their safety and thus avoid overloading the telegram and telephone services.

The need for mobile canteens in bombed areas is urgent. Certain voluntary societies are already doing their best to provide these facilities, but are quite unable to cope with the immense demands which are made upon them.

The foregoing conclusions naturally reflect the conditions in the London area more than elsewhere, and today's reports from Regions show that their spirits also are steady and confident. Much sympathy is felt with London's sufferings, but confidence is everywhere expressed in the ability of the metropolitan population to stand up to what they are going through.





2. NORTH EASTERN (Leeds) Morale and confidence are unchanged. Keen interest is centred on events in London. Many people feel there should be a curfew in large towns, and a curfew on motoring also has been suggested. There has been a considerable increase in absenteeism at the pits in Rother Valley, and there is much local feeling about the need for better shelters for miners' families, which may explain the increased number of absentees. A report from Ecclesfield states that there is much feeling that communal brick shelters, which are to replace Anderson shelters, do not afford the same protection as steel.

4. EASTERN (Cambridge) Raids on London are the chief topic of conversation. There is a growing feeling that severe reprisals should be taken on Berlin, although the intensity of this feeling diminishes in proportion to the distance from London.

6. SOUTHERN (Reading) The view is commonly expressed that the only way to stop the Germans is to bomb Berlin even more extensively than they bomb London. Rumours due to Saturday night's invasion alarm have decreased. The sound of the tocsin brought people out into the streets. People are disconcerted by the late arrival of daily papers, and the revival of the mid-morning B.B.C. news is suggested to meet this need.

8. WALES (Cardiff) The comparative quietness of the last three days in this region has left everyone refreshed. The progress of attacks on the Thames Estuary has been watched with anxiety. The continued success of our fighters and the nightly activity of our bombers have raised hopes very high. South Wales coalpits are now mostly working short-time, and there is disappointment that the effort to secure distribution to home markets to fill gaps caused by the loss of continental trade has so far been unsuccessful. Delays in publication, and the nebulous character of our reports on raids on this country is encouraging increasing numbers to tune in to German stations.

10. NORTH WESTERN (Manchester) A peaceful night has strengthened the spirit of those who grumbled at the supposed lack of defences. There is a general feeling that if London can stick it, so can Manchester. There is a query from Salford as to why national leaders do not speak to the public at the present time. There is depression in St. Helens through the closing down of a colliery employing more than 1,000 hands.

12. SOUTH EASTERN (Tunbridge Wells) Lorry drivers are coming into the region with harrowing tales of damage and panic in London. Morale is extremely high in the region, and everyone is full of praise for the R.A.F. People are still going out into the streets to witness thrilling dog-fights overhead. Residents of Shoreham Beach Bungalow Town were recently ordered to leave by military authorities, and it seems that distress has been caused as many of the bungalows were built as an investment by elderly people, and it is reported that no provision has been made to look after them.




Exodus from East End growing rapidly. Taxi drivers report taking party after party to Euston and Paddington with belongings. Hundreds of people leaving Deptford for Kent. Increased tension everywhere and when siren goes people run madly for shelter with white faces. Contact spending night in West Ham reports loyalty and confidence in ultimate issue unquenched but nerves worn down to fine point. Conditions of living now almost impossible and great feeling in dockside areas of living on island surrounded by fire and destruction. Urgent necessity of removing women and children and old and crippled people to-day is reported from all sources - official and unofficial. Extreme nervousness of people rendered homeless at being herded together in local schools with inadequate shelters. West Ham school filled to bursting point from Saturday night onwards, blown up by H.E. bomb with many casualties. This has caused great shock in district. People angry at inadequacy of compensation of wrecked and burnt-out houses; grumbling and dissatisfaction openly voiced, states Deptford contact. Civil Defence services receiving much praise but growing exceedingly tired in heavily bombed areas. Class feeling growing because of worse destruction in working class areas; anti-Semitism growing in districts where large proportion of Jews reside owing to their taking places in public shelters early in the day. People in target areas living in shelters; women emerging for short time to do shopping and bolting back again. Many reported going into tubes to shelter in spite of instructions to contrary. Dismay and wonder at apparent inadequacy of London defences reported from most districts especially in East End, and intense disgust at hospital bombing. Districts less regularly bombed, such as Lewisham and Chelsea, report great neighbourly feeling. Bermondsey Citizen's Advice Bureau inundated with mothers and young children, hysterical and asking to be removed from district. Reports from Woolwich and Eltham that people are saying our searchlights are being used to guide German planes at night - suspicion of Fifth Column activity. Gravesend seriously disturbed that bombs are dropped without warning as planes pass over; London sirens go and then the sirens at Gravesend: when the “All Clear” goes they know that they will get more bombs dropped on the planes' return journey. People feel that Gravesend is not given adequate consideration by the authorities.

Home Intelligence

10th September, 1940.

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