A History of the Ministry of Information, 1939-46


No. 57 [Text Missing]
Daily Report on MORALE
Wednesday, 24th July, 1940

The lull in events is reflected in morale. People are calm, not highly interested in the wider implications of the war, critical of the Government's home policy but fundamentally co-operative in all measures which are believed to indicate a vigorous war policy. Defence measures are approved and are giving increasing confidence. Factory employees are working at high pressure although there are signs of fatigue because of long hours and few holidays.

People were expecting much greater Budget demands and the blow, when it came, seemed gentle. There was some criticism that the Chancellor did not go far enough, that the Budget was too conventional and that further demands must be made quite soon. There is some working-class criticism about the taxes on beer and cheap entertainment; others refer to the ‘appeasement Budget’ and mark up the Chancellor's past associations. On the whole, however, the reaction has been negative.

There is general appreciation of the Prime Minister's frankness over the Silent Column campaign but little attempt to ‘name the culprit’. As usual the Ministry of Information is considered the chief offender and the relationship of the Ministry with prosecutions for defeatist talk has been freely canvassed. The Government is considered to have shown signs of grace by its response to public feeling both about these prosecutions, about the Silent Column and about aliens. An analysis of verbatims shows that there is more talk about these matters than about the Budget.

During the last few days observers have been reporting on the way in which the public took the publication of the monthly air-raid casualty figures. The great majority of people were surprised and disturbed at the figures.

(Local example of good morale: Air-raid warning received in cinema with cheers)




24.7.40 .

The general reaction to the Budget is cheerful resignation, due to expectation of more severe taxation. From many regions criticism is received that the Budget does not go far enough; “it is better to skin us right out now than build up a burden to be carried later”, comes from Bristol, and a Reading comment is that “for most people it might have been worse, but from a national point of view it might have been better.” The collection of income tax at source is approved for the most part as it is considered easier to meet the tax that way.

1. NORTHERN (Newcastle) Comment that County Councils and Local Authorities are not adjusting finances to meet the situation. Tendency persists among some industrial classes to stay awake at night in anticipation of air raids. Problem of boots and shoes for poor children is causing some anxiety.

2. NORTH-EASTERN (Leeds) Confidence in military and L.D.V. increasing. Morale improved in Bridlington and coast defences have increased confidence generally. Traders and boarding-house keepers depressed at slowness of Government to help in seaside towns. Scarborough upset that 2,000 evacuated children remain although people are invited to leave.

3. NORTH-MIDLAND (Nottingham) Vivid contrast of basis of Halifax's appeal thought effective. Scarcity and price of eggs subject of much comment. Figures of people killed in raids came as a shock to some in view of official bulletins minimising damage and casualties. Villagers in vicinity of aerodromes feel they are neglected in the matter of shelters.

4. EASTERN (Cambridge) Re-examination of sentences for careless talk has alleviated anxiety. Increased speculation on the possibility of assistance from U.S.S.R. Approval of move to sponsor leadership of Haile Selassie.

6. SOUTHERN (Reading) Report of drift back to complacency in rural and urban areas, although no sign of unwillingness to accept sacrifice. Film of children arriving in U.S.A. hissed in Winchester.

7. SOUTH-WESTERN (Bristol) Premier's statement on the Silent Column well received. Report that in Devon villages women feel they should have their sons and husbands at home because any peace could not be worse than war.

8. WALES (Cardiff) Increasing numbers not seeking shelter during night raids. Dorothy Thompson's broadcast appreciated by many. Regret expressed in some quarters that compulsory savings have not been imposed.

10. NORTH-WESTERN (Manchester) Plans to revise treatment of friendly aliens and sentences for defeatist talk has done much to reassure public opinion, and Premier's statement on Silent Column welcomed.

11. SCOTLAND (Edinburgh) Question of chief interest to people on east and west coast is “Where are our fighters and A.A. guns?”; and complaints of absence of opposition have increased on Clydeside. A rumour in Edinburgh last night said that the best guns had been transferred to England, and as a result faith in our defences is becoming undermined.

12. NORTHERN IRELAND (Belfast) Admiralty announcement of destroyer strength has encouraged public. Premier's statement on Silent Column caused surprise in some quarters.

13. SOUTH-EASTERN (Tunbridge Wells) Public asking why the price of soft fruits is so high. Reported that “Go to it” slogan is now resulting in decreased output through fatigue.




Reactions to Budget, relief at its leniency coupled with an uneasy belief that it did not go far enough to carry the tremendous burdens of expenditure needed to win the war. Intelligent opinion calls it “Compromise Budget” and remembers that Sir Kingsley Wood is one of the “Old Gang”. Army people wish beer and tobacco could be duty free for troops. Pleasure expressed by professional people and those in contact with refugees at Sir John Anderson's new policy. Stepney reports hardships connected with interned aliens among Jewish community where several old people were arrested. These cases have produced a sense of injustice disproportionate to their number. Some defeatist talk concerned chiefly with fallacy of saving, reported from Kensington. M. of I. films popular with public in G.B. cinema Chelsea, reports observer. Dangerous gossip films made greatest impression; Priestley's film liked by all classes and evacuation film least popular: criticism “that film was less real than the others and the mother too condescending”. Some people dubious about the veracity of air raid casualty numbers. “No resentment but belief expressed that actual numbers are far greater”. Scarcity of eggs chief topic of discussion in markets of poor districts - comparison made with Germany's one egg a week ration. Communal pig tub placed in Chelsea garden; has proved such success that second has been added. More resentment expressed that sugar for jam making was released too late for cheap soft fruit, and fruit prices soared when sugar finally became available. Some people disturbed at slack observance of black-out in Chelsea. Great enthusiasm for war among very poor reported in Shoreditch and in spite of hardships, no grumbling about food. Borough Council has opened depots for salvage in two localities. French soldiers billeted in White City reported more cheerful since facilities for seeing French films have been open to them. Dorothy Thompson's talk appreciated; people state they are glad to be in touch with America again and have missed Gram Swing. Willesden has admitted seventy refugees as honorary members of Social Centre; new spirit of friendliness grown up between them and English members.

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