A History of the Ministry of Information, 1939-46


No. 104
Daily Observations by Home Intelligence
Thursday, 19th September, 1940

  1. People are not so cheerful today. There is more grumbling. Elation over the barrage is not so strong: people wonder why it is not more effective in preventing night bombing and many avow it has decreased in intensity. There is also evidence that physical tiredness is beginning to have an effect on nerves.

  2. There are increasing demands for reprisals and growing hatred against the Germans: wild suggestions are made, “Fill Buckingham Palace with prisoners”, “Shoot all captured airmen”, etc. These expressions are common in public shelters in specially heavily bombed areas.

  3. In London the following tension points continue:

    • Amenities of public shelters

    • Inability of local authorities to remove people quickly from rest shelters

    • Inadequate methods of evacuation to other parts of London and to the country

    • Transport difficulties

    • Curtailment of services, e.g. Post Offices, shops, Employment Exchanges, etc.

    • Lack of a register of evacuated persons

    • Determination of the public to use underground stations as shelters

    • Rigidity of compensation regulations

  4. Last night the number of people taking shelter in underground stations greatly increased.

  5. Rumours and exaggerated stories circulate widely in London and the provinces. The most important subjects are

    • Terrors of the new magnetic mines dropped by parachute

    • Invasion (in progress, repulsed, etc.)

    • Spies (Fifth Column activities in shelters, signalling with torches, etc.)

    • Damage and casualties in London

    Today several people reported “a petition for peace” sent to the Prime Minister from the East End. This may be due to the petitions which the People's Vigilance Committees, Communist groups, etc. are organising in shelters.

  6. 6. Reports confirm that in the country outside London there is an exaggerated view of the damage and dislocation in London. “Refugees” are spreading highly coloured stories and the Press continues to devote itself almost exclusively to accounts of damage.

  7. 7. The situation in Egypt is not raising popular concern. On the other hand thoughtful people are disturbed and already speak of “another Somaliland”.




19.9.40 .

2. NORTH-EASTERN (Leeds) Some apprehension about events in Africa, and doubt as to whether the power of the Navy in the Mediterranean is enough to check the Italian advance. Expectations of invasion are diminishing. News reels and pictures in papers of damage to London have done much to improve blackout and civil defence precautions. Showing of King and Queen visiting the East End in News reels has brought cheers everywhere. L.I.C. at Sowerby Bridge passed resolution urging need for discussion of war aims as a positive factor in morale. Much discussion of deep shelters and many urge the need for them.

4. EASTERN (Cambridge) Increasing belief that our strong defences and the weather will defer invasion. Some demand for Press pictures of R.A.F. damage to Germany, to offset continual pictures of damage here. Requests for more information about our A.A. defences and some anxiety at American statement that life of A.A. guns is very short. Complaints continue about German wireless monopolising ether. Some criticism of expense to local authorities of salvage schemes; contractors suspected of excessive profits, sometimes quite unfairly.

6. SOUTHERN (Reading) Local authorities faced by big problem of East End refugees. Towns affected are Oxford, Windsor, Banbury, Chipping Norton, Aylesbury, Newbury, etc. Refugees spread despondency by lurid accounts of bombing. Growing demand that large empty country houses should have been taken over for refugees. Official statements about “no retaliation” creating discussion. Belief expressed that in absence of retaliation indiscriminate bombing will get progressively worse, while retaliation might stop it. Some argue that civilian bombing has military value and instance bombing of Rotterdam. Criticism that we have not convinced neutrals of our own certainty of ultimate victory.

8. WALES (Cardiff) Complaints that civil defence equipment is impossible to obtain in both north and south Wales. Much criticism of cars parked in rows with side lamps lit outside hotels. Public believe these can be seen from the air. Curfew on beaches accepted as a wise precaution. Much interest, coupled with uneasiness, about situation in Africa. Suggestion is made that B.B.C. interviews of victims of bombing do not ring true, as persons interviewed sometimes have difficulty in reading their apparently carefully prepared scripts.

10. NORTH-WESTERN (Manchester) Indignation reported in Merseyside area at daylight bombing without apparent resistance from fighters, and that sirens sounded after raid had started. Liverpool considers that for its size its losses have been as heavy as London's, and that it should have appropriate fighter protection. Increasing optimism about results of possible invasion, but distinct uneasiness about Spain and Egypt; public sceptical when told of negligible value of abandoned territory. Growing anxiety about conditions which are likely if long winter nights have to be passed in cold shelters.

12. SOUTH-EASTERN (Tunbridge Wells) Some alarm expressed at German programmes overlapping and substituting B.B.C. programmes on closely similar wave-lengths. Rumours that East-Enders have sent a petition to the Prime Minister to stop the war. Sarcastic comments at closing of Post Offices whenever warnings sound. Increasing irritation at apparent immunity of German bombers which are thought to “circle over” individual towns for hours at night. Rumours persist that invasions have taken place and have been repulsed.




Some dismay expressed to-day at heavy raid last night and apparent inability of A.A. barrage to prevent it. Fear of mines dropped by parachute and the extent of the damage they cause is also evident. No break in morale, however, can be seen. Extreme annoyance again expressed by business people and other workers at closing down of public utility services during warnings, especially post offices and banks. Welfare supervisor of large employing concern reports workers less worried over difficulty of transport than lack of sleep. 75% of these workers are sleeping in shelters where their rest is continually disturbed. Rest Centres and Communal Feeding Centres in heavily bombed areas now working far more smoothly but problem of re-billeting of homeless in East End districts still acute. People turned out of houses by time bombs are not catered for on regular system; one family in Greenwich reported to have been living in dugout for ten days waiting to go home when time bomb had exploded, and voicing resentment as they say that “in Mayfair bomb would have been dealt with after two days”. Urgent need for some machinery by which contact can be kept with people who have left London so that relations can get in touch with them. Air raid casualties reported by hospital almoner to be extremely brave and cheerful but anxious over welfare of relations. Local machinery needed to find out and report on these relations to hospital patients. Middle classes reported to be concerned over question of compensation when houses have been damaged or demolished. Complaints voiced that nothing is being done for them although they are hard hit by taxation and loss of business. Grievance also that full rates are charged for houses half demolished. Motorists willing to give lifts complain of confusion and delay in picking up people wanting to go in the same direction. Wish request could be made that people wanting lifts should hold out notices with names of places they are going to clearly marked. Bad feeling growing in North London suburbs about numbers of “aliens” who go into street shelters with mattresses early in evening and leave no room for passers-by.

Home Intelligence.

19th September, 1940 .

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