A History of the Ministry of Information, 1939-46


No. 72
Daily Report on MORALE
Saturday, 10th August, 1940

Morale remains high although reports from certain regions show that people are “resting on their oars”.

Interviews show that the Somaliland situation is beginning to arouse interest: people think it is more important than they did at first. This opinion is associated with a suspicion that “there is more behind it than meets the eye”. This attitude has been reported on many times. There is evidence that it arises, in part, from a lack of news interpretation . Verbatims illustrate this problem: “I suppose those out-of-the-way places are really quite important”, “Is it Africa or India they're after now?”, “Thank God it wasn't a strategic withdrawal this time - although I suppose there's not much difference anyhow”, “I wish I knew what it all meant”, “Does it mean the Suez Canal will be closed?”

This ignorance and bewilderment lead to suspicion of news sources on the one hand and on the other to an increasing feeling of isolationism. The fact that many people are relieved to be fighting alone and are anxious to curtail our responsibilities illustrates one point of view: the other is shown by the doubt which increasingly falls on official news. Our air losses are constantly compared with those of Germany and since German communiqués are widely heard or read in this country, people are at a loss to understand the reasons for our disproportionate losses. Without interpretation and explanation vague suspicions grow. The recent publication of the recent comparative table of air losses brought many comments illustrating this: “I thought the losses were about 5 to 1, not 2 to 1”, “It's not as favourable as I thought”, “I wish I felt sure that we always told the truth”.

Informed opinion considers that the White Paper on the internment of aliens is unsatisfactory.

There is a growing demand in certain circles for a statement on “peace aims” although at present there is no evidence that this demand is general among the people as a whole.




10.8.40 .

Interest in the possibilities of invasion is becoming less marked. Opinions about the significance of the campaign in Africa vary; there are some misgivings about the trend of events reported in the last few days. The disparity between our own claims and those of the Germans in connection with aircraft losses continues to be a matter for fairly widespread speculation.

2. NORTH-EASTERN (Leeds) Little interest seems to have been aroused by the Somaliland battle, but it is said that the public in Huddersfield are sceptical of “the customary explanation that the military reverse is one that does not matter”. There is said to be an increasing demand that peace aims should be stated in terms complementary to the war policy. This feeling is reflected with some emphasis in the local press.

4. EASTERN (Cambridge) “There is still a tendency for people to express perplexity at the big difference between our planes and those of the German Command. When German communiqués claim equally overwhelming successes many people suspect that our own communiqué,s are drawn up on a similar principle. There is a general desire for a convincing explanation why our own aircraft are so strikingly superior.” There are more complaints about the way in which applicants at Labour Exchanges are treated by the Exchange clerks.

6. SOUTHERN (Reading) Some misgiving is felt about the efficiency of certain of the Government's war activities and about the mobilisation of man-power. “The indiscriminate internment of refugees, especially of men who might be of assistance to this country, has caused unfavourable comments. The rise in unemployment, together with the inadequate use of administrative and technical talent is again the subject of discussion.”

8. WALES (Cardiff) Some uneasiness is felt about the situation in Africa. The activity there, “coupled with the German effort to intensify the blockade against us, is giving rise to a fairly common belief that invasion has been relegated to the background.” At the same time, it is widely stated “that we must steel ourselves to meet very much heavier night bombing.” The withdrawal of our troops from Shanghai has aroused little comment.

10. NORTH-WESTERN (Manchester) There is still some worry about air raid alarms, chiefly from country districts where little damage has been done, but curiosity seems to outweigh apprehension. The police yesterday had to prevent charabanc trips to one of the bombed areas. It is suggested that the French war guilt trials should be given the fullest publicity, “as final evidence of the character of the Vichy Government.”

12. SOUTH-EASTERN (Tunbridge Wells) The claims of Brighton, Hastings, and other Sussex coast towns for a fixed curfew hour are being considered by the Regional Commissioner and the military. It is said that the area and the duration of the curfew are likely to be revised, and it is the hope of applicants that this revision will last until the end of September. There seems to be some confusion about the authorities who are to be obeyed during invasion or bombardment, and complaints are made that the “Stay where you are” leaflet does not give sufficiently explicit instructions. It tells people not to take orders except from soldiers, police, Home Guard, or A.R.P. authorities, “but it is commonly believed that only the military and police can legally control the movements of people during invasion or bombardment,” and at other times have the power to do so only in defence areas.


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