A History of the Ministry of Information, 1939-46

13 14 2

No. 110 .

26.9.40 .

2. NORTH-EASTERN (Leeds) Dakar has had an unsettling effect on morale, and among the questions which are being asked are: “Is our Intelligence Service any good?” and “Are the Free French full of Fifth Columnists?” Londoners coming north are said to be spreading exaggerated reports of air raid damage, and there is much talk of deep shelters. The butter ration cut is accepted philosophically. All the papers contain letters demanding reprisals on Berlin.

4. EASTERN (Cambridge) Although there is fatigue, the morale of the public remains high, but there is considerable disquiet over the incident at Dakar. There is a widespread feeling that the action has been a half-hearted one, and in some quarters it is felt that de Gaulle took the initiative without the full support of our Government. The general view is that it is high time to avoid military operations which will give repetitions of Dunkirk and Somaliland. The Dakar incident and the loss of the ‘City of Benares’ has caused the first diversion from interest in London

At present people do not seem sufficiently confident to allow their children to take part in overseas evacuation.

6. SOUTHERN (Reading) The failure at Dakar commands public interest, and many feel that it will have a decisive effect on the attitude of N. Africa and possibly the Arab world. “Why did we allow the French ships through the Straits of Gibraltar?” “Why attempt the Dakar expedition unless we are prepared to see it through?” are typical of the questions being asked. There is criticism of the Government in a number of quarters over the lack of deep shelters, and shelters suited to winter conditions. There seems to be some muddle in the public mind about the necessity for working after the sirens, and some parts of the region, Eastleigh in particular, have apparently refused to do so.

7. SOUTH-WESTERN (Bristol) 25.9.40 . The sinking of the ‘City of Benares’ has caused anger; there is report of some demand for better convoying from Weston-super-Mare, and the general attitude in Plymouth is that the risk is worth taking. News of raids on Berlin have been received with jubilation. West Cornwall complains that Nazi airmen have a free play over the district, and Exeter also alleges a lack of defence of the city. There is a complaint from Bristol of the inadequacy of supplies of commodities affected by the Limitation of Supplies Act, said to be due to the influx of evacuees.

10. NORTH-WESTERN (Manchester) There is general disgust over the failure at Dakar. Reports of “beating off” raiders do not completely offset the deep impression produced by stories of the raids which are in circulation. Merseyside still wants to know why it cannot have its share of credit for standing up to night bombing. The cut in the butter ration is not too well received, and it is felt there is “too much anxiety to sugar the pill”.

12. SOUTH-EASTERN (Tunbridge Wells) The King's broadcast and the announcement of the George Cross was warmly praised. The voluntary evacuation scheme from Eastbourne has worked well, and the task of feeding men left in the town without their families has been well tackled. The fixing of the curfew at a reasonable hour in Brighton has minimised objections. A report from Sheerness says that there was a shortage of many foodstuffs last week, particularly margarine. There seems to be a general demand for employers to pay wages not later than Thursday. The general opinion is that the reduced ration of butter is very small, although people are not unduly worried.

8. WALES (Cardiff) The failure at Dakar is felt to be the biggest blow since the fall of France, and in some quarters it is felt that the French contingent in this country is more of a liability than an asset. People are saying: “the cruisers should never have been allowed to pass through the Straits of Gibraltar,” and the resultant loss of prestige is causing concern. That there should be any consideration for the Vichy Government is strongly criticised.



Continued belief in many districts that public surface shelters are not safe and people use tube stations instead: last night the tubes are reported to have been as crowded as ever. It is felt by East End social workers that the Government's scheme should include the evacuation of old people. The work of voluntary organisations in stricken areas has done much to prevent the breaking down of morale. In Croydon, it is reported that as a result of constant bombing, many people are wanting to leave and already many mothers and children are taking advantage of the Government's scheme. Women with children of school age, who have made their own billeting arrangements, are refused free railway vouchers, and they feel that this is unfair. Despite recent damage which has left many Silvertown workers homeless, their morale has improved since they have been allowed to continue working after the “Alert”. From many districts comes praise of the work of demolition squads; there is some public comment that their numbers are small and instruments primitive. In bombed areas of Kensington there is reported to have been much neighbourly help for raid victims. Some discontent is reported among black coated workers over compensation allowed for clothes damaged through air raids. Resentment heard expressed against first class passengers who show displeasure when third class passengers overflow into their compartments. There are complaints that workers losing their jobs as a result of their place of employment being damaged by air raids cannot claim unemployment benefit for the first nine days.

Home Intelligence.

26th September, 1940 .

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