A History of the Ministry of Information, 1939-46


No. 61
Daily Report on MORALE
Monday, 29th July, 1940

There is little change in general morale. The tendencies to over-optimism which have been already commented upon are still in evidence and should be most carefully considered. The present lull which has given rise to these reactions has been used by the press for unconstructive criticism and attacks upon leadership. These attacks upon leaders have produced some confusion in the popular mind and if they continue there are indications that they will lead to increasing bewilderment. Press criticism of the Minister of Information is only reflected to a very slight degree in our daily record of verbatims and overheard conversations. The feeling against Chamberlain is also not as strong as it was. At the same time, however, there are more overheard comments on “the inefficiency of the Government”, on “doubtful leadership”, on “bickerings in the Government” ............. From the point of view of national unity these are undesirable signs.

The meetings which the Communists held during the weekend were extremely well-attended and in Hyde Park the attendances were the best recorded since the beginning of the war. In Newcastle successful Communist demonstrations demanding better A.R.P. shelters, etc. were held. It is important to record that the new “non-Party” attitude which the Communists are adopting striking a note which is likely to find response. At the same time, it is important to observe that Communist support for the “Men of Munich Must Go” campaign has brought about the withdrawal of more moderate sympathy.

The withholding of news about the Lancastria has had a most undesirable effect and continues to be widely commented upon.

A most reliable observer, at the end of a tour through many parts of England, says “People don't want exhortation to be cheerful: they are cheerful. They don't want to be told to be good: they are as co-operative as they can be. What they want is information and explanation with lots of jam by way of music, processions, flags, songs and all the rest. This sums up many other reports.


88 89


29th July, 1940 .

1. NORTHERN (Newcastle) Complaints from heavy industrial centres about the tea ration. Voluntary shelter stewards appointed in Middlesbrough and has resulted in more comfortable conditions. Decrease in employment in coal mining is causing demand for coal storage campaign to be pressed.

2. NORTH EASTERN (Leeds) Feeling expressed against the Secret Session. Further restrictions of freedom of speech and criticism would be unpopular. Budget appears to be universally accepted. Yorkshire coastal resorts impatient for the Government to institute a scheme of assistance.

3. NORTH MIDLAND (Nottingham) Appreciation of re-broadcast of Dorothy Thompson's talk. Alterations in internment policy well received. Some concern still expressed over new War Courts. Dissatisfaction in some villages over selection of local Home Guard commandants. Farmers' wives anxious about tea ration for harvest period when farm workers drink large quantities.

4. EASTERN (Cambridge) Public becoming more accustomed to war-time conditions. Imposition of curfew in coastal zone has not caused undue alarm. Scepticism regarding Air Ministry communiqués on results of German raids. Financial difficulties of families of those serving with the Forces are creating some anxiety. Scheme of private patrol in Bury St. Edmunds for warning householders of impending raids not welcomed by local civil defence.

6. SOUTHERN (Reading) Morale high, although some complacency due to the failure of invasion to materialise. South Coast defence area settling down and Bournemouth facing a ruined Summer season well, in expectation of concessions similar to those made to Brighton. Some discontent in Reading at increase in soft fruit prices.

7. SOUTH WESTERN (Bristol) Increased defence measures in Barnstaple are improving morale, and a frequent sight of fighters over Stroud has a heartening effect. Reports show that the region is singularly free from rumours. The Housewives Service is being taken up enthusiastically by W.V.S. Cheaper beer and tobacco for the Forces would be welcomed.

8. WALES (Cardiff) Civil defence services are alert, but it is feared that prolonged waiting may cause relaxation of vigilance. In many districts siren policy causes frequent cessation of work and lack of sleep at times when there is no visible or audible enemy action. Application of Purchase Tax to books generally condemned.

9. MIDLAND (Birmingham) Large section of opinion thinks there will be no attempted invasion. Representation from Wellington that beer and tobacco concessions should be made to men in the Forces. Herefordshire County Council gives C.O. employees alternative of continuing at private's pay or leave of absence without pay for duration.

10. NORTH WESTERN (Manchester) Morale in Manchester - Salford area excellent after last night's raid. Little rumour, but some papers are trying to work up a story of “public anxiety” because no alarms were given.

11. SCOTLAND (Edinburgh) Expectation of invasion has decreased due to widespread preparations for defence. Priestley's broadcast widely approved. Some speculation about immediate developments in the Near East.

12. SOUTH EASTERN (Tunbridge Wells) Criticism of delay and presentation of the news of the Lancastria still received. Hopes expressed that concessions in tobacco prices will be made to soldiers. The scheme for buying aircraft components is appealing to the public.

13. NORTHERN IRELAND (Belfast) Puzzlement over denial of reports of attack on convoy off Ulster coast, as gunfire was rumoured. Renewed demand for Government munition factory to be established on account of surplus labour. Criticism of awkward position of public shelters in Belfast. Business houses complain of excessive postal delays due to censorship.




Evidence from many quarters that people are resenting too much exhortation to be cheerful. They say in East End “We have got our tails up - why do they keep on telling us to put them up!” News of Lancastria sinking still causing uneasiness; people fear that though we hear of R.A.F. losses we are not getting news of shipping losses. Suspicions voiced that they are extremely serious. General opinion in City that Budget is too lenient; “Traders in great difficulties to meet obligations while ordinary citizens can still afford luxuries; income tax should have been 10/- in the £.” Many people suggest bicycle licence. Business and Professional Women's Club meeting unanimously approve the deduction of income tax at source. London solicitors make new depressed community; though extremely hard hit are reported to be stoical and confident in outcome of war. Sense of injustice reported among British citizens in districts where Italians ran small businesses, at summary internment of people they had known for many years. Many are looking after Italian children whose parents had been interned without tribunal. Resentment in parts of City where fur and mantle trades congregate, at alien Jews unabsorbed into national service and free to make money. Responsible observers fear growing anti-Semitism if young men between twenty and thirty five are not conscripted to work on land or some other form of national service where they cannot make profits. Most of these are German and Polish Jews. Whitechapel reports children streaming back from reception areas and parents taking on debts to pay fares. West Ham complains of growing lack of discipline among local children. Factory Defence Scheme now working well, states supervisor of large London concern, who before complained bitterly at lack of organisation. Consequent increase of confidence and cheerfulness among volunteers and workers. Younger A.R.P. wardens reported to fear jobs not justified and consider they should be freed for Home Defence while older men take their places. Chief food grumbles over weekend shortage of vegetables and high prices of fruit. Priestley's postscript warmly appreciated.

We use cookies to track usage and preferences.

Privacy & Cookie Policy Accept & Close