A History of the Ministry of Information, 1939-46


No. 70
Daily Report on MORALE
Thursday, 8th August, 1940

Morale is high and people are cheerful.

The man in the street, although not particularly concerned or informed about Somaliland, is somewhat shocked to discover that we are on the defensive against the “despised Italians” (position summarised overleaf).

Many people are disposed to take a holiday this week and criticism is therefore at a lower level. Nevertheless, housewives protest strongly at high fruit prices, and there is a pretty widespread feeling that cigarette prices should be reduced for Home Forces.

The effect of the Prime Minister's warning about invasion is wearing off and many people are more apprehensive of a long and dreary winter than of immediate invasion.




8th August, 1940 .

The news from British Somaliland has excited varying amounts of interest. From Leeds it is reported that the subject is not talked about very much, though it is thought to be the beginning of a general attack on this country and the Empire. Manchester reports that the man in the street is prepared to write off British Somaliland if the defence of Egypt requires all our forces, but adds the comment “it looks bad”. Cambridge reports some disappointment at the news and satisfaction that the phrase “strategic withdrawal” has been avoided. Reading reports some uneasiness; people everywhere want to hear that we are taking the initiative, but instead we are once more on the defensive, this time against the despised Italians. Cardiff records some disappointment at our temporary set-back in Africa, particularly so because anti-Italian feeling is strong throughout South Wales. From Tunbridge Wells comes the report that the public are wondering if they have been told the whole truth; if we have had a bad reverse they want to know as quickly as possible; many think that Italy is much stronger than we were led to believe when she first entered the war.

2. NORTH-EASTERN (Leeds) More people anticipating invasion, but popular feeling is that Germans will not get beyond the coast. Sheffield Corporation has decided by a vote of 47 to 39 not to sack their C.O. employees; Doncaster has taken the opposite course by a vote of 16 to 11. Coastal zone ban on Yorkshire coast reported to be working satisfactorily. Some criticism of Greenwood's speech; view expressed that there are too many committees and too little action in absorbing man-power and women-power.

4. EASTERN (Cambridge) Siren controversy active in Norwich and Romford. Chief constable of Isle of Ely suggests names of German prisoners should be included in our news to Germany. Some interest continues in Mr. Stokes' plea for a negotiated peace. Financial difficulties of coastal dwellers still in evidence.

6. SOUTHERN (Reading) Growing local demand that Government should formulate a peace aims programme for Europe. Even unimaginative Slough Information Committee has voiced this. All classes regard threat of invasion with some complacency. Need stressed for authoritative statement explaining implications of collapse of France in relation to African campaigns.

8. WALES (Cardiff) Eccentricity of sirens now generally accepted. Concern at lack of air raid shelters for schools in reception areas. Great satisfaction in Welsh reading circles at possibility of withdrawal of Purchase Tax from books. Acrimonious discussion about position of municipal employees who are C.O.s. Principality pleased at make-shift wireless Eisteddfod.

10. NORTH-WESTERN (Manchester) Increasing feeling that concessions to troops over cigarettes, postage and transport should be introduced as soon as possible. Anomalies of soldiers' pay also a matter of growing adverse comment.

12. SOUTH-EASTERN (Tunbridge Wells) Daylight raid warnings not treated seriously enough by public. Suggestion made that shopkeepers should not admit public during raids. Fruit prices still a very common cause of complaint as people see trees heavily laden and cannot understand why prices are so high. Crowborough residents protesting at employment of labourers imported from Eire for local defence work, when many Britons are unemployed. Many believe that there is wastage of food going on in Army camps.


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