A History of the Ministry of Information, 1939-46


No. 56
Daily Report on MORALE
Tuesday, 23rd July, 1940

Morale is high. People are fully behind the war effort although small pockets of defeatism confined to certain localities, age groups or social groups are still present. The last week has been one of public criticism however and the stock of the Government has fallen. The various causes of this criticism have already been noted

Prosecutions and heavy sentences for defeatist talk

Capitulation over the Burma Road

Confusion over certain Government instructions, e.g. Stay Put, Siren policy.

The press campaign against the internment of aliens.

Tea rationing (among the working-classes)

Silent Column campaign

The ‘postponement’ of seavacuation

There is confidence in the armed forces (particularly in the Navy and R.A.F.) but less confidence in the Administration.

Reactions to the Foreign Secretary's broadcast are best seen in verbatims: “Too much like a bishop” “Depressing” “Disappointing” “Unsatisfactory” “What about the Burma Road?” “A statesman has to be a fighter these days” “He didn't explain anything” “Very nice and gentlemanly” “Old-fashioned diplomacy” “Too much like the Chamberlain days” “It was a dull speech: I switched off” “I liked the high moral tone” “It's no use treating a mad dog like that”

Many people failed to react to the broadcast at all and there was little attempt to relate the reply to Hitler's speech.

From various areas come reports that there is a drift in opinion towards disbelief in invasion.




23.7.40 .

Reports indicate that the high moral tone of Halifax's speech has given satisfaction to the upper classes although above the heads of a large section of the public. From Cambridge comes the criticism that it was “an excellent sermon, but lacking the directness which the situation demands”, and a working-class comment from Bristol is: “any Bishop could have done as much from his pulpit”. Little enthusiasm has been noticed in South Wales, and Tunbridge Wells criticises the speech as “too devotional and containing little new”, although praised as sincere and determined. The religious note found acceptance among all religious creeds in Belfast, but Reading reports that it has served to crystallise a vague feeling that a more offensive diplomatic attitude should be adopted to rally to our cause all world opinion which would not favour a German victory.

1. NORTHERN (Newcastle) Phrases like “strategic withdrawal” in communiqués are in danger of becoming standing jokes. People appear to understand better the reason for the siren policy. Adverse comment on visibility of prominent light-coloured buildings thought to provide good landmarks, and camouflage is urged.

2. NORTH-EASTERN (Leeds) Misgiving aroused by prosecution of prominent S. Yorkshire Councillor, the basis of the charge apparently being his strong criticism of Chamberlain for our unpreparedness, and as a traitor. This is contrasted with Halifax's “we shall not stop fighting till freedom for ourselves and others is secured. Continuance of voluntary censorship evokes favourable comment. Unemployed in N.E. coastal area are contrasting their plight with munition workers” wages. Miners complain that new house cellars have only 5-cwt capacity, and coal storage for winter is impossible.

3. NORTH-MIDLAND (Nottingham) Leicester night workers resent siren policy on grounds that wives and children will not have enough time to take shelter. Many people in rural areas feel that truth is suppressed in news bulletins in order to maintain morale. Evidence that long distance transport workers are source of rumours.

4. EASTERN (Cambridge) Campaign against careless talk still creating misapprehension and absence of neighbourliness. Confusion over rents and rates in coastal zones.

6. SOUTHERN (Reading) Stock of Ministry of Information continues to slump in the region, and explanation of Ministry's functions required.

7. SOUTH-WESTERN (Bristol) Misapprehension about silent column persists. Concern in Somerset about number of flat fields containing no obstacles. Soldiers in Wiltshire district express hostility against C.O. parson arrested for breach of the peace. Complaints of condition of children recently evacuated to Cornwall. Reported that people are listening less to Haw Haw.

8. WALES (Cardiff) Lack of shelters in N. Wales causes anxiety. More people staying in bed during raid warnings, which occur almost nightly. Although most people are willing to accept totalitarian methods to combat Hitler, proposed censorship and prosecutions have created feeling that complete totalitarianism is neither desirable nor necessary.

9. MIDLAND (Birmingham) Recurrence of uneasiness that members of late Government are still in this one. Good response to appeals for funds to provide aeroplanes. Many retired workers returning to Coventry factories.

10. NORTH-WESTERN (Manchester) Attitude in disbelief in Blitzkrieg growing. Cost of brick shelters arouses some criticism. Success of stirrup pumps creates a desire for their greater availability.

11. SCOTLAND (Edinburgh) Some nervousness displayed by Aberdeen shipyard and dockyard workers in anticipation of danger, but disappears when danger arrives. Suggested that sounds of British and German planes should be broadcast.

12. SOUTH-EASTERN (Tunbridge Wells) Pointed out that case of man fined for saying “this is a capitalist war in defence of dividends” contrasts with freedom of Daily Worker. Examples of careless talk by soldiers constantly received. Tradesmen along Kent and Sussex coast worried about their position, and it seems that the public has taken the announcement that evacuees from defence areas are relieved of rates and other liabilities as an indication that they need not pay tradesmen's debts.

13. NORTHERN IRELAND (Belfast) Much speculation about significance of mining approaches to Irish Sea and Bristol Channel. Employers of labour asking for increasing quantities of anti-gossip slips for wage packets. General praise for prowess for R.A.F. continues.




Lord Halifax's talk made little impression. Silent Column campaign still drawing vigorous protests from all classes and though Ministry's statement has improved matters Gestapo idea is widespread. Non-defeatist majority of working class afraid that Government's anti-defeatist propaganda shows nervousness. Publication of air raid casualty numbers for past month has shocked people; although they wish to know of casualties they express surprise at their extent. Improvement in reporting details of air raids commented on by many observers. Pleasure expressed at more indications in recent talks of what we are really fighting for. Surbiton reports local people interested in “a kind of smoke screen set up each evening when the moon is bright”. Silvertown factory recently installed loudspeakers in canteen as workers complained they could get no news between 7 a.m. and 6 p.m.; this found to work admirably. South London Housing Estates stated to present special problem of loneliness and isolation. Ask for Ministry vans to dispense news and music as housewives inclined to be dispirited and miss neighbourliness of East End. Lambeth conference of business men and women reports difficulty of communicating with Government departments when offering facilities for factory supplies. Hounslow women busy with voluntary work, but many disappointed after applying for sugar ration to make jam to find fruit prices prohibitive; feel all prices should be strictly controlled.

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