A History of the Ministry of Information, 1939-46


No. 95
Daily Report on MORALE
Monday, 9th September 1940

In the areas which have been most heavily raided there has been little sign of panic and none of defeatism, but rather of bitterness and increased determination to “see it through”. There is wide-spread and deeply felt apprehension, which is apparent mostly in the London Dock area, of a continuation of raids, and much anxiety about the chaos in domestic affairs which has resulted from the activities of the last few nights.

As far as the East End is concerned, this is beginning to show itself in an aimless evacuation to what are believed to be safer places, e.g. the St. James' Park shelters and Paddington Station. It appears that this exodus is caused by greater fear than the actual circumstances justify, and it might be a good thing if loud speaker vans, giving encouragement and instructions, could circulate in the streets. There is at present very little official reassurance being given to the public, and it is to some extent this lack of guidance which is causing them to leave their homes. There seems evidence that unless some immediate steps of this sort are taken to check this movement, it is likely to grow.

Men working in factories in the East End are encouraging their wives and families in this haphazard escape, but express their own willingness to stay and face further raids if they can be sure that their relations are in comparative safety.

Owing to the behaviour of the Jews, particularly in the East End where they are said to show too great a keenness to save their own skins and too little consideration for other people, there are signs of anti-Semitic trouble. It is believed locally that this situation may at any moment become extremely serious. This is put forward as an additional reason for a planned dispersal of East End families to be carried out with all speed.

Unsatisfactory reports about shelter conditions continue to be received. Those in the London area and in Birmingham show a state of affairs which from the point of view of health alone is highly undesirable. The practice of carrying bedding, prams, etc. into shelters causes much indignation among people who are thus denied accommodation.

Although it seems to be fairly well understood that for security reasons it is not possible to give many details about the activities of the R.A.F. and A.A. units, there is a good deal of comment on what are believed in some places to be inadequate precautions, though the gallantry of both the R.A.F. and the A.A. crews continues to receive great praise.

There is continued criticism of the B.B.C.'s method of announcing casualties and raid details. Special exception was taken to Charles Gardner's broadcast on Saturday, and it is suggested that what is wanted by the public in its present frame of mind is the kind of encouragement which can only be given by a real working-class man who has himself been through the worst of the recent raids.




9th September, 1940

1. NORTHERN (NEWCASTLE) Reports from many centres indicate that enemy news bulletins are receiving progressively less attention. Exaggerated rumours of damage due to raids are still widespread. There is much interest in the speed of our aircraft production, and further facts are eagerly awaited.

3. NORTH MIDLAND (NOTTINGHAM) The impression of Hitler's speech is that it was “that of a frustrated criminal”. There is a complaint from Chesterfield that details of the damage to Ramsgate should not have been delayed until the Premier's speech. In Grimsby it is suggested that daily reports of damage and casualties would be less alarming than monthly reports. It is felt in Rutland that householders who have had evacuees since war broke out are now tired of them, and would welcome a shuffle round to other householders. Complaints have been received that the fixed price for plum jam is excessive.

7. SOUTH WESTERN (BRISTOL) Rumours of invasion are rife in the Region today following the ringing of church bells and the calling out of the Home Guard. The raid on London has been appreciated as serious, and it is realised that though casualties were high, they were not more than was to be expected from a severe attack. It is reported from Plymouth that people consider the B.B.C. tends to gloss over damage by enemy aircraft.

9. MIDLAND (BIRMINGHAM) There are reports from Birmingham, Wolverhampton and Black Country towns that householders are going to public shelters and taking their bedding with them. It is “getting round” that many middle class people leave Birmingham at night by road and sleep in country districts, and many more are doing this at weekends; this is causing some annoyance among the working class.

13. NORTHERN IRELAND (BELFAST) Some surprise is felt at the extensive casualties and damage in London due to raids, and although bearing in mind the devastation wrought by the R.A.F. in Germany, it is being asked whether the British defences are as effective as has been supposed. It is felt that an invasion of South East England may soon be attempted. There are reports of airmen talking freely about Belfast defences. Householders in provincial areas with whom evacuated children are billeted complain that they have to buy clothes for them, and that the parents do not realise their responsibilities.




Strongest feeling one of shock amongst all classes and in all districts as people have lulled themselves into a state of false security saying: “London is the safest place”, and “they’ll never get through the London defences”. No signs of defeatism except among small section of elderly women in ‘front line’ such as East Ham who cannot stand constant bombing. Districts sustaining only one or two shocks soon rally, but in Dockside areas the population is showing visible signs of nerve cracking from constant ordeals. Old women and mothers are undermining morale of young women and men by their extreme nervousness and lack of resilience. Men state they cannot sleep because they must keep up the morale of their families and express strong desire to get families away from danger areas. Families clinging together, however, and any suggestions of sending children away without mothers and elderly relations considered without enthusiasm. People beginning to trek away from Stepney and other Dockside areas in families and small groups. Many encountered in City to-day with suitcases or belongings. Some make for Paddington without any idea of their destination. All Dockland people afraid large fires will attract German raiders each night and queue up long before dusk to get places in large underground shelters. Many expressions of bitterness at apparent impossibility of stopping German raiders doing what they like and opinion that Anti-Aircraft gunfire is astonishingly small. This latter point is bewildering and frightening people more than anything else. Lack of sleep already showing signs of undermining morale and working capacity of population. Young black-coated workers in City depressed about news from Africa and express the hope that we can take the offensive there. There is urgent need in Rest Centres for people rendered homeless for toys, etc. for the children, and workers are needed to organise games.


9th September, 1940 .

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