A History of the Ministry of Information, 1939-46


No. 79
Daily Report on MORALE
Monday, 19th August, 1940

The events of the weekend have not affected morale: there is increasing confidence and determination and a growing excitement which shows itself almost as exhilaration. In raided areas there is confidence in Civil Defence services and a growing neighbourliness. There appears to be a deliberate attempt to restrict alarmist rumours and there are many indications of controlled behaviour. Grossly exaggerated stories are rare.

The siren controversy continues.

Opinion in certain circles is highly critical of the delay in liberating news for America and there is much speculation about the reasons for this tardiness.

There is more evidence of the distribution of Moral Re-armament propaganda.

Mr. Duff Cooper's Saturday broadcast received a certain amount of criticism, mainly for his “contemptuous references” to invasion. Many people complain that the speech was overshadowed by the Canadian broadcast which followed.




19.8.40 .

Reports show that the population remains steady, and air raids are faced with calmness and fortitude. The continued success of the R.A.F. still overshadows all other topics of conversation, and great confidence is expressed in our airmen. Growing confusion as to the official policy in regard to the sounding of sirens is noted, and there are further complaints that sirens are not sounded, and that they are being sounded after planes are heard and the All Clear given before the raiders have left.

1. NORTHERN (Newcastle) Many instances are reported of people watching dog fights, and cheering our fighters. Previous doubts as to the credibility of news bulletins referring to R.A.F. successes and air raid casualties, have been dispelled by more detailed broadcasts, and the successes of local fighter squadrons and slight damage caused by bombs. Some dissatisfaction among farmers in Morpeth area who criticise some instructions they receive on the ground that many of their fields are unsuitable for the purposes required.

3. NORTH-MIDLAND (Nottingham) The more detailed accounts of raids on this country are welcomed, and it is suggested from Grimsby that there will be less ground for alarm if casualty totals are given daily. A general feeling prevails that the full blockade should be maintained, and there is concern about Hoover's proposal to send food to occupied countries. Troops in Lincolnshire are dissatisfied at being in villages or private parks, and suffering from boredom while waiting for invasion to materialise. Further evidence that an increase in the tea ration would be welcomed by small householders. Complaints from parents and friends of serving men about non-delivery of parcels and postal orders. The erection of field obstructions has been suspended after Attlee's statement that the responsibility has been transferred to the military authorities.

7. SOUTH-WESTERN (Bristol) Some doubt is expressed about the Somaliland campaign and there is a feeling that Italy has gained a moral advantage because we have allowed her to take the initiative, but the news of the naval and air action against Libya has caused satisfaction. Despite lengthy night warnings, Bristol is carrying on as usual. In Exeter the view is held that bombs were dropped recently through bedroom lights being switched on as soon as householders were awakened by sirens. It is reported from Bath that regret is expressed that the French news sheet is not to be issued, as stories are heard of French troops who are wounded, or stranded in England, and feel cut off. Explanation of the care with which claims of successes against enemy aircraft are checked has done much to strengthen confidence in our communiqués.

9. MIDLAND (Birmingham) In several districts of Birmingham, unofficial street patrols have been formed due to complaints about delay in the sounding of raid warnings; these patrols notify residents when aeroplane engines are heard. Some factory workers are complaining that they are not paid for time spent in shelters. In outlying parts of the region blackout stipulations are not well observed, and motorists do not always immobilise unattended cars. Prosecutions are being made against people attempting to obtain rationed food from Ireland.

11. SCOTLAND (Edinburgh) There is a demand for further bombing of Italian towns, and the belief that injury to Italy will have a great moral effect. Eden's and Morrison's speeches forecasting offensive action are welcomed. Some people object to the way in which the bombardment of London has been glossed over as a mere incident. Complaints are prevalent about the unsanitary conditions of public air raid shelters. Unemployed men starting at some armament factories are finding difficulty in making ends meet because they receive their first pay at the end of the second week. It is rumoured that reserved jobs are being found for professional footballers, and this is part of a slight but general ill-feeling against those in reserved occupations.

13. NORTHERN IRELAND (Belfast) The three main topics of conversation are the destruction of further numbers of enemy planes, the German announcement of the mining of the Irish Sea and North Channel, and the German note to the Eire Government regarding blockade. Anxiety is expressed about the attitude of the Eire Government if Germany should try to enforce harsh conditions in return for facilities for shipping and that de Valera may be driven to make terms detrimental to British interests. Duff Cooper's broadcast appreciated, although some listeners did not like his invitation to Hitler to get on with the invasion. Enthusiasm for the Ulster Spitfire fund continues unabated. Business men are pleased that censorship of incoming letters will shortly be carried out in Belfast, as there have been many delays under existing arrangements. There is a growing interest in the references of American public men to the war situation as affecting Britain.




Chief emotion among people suffering raids in all districts extreme anger and wish for reprisals, especially on Berlin. Morale extremely high, although nervousness shows itself in self-conscious joking and occasionally in nonchalant attitude of not hurrying to shelter. Too many people, especially men, are standing in the open to watch what is going on, betraying a falsely fatalistic and don't care attitude. Pride among civil defence workers high at being under fire and at efficiency of organisation proved. Young volunteers, unused to sights of physical violence, showing remarkable coolness on handling terrible H.E. casualties. Neighbourliness proving able to cope with all homeless people; Wimbledon and other suburban districts being particularly good in this respect. Praise in the Maldens of help and consideration of wardens who visited Anderson Shelters to see how people were getting on. Appreciation of visits of high officials several hours after raid took place expressed by people, as recognition of their heroism, tragedies and efficiency by authority encouraging. Considered opinion has it that any propaganda to increase people's courage at this time would be irritating beyond measure. Confusion reported in Piccadilly after crowd had made for large Swan & Edgar's shelter to find it was closed on Sundays. Elderly people started panicking and it took several minutes for policemen to disperse crowds to other shelters. Large crowd, particularly of children, at Zoo calm when sirens went on Sunday afternoon. Too many for tunnel shelters and at first some bewilderment as to know where to go instead. Need for more large notices of over-flow shelters and officials to direct people to them as panic might easily take place on crowded Sundays if bombs were actually falling. The Minister's speech criticised as being dangerous and invitation to Hitler to come here considered to have been accepted. West Ham reports falling attendance of children at classes and societies since air raid alarms; some parents afraid to allow children to go far from home. Severe criticism of B.B.C.'s feature in 9 p.m. news after Croydon bombing; e.g. interviewing by Edward Ward of people who had experienced raid. Considered bad propaganda as interviewer “sounded patronising and people over-excited and either callous or flippant.” Appreciation of Sunday night's postscript about Merchant Navy.

Home Intelligence.

19th August, 1940.

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