A History of the Ministry of Information, 1939-46


No. 106.
Daily Observations by Home Intelligence
Saturday, 21st September 1940 .

There is little change in morale; yesterday's cheerfulness is maintained.

In London conversation is almost exclusively about air raids; it is gossipy, not panicky, and is centred in personal matters. There appears to be very little relationship between “the bomb at the corner of our street” and the war as a whole. Interest in the total aspect of the war of the war is very low, although demands for reprisals continue.

The necessity for seeking night shelter is accepted with resignation, and there are many examples of the fine spirit with which difficulties are met and overcome. At the same time, there are criticisms of obvious defects: shelter amenities, evacuation facilities, lack of information.

Taking shelter in Underground Stations is still on the increase. People are orderly, officials humane.

There are a number of reports showing that people are well aware of the damage and danger of “land mines”. Terror stories are frequent. There are also tales of new weapons, e.g. plaster bombs, and evidence that people only begin to feel secure when they are below the surface: in Tubes, basements, underground trenches, etc.

Time bombs are not regarded with undue alarm. The public feels that officials of various kinds are well aware of their dangers. There are, however, a number of enquiries about the duration of their effectiveness; people are very vague, some think they may be effective for a fortnight or longer; others that they cannot last more than a few hours. Evacuation on account of time bombs has brought hardship, but not alarm.

The A.A. barrage continues to cause a certain amount of disappointment: “It's all very well, but they aren't bringing them down”. The idea that there is no protection against night bombing has not yet been accepted by most people. Protection is expected “in time”. Only a few appear to contemplate much intensified bombing.

The public is increasingly anxious about blackout offences and there are many complaints about traffic lights, side lights, matches, torches, railway signals, etc. Many people appear to think that all lights are visible from the air.

Cinema attendances are low, and evidence shows that leisure time is not being profitably used.

There are fewer complaints about the warning system although to-day's incident in Bethnal Green has greatly perturbed people there. Their confidence is again shaken.

From the provinces come reports that A.A. and fighter defences are considered inadequate.





2. NORTH EASTERN . (Leeds). No change in confidence except a slightly growing feeling of stalemate. In view of recent rumours, people are asking for clear statements as to whether there has or has not been an attempted invasion. In an interview given to the Yorkshire Post, the Leeds City Engineer says that brickwork is being done on non-essential buildings and shelter contractors are unable to get the labour they require.

4. EASTERN (Cambridge). The extent of damaged property in London has been exaggerated by refugees, and it is thought that the East End has been laid waste. There are still complaints about the limited number of B.B.C. Stations broadcasting, and with the delay in the distribution of London papers, there is increasing support for a ten a.m. bulletin. Yesterday's announcement that Post Offices will remain open during warnings is welcomed. Complaints about the uncertain arrangements for running ’buses during air raids continues, particularly from country districts where services are few.

6. SOUTHERN (Reading). Many refugees from London have arrived in the Region, and in Oxford where the number is about 10,000, the problem of accommodation is serious. Although most of these people appear to be in good heart, a small minority who have suffered from a continued loss of sleep and are dazed by their experiences, have tended to spread a somewhat defeatist attitude. There is discussion on the question of reprisals, and the speech by the Air Minister does not appear to have satisfied public opinion. Most people seem to think that invasion will not now be attempted. The more thoughtful section of the public is anxious about the position in Egypt, and although appreciating the advantage of allowing the Italians to have several hundred miles of desert communications, it hopes that the press accounts are not too “rosy”.

10. NORTH WESTERN (Manchester). There is much feeling in the Liverpool area over the apparent absence of local defence against bombers, and the inadequacy of shelters is also a subject of comment; yesterday a meeting of Merseyside Mayors was convened and a message sent to the Prime Minister on the latter subject. The news of heavy R.A.F. raids on Germany and occupied areas causes great satisfaction.

12. SOUTH EASTERN (Tunbridge Wells). People are much concerned about the problem of countering night bombers, and such questions as “why can't Spitfires be armed with searchlights” are being asked. It is reported that people who left London on account of air raids and went hop-picking are now worried because they will have nowhere to go when the picking is finished.




Great fear of land mines reported from many districts. For example, this fear has resulted in occupants of luxury flats in St. John's Wood using the tube for shelter at night; also, after experiencing effects last night it is reported from Bethnal Green that many people wish to be evacuated. From Poplar and Bethnal Green it is stated that there is some ill-feeling because homeless are not re-billeted quickly enough and the rest centres are overcrowded. People feel that the victims of raids deserve the most generous treatment and that those who wish, homeless or otherwise, to leave London should be given facilities for doing so without delay. A Stoke Newington official points out the danger of fire in unoccupied houses if evacuation becomes too general in some districts. Observer in Islington says that undertakers are making excessive charges for funerals and a minimum charge should be instituted. Observation at different tube stations reveals that the number of people sleeping there is increasing. It has been suggested that tunnels used as shelters should have baffle walls to break blast.


21st September, 1940 .

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