A History of the Ministry of Information, 1939-46

6 7


31st August, 1940

Air raids in the Regions continue to be borne patiently and without panic. Some Regions report that each morning the public are agreeably surprised to find that so little damage has been done. The effects of lack of sleep are beginning to make themselves shown in many parts. There is resentment at the “excessive” publicity given to raids on London by the national press and jealousy is reported from Southampton, Portsmouth and other places. Requests for a uniform policy for omnibuses in air raids have been received. People on cross country journeys complain that they are made to get out of their buses in outlying parts and are anxious about what will happen in the winter.

The Regional Information Officer at Reading points out that the evidence of strain as a result of raids appears to be a matter of personal temperament rather than locality. He suggests six lines of argument which may be used to counteract these effects:-

1. The patriotic: “We must be British and stick it; men in the Forces have to put up with worse than this”.

2. The statistical: comparison with road casualties, the area of England and so on.

3. The retaliatory: “worse things are happening to Germany”.

4. The fatalistic: “If a bomb's got my name on it, it will get me.”

5. The shame argument: “We should be ashamed of ourselves for behaving like this.”

6. The stubbornness attitude: “If the Germans think this is going to get us down, they will be disappointed.”

He goes on to say that semi-facetious comment, such as tales of old ladies of 83 who say they would not miss it for worlds, is not appreciated.

Fear of invasion appears to be on the wane and reports from Cardiff and Leeds stress this.

2. NORTH EASTERN (Leeds) A feeling of stalemate in the war is reported to be noticeable. Hull, which has had long raids on six successive nights reports, that people are “as cheerful and optimistic as ever” though evidence of lack of sleep is marked. Morale of 300 homeless people in Sheffield stated to be remarkably high. Serious concern expressed about education in raided areas; in Bridlington schools are reported to have closed because of sparse attendance of children after sleepless nights. Announcement of new siren policy eagerly awaited.

4. EASTERN (Cambridge) Almost entire Region is now getting plenty of A.R.P. practice. Main reaction is grumbling at interruption of work. Press in Region reported to be refusing advertisements of the “lonely soldier” type. Decision of French Colonies in Africa to join de Gaulle considered by many as good for prestige.

6. SOUTHERN (Reading) Fears expressed that many pictures of air raid damage in press may produce a distorted impression not only at home but abroad. Criticism of our propaganda abroad persists, and suggestions in American Press that we are “only hanging on by the skin of our teeth” are taken to mean that our propaganda there is ineffective. Educated people are anxious also about our propaganda in the Near East and Far East, as they feel that the attitude of Greece, Turkey and Japan depends very much on what we can put across in the direction of making them believe in our ultimate victory.

8. WALES (Cardiff) Bombing of military objectives in Berlin widely approved, and many suggest that a little inaccurate bombing would not be out of place there. Much annoyance caused because London figures largely in the air raid news while names of provincial towns are still strictly censored. Requests received that individual accounts of pilots exploits should be placed at end of news, instead of middle. Farmers actually satisfied with quality and quantity of this year's harvest. Continued hopes expressed that we will soon be more aggressive both in Italy and Africa.

10. NORTH WESTERN (Manchester) Users of Anderson shelters are reported to be most serious victim of lack of sleep. Satisfaction expressed at attitude of French African Colonies. Requests received that more should be done to “get across” de Gaulle's personality to the public. Some quarters expect Cabinet changes during the recess, and hope that the P.M. will drop “passengers” from both sides of the House.

12. SOUTH EASTERN (Tunbridge Wells) Disregard of black-out regulations by both civilians and military are reported. Criticisms of public shelters cover the following points:- Litter and filth not cleared away; smoking general in some shelters; scaremongering by wardens; and lack of supervision inside shelters.




Lack of sleep beginning to tell on people in all districts, showing itself in paleness and lassitude of children and irritability of grown-ups. This is particularly true of poorer quarters where crowded conditions prevail and public shelters are packed and noisy at night. Unhygienic and insanitary conditions reported in large buildings used as shelters in Bethnal Green, City etc. where hundreds of people of mixed ages and sexes congregate with bedding and remain all night. Shelters not designed for mass sleeping, and responsible people fear serious consequences of impaired health and possible epidemics. School on Housing Estate in South East London has few attendances because of broken nights and head teacher states that children who come are heavy eyed and white. On some Estates, shelter marshals run public shelters and organise community singing and games of darts in public spirited manner successfully murdering sleep.

Home Intelligence.

31st August, 1940.

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