A History of the Ministry of Information, 1939-46


New Series No. 1 .

30th September 1940.

1. Comments received on General Morale .

Confidence still strong, but it has been shaken this week. Many conversations still turn on Dakar incident. At a meeting of all Local Information Committee Officers, all stated that morale in their districts was high. One delegate asked for a statement on war aims as he had difficulties in answering questions at working men's clubs (R.I.O. Leeds).

Indications of variable pockets of slight defeatism - some people are asking “What is all this leading to? [Text Missing] the bombing of London and reprisals on Berlin?” Refugees from London are spreading exaggerated accounts of damage to metropolis, this is having a bad effect in rural areas. (R.I.O. Cambridge)

Refugees are lowering morale by their lurid stories of bombing London, but the situation is not at all serious. Main interest of people is still affairs at home, and invasion interest is falling into background. (R.I.O. Reading)

At end of a quiet week, morale is uniformly good. (R.I.O. Cardiff) People who have lost clothes in bombing criticising delay at voluntary worker centres and asking why Government does not take over work at present done by charities (Contact in Marylebone W.V.S.) The more timorous people having gone away the general attitude seems to have stiffened (Bethnal Green Housing contact).

A smiling but grim determination to win the war is shown in letters to Northern Ireland and Eire (Postal Censorship report from S. Wales. 29.9.40)

2. Reported reactions to War Experiences .

Refugee situation worrying local authorities in Southern Region. At Banbury, Chipping Norton, Woodstock, Thame and Henley population is in excess of rooms available. (R.I.O. Reading)

Reduction in butter ration accepted philosophically though regretfully (R.I.O. Cardiff)

3. Reported reactions to news from Home and Overseas .

Typical remarks heard in working-class area in Leeds: “We can't fight the whole world” (in reference to Japanese alliance with Axis). “They seem to be able to afford to lose their planes” (in reference to news of 130 shot down). Intellectual circles talking much of China. (R.I.O. Leeds)

Dakar incident and sinking of ‘City of Benares’ still occupy public mind. Feeling of indignation that we have been outwitted by Petain Government - another fruitless expedition. (R.I.O. Cambridge)

Great disappointment over Dakar. Axis Japan pact felt to alter situation little but has brought U.S.A. nearer war. (R.I.O. Reading) Universal criticism of flabby policy at Dakar and concern at faulty quality of our Intelligence Service.

Uneasiness evinced at our prospects in Western Desert. (R.I.O. Cardiff)

Restiveness among business men about lack of news of secret weapon indicated by Sir Archibald Sinclair for dealing with night bombers (City contact).

Torpedoing of child evacuees causing horror and disgust among letter-writers to Ireland. Some evidence of healing of breech between England and Eire, as Irishmen on both sides of the water are now praying for victory and peace (Postal Censorship Report, S. Wales) 29.9.40.)

4. Comments received on presentation of news .

“We have had enough about rabbits and pigs being killed in air raids” (R.I.O. Leeds) Newspaper accounts of German's bad treatment of channel islanders is upsetting refugees (Ministry of Health Officer Leeds, via R.I.O.)

Appreciation at pictures published showing R.A.F. damage to Dunkirk and demand for more. (R.I.O. Cambridge) Publication in Daily Mirror on September 27th of a statement about gossamer-like skeins as a German secret weapon has given further currency to rumours (R.I.O. Cambridge) [Text Missing]

Policy of naming places bombed and places where planes have fallen a little more freely, has met with universal approval, the more 11 this can be done the better. (R.I.O. Reading)

5. Reported reception of official speeches and announcements .

The King's speech was widely commented on in a favourable [Text Missing] in outgoing letters to Ireland (Postal Censorship Report S. Wales 29.9.40).

8. Public comments on Service matters .

“The monotony of life in Great Britain is becoming irksome to a large number of troops. Many would like to be transferred abroad, but have been unsuccessful in their efforts. There is also a little feeling of jealousy of the publicity now being obtained by the R.A.F. (R.I.O. Cardiff).

One gets the impression that the Irish (troops) do not get on so well with the English as with the Scotch and Welsh (Postal Censorship Report S. Wales 29.9.40)

The army are still fretting against inaction and are inclined to feel that all the praise and glory are going to the R.A.F. The air raid near Belfast seems to have been welcomed by the troops as a diversion which made them feel less out of it. (from the same source) There are complaints about food from Carrickfurgas and Victoria Barracks (Postal Censorship Report S. Wales 29.9.40).

It is reported that land mines have been dropped in the district (Willesden) by parachute, and cases have been known of people thinking they were parachutists and rushing towards them with very dire results. It is felt that some immediate announcement should be made to prevent this sort of thing happening. (Secretary, Citizen's Advice Bureau).

Criticism has been made of the absence of fighter and A.A. defences when a single raider managed to drop 3 bombs on the town (Cambridge) a few days ago. This has revived controversy on defence and sirens (R.I.O. Cambridge) ...

9. Public comments on Home Security matters .

There is still a big demand for an overhauling of the air raid alarm system. This finds expression in letters to editors and in general conversation. (R.I.O. Leeds)

The shelter control controversy continues, and the question of greater co-ordination of civil defence services is being raised in the correspondence column of a Norwich newspaper. Wardens have to undergo various training courses dealing with gas, first-aid and incendiary bombs yet have no authority to control traffic or the public. A warden seeing a light in a blackout has to call a police man to have it put out. There are also complaints about the absence of special police when sirens are sounded. (R.I.O. Cambridge)

The numerous instances of householders dealing successfully with incendary bombs has had a good effect and people are now confident in their ability to deal with them. (R.I.O. Manchester).

There is some disapproval of inadequate blackout at Aldergrove (Postal Censorship Report 29.9.40)

“I have noticed when travelling in the tubes recently that people are parking themselves on the platforms from midday onwards to book their places for the night when using the tubes as an air raid shelter. Why doesn't the Transport Board issue numbered tickets to allow entrance to the tubes at a stated time, which would keep the platforms clear during the day for their legitimate purpose.” (West End contact)

Manchester's recent immunity from serious bombing, coupled with the cold weather, has brought a different outlook on the use of private shelters. More people are staying in their houses during alarms.

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