A History of the Ministry of Information, 1939-46

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No. 84 .
Daily Report on MORALE
(Owing to raid warning interruption, front page is omitted)

24.8.40 .

From several regions come complaints of the failure to sound sirens, coupled with a widespread public belief that there, is at times, considerable delay in putting ground defences into action. The R.I.O. at Leeds reports that there have been several complaints from Rotherham that no balloons were up in the immediate vicinity during last Monday's 11 p.m. air raid. The public believe that the absence of the balloons enabled the raider to dive down to his objective. One bomb exploded near a grounded balloon. As there were no warnings, furnaces were actually being tapped at the moment of the raid, and coke ovens in the neighbourhood were lighting up. The R.I.O. at Cambridge reports that the siren controversy continues. The R.I.O. at Reading states that there is widespread criticism about sirens. The public understand that too frequent warnings cause general upheaval, but they are not entirely satisfied by Sir John Anderson's statement. He reports that there is a divergence of practice between different towns, and that on three occasions bombs have been dropped at Southampton without warnings being given. It is felt that if bombs have dropped without warning, the “Raiders Passed” should be given in due course even though no initial warning has been sounded; otherwise people remain too long in their shelters or, alternatively, come out too soon. The R.I.O. at Tunbridge Wells states that in residential areas in his region the public favour frequent rather than infrequent sounding of sirens. On Thursday night a plane was over the town on and off from midnight to 4 a.m., but it was not till 4 a.m. that the siren sounded. Many of the public believe that the plane was German and they are critical because although it was clearly caught by the searchlights there was no fighter or A.A. opposition.

2. NORTH-EASTERN (Leeds). Hit and run raids on Bridlington are stated to have caused many people to leave the town; people are asking why it is still a reception area. M.O.I. meeting on air tactics on Tuesday night at Rotherham (following raid mentioned above) was best attended meeting in the town for many years. Raid at Stockbridge caused no panic and civil defence services are reported to have worked smoothly and efficiently.

4. EASTERN (Cambridge). Recent spell of cold weather has turned peoples' minds towards the approaching winter, and many are thinking apprehensively of the blackout. Considerable fatigue is reported in areas where there have been frequent night raid warnings; night workers in particular find these very trying. Posthumous award of V.C. to member of Royal Norfolk Regiment has caused keen satisfaction in the county.

6. SOUTHERN (Reading). Morale unaffected by air raids, but much criticism of sirens. Better educated people are anxious about whether we are adequately counteracting the barrage of anti-British propaganda which is being used on France by the Germans. There is also some misgiving in these quarters about our propaganda in the Near East, the United States, and other neutral countries.

8. WALES (Cardiff). Criticism that this region is not always mentioned in air raid communiqués when it should be is increasing. Many believe that our news is true only “insofar as it goes”. There is, however, general credence of the R.A.F. and enemy plane losses. The attacks on channel convoys have led to suggestions that the Western ports should be developed still more and used to their maximal capacity. This point is also raised by sailors and their relatives, where ships sail direct to the East coast from abroad. The more thoughtful sections of the public approve of the milder attitude towards enemy aliens, though even they usually qualify their approval by saying that every case must be investigated as thoroughly as possible. The Prime Minister's speech has led many to believe that Russia will be, before long, a thorn in Germany's flesh, even if there is no open war between the two. Troops in the region are reported to be very appreciative of efforts made for their entertainment and comfort.

10. NORTH-WESTERN (Manchester). Bevin's new “idle-workers” scheme is helping to allay the concern which many have felt at war production firms (including even aircraft firms) who lay off skilled workers from time to time. News of our new types of R.A.F. planes has heartened people. Public stated to be expecting R.A.F. figures unreservedly and suggestion is made that any further attempts to convince people of their authenticity will savour of us suggesting too much. Some puzzlement at attacks on convoys on East coast, as many believe that almost all our trade is now diverted to West coast. As details of internment camps become known, there is growing feeling about our treatment of anti-Nazi aliens. Discontent reported from Blackpool because Polish airmen there are believed to be getting better pay than R.A.F.

12. SOUTH-EASTERN (Tunbridge Wells). Soldiers on leave are stated to be ignoring air raid sirens. This bad example is quickly followed by civilians.


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