A History of the Ministry of Information, 1939-46


No. 105
Daily Observations by Home Intelligence
Friday, 20th September, 1940

In general morale is excellent and in particular people are more cheerful today. The feeling of being in the front line stimulates many people and puts them on their mettle in overcoming transport and shelter difficulties. Several of our reports comment on this characteristic.

There is, however, evidence of increasing physical tiredness.

Although there is no general demand for evacuation from heavily bombed areas there is evidence that certain classes of the community would welcome arrangements for them to go, e.g. wives and children of men working or serving elsewhere, infirm or invalid persons, old couples, widows. It is emphasised by our observers, however, that willing co-operation could only be got for a carefully thought out scheme which took into consideration the special needs and problems of these classes. Women with husbands are not in general prepared to go although evidence suggests that they might do so if proper arrangements were made for the men left behind.

In East and South-East London there are many complaints that the whereabouts of evacuated persons are unknown.

Taking shelter in underground stations continued last night. People were orderly but conditions were very insanitary. There is evidence that people do not intend to pay attention to official requests not to shelter there.




20.9.40 .

1. NORTHERN (Newcastle) Many statements have been made expressing fear that Hitler will not attempt invasion; it is generally felt that any attempt is bound to be unsuccessful and would shorten the war. Criticism of the closing of Post Offices and Banks for long periods during warnings is widespread. The method of deducting income tax at source appears popular, but there is some criticism that it gives the employer too much information as to the private income of the employee.

3. NORTH-MIDLAND (Nottingham) There is a general feeling of admiration for the way in which “the Cockneys are standing up to air raids”. The rumour that invasion has been attempted is prevalent. There are some complaints by Grimsby people who have evacuated themselves to the Lake district that they are being exploited by landladies and others. There is grumbling at the shortage of eggs in Nottinghamshire and Leicestershire, and annoyance at official announcements that eggs are plentiful; a shortage of bagged coal is also reported.

7. SOUTH-WESTERN (Bristol) Despite official denial stories of attempted invasion still circulate. From Trowbridge and Weston come reports of a demand for the publication of pictures of damage done to German towns by R.A.F. Sympathetic concern for the bombing of London is shown everywhere. People in Exeter would like to be shown what damage has not been done to London, and to know how normal life continues despite the raids, as well as to learn of the damage effected. Evacuees from London and coastal towns are reported to be well received. After several days of comparative peace people of Plymouth are expecting a big attack, but except for a feeling that deep shelters should be provided, there is little concern and no alarm.

9. MIDLAND (Birmingham) It is generally felt that the bombing of the invasion ports is preventing invasion, and that the bombing of London calls for reprisals on Berlin. There are many complaints about shortage of coal, and protests against the “means test” for supplementary Old Age Pensions.

11. SCOTLAND (Edinburgh) Italian moves in N. Africa are discussed with some concern and the questions are asked: “Are we going to hit Italy hard soon?” and “Are our forces out there strong enough?” During a survey of 10 cinemas held during a warning last night only one person was seen to move from the gallery to the ground floor, and nobody left the building. The fact that buses in Midlothian stop when a warning is sounded is causing some interference with colliery work.

13. NORTHERN IRELAND (Belfast) The manner in which Londoners are standing up to bombing continues to be praised. The bombing of ports in enemy hands is taken as a sign that Britain can maintain this preventive offensive indefinitely. Precautions are being taken against the possible development of enemy air activity over Ulster, and civil defence services in urban areas are to be strengthened. The Belfast Spitfire fund has now reached £72,000. Efforts are to be made greatly to increase Ulster's flax acreage in 1941.




Morale still steady with growing anger against Germans. Many East End workers and others qualified to speak still feel that dispersal of non-essential population would ease the difficulties of London authorities. Large crowds, mostly women and children, still congregate in most tube stations for sleeping at night; little space left for travellers. Observer on Edgware line notice quantities of rubbish still being swept up about nine o'clock this morning. Islington social workers report need for broadcasts in simple language informing people rendered homeless what they should do and what provisions are made for them: this need evident from criticism of lack of co-ordination between various services. Golders Green resident expresses concern at squads of cyclists on road showing too much light. Responsible official in Woolwich impressed by extraordinary determination of employers to carry on in spite of factories receiving repeated hits. Business and professional people now asking what compensation they will have when houses or business premises are damaged: big employers concerned not only about personal loss but about resulting unemployment among their workers. Rest Centres reported to be working more smoothly in many districts but more officials needed. Jewish social worker says spirit of the poor in East End not broken in spite of terrible ordeals: Westminster Council now helping to re-billet homeless East Enders and records being kept. Many would like to move from London. Heston professional man reports anxiety of many people about situation in Mediterranean, but no loss of confidence in present Government is expressed.

Home Intelligence.

20th September, 1940 .

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