A History of the Ministry of Information, 1939-46


No. 80
Daily Report on MORALE
Tuesday, 20th August, 1940

Morale remains high: there is confidence and cheerfulness.

Lull on the home front has allowed the public time to comment on the Somaliland withdrawal. Preliminary reports show that the outcome was expected: nevertheless people feel that British prestige is weakened. They are amazed that the “despised Italians” were capable of such rapid success. “Fed up” might be used to describe reaction. Observers report many comments on the way in which the affair has been progressively described. “We should have recognised the danger signals: first silence, then inadequate news, then hints that the place wasn't worth defending, then the successful strategic withdrawal”. “Why weren't we told what to expect at the beginning; we're not children”. “Fancy, the Wops, it's disgusting.” “I suppose it means that we've lost the Suez Canal.” Many people, however, are reported to be saying that “Winston will explain everything”.

There is little comment on the new powers of the Regional Defence Commissioners. The public does not understand what these powers are. Nor are the Commissioners themselves well known.

The siren controversy continues.




20.8.40 .

All reports show that morale remains consistently high, and despite the short lull in air activity, the tonic effect of recent successes is still apparent. The news of the withdrawal from Somaliland has had a mixed reception.

2. NORTH-EASTERN (Leeds) Sheffield, Rotherham, and Penistone received their first raid by bombers last night, and reports show confidence is unshaken. The variation in the number of enemy machines claimed to have been brought down by our Air Force in different newspapers has a disturbing effect in Barnsley. The new powers of the Regional Commissioners appear to be little understood. The serious effect of the war on enrolments for technical and evening classes for the coming winter has been reported from several quarters, and there is a feeling that the Government should take steps to make attendance compulsory. Young solicitors in military service who have to jettison their professional skill and maintain a family on private's pay compare their position unfavourably with members of the medical and dental professions who get the financial benefit of a commissioned rank. Sarcastic comment is reported from Skipton at the number of cars used for joy-riding during week-ends.

4. EASTERN (Cambridge) There is much fatigue in places where sirens have been sounded freely at night time and growing indications of indifference to warnings; there has also been difficulty over the crowding of sightseers to inspect damage. The general public seems to have taken the withdrawal from British Somaliland philosophically, although there is some disquiet in more thoughtful circles over the situation in the Mediterranean. The sound of heavy gunfire during the night off the Norfolk coast set up mild speculation concerning a possible attempt at invasion, but this did not reach serious proportions.

6. SOUTHERN (Reading) The main subject of conversation is still the achievements of the R.A.F., and a feeling that “at any rate, we have won the first round.” The siren controversy still goes on. Duff Cooper's broadcast has received more adverse criticism than any previous speech, particularly his invitation to Hitler to invade us. Many people feel we have lost an opportunity to convey to America our confidence in ultimate victory through the happenings of last week, and it is felt that the deciding factor in Japan's attitude towards this country will be whether they consider Germany can defeat us in a short space of time.

8. WALES (Cardiff) Unlucky salvos of bombs on Cardiff and Swansea when guns were not firing and few searchlights were to be seen has strengthened belief that the aerial defence of the region has been weakened to supplement defence of the South-east coast, and created a sense of grievance, The result of Anderson's investigation regarding siren warnings as a result of the Croydon raid is expectantly awaited. The occasional omission of Wales in communiqués dealing with air raids, or the mention of S. Wales only when districts in the north should be included have led to a certain lack of confidence in communiques and news. Opinion is still strong that the blockade must be relentlessly pursued. The evacuation of Somaliland, although anticipated, has caused disappointment. Many evacuated children are so settled in North Wales, that difficulty is anticipated when they have to be sent home.

10. NORTH-WESTERN (Manchester) The Somaliland evacuation is poorly received, as the contemptuous references to Italy are remembered, and attempts to minimise evacuation do not go down well. Men in the forces liked the line of self-assurance in Duff Cooper's broadcast, but civilians think this is overdone and in bad taste. Stephenson's revelation that all is not well with our ship-building is talked about, and there is a feeling that, despite their energy, both Bevin and Morrison could further speed up their efforts. Confidence is high and there is no sign of “jitters”.

12. SOUTH-EASTERN (Tunbridge Wells) The growing number of enemy machines brought down on the coast near Worthing has had a tonic effect on the district. Sunday's raids in which 140 German planes could be seen have made the public more anxious to take cover when sirens sound. There is a grievance in Eastbourne that so much publicity was given to damage caused by a single Nazi plane on Friday. It is reported from Brighton that 29 coaches arrived from London to see the damage, and the question is asked as to who organises the trips. Residents in South coast towns affected through these becoming part of the defence area feel that the Government has offered little hope of financial relief.


We use cookies to track usage and preferences.

Privacy & Cookie Policy Accept & Close