A History of the Ministry of Information, 1939-46






Below are given the main results obtained from answers to questions asked in the various sections of this Inquiry.

When a difference between two percentages was more than twice its standard error it is here regarded as significant.

Of the whole sample of 2,587 people, 62% had noticed Ministry of Health publicity about avoiding illness and disease.

5. 6. 7.



91% of the sample said they had noticed the V.D. publicity. This is considerably higher than the proportions of people who remembered seeing publicity about either Diphtheria Immunisation or Coughs and Sneezes.

The main sources of information were newspapers (83%), posters in lavatories (40%) radio, (35% ), magazines (34%), outdoor posters (28%), films (25%) posters on railway and tube stations (15% ).

Newspapers publicity about V.D. had been noticed with lower than average frequency by people in the 16-20 and 51-60 age-groups and by those in the lower income group. V.D. posters in lavatories had been seen by higher proportions of men than women, and with greater frequency in London than in any of the other regions.

Talks about V.D. on the radio had been heard with highest frequency in the South, South West and E. Anglia, and by considerably lower proportions of people in London and Northern England. People under 30 years of age, and those in the lower income group., had heard radio publicity about V.D. with lower frequency that other groups.

People living in the South, South West and E. Anglia had come across V.D. notices in magazines with greater frequency than those in the North of England or London. Fewer men than women, and a smaller proportion of people in the lower than in the upper income group, had seen V.D. notices in magazines.

V.D. posters on outdoor hoardings had been noticed by a higher proportion of men than women.

The proportion of people in the North of England who had seen V.D. films was nearly double the proportion who had come across this type of V.D. publicity in the South West and E. Young people between 16-20 had seen V.D. films with greater frequency than those in any other age-group; the proportions who mentioned this medium as a source of information about V.D. steadily decreases in railway stations. Posters thus located had been noticed with highest frequency in London.

Of the three coloured V.D. posters shown to all informants (see Appendix D) “Tomorrow’s Citizen” was favourably commented on by the highest proportion -70%.67% made favourable comments on “Here comes the Bride” and 59% on the “Easy Girl Friend”.

“Tomorrow’s Citizen” and the “Easy Girl Friend” posters were each considered the “most striking” by a third of the people to whom they were shown; the former mainly because of its appeal to people’s sense of responsibility towards children, the latter partly on account of its pictorial qualities and partly because people considered that it “got to the root of the problem”. “The Bride” was considered “most striking” by only 19 of the sample. Others gave no opinion.

Only 14 of the sample had noticed the Ministry of Health’s “Confidential Treatment” poster - a copy of which was shown during the interview: 26% had seen other posters giving the addresses of local V.D. clinics. These posters had been seen more frequently by men than women, and by smaller than average proportions of people in the South and East region.

Both types of poster had been seen more frequently in public lavatories, than elsewhere.

The great majority of people were in favour of information about the venereal diseases being publicised in newspapers and magazines, on posters, on the radio, and in films and lectures. A small proportion of people felt it might be inadvisable for children to see details about V.D. publicised, if the children were not fully enough informed to understand the real significance of the problem.

30% of the people interviewed considered that more publicity could be given to the venereal diseases, or that more intensive use could be made of the media already employed in the V.D. publicity campaign. Lower proportions of people between 16-20 and 51-60 than of those in middle age-groups were of this opinion, whereas higher proportions of men than women, and of people in the higher income and education groups than in the lower groups, considered that the publicity should be intensified.

The main suggestions made were that more lectures and talks should be given, either to the public in general or to specific groups of people. It was thought that lunch-hour talks illustrated with films might prove useful for factory and office workers who would not be so likely to attend such talks in their limited free time. A wider circulation of pamphlets, booklets and leaflets on the subject of V.D. was advocated; and a fair proportion of people urged that the venereal diseases should be explained to and discussed with young people at school.


81% of the sample said they knew something about the venereal diseases, but in some cases, it was found from further questioning that the knowledge possessed about certain aspects of V.D. was very inadequate.

It was found from the V.D. inquiry carried out in 1943, that young people between 16-20 knew relatively little about the venereal diseases. In the present inquiry people in this group still showed they were less well-informed on the subject than older people. This deficiency might largely be remedied if young people were given adequate instruction at school about the physiology of sex and the necessity for avoiding venereal disease.

Women knew less about the diseases than men.

People in the lower education group showed themsleves to be lacking in knowledge about V.D. as compared with those who had more education. As many informants suggested during the course of this inquiry, it would probably be well worth while organising lunch-time lectures about V.D. on a large scale in factories and places of work.

Married people knew more about the diseases than single people. This difference may be partly accounted for by the fact that the average age of the single group was lower.

Men without service in the forces were less well-informed about V.D. than men who had served in the last war or this. Again the difference may in part be due to the different age composition of the two groups.

As might be expected, the proportion of people familiar with the names of the venereal diseases was higher than the proportions who were able to indicate how, the diseases were spread or what the results of V.D. might be.

86% showed that they knew at least one correct name, for the diseases, whereas 57% said that V.D. might be contracted through sexual intercourse or direct contact, and a further 15% that the diseases might be caught through “loose living, immoral conduct and going with prostitutes”.

It is worth noting that 15% of the people interviewed thought V.D. could be caught from lavatory seats.

64% of the sample claimed to have some knowledge of the symptoms of V.D., but 70% of these people simply mentioned ulcers, discharge, sores, scabs, pimples, etc., without indicating where these symptoms might appear. It is possible that some of them were too reticent to mention the location of the symptoms, though their failure to be more explicit may have been due to real ignorance. As the V.D. publicity stresses the importance of seeking expert advice, it seems important that everyone should have enough knowledge of the symptoms of V.D. to be able to tell if they are likely to be infected.

Though 80% of the sample said they knew what the results of V.D. might be, it was evident from further questioning that a fair proportion of them had knowledge which was far from complete. The opinion was expressed by many of those interviewed that if a fuller explanation were given in publicity, articles, etc., about the frightful results of untreated V.D., people might be more careful about risking infection.

Most people knew that those infected with V.D. should seek medical advice or go to a V.D. clinic for treatment. But, as pointed out above, much smaller proportions had accurate knowledge as to how the diseases are spread or how to identify the symptoms, and many were unaware of the real dangers of V.D. to themselves, their children and the community as a whole.

More stress should therefore be laid on these aspects of V.D. if people are to be encouraged to avoid infection.


Though only 35% of the informants definitely said that they would like to have fuller information about the V.D., higher proportions of the people in those groups who had shown themselves to be relatively less informed about V.D. than of the others were keen to have more information about the diseases. Namely young people, women, men who had not served in the forces, and people in the lower income

group. The majority of them wanted more accurate general knowledge about the subject, while others said they would like to know fuller details of the symptoms, how the diseases are contracted and what the dangers and possible results of V.D. may be.

It is abundantly clear that far from being shocked at V.D. publicity, people are keen to learn everything they can about the diseases, provided the information is given in a form which they can easily understand.


40% of those who were interviewed considered that the present facilities for treatment were reasonably satisfactory; 27% could give no opinion on the matter since they did not know how satisfactory present conditions were. Of the remaining 33% of the sample, some emphasised the desirability of ensuring the privacy of treatment and preserving the anonymity of those who attended treatment centres should be established, and that more attention should be paid to the type and possibly sex, of the doctor responsible for the treatment of individual cases.


56% of the sample suggested measures, other than publicity, which might help to reduce the incidence of the venereal diseases.

16% advocated that voluntary or compulsory medical examinations should be made of everyone, either at regular intervals or before marriage: some thought that such examinations could conveniently be arranged at places of work or health centres. Higher proportions of the people under 30 than of those in older age-groups were in favour of this procedure.

Others suggested that complete treatment for infected persons should be made compulsory, with punishment for defaulters; that brothels should be licensed; and that V.D. should be made notifiable, as other contagious diseases are. Higher proportions of men than women supported these three suggestions.

7% considered that stronger measures should be taken to control the activities of young girls and prostitutes on the streets and in public places, while a similar proportion strongly urged that young people should be given adequate education about sex matters, so that they do not fall prey to disease through ignorance.


70% of a sample of 1,694 * people remembered points stressed in the publicity about diphtheria immunisation. The proportions who could recall points were higher than average in London, in the upper education and income groups and amongst people between 21-40; women recalled the publicity with greater frequency than men, possibly because the subject concerns women more than men.

The majority of those who could remember points stressed in the publicity, were aware that the important message was to urge people to get their children immunised. 30% could not recall any particular point stressed. Higher proportions of women than men, of people up to 40, and of those with higher education remembered the necessity for immunisation was the central message stressed by the publicity.

The main sources of information about diphtheria were outdoor posters (48%) newspapers (40%), films (19% ), radio (16%) magazines (14%), posters in stations (13%). Other sources were pamphlets and notices from School (10%).


About the same proportion of people remembered coming across Ministry of Health publicity about Coughs and Sneezes as about Diphtheria, namely 69%.

People in London, those in the higher income and education groups, and young people between 16-20 had noticed the Coughs and Sneezes publicity with greater frequency than others.

Roughly half of the sample remembered that the message of the campaign was to emphasise the necessity for sneezing into a handkerchief to avoid spreading infection. 31% could not remember what the gist of the publicity had been.

The main sources from which information was obtained were newspapers (44%), posters in buses, trains and on railway stations (37% ) outdoor posters (29%) , films (28% ), radio (21%) , and magazines (14%)

[1] Only 1,694 of the 2,587 people interviewed were asked questions about these campaigns. See Appendix A.

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