A History of the Ministry of Information, 1939-46



Reaction to A.T.S. recruiting as shown by reports from Labour Exchanges

Motives: A. Dislike of the A.T.S. uniform for colour, cut; accessories; dislike of putting women into uniform; dislike of discarding familiar “feminine” characteristics.

B. Objection to leaving home. This, because of a girl’s natural timidity, and the parents’ scruples (religious or moral or merely possessive) against exposing inexperienced young girls to the temptations of late hours and unaccustomed contacts. This is often reinforced by financial reasons.

C. Revulsion caused by the bad reputation of the A.T.S. among the Women’s Services; this reputation sometimes well-founded and sometimes merely soldiers’ gossip with its roots in male possessiveness, professional jealousy, or else a backwash of ancient gossip against the W.A.A.Cs. of the last war.

A numbered list will be found at the end of this summary of interviews with officials at Labour Exchanges. The numbers given as sources of comment refer to particular Exchanges.

( Sources of Comment: 0, 2, 3, 4, 8, 9, 10, 14, 15, 18.)


There is an objection to A.T.S. uniform and all its accessories. Men who object to their womenfolk being in uniform object more to an ugly uniform.

Uniform unpopular, ugly, drab, depressing, monotonous. It is thought to be uncomfortable as well as unbecoming.

Khaki is said to be unflattering to female complexion. (Male comment); the stockings “disgusting”, especially after washing; skirt “awful” to girls’ figures.

Constructive suggestions, especially from Shoreditch .

A.T.S. girls all declare that they would be satisfied with uniform cut like W.A.A.F. If uniform must be khaki, Miss Sheehan of Shoreditch Labour Exchange, suggests a scarlet tie, at least for walking out, with scarlet or other coloured silk tassels on shoulder and whatever distinguishing mark of rank or unit you can give. “Men love these devices; so would women.”

1. Cut skirt differently;

2. See that the fastening of jacket aligns properly and does not gape;

3. Shirt with detachable collar;

4. Dark tie or of contrasting colour;

5. Improve the quality of stockings.

(Sources of Comment: 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 10, 15, 16, 17, 19)

46 47


Girls will not leave home. The unskilled working girl is not mobile - is born, works, marries, has a child, amuses herself, all within radius of a few streets of a London district, or her industrial town. As the class of girl improves religious and social objections to leaving home are added; the lower middle-class of this country still having the ideal of the “sheltered” woman.

Real, as distinct from, partly imagined objections to the Services come from the fact that most working girls contribute towards the family budget more than their own subsistence. Their presence in the home helps to keep up the standard of living even when they are not the main wage-earners. They give services to the home, and in return are enabled to live better than on their own.

Therefore, the reiteration, when registering at Labour Exchanges, of such phrases as: “I want to come home to my dinner”, or “ My mother goes to the hospital”, mean more than is apparent on the surface. Labour Exchange officials accept this as the expression of a definite economic relationship.

A widespread basis of resistance has been the girls idea that employment in, say, the clothing trade, which makes uniforms for the Forces, is already work vital to the national effort, “When disabused of this idea 50% are willing to co-operate.”

A small number (usually religious sectarian) are conscientious objectors.

Many girls object to being taken from work and home when professional women are largely reserved. They feel that their class is being exploited.

“C” and “D” Class women are vital bread-winners, not pin-money workers; and when the menfolk of a family have been called up, the going of one woman to a Service is a severe blow to the family even when these are not positively supporting parents or younger children.

Unspecified objection to the A.T.S. is frequently the result of fashions in likes and antipathies, which spread like wildfire among working girls everywhere. Quite a lot of hostility to the A.T.S. has been passed from girl to girl simply as an unreasoned fashion.

The conservatism of the young skilled workman makes him dislike the thought of his wife seeking employment without necessity. Many such men are in reserved occupations, well-paid, - and it is the wives of such who, even when childless, are obstinately determined not to leave home.

The above attitude on the part of married Women of “C” and “D” Class is very strong in certain districts where married women normally do not go to work, e.g. the town. of Derby, and the East Ham district of London.

This class, whether the girl in question has a child or not, is very serious in its attitude to women as representing the Home. Sometimes religion strengthens their dislike of taking a woman from her home, but in any case the idea of Woman and Home is joint, and indivisible.

“This is a home-loving population.”

“Our girls love their homes.”

“ The family is still the most important unit of our national life. Anything which tends to break it up is resented. Sentimental love of home has been intensified by war risks, such as air raids.”

This “home complex” accounts for much of the opposition to the A.T.S.(or W.A.A.F., or W.R.N.S.) on the part of husbands other than those in the Forces.

“Girls in good jobs can get no assurance that should they leave (to join the Services) their Jobs would, still be open to them after the War.”

Thus, for home-keeping and financial reasons, and also through fear of leaving familiar work for the unfamiliar environment of a Service, girls prefer munition work which offers higher pay and also the chance of remaining at home or near home.

“90% of girls’ definitely prefer factory work.”

“A good deal of the trouble comes from employers who cannot understand that their interests should not come first.” These employers stress to their girls the undesirability of the Services, and completely turn them against them

(Sources of Comment : 0, 3, 4, 6, 10, 11, 14, 16, 19).



The A.T.S. appears to have been from the beginning the drab and unglamourous Service, the legion of Cinderellas, domestic workers of low degree among whom one expected, and got, a low degree of morality. Even the uniform seems to have helped this idea, men contemptuously calling them “female Tommies” and “scum of the earth,” (Camberwell). When girls register at Labour Exchanges, and allow themselves to be indicated for a Service, their first stipulation is: “Not the A.T.S” This is often the objection when girls say they “don’t like it,” and when pressed for reasons they find fault with the uniform.

In industrial towns objections to A.T.S, are undefined, but Ministry of Labour officials incline to believe that the A.T.S. bad reputation contains traces of the obloquy attached to W.A.A.Cs. of the last War.

“The nicer type of girl will not look at the A.T.S.”

“There is definite mention that they are a bad type.”

“Those that volunteered for A.T.S. I am ashamed to have registered - a type dissatisfied with their present jobs and not worth better ones.”

The morality of the A.T.S, is attacked universally, but this condemnation appears to originate almost wholly with members ‘of the Forces, especially Army men.

An intelligent parlourmaid joining the A.T.S., said: “Army men talk against the A.T.S. Airmen talk against the W.A.A.Fs. Naval men talk against the W.R.N.S. But I have my own opinion of the Service I want.”

This supports the contention of a detached male observer that the vast body of hostile gossip emanating from the Forces is much inspired by the men’s preoccupation with their own or comrades’ lack of morals.

Characteristic of the attitude of soldiers, etc., towards the Women’s Services, is the fact that many advise their friends that the “W.R.N.S. is the best Service" because “they believe the girls work in depots ashore and have little opportunity of mixing with the men.” On the other hand, another man condemns W.R.N.S. on the score that “naval men are notoriously immoral.”

Experienced Ministry of Labour officials blame, not the ranks of H.M. Forces but male Commanding Officers for failing to feel themselves responsible for the repute of the A.T.S. as part of the Army, and inculcating into the men respect for girls who were coming to do their duty by their sides.

Such male criticism, however, is the foundation of the antagonistic attitude of mothers which greatly influences the girls.

“Oh, I could not join the A.T.S. All my friends would think I was one of ‘those’.”

“They’re Just the odds and ends in the A.T.S,”

Ministry of Labour officials find much adverse press publicity - as stories of Minister stating A.T.S. to be successors of camp followers of old - very damaging to recruiting.

Young men in Forces write to Labour Exchange managers asking them, when wives or fiancées register, to forbid them to join A.T.S.

A lecture on the radio by an A.T.S. officer advising girls how to make up shocked girls and their parents and fiancés in East London, confirming the men in their low opinion of the A.T.S. moral tone.

In one district husbands’ hostility to A.T.S. due to fears of wife forming new attachment, was soothed by the good impression made on him by the sensible admonition of the interviewing officer to the girl.

“I said to a doctor I would join the A.T.S. He said ‘Don’t you dare!’. He had seen an A.T.S. camp. Spent their time in the bar with the men. One of our girls went up to the same camp to a dance, and would not recommend any girl joining.” .

“A mother said her daughter had resigned, from the A.T.S. She said there was a terrible lot of immorality. Told at York they have a maternity home for A.T.S. babies.”


Best recruiting is done by A.T.S. girls on leave, smartly turned out, well-behaved and proud of their service.

Ministry of Labour Exchanges visited

0,1. Glasgow Central
2,3. Glasgow, South side
4,5,6. Derby
7. Guildford
8. Stockton
9. Middlesborough
10. Newcastle
11. Westminster London Exchange
12. Great Marlborough Street
13. Kings Cross
14. Camberwell
15. Shoreditch
16. East Ham
17. Stepney
18. Edgware Road
19. Leeds
20. Gainsborough
21. Ipswich
22. Stowmarket

Allocation of Interviews

Region Town Population in 000’s Urban U
Rural R
Potential Interviews Interviews with Relatives and Friends
SCOTLAND Glasgow 1,046 U 23 42 132 22 73
Edinburgh 432 U 24 45 21
Kilmarnock 45 R 25 24 15
Haddington 5 11 12
Falkin 43 R 26 10 3
WALES Aberystwin 15 R 20 12 79 13 43
Brecon 11 R 21 23 10
Cadiff 215 U 22 44 20
N. Newcastle 282 U 16 49 141 21 75
Middlesbero’ 135 U 17 43 26
Bishop Auckland 36 R 18 25 15
Chester-le-Street 24 R 19 24 13
N.E. Harrogate 57 U 27 48 107 15 47
Leeds 471 U 28 31 18
Ilkley 18 R 29 15 8
Knaresbore’ 11 R 30 8 2
Tadcaster 16 R 31 5 4
N. MIDLAND Leicester 280 U 7 50 132 25 45
Derby 147 U 8 40 20
Gainsboro’ 22 R 9 42
E. Norwich 133 U 10 20 97 18 61
Bungay 7 R 11 30 16
Aylsham 3 17
Ipswich 102 U 12 21
Stowmarket 12 R 13 26 10
Handleigh 4 R
LONDON & S,E, London 6,402 U 14 141 177 87 108
Tunbridge 23 R 15 36 21
S. Basingstoke 24 R 4 22 81 7 46
Newbury 33 R 5 14 10
Maidenhead 35 U 6 45 21
S.W. Truro 22 R 1 29 85 17 48
Torquay 59 U 2 31 23
Honiton 9 R 3 25 8
TOTALS 1,031 546
50 51 52


Women’s Services Survey

PURPOSE: To find what are the attitudes of women between the ages of 17½ and 43 to joining the Women’s Services, such as the W.A.A.F., A.T.S., and W.R.N.S., and to study the effect of the advertising campaigns for the Women’s Services


You will receive separate instructions on the areas to be covered.


The Survey will be conducted by means of questionnaires. Three different questionnaires are émployed, as follows:-

Part 1 . At W.A.A.F., A.T.S., and W.R.N.S. Units and Stations. Arrangements are being made for you to visit the nearest centres for each Service in your area.

Part 2 . Relations and friends of possible Entrants into these Services. These to be contacted mainly by calling at houses, but any other place which suggests itself is permissible. Interviews will be obtained mainly with parents of suitable girls.

Part 3. Potential (Possible Entrants). Girls and women wherever you can best contact them, between the ages of 17½ and 43, who are apparently free to go into work or the Services.

How to Complete the Questionnaires

1st . Always interview individuals - NEVER GROUPS.


Part I : Women’s Services

You will receive instructions as to which W.A.A.F., A.T.S. and W.R.N.S. stations you are to visit. Care must be taken that you interview an unbiased sample of personnel when you get to the Station; that is, that you do not interview anyone selected for you by the Commanding Officer or her Deputy. Whatever the size of the Station you should attest to get interviews with all ranks: rankers and N.C.O’s chiefly. A few officers may be interviewed.

On no account should you allow anyone to see a completed Questionnaire .

You may give the assurance to the persons interviewed that only yourself and your office, see the completed form, and therefore they may speak as candidly as they wish - the more candid they are the better. They need have no fear that any superior officer will see their answers to the questions.

If it is necessary for you to be conducted round the Station by an Orderly, make sure that your interview is not overheard by her. The interview is solely a matter between you and the informant.

The Questionnaire. Fill in the particular Service concerned.

Open the interview by explaining that we want to find people’s opinion about the Service. Encourage a confidential and friendly atmosphere from the start.

Questions 1 and 2. The answers are “precoded”, that is, they are there to help you by dispensing with unnecessary writing. Encircle the appropriate number. Do not prompt any answers: wait to hear what is said and record it.

Question 3 . Find out which things about the duties, social life, uniform, living conditions, food and canteens, etc., are liked. Try to deal with this question exhaustively.

Question 4 . This is the most important question on the page - and due time must be allowed for a full answer. If you feel that the informant is holding some criticism back, it is a good plan to proceed with the remaining questions and return to it after.

Question 5 . Carefully note any improvements suggested.

The remaining questions are all straightforward. There is no need to ask the age, unless you feel that there will be no resentment: usually, your estimate of age will suffice.

If the informant had no occupation of her own in peace-time, try to obtain the occupation of the father, guardian, or anything that will indicate the social background of the informant.

Note carefully any comments made.

Part 2: (Relatives and friends). With this you will interview mothers and fathers, or other relatives or friends and acquaintances of girls and women who could go into the Services, or who are already in the Services. The persons to be interviewed could be contacted mainly by house calls, but if you can interview such persons in other places, do so. The sample ought to consist of people directly concerned inasmuch as they have a daughter, wife, cousin, sister or fiancée who could join a service. You could therefore make inquiries at one house and ask if any neighbour is directly interested. In some cases you will find it profitable to call back, after making an interview. There is no objection to interviewing anyone likely - even men in the Forces or Civil Defence.

The Questionnaire. The essence of the questionnaire is to find whether, on the information they have, people have a good or a bad opinion of the Women’s Services. If possible, try to find their opinion about each Service. You should indicate the reply by encircling the appropriate figure. If this is done correctly you should have the codes for each service encircled with 1, 2 or 3.

Question 2. State any positive objection in words. If no objection to any service, say “none”.

Question 3. Asks whether they have any relatives or acquaintances in the Women’s Services. This is to record whether they are directly concerned in the matter. Indicate answer by encircling 1 or 2. Any comment made should be entered on the form. Please try to restrain your personal opinions: only what the informant says is evidence.

Complete form by encircling 1 for Man, 2 for Woman, Social grade, age group. (Do not ask the age: your own estimate will be accepted).

Part 3. (Potential)

This is to be used at interviews with girls and women between the ages of 17½ and 43 - and who appear as though they could join one of the Women’s Services. They are to be interviewed anywhere you can find them. For instance, on your house calls for the purpose of interviewing mothers, etc., you will certainly come across likely girls and women. Apart from these calls, interviews can be obtained in cafes, restaurants, stores and shops (with the consent of the manager or proprietor) kiosks, or in the street if you think the occasion suitable.

The Questionnaire (Part 3). As with the other forms, the answers are precoded and you should not prompt. Encircle the appropriate number where coded, and when you write in an answer, write plainly. The mark of inefficient investigating is bad handwriting.

Questions 1, 1a and 2 are straightforward.

Question 3 should cover not only whether there has been an irritating delay in being called up, leading to loss of enthusiasm, but also whether the interview at the Labour Exchange or Recruiting Office was sympathetic or not. If the informant had any cause for complaint, please record it.

Questions 4 to 9. Possible answers are precoded: DO NOT PROMPT ANY ANSWERS.

Question 10. Three possible answers are precoded. The informant might say that she would like best of all to work in mixed company - men and women. If she says this, please write it in.

Question 12. Please record what newspapers, magazines and periodicals are read regularly.

Question 13. Write in the favourite times of listening to the radio for Sunday and Weekdays.

Question 14. Encircle the code number if the informant has noticed any advertisements about Women’s Services, against the medium or media concerned. If a particular advertisement, poster, film, or radio announcement is recalled, briefly describe what it was.

You should encourage free discussion of the points raised, and record anything relevant.

GRADING OF CALLS. In interviews with Potential and Parents, you should try to get half of your calls with AA, A and B, (the preponderance of which will be B) and the other half of your calls with C and D (the preponderance of which will be C).

If you have not been handed a marked map of the towns you are covering, you should contact the Municipal Rating Office for information on the distribution of the social grades in the town.

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