A History of the Ministry of Information, 1939-46

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This investigation was undertaken by the Wartime Social Survey at the request of the General Production Division of the Ministry of Information.

Its purpose was to assess the reasons why women are not joining the Auxiliary Territorial Service, either because of general objections to the Women’s Services or of particular objections to the A.T.S. Other inquiries were to be concerned with the attitude to compulsion, the effect of the Ministry’s propaganda, and with the reasons which have prompted women already in the Services to join, with particular reference to the A.T.S.

The plan of the investigation at first took the form of inquiry along six channels:

  1. 1. The possible entrants to the Women’s Services, referred to in this report as the “potential”.

  2. 2. Their social background: relatives and friends likely to advise them on the question of joining a Service, particularly the parents and men friends of suitable girls.

  3. 3. The A.T.S. Personnel.

  4. 4. The Women’s Auxiliary Air Force.

  5. 5. The Women’s Royal Naval Service.

  6. 6. Interviews with Women Registration Officers at Labour Exchanges.

To ask the girls and women considered as potential entrants was an obvious stop, but it was also necessary to check upon the opinions of the people to whom the potential, especially the younger girls, would turn for advice or direction in such an important matter as leaving home to join a Service about which they possibly had little actual knowledge. It was also considered necessary to find the opinions of girls and women already in the A.T.S., and, because the British soldier’s traditional privilege of complaining, not always justifiably, may well have penetrated to the newly formed women’s auxiliary services, to check the opinions of personnel in the sister Services. If these lines of approach were used, all conditions of the experiment being kept constant, anything outstanding about the A.T.S. and likely to give grounds for the heavy criticism it has had to sustain, should come to light. It was not intended to publish any findings concerning the W.A.A.F. or the W.R.N.S. as such, since comparisons could be indexed. These services were to be used as controls in order to obtain a proper perspective on the real subject of the investigation - the A.T.S.

Unfortunately, permission was not granted to make these inquiries in the W.A.A.F. or the W.R.N.S., and to that extent this Survey loses some precision.

The information upon which the report is based therefore consists of the following interviews: 1,031 with girls and women considered suitable as entrants to the Services; 546 with members of the public other than potential entrants, and 611 with members of the A.T.S. at 22 camps and barracks. In addition a number of interviews were obtained with women registration officers in Ministry of Labour Exchanges.

Interviewing which was conducted by 24 investigators working under supervision, began on the 17th October, and was completed by the 30th October, 1941.

A conference was held at which details of the inquiry were discussed with the investigators concerned. Details of this discussion are summarised in the Appendix under the title of “Instructions to Investigators.”

The questionnaires, of which copies will be found in their corresponding parts of the report, were arrived at by means of a “pilot” survey in London,

The interviews were allocated as shown in the appendix. The regions are those formulated by the Ministry of Labour, upon whose advice no interviewing was carried out in the North West and Midland regions, and the Rochester-Chatham area of Kent. In these areas women are primarily required for munition factories, so that the investigation was not concerned with their opinion about the Services. The interviews were therefore spread proportionally in all other regions of England, Scotland, and Wales. A.T.S. camps and barracks were visited at places adjacent to the main centres of investigation.

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