A History of the Ministry of Information, 1939-46

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1. Problems arising from the decision to award a Defence Medal

The service, which is recognised as a qualification for the Defence Medal, is defined in D.M.1 (copy attached at Appendix 1). It must have been performed during the war years (3.9.’39 to 8.5.’45) in one or more of the categories shown in para. 15. A total of three years’ service qualifies. Less does not, unless

  1. (a) it has been terminated by death or injury while on duty

  2. (b) the applicant has been gazetted for his service.

Dismissal or discharge for misconduct disqualifies.

Every claimant whose most recent service was not rendered in category 1 or 2 (the Armed Forces, the Women's Military Auxiliary Services, and the Home Guard) must complete and submit a D.M.2 (specimen attached at Appendix 2). Those whose most recent service is a sufficient qualification need no other form. But those who need to mention any previous service or services to implement their qualifications must obtain D.M.3 or D.M.4 (specimens at Appendices 3 and A) - possibly more than one of either, or both. These forms must be forwarded to the appropriate authorities for certification, and afterwards returned to the claimant, and attached to his D.M.2. Finally the D.M.2 is forwarded to the appropriate authority for certifying the most recent service, and thereafter to the authority empowered to issue the medal.

The Home Office, which is finally responsible for the issue, estimates that from four to seven million people are qualified. If everyone of them submitted a claim, the clerical labour involved in certifying the claims and issuing the medals would be very considerable. The Office decided therefore to ask the Social Survey to conduct “an inquiry into the number of persons who will probably apply for the Defence Medal” (letter to Director of Research, Social Survey from the Home Office, Whitehall, dated 14.3.’46 signed by Mr. Ronald Wells).

The chief uncertainties about the number of applicants seem to be those about

  1. (a) the total number of people eligible

  2. (b) the number who become aware that they can submit a claim

  3. (c) the number sufficiently interested to attempt to apply

  4. (d) the number successful in mastering the complexities of the application forms.

Not all of the D.M.2’s initiated may reach the authorities empowered to issue medals. Some may go astray en route from the original applicant. Applicants have no safeguard against this risk.

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2. The announcement of the procedure for claiming a medal

The news that people could apply for the medal was released on March 22. Announcements were made by the B.B.C. during their news services at several times during the day, although not during the 9.0 p.m. news broadcast. Most daily papers featured the news:

The Times at the top of the first column on p.6 (not a centre page).

The Daily Telegraph in a small notice in the middle of the second column of p.3 (not a centre page).

The News Chronicle and The Daily Mirror in a two-column notice at the bottom of the front page.

The Daily Express at the top of the fourth column on the front page

The Daily Mail and the Daily Herald in gossip columns without special featuring

Of all these papers; the Daily Mirror alone failed to mention that application forms were obtainable at Post Offices.

The Evening News carried a news item, the “Home ‘Army’ Besieges the Post Offices” for application forms, but the Evening Standard and the Star , like the Daily Worker , failed to mention the Defence Medal

No publicity has been given to it since then. The application forms are held at Post Offices, but no display is made.

3. The conduct of the survey

Work began intensively after 14.3.46. A schedule for interviewers to use in collecting information was drafted, discussed, revised, tried out on a small sample of informants, and finally revised, (copy at Appendix 5). Instructions were prepared (copy at Appendix 6) for the interviewers to use. After stage was completed the interviewers were summoned to a conference, held on 1.4.46, at which they received a full explanation of the purpose of the survey and the methods to be followed. Field work began immediately afterwards, and was completed just in time for the Easter Holidays (19-22.4.46). The number of interviews originally suggested was 1,500 (c.f. Mr. Wells's letter), but as they were comparatively brief, their target number was increased to 2,500. The number of completed schedules used for the following analysis is 2,369 (95 percent of the target number). The deficiency is most marked in two regions, Northern and North Western, covering Cheshire, Cumberland, Durham, Lancashire, Northumberland, Westmorland and the North Riding of Yorkshire, where 391 interviews were obtained out of a desired quota of 493 (79 per cent). There is also a deficiency in the number of interviews obtained with informants aged 65 and over. These deficiencies will tend, on the whole, to exaggerate estimates of the number of eligible people and the number of applicants, but as a source of uncertainty, this slight departure from a truly representative sample is much less important than the uncertainties mentioned in section 1 above. The sample is intended to be representative of the people in England, Scotland and Wales, 18 years old or over, who were civilians at the end of 1945. We estimate this population as 32,090,000 people approximately.

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4. The number of people eligible

450 of the 1968 people who answered Qn.10 appeared to be eligible for the Defence Medal under the procedure for civilians, i.e., had served for at least three years in one or more of the eligible categories. Of the remainder (401) 279 considered themselves qualified and 99 were uncertain. The probable number of eligible people in this group (excluding those whose most recent category of service is 1 or 2) is 247. This leads us to estimate that 29 per cent of the population sampled possess appropriate qualifications - making an estimated total of nine and a half million qualified people, which should be accurate to within half a million.

Table 1 shows the proportion of apparently eligible people in the main categories of service (taken from answers to Qn.10).

Table 1

Proportion of eligible people in each of the main categories of service

Service (Category) Per cent of eligible people in the service shown *
17. Fire Guards in government or business premises 30
16. Fire Guards under local authorities 23
3. C.D. First Aid Service 14
9. C.D. First Aid Service 8
21. N.F.S. 5
18. W.V.S. 4
All others 16
Total 100

* Calculated from 450 cases

If these percentages are checked against total strengths in the services concerned, it will be seen that our estimate of a total of nine and a half million eligible people is not excessive. For instance the estimate of W.V.S. eligible is just under four hundred thousand. Towards the end of the war the W.V.S. had a total strength of approximately one million.

5. Estimate of the probable number of claims (total )

Table 2 gives data from which an estimate can be made of the probable number of claims. It is derived from answers to Questions 4.5 and 17 of the schedule.

Table 2

Analysis of people likely to apply for the D.M.

Type of answer Per cent of sample * Estimated number in population
A. Application forms already obtained
1. Completed and sent in 1.3 406,000
2. Completed but not sent in .7 217,000
3. Not completed because of difficulties with the forms .2 54,000
4. Not completed for other reasons .7 230,000
B. Application forms not yet obtained
5. ‘Yes’ answered to Qn. 5 and 17 4.6 1,490,000
6. ‘Yes’ answered to Qn. 5 or 17 2.2 740,000

* calculated from 2,369 cases.

If we suppose that all such people will submit claims, we can infer that the total number of claims will be approximately three million. This is probably the maximum limit.

If we exclude the last class of people, we would estimate the number of claims as two million, four hundred thousand.

If we take account of the fact that only 69 per cent of those have obtained forms have completed them, we reduce this figure to one million, six hundred thousand.

If we further take note that only 45 per cent of those who have obtained forms have sent them in, we reduce the figure to one million, one hundred thousand.

Even this estimate is not a minimum. It does not allow for the likelihood that some of those who answer “Yes” to questions 5 and 17 will nevertheless not obtain application forms. Six hundred thousand appears the minimum number of claims that can be expected.

The conspicuous finding is that people vary very greatly in the probable effectiveness of their intention to submit a claim. This limits the precision with which we can estimate the probable number of claims far more drastically than a purely statistical treatment of the sampling errors of the observed percentages would indicate.

We estimate that the number of claims initiated is unlikely to be less than one and a half millions or greater than two and a half millions. As postponement tends to render intentions ineffective, we expect that the number observed will be nearer the lower limit than the upper.

Some 94 per cent of the claims initiated are likely to be valid.

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6. Estimate of the probable number of claims forwarded to different authorities

Table 3 shows in which of the eligible categories probable claimants performed their most recent service, and therefore indicates to which addresses claims are most likely to be forwarded for certification. It is derived from answers to Qns. 10 and 17 of the schedule.

Table 3

Most recent service performed by probable claimants

Service (Category) Per cent of claims *
3. C.D. Warden service 26 73%
17. Fire Guards in government or business premises 24
16. Fire Guards under local authorities 15
9. C.D. First Aid Services 8
18. W.V.S. 7
21. N.F.S 5
22. Police 4
All others 11
Total 100

* calculated from 146 cases

7. Estimate of the number of supplementary claims

Tabulations of answers to Qns. 10 and 17 show that approximately 11 per cent of the claims initiated will have one certificate of earlier service (D.M.3 or D.M.4) attached, and 2 per cent two certificates (calculated from 148 cases). More than two supplementary certificates are very seldom likely to be attached to one claim.

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8. The effectiveness of the publicity given to the Defence Medal

Of the total sample, 47 per cent stated in answer to Qn.1 that they had heard of the Defence Medal. The proportion among people apparently eligible for the medal, 52 per cent, is only slightly higher than among the remainder, 46 per cent (Note 1.)

Answers to Qns. 1 and 10 show that people in different categories of service differ markedly in their awareness. 67 per cent of the Civil Defence workers (categories 3 to 9 inclusive, 130 cases) had heard of the medal, but of the Fire Guards (categories 16 and 17, 238 cases) only 42 per cent.

The difference between people in different income groups is very marked, as Table 4 shows (taken from Qn.1 and classificatory data).

Table 4

Proportion of people with different incomes aware of the Defence Medal

Income of Chief Wage Earner Per cent of people aware
Up to £3 26
Over £3 to £4 39
Over £4 to £5.10s. 49
Over £5.10s. to £10 58
Over £10 73

Considering the sample by occupation, we find that among professional people and those in managerial positions 78 per cent had heard of the medal, whereas among retired people, unoccupied people and housewives the proportion is only 34 per cent.

Of the people who had heard of it, 18 per cent stated in answer to Qn.2 that they were uncertain whether they were qualified for it. Of those who thought they were, 6 per cent gave qualifications in answer to Qn.10 which appear insufficient, while of those who thought they were not, 6 per cent appear sufficiently qualified. Answers to Qns. 4 and 7 also reveal uncertainties about the correct procedure for initiating a claim.

Note. 1. Chi-squared=4.97 for 1 d.f. Probability of occurrence by chance less than.05.

We conclude that the publicity given to the Defence Medal has only made about one half of the people eligible for it aware of its existence in any way. Not all of these possess adequate information, or are in a position to reach a considered decision whether to apply for it or not. Different sections of the population vary in their awareness; in some of the eligible categories the degree of awareness is for higher than in others.

Further publicity could increase the number of applications substantially. Such publicity will be most effective if it is designed with due regard to the sections of the population at present least aware of the medal, and to those including the largest proportion of eligible people. The data collected are also adequate to indicate what sort of publicity is most likely to be effective. For instance a tabulation showing the answers to Qns. 2 and 5 will indicate variations in the degree of interest in the medal felt by potential claimants; an analysis of answers to Qn. 8 will show what are the chief reasons for lack of interest; and tabulations showing the associations between the answers to Qns. 16, 17 and 18 will indicate whether the medal would be better publicised as an exclusive or a fashionable thing to have. A further report can be prepared from such data if the possibility of further publicity is to be considered.

9. Difficulties in completing the claim forms

D.M.2, 3 and 4, the claim forms for the medals, are considered by the officers responsible for them at the Home Office as simple and clear as they can be, if they are to define eligibility unequivocally and prevent unwarranted claims. Nevertheless to officers at the Social Survey they appeared likely to prove beyond the understanding of some of the potential claimants. It was expected that the number of claims initiated would be consequently restricted. Specially designed questions were included in the schedule to enable the effects of difficulties in the forms to be observed and recorded.

Of 67 informants who had already obtained the forms, only 4 reported that they had found them too difficult to complete. The use of the forms was explained to another 240 people who seemed interested in submitting claims. 227 of these gave answers to the question, “Do you think you will have any difficulty in filling up these forms?” 82 per cent answered, No, 11 per cent were uncertain, and only 7 per cent said, Yes. Interviewers also noted that, out of 175 of these informants, 65 per cent understood directly what to do with the forms, and another 25 per cent understood after repeated explanations. Only 10 per cent appeared to have failed to understand. The informants who admitted, in answer to Qn.14, that they might have difficulties in completing the forms, gave less positive answers to Qn. 17. Those, too, who appeared to the interviewers to have difficulty in understanding what to do with the forms, proved less likely to answer, Yes. (NOTE 2).

It seems impossible to avoid the conclusion that some potential claimants encounter difficulties in completing the forms and are therefore deterred from initiating claims. The number of claims, however, will not be greatly restricted on this account, for only some 6 to 10 per cent of the potential claimants encounter serious difficulties, and even amongst them not all are deterred.

A supplementary survey was made, in which 148 eligible people were supplied with claim forms and invited to complete them in the presence of the interviewers. Interviewers were instructed to give help if requested, to note what requests were made, and to collect detailed information to show how the people got on with the forms. Data so collected can be used if revision of the forms is to be considered.

NOTE 2. Analysis of the association between answers to Qn. 14 and Qn. 17 shows chi-squared = 17.81 for 4 d.f.; and between answers to Qn. 17 and the interviewers rating chi-squared = 17.32, also for 4 d.f. Both these values correspond to a probability of less than.01, showing that the possibility that the answers are unassociated can be ruled out.

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