A History of the Ministry of Information, 1939-46

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10. Preparation of a supplementary report

The foregoing report was presented to the Home Office (Mr. Ronald Wells) on May 16, 1946. The question whether any further publicity should be given to the Defence Medal was raised in the following month and supplementary notes were prepared by Mr. E. G. Reeve at the Social Survey and submitted to Mr. H. McCullagh for the Home Office on July 11.

In the event, no further publicity was given. The purpose of this Part of the report (written in February 1947) is not to debate whether further publicity should or should not have been given, but simply to substantiate the statements in the final paragraph of Section 8, Part 1, by showing how supplementary information obtainable from the survey applies to this question.

11. Disinclination to apply

293 of the people interviewed did not intend to apply although they had heard of the Defence Medal and did not think they lacked the qualifications. They were asked Qn. 8: “Why aren't you going to obtain the application forms?” and their answers are given in detail in Appendix 8. Table 5 classifies tne types of answer received.

Table 5
Type of answer Number of Informants Per Cent
1. Have done nothing to justify a medal - job not done for a medal to be issued for bravery and services. 68 23
2. Can't be bothered - not worth it - medal no use 61 21
3. Don't want a medal - don't believe in medals 40 14
4. Waste of time, money and material 34 12
5. Not interested 26 9
6. Whole thing unnecessary, ridiculous, silly - disagree with issue of medal 19 7
7. No value as so many people have medal 16 5
8. Leave application to appropriate authority 12 4
9. Want to forget the war 5 2
10. Too many complicated forms 2 -
11. Miscellaneous 9 3
12. Don't know or no answer 1 -
Total 293 100

Answers of the first type seem to reveal feelings that medals should not be awarded simply for performance of routine duties, but only for conspicuous services or acts of exceptional bravery. The same kind of feeling seems to be revealed by answers of the eighth type; here it appears in the form of opinions that it is not becoming for people to recommend themselves for medals: “The authority whom we served should recommend us”. Feelings that the medal is cheap or silly, expressed in the sixth and seventh types of answer, and in lack of interest (the fifth type) may in some cases have a similar origin. They may come from people who find the arrangements made for distributing the Defence Medal discordant with their previous notions of what is comme il faut.

Other people have little or no personal use for any medal because they do not attend the kinds of functions at which medals are worn (“Have enough from the last war and they are never taken out of the drawer”) or because they consider wearing them “Swank”. Such attitudes may be expressed in the third, fourth and fifth types of answers and may overlap, in the sixth with those previously described.

Briefly then, some people esteem medals, but not the Defence Medal, others do not esteem any medals. These two groups appear to be roughly equal in numbers and to comprehend nearly all those whose reasons for not applying arise from disinclination. The number in the sample belonging to each group cannot be counted, as there remain some people whose answers are not sufficiently articulate to place them clearly outside or inside either group.

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12. Lack of certainty about eligibility

Section 8 of Part 1 showed that over half the people interviewed had not heard of the Defence Medal. Of the remainder, 44 per cent stated in answer to Qn. 2 that they thought they had the qualifications for one, 18 per cent were uncertain and 38 per cent thought not. Those who had not completed their applications, or declared that they had no intention of applying, were asked in Qn. 10 to give particulars of any services they had performed which count as qualifications. The evidence thus obtained provides the following figures:

Table 6

Comparisons between peoples’ opinions and the evidence obtained on their qualification

Qn. 2 Peoples' opinions
Qn. 10 Evidence obtained Qualified Uncertain Unqualified Total
Qualified 151 60 23 234
Unqualified 73 41 410 524
Total 224 101 433 758

Out of the 234 whose qualifications appeared adequate, 64 per cent believed themselves qualified, 26 per cent were uncertain, and 10 per cent believed themselves unqualified. 67 per cent of those who thought themselves qualified, 59 per cent of those who were uncertain, and 5 per cent of those who thought themselves unqualified had qualifications which appeared on the evidence to be adequate. 26 per cent of all the people concerned (197 persons, viz. 73, who believed themselves qualified, all those who were uncertain, and 23 who believed themselves unqualified) were uncertain or misinformed. Uncertainty was commoner than misinformation; misinformation was commoner among those who believed themselves qualified than among those who believed themselves unqualified.

Answers to Qn. 2 and Qn. 5, when compared, show that of 385 people who thought themselves qualified but had not yet obtained their qualification forms, 33 per cent were intending to obtain the forms, 17 per cent were uncertain and 50 per cent were not intending. But among the 198 who were uncertain of their qualifications the corresponding proportions were: 18 per cent intending, 31 per cent uncertain and 51 per cent not intending. Among the remainder who believed themselves unqualified, there were naturally none who intended to obtain the forms.

Thus among the people who had heard of the Defence Medal there were many who were uncertain or misinformed about their qualifications. Some, whose qualifications appear to have been insufficient, believed themselves qualified and intended to obtain the forms. The procedure for application was effectively designed to limit the number of claims submitted by such people. But others, whose qualifications appear to have been adequate, were deterred by ignorance or uncertainty from obtaining the forms which might have cleared their ignorance or uncertainty away. People were publicly advised not to obtain forms (c.f. the Times, loc. cit.) unless they believed themselves qualified.

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13. Opinions on the popularity of the medal

Qn. 15. “How many people would you guess are likely to be qualified for the Defence Medal?”
Qn. 16. “About how many of them do you think will go to the trouble of completing the necessary forms?”
Qn. 17. “Will you do so?”

were put to 240 of the people interviewed - the remainder having been excluded on account of their answers to previous questions, as people who did not need to be shown the application forms.

Their answers to Qn. 15 were distributed as follows:-

Table 7
Estimate Per cent giving this estimate
10 Millions or over 13
5 to 10 million 24
2 to 5 million 30
1 to 2 million 22
Under 1 million 11

Obviously a great deal of uncertainty existed on this point, as the estimates range from under 1 to over 10 millions. The average estimate is just over four and a half millions.

Answers to Question 16 were distributed as follows:

Table 8
Estimate Per cent giving this estimate
Over three quarters 15
A half to three quarters 25
One quarter to a half 34
Under one quarter 26

In this case too, the range of estimates is very wide. The average estimate is 46 per cent. Combining the two averages shows that the number of applications was popularly estimated at just over two millions.

Comparisons between people's answers to these two questions and their answers to Qn. 17 exhibit the connection between what they personally intend to do and what they expect other people to do.

Are those who estimate that the number of qualified people is large less inclined to submit an application than those whose estimate is small? Or vice versa? Neither - for there is no association between answers to Qn. 15 and Qn. 17. The correlation is an insignificant one of 10, between those who believe that the proportion who will apply is large, themselves intend to apply, while those who believe the proportion small, do not. The correlation between answers to Qn. 16 and 17 is a significant positive one, of 38. Thus people are not likely to be deterred from applying by the thought that a large number of others are qualified, but they are likely to be deterred by the thought that not many of those qualified are going to apply. And this opinion is evidently widespread.

Whether people intend to do what they believe the majority of the others will do, or whether they believe that the majority of the others will do what they intend to do themselves, this evidence does not show. Probably both attitudes of mind are present and are confused together among the eligible population. In any case it is clear that if the belief became more widespread, that those who were eligible were applying, the incentive to apply would be increased, both amongst those who desire to set the fashion and those who desire to follow it.

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14. Conclusions to Part 2

These three sections, together with section 8 of part 1, provide definite indications of the course of action which would have been suitable, if the decision had been taken to give further publicity to the Defence Medal.

The number of applications initiated by eligible people is shown to be limited:

  1. (a) by ignorance of the medal's existence,

  2. (b) by lack of esteem for the Defence Medal in particular or for any sort of medal.

  3. (c) by ignorance or uncertainty about qualifications,

  4. (d) by opinions that other people are not bothering to apply.

At the time when the survey was conducted, the first of these limitations affected the greatest number of apparently eligible people. It occurred more commonly among people in the lower than in the higher income groups and concerned some eligible categories more than others. In all, it affected 48 per. cent of the apparently eligible people. The second and third affected, by definition, only people who had heard of the Defence Medal; but any simple increase in the numbers hearing of it would augment the total effects of these limitations. The second affected 42 per cent of those who considered themselves possibly eligible, and the third 35 per cent of those whose qualifications appeared adequate.

A co-ordinated publicity campaign might have reduced all these limitations simultaneously. Suppose, for instance, the decision had been taken to publish citations in some cases where the Defence Medal was awarded posthumously to those qualified by dying on duty, to call for recommendations for such awards from the authorities in charge of the eligible categories of service, and to make such awards ceremonial occasions. Enquiries would then be set afoot among the appropriate services and would penetrate particularly among people in eligible categories. News of such citations might have been released in the press, and films of such occasions might have appeared in the News Reels. Particularly through the Sunday papers and the cinema, the public in the lower income groups would have been reached. The esteem in which the medal is held would have been enhanced. The time when interest had been aroused by such publicity would have been suitable for a further release of detailed information concerning the definition of qualifications and the normal procedure for application.

The few fortunate people who already have as many medals as they need and those who served with truly no thought of honour or reward would no doubt continue to take no notice.

No suggestion is intended here, that such publicity would have been desirable or even practicable. All that is intended is to delineate the course of action indicated by the results from this survey as appropriate for such an eventuality.

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