Public now optimistic about the war’s outcome

The Photographic Division of the Ministry of Information kept a comprehensive record of life on the home front in war time Britain. Mrs D Cheatle of 16 Athol Road, Sheffield, operates a Capstan lathe at a munitions factory in Yorkshire, 1942

Three Land Girls harvest flax in a field which had been derelict the previous year. One woman drives the tractor as the two others sit at the rear on the flax-pulling 'trailer'.

The British War Cabinet regularly addressed the question of public morale. The issue had been on the agenda on an almost daily basis during the Blitz but less frequent reports continued to be considered throughout the war. There was a whole Ministry of Information devoted to channelling propaganda for home consumption.

While there was considerable control over the way war news was disseminated, public discussion was never subjected to the type of control exercised in Nazi Germany. It was even possible for Parliament to debate a motion of ‘No Confidence’ in the government.

After the shocks of the beginning of the year, most notably the fall of Singapore, the mood had changed. The Minister of Information, Brendan Bracken, was able to report on 10th June 942:

There is no question that there has been a big rise in optimistic feeling about the war. …

One marked feature of this steadily mounting wave of optimism is a belief, reported from many quarters, that the war against Germany will “be over this year”. The emergence of a similar belief lias been noted in the U.S.A. and the leaders in that country have been setting themselves to combat this feeling and to warn their public that there is still a long and hard task ahead of them before victory. It is a question whether similar action is called for from the Government of this country. …

I think that no small part in the great public satisfaction at the recent R.A.F, raids was due to the consciousness that they were a blow struck directly by this country with its own material and its own forces. There is much feeling that the public have been asked for too long to admire Russian resistance, American production and Empire fighting qualities.

Events and a very natural desire to pay tribute to the efforts of our friends and allies have brought this about’ but the result has been mifortunaie, not merely at home but in America, and elsewhere. I feel that now is the right moment decisively to correct this impression. This is all the more important because before long American participation, which will no doubt be accompanied by America publicity, will tend to restore the old unsatisfactory position.

I recommend strongly, therefore, that it bo maintained as a major publicity aim of the Government to bring forward and publicise every aspect which illustrates the magnitude of our own contribution to the war effort: in fighting, in resources, in personnel, in production and in civil adjustment. …

See TNA CAB/66/25/30

A display of fruit and vegetables in a greengrocer's shop somewhere in Britain includes a sign stating that the oranges on sale are intended to be only for children.

A view of a tray containing the ration book for a Mr Norman Franklin and his weekly rations of sugar, tea, margarine, 'national butter', lard, eggs, bacon and cheese.

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