British morale reported to be 'excellent'

A local authority notice announcing the availability of Anderson Shelters. Weymouth, on the south coast, had already seen many air raids and aerial dogfights.

In a week when over 300 civilians were killed and over 600 seriously injured in bombing raids, the Ministry of Information was able to report to the Cabinet that morale on the Home Front was excellent. The daily reports were compiled from a variety of sources, including formal one-to-one surveys, as well as reports of conversations ‘overheard’ in public places:

21st August 1940

Morale continues high.

The Prime Minister’s speech was received extremely well, according to all reports.

From Northern Ireland comes the comment that it is the most forceful and heartening he has yet made. Newcastle reports that it has created a strong feeling of confidence.

Two Bristol verbatim reports are as follows:
‘Everyone feels now that, come what will, we are top dogs; the past week has shown that we shall win no matter what slight doubts there were before!’
‘Bristol has implicit trust in Churchill. If he says things are all right Bristol people know they are all right; if he says they are bad, they know they are bad!’

From Scotland comes the report that the three points which interested people most were, first the reference to the Russian Air Force as perhaps immobilising a large part of the German air fleet, secondly the hint that the war might not last as long as was formerly expected, and thirdly the reference to closer relations with the USA. People in Scotland still seem reluctant to face up to the prospect of a long war, and the air successes of last week have strengthened the hope that the war may end quickly. There is no evidence that the Prime Minister’s references to the food blockade have produced any antagonism or disagreement.

Comment on the Somaliland evacuation is still limited and regional reports suggest that its impact is not great. The siren controversy continues heatedly.

From the various reports from around the regions:

LONDON

Reports from all areas show morale to be excellent. Recent air-raid alarms proved that confidence has greatly increased since the beginning of the war and people showing more neighbourliness towards each other. Citizens’ Advice Bureaux and similar offices which were besieged by anxious people after first alarms in September were practically empty after last week’s raids. Many people did not take shelter when the siren went; even men in uniform in Kensington Gardens took no notice and civilians are inclined to follow their example. Confusion still exists as to what people should do when siren goes; some employers grudge wasting time and don’t encourage their staff to take shelter. Street shelters in Paddington and Bayswater without roofs owing to shortage of material.

Doubt is still expressed about the accuracy of German air losses.

Evacuated children still returning to London. Many areas, particularly East End, view with gravity lack of full schooling facilities for children especially those under eight. It is felt that discipline and home life in evacuation areas have practically disappeared: even quite young children forming themselves into bands of hooligans. Hoxton and Shoreditch parents, normally not anxious about education, want full time schooling restored as they are unable to control their children. Hackney and Stoke Newington where class of parents is better realise children are growing up without sufficient education. It is difficult to prosecute parents for not sending children to school and bad parents are taking advantage of this. It is felt that the progress of twenty- five years has been broken down in one.

Some bitter feeling expressed about the giving up of Somaliland and French held to be responsible; no anxiety expressed about general situation in Middle East so long as the White Ensign is still flying.

Churchill’s speech yesterday, particularly his reference to the RAF, thought to be completely right — epitomises the feeling of the country.

Letters from internees in Isle of Man show conditions to be good.

For all the reports see TNA INF1/274.

For more on the Home Front see The Keep Military Museum, Dorchester, Dorset.

Newsreel of the air battles seen by British audiences during August 1940:

Earlier in the war:

Later in the war: