Morale steady, criticism of the Government

Lord Halifax, British Foreign Minister, pictured with Hermann Goring
Lord Halifax, British Foreign Minister, pictured with Hermann Goring in October 1937 during negotiations in Germany.

The Ministry of Information compiled daily reports on the state of morale in the country, paying particular attention the reaction of the man in the street to events in the war.

On the 22nd the Foreign Secretary, Lord Halifax, had broadcast a high profile address in which he had dismissed HItler’s “peace offer” of 19th July. At one stage Lord Halifax had been considered the front runner to succeed Chamberlain as Prime Minister. It is evident that he could not possibly have had raised morale in the way that Winston Churchill so notably achieved during this period:

Morale is high. People are fully behind the war effort although small pockets of defeatism confined to certain localities, age groups or social groups are still present.

The last week has been one of public criticism however and the stock of the Government has fallen. The various causes of this criticism have already been noted:

Prosecutions and heavy sentences for defeatist talk
Capitulation over the Burma Road
Confusion over certain Government instructions, e.g. Stay Put, Siren policy.
The press campaign against the internment of aliens.
Tea rationing (among the working classes)
Silent Column campaign
The ‘postponement’ of seavacuation

There is confidence in the armed forces (particularly in the Navy and RAF) but less confidence in the Administration.

Reactions to the Foreign Secretary’s broadcast are best seen in verbatims: ‘Too much like a bishop’, ‘Depressing’, ‘Disappointing’, ‘Unsatisfactory’, ‘What about the Burma Road?’, ‘A statesman has to be a fighter these days’, ‘He didn’t explain anything’, ‘Very nice and gentlemanly’, ‘Old-fashioned diplomacy’, ‘Too much like the Chamberlain days’, ‘It was a dull speech: I switched off’ ‘I liked the high moral tone’, ‘It’s no use treating a mad dog like that’.

Many people failed to react to the broadcast at all and there was little attempt to relate the reply to Hitler’s speech.

From various areas come reports that there is a drift in opinion towards disbelief in invasion.

TNA INF 1 /274

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