Air Raids now hitting public morale

The morning after, a London street sometime during late 1940.

The public attitudes to the air raids and bombing had been recorded on the 6th September as being broadly positive. The Ministry of Information’s daily survey of public morale now found that people were very much more disturbed by the intensified bombing:

In the areas which have been most heavily raided there has been little sign of panic and none of defeatism, but rather of bitterness and increased determination to ‘see it through’. There is widespread and deeply felt apprehension, which is apparent mostly in the London Dock area, of a continuation of raids, and much anxiety about the chaos in domestic affairs which has resulted from the activities of the last few nights.

As far as the East End is concerned, this is beginning to show itself in an aimless evacuation to what are believed to be safer places, e.g. the St James’s Park shelters and Taddington Station. It appears that this exodus is caused by greater fear than the actual circumstances justify, and it might be a good thing if loud speaker vans, giving encouragement and instructions, could circulate in the streets. There is at present very little official reassurance being given to the public, and it is to some extent this lack of guidance which is causing them to leave their homes. There seems evidence that unless some immediate steps of this sort are taken to check this movement, it is likely to grow.

Men working in factories in the East End are encouraging their wives and families in this haphazard escape, but express their own willingness to stay and face further raids if they can be sure that their relations are in comparative safety.

LONDON

Strongest feeling one of shock amongst all classes and in all districts as people have lulled themselves into a state of false security saying: ‘London is the safest place’, and ‘they’ll never get through the London defences’. No signs of defeatism except among small section of elderly women in ‘front line’ such as East Ham who cannot stand constant bombing.

Districts sustaining only one or two shocks soon rally, but in Dockside areas the population is showing visible signs of nerve cracking from constant ordeals. Old women and mothers are undermining morale of young women and men by their extreme nervousness and lack of resilience.

Men state they cannot sleep because they must keep up the morale of their families and express strong desire to get families away from danger areas. Families clinging together, however, and any suggestions of sending children away without mothers and elderly relations considered without enthusiasm. People beginning to trek away from Stepney and other Dockside areas in families and small groups. Many encountered in City today with suitcases or belongings.

See TNA INF 1/264

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