The British government attempted to hide the effects of the Blitz from the British people in many ways. The most common was censorship. The government banned anything that would demoralise the public. They did not want to print anything that would make people feel as if they were being defeated. Many photographs and stories were not published until after the Blitz had ended. These actions were imposed after the Treachery Act was set up in 1940. It gave the government the right to imprison anyone who seemed likely to threaten the safety of the country.
Therefore, anyone who did something that may demoralise people was imprisoned as a demoralised country was more likely to surrender. This Act stopped radio and newspapers revealing the full story of incidents. However, the public did not agree with the Act and it was quietly dropped but censorship still continued. The public knew they were not being told the whole story but they did not know how much was being kept from them. Propaganda was also used widely to combat bad news and to keep people’s spirit up. It was needed greatly when the Germans started dropping leaflets on England with demoralising content.
English propaganda had to counter this before it made too much of an impact on the people. Newspapers were the medium that was affected most by the government’s attempts. They had to mix censorship with propaganda and make it believable to the public. Many photographs that showed death or destruction were censored but some mild ones were allowed to be shown. If all photographs concerning the Blitz were censored, the public would become suspicious and this could have a more damaging effect than the photographs would. Also, people from surrounding towns could see fires and bombing occurring in the cities.
There would have been no point in denying it. Many stories that could have upset and demoralised people greatly would not have been printed. There are several incidents that were not revealed until a much later date. Examples of these were the Balham tube station accident and the Catford Girls’ School bombing. Both disasters were never mentioned at the time. The newspapers also didn’t report on the trekking that people did. This would have shown that people were giving up and would have tempted more people to give up as well. The news that was reported was often altered to sound better than it really was.
Any victories were exaggerated and the voluntary services were made to sound like heroes, particularly the Auxiliary Fire Service (A. F. S). They were nicknamed ‘heroes of the night’ by the media. This was mainly to reassure the people that everyone was coping and that Britain was slowly winning. Some stories were invented for propaganda purposes. These were particularly about the victories of the voluntary services and the armed forces. These were done to raise the people’s morale. More news about victories would have made the people feel good about the war.
They would have felt like they were winning. The radio was the other main victim of censorship. Since there was no television, almost every home, and factory, had a radio. It provided people with music while they worked and broadcasts were often live from different factories over the country. This created a relaxed atmosphere for people and prevented them from becoming too stressful over the war. Winston Churchill often made speeches over the radio to the nation. He was the first to tell them of any major news but he always managed it to not sound too devastating.
People trusted Churchill and believed what he told them. There was also the ‘Forces’ programme, which gave news and song requests among other things. It reassured people to have such a programme. A lot of the radio programmes featured on the radio were very propaganda orientated. Many were humorous to help the people stay relaxed and stress-free. ‘It’s That Man Again’, the’ Brains Trust’ and ‘Lord Haw Haw’ were favourites. The ‘Brains Trust’ gave intellectuals a chance to talk about something other than the Blitz. It featured topics like literature, history and science.
It distracted people from what was going on around them. Lord Haw Haw (William Joyce) was a large favourite. He was a British traitor in Germany who broadcasted to Britain to try to demoralise the people. It did not work though. The British people found the broadcasts funny. They believed the BBC and Winston Churchill over Joyce. Anybody who seemed as if they would broadcast material that would demoralise the public was banned. J. B. Priestley was one such person. He became too political so he was banned as the government feared people would become demoralised.
The effect radio had on people’s morale was the main factor that kept the country together. All these programmes and features kept up people’s spirit and made them believe that everything was not that bad. It helped build the Blitz Spirit. The radio did not only have propaganda films. There were many propaganda songs. Vera Lynn became known as the forces sweetheart and she often performed songs. Dame Myra Hess, a Jewish pianist, often played music, which was broadcasted over the radio. There were many patriotic songs.
One of the most famous was Noel Coward’s ‘London Pride’. There were many songs about London. This was mainly because the London people were suffering the most so they needed more to keep their morale up. These songs helped people’s spirits a lot. Entertainment also helped to shelter the British people from the effects of the Blitz. At the beginning of the war all places of entertainment were closed but as time progressed all the cinemas, dance halls, theatres and sport centres were re-opened. These were able to take people’s minds off the Blitz temporarily.
It enabled to relax, even if it was only for a short period of time. It was an escape from the war for many people. The cinema, in particular, kept morale up. There were many propaganda and patriotic films and documentaries. Some famous patriotic films include ‘In Which We Serve’, ‘Henry V’ and ‘Mrs Minever’. Documentaries were made about the voluntary service and praised them greatly. These films and documentaries provided a boost to people. They lifted their spirits and made them feel better about themselves.
Another form of propaganda that the government endorsed was posters and leaflets. Leaflets and posters on all subjects would surround the people of Britain, trying to reassure them that everything is not as bad as it seems. They were constantly sent to people’s homes and displayed where they would be seen most. It was to make the people feel better. Many topics were made to seem a lot better than they were. Evacuation, for example, was made to look a huge success with children enjoying themselves. The reality was very different.
Many children were unhappy or homesick. Their parents could not know though as it would have given them greater stress and would have made them ill spirited. Only the good side of things was shown. All these efforts of censorship and propaganda were all in aid of keeping the country’s morale and spirit up. The government did not want the British people to surrender so they did everything possible to keep them from doing so. The only way was to keep them in good spirits and to reassure them that it was not as bad as everything seems.