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Mass-Observation Archive: Topic Collections

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TC 65: 5 boxes

Between July and October 1940, full-time Mass-Observers carried out a study of public behaviour and attitudes in London areas. The results of the study are divided up by weeks over a period of 14 weeks

The range of subjects studied is broad and although many themes are repeated, the subjects also vary from week to week. The main emphasis is on public morale in the weeks immediately before and during the first air raids on London. Observations were carried out in public houses, cinemas, churches, shops, on public transport, at rallies and meetings and in the street. Overheard reactions to news reports on the radio were gathered; newspaper placard messages were recorded; shop window displays were noted for war references. Mass-Observation was particularly concerned with the effects of air raid warnings and air raids themselves on everyday life: sleeping arrangements, health, food, clothing, work, leisure, "nerves", children; attention was also given to safety provision (shelters) and to the effectiveness of public information (posters, films, leaflets, broadcasts by public figures such as Duff Cooper of the Ministry of Information). Rumours, grievances and "questions uppermost in the public mind" were recorded. Counts of people carrying gas masks gave an indication of whether people expected gas attacks

A good deal of the study was carried out in Stepney and in Fulham but other London areas covered include Streatham, Notting Hill Gate, Kilburn, and the West End. Mass-Observation personnel involved in this survey included: HP, CF, LE, NM, SS, DH, CP, JS

The material has been kept together in individual weeks and is arranged in chronological order with reports by the same investigator grouped together. It is therefore possible to find, for example, a survey of attitudes to Gracie Fields divided between files because it was carried out by different investigators. The contents of this Topic Collection overlap with TC 23: Air Raids, TC 43: Propaganda and morale, TC 25: Political attitudes and TC 54: Police, law, and Invasion. Researchers are advised to check handlists to these Topic Collections for complementary material



News and morale; Molotov's speech; radio listening habits; political activity in Stepney: CPGB meeting; Dockers' meeting at Tower Hill; Daily Worker Gala and Fete; Activities in Fulham: cookery demonstrations; ARP unit of neighbours; interviews with Mayor; aliens in East End; Shelters: Anderson/other provision; allotments; ARP lecture; "Pots to Planes" Campaign; Regional Information Office Bulletins; street chalkings; newspaper placards; wayside pulpits; shop counts; effect of war on trade; ARP equipment (gas masks, ear plugs, stirrup pumps, torches and batteries); egg shortages; fashions; shop window displays


Radio listening in pubs (news); newspaper placards; war references in Picture Post advertisements; church services; parties; Chamberlain; allotments in Fulham; Wandsworth Greyhound track; 'Rout the Rumour' Rally, Hendon Park; Royal Navy shop window display; Church Army women and prostitutes; shop windows; shopping observations; bulletin boards; church services; visitors to London landmarks, including Cenotaph


'Rout the Rumour' Rally; clothing and fabrics; news reactions; Molotov's speech; newspaper hoardings; the 'Silent Column' and "Careless Talk" advertisements; aliens; ARP equipment; Portobello Market; Paddington Station; church serices; air raid rumours; War Artists Exhibition at National Gallery; advertising: war themes

BOX 2: LONDON WEEK 2: 3-9.8.40 ... WEEK 3: 10-16.8.40

London Week 2: 3-9.8.40


Shelters in Stepney, use of gardens; air raid warnings; shortages and war effects on trade; political activity: Stepney Tenants Defence League and an interned resident; August Bank Holiday; "Stay Put" leaflet; street accident; newspaper hoardings; press campaign against Duff Cooper; clothes; air raids and nerves; church services


Air raid in Thames Ditton; North Paddington Divisional Labour Party meeting; attitudes to news in general and to Duff Cooper; press posters


Hammersmith Palais, dance; Coombe Hill Golf Club; attitudes to Duff Cooper; air raid shelter provision, Fulham; church service; children's playground; Gracie Fields; Hyde Park speech; internment of aliens and Jewish refugees; availability of goods; barrel organs


Gracie Fields; cinema programme: Royal, Streatham; London Hippodrome Show; Duff Cooper; news reactions; WAAF exhibition at Selfridges


Response to news; Gracie Fields, trade and hire purchase in wartime; air raid warning in Stepney; clothing; European Blockade; drawing unemployment benefit; the Vigilance Committee (redistribution of wealth in Romford); Ministry of Information meeting, Woodford; "Stay Where You Are" leaflet

London Week 3: 10-16.8.40


Radio news reactions; Gracie Fields; European Blockade; air raid on Croydon Aerodrome; air raid alarm in Streatham; Holborn Empire (music hall); film trade; "Miss Grant Goes to the Door" (film about invasion); propaganda; MoI film: "Albert's Savings", "Just William" and various other films: reactions; Mrs Churchill and Duff Cooper at Woodford Rally; WVS and salvage


West End air raids; unemployment; soldiers; military equipment in shop displays; women's fashions; European blockade; reports of air raids


Air raid warnings; "Stay Where You Are" leaflet; Gracie Fields; Duff Cooper at Woodford; dinner dance at Cafe de Paris; Lords cricket match; Fulham tennis courts; newspaper placards; children in Fulham


Letter-writing; Harrods Food Exhibition; Finchley toy shop displays; Gracie Fields; Labour exchanges; "Stay Where You Are" leaflets; blockade of Europe; Duff Cooper at Woodford; shop displays

BOX 3: LONDON WEEK 4: 17-23.8.40 ... WEEK 5, 24-30.8.40

London Week 4: 17-23.8.40


Radio in factories; effect of war on shopkeepers; air raid warnings; Duff Cooper; reactions to news; newspaper placards; aerial activity over South London; meaning of word "Crusade"; political meetings; gas mask count


Baptist Church service; air raids; Duff Cooper's broadcast; Messerschmitt 109 on display; interview with hairdresser on effects of war on trade; morale; grievances; Hyde Park Corner speakers; car accident; reactions to news; gramophone exhibition; scrap metal exhibition; household equipment


Air raids; war talk in working men's cafe; air raid damage, Croydon; air raid casualties and funerals; audience response to films: "Sea Fort", "Let George Do It", Gaumont British News; evacuation of Somaliland; British Israel meeting; United Christian Witness meeting; music halls


Overheards on air raids; Duff Cooper's broadcast; shortages of ARP supplies; shortage of groceries; audience response to "Let George Do It,"; superstition; press posters; the word "Crusade"; pacifism; anti-alien feeling; invasion leaflet; women's organisations; funfairs and amusement arcades; posters in Notting Hill Gate Underground

London Week 5: 24-30.40


Bus accidents; jazz music; "Internment of Aliens" leaflet; air raids and sleep; people in pubs listening to news; the sound of the air raid siren; Duff Cooper and the MoI Social Survey; unexploded bomb, Chelsea


Air raids and warnings; the morning after; health and nerves; Paddington Station crowds; sound of siren; Spitfire Fund; Home Guard; soldiers; pacifists; internment of aliens; Portobello Market; press posters; war toys; Women's Guild of Empire


Work in wartime; WAAF; sleep during raids; social life and air raids; behaviour during warnings; personal and domestic life; pacifists; RAF achievements


Air raids and warnings; internment of aliens; children; Stepney schools; children's concert at National Gallery; Mutual Aid of Good Neighbours Association; press coverage of the war; political meetings; shelters

BOX 4: WEEK 6: 31.8.40-6.9.40, WEEK 7: 7-13.9.40

Week 6: 31.8.40-6.9.40


Air raid at Radlett, Herts; Fulham street observations; air raid warning, Streatham; reactions to news; internment of aliens; Duff Cooper on "Children's Hour"; British Paramount News and MoI film and air raid interruptions in Brixton; air raid shelters; newspaper posters in West End; Spitfire Funds; Holloway Labour Exchange; smoking habits; clothes wearing; grievances and rumours; Hampstead Hurricane Fund


Air raid, Belgravia; Internee leaflet; Spanish war posters exhibition; Conscientious Objectors Tribunal; nerves in air raids; Duff Cooper's "Come on Hitler" broadcast; church service and air raid warning; rumours and jokes; Hyde Park; Cycling Club, Slough; classical music; air raids; ARP counter at Woolworths; bedding arrangements in air raids; gas mask counts


Alma Wittlin of United Correspondents; air raids; theatre: "Chu Chin Chow", bomb incident, Stepney Green Station; conscientious objectors; Portobello Market; Victoria Bus Terminus; ARP; press posters; jobs; fashions in Oxford Street; gas masks; smoking habits; rumours


Aerial activity over Stepney; air raids in Stepney: arrangements, shelters, sleeping arrangements, gas mask wearing; General de Gaulle; the services call up, registration pay, Dunkirk, attitudes to officers

Week 7: 7-13.9.940


Air raid; East End evacuation; Isle of Dogs; reactions to news; sleeping and air raids; bomb damage at Buckingham Palace; the weather; grievances and rumours; anti-semitism in Poplar; graffiti; air raid victim's funeral, Stepney; morale in shelters; restaurants and shops in air raids; work; ARP in Kilburn; press posters; lack of safety in shelters; Spanish soldiers and Norway invasion

BOX 5: WEEK 8: 14-20.9.40, WEEK 9: 21-27.9.40, WEEK 10: 28.9.40-3.10.40, WEEK 11: 4-10.10.40, WEEK 12: 11-17.10.40, (WEEK 13): missing, WEEK 14: 25-31.10.40

65/5/A: Week 8: 14-20.9.40

Air raids; evacuation; morale; invasion; sleep during raids; attendance at church, places of entertainment and libraries in central London; newspaper articles; leisure activities; brick shelters; Thames Water Buses Emergency Service; National Arbitration Tribunal Panel (Bank Officers Guild v. Barclay's Bank), observations in billiards room and social club

65/5/B: Week 9: 21-27.9.40

East End evacuees; air raid shelters in Underground Stations; shelters and safety; pub count; Chamberlain; internment; observation in parish church; feelings about air raids and death; Brynston Floor 'nippies' on leisure, Lord Haw Haw and air raids and work; schools as rest centres; children's behaviour; Tilbury Docks Shelter; homes damaged by bombs

65/5/C: Week 10: 28.9.40-3.10.40

Air raids; seeking security; evacuation and refugees; sleep in raids; shops damaged by raids; shelters; Southwark Shelter; pubs on routes out of London; posters; household readjustments and special arrangements in air raids

65/5/D: Week 11: 4-10.10.40

Tube shelters; graffiti in telephone kiosks; sleep; 'Bomb Berlin' poster; reception of refugees from London in Windsor; Rest Centre and evacuation office; government press advertising; homelessness; anti-semitism; Rest Centre in London; organisation of ARP wardens; patrolling during blitz; non-evacuated mothers and children; residents/evacuees relations

65/5/E: Week 12: 11-17.10.40

Evacuation; soldiers; effect of weather on air raids; General de Gaulle; Princess Elizabeth's speech; Ministry of Information; plans for after the war: savings, time-keeping, sex life, attitudes to government; estate agents on rent decreases and evacuation

(Week 13: missing)

65/5/F: Week 14: 25-31.10.40

Lyons Teashop in air raid; communal basement in Kilburn during raid

Mass-Observation Studies 1937-55

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