In search of the Dunkirk spirit

Paul Addison and Jeremy Crang consider the role of the Ministry of Information in assessing popular morale during the onslaught of 1940

"Close shave sir?" A windowless Wally's barber shop in St Martin's Street shows its defiance during the London Blitz, November 1940. (Fox Photos/Getty Images)

This article was first published in the May 2011 edition of BBC History Magazine

Among the files in the National Archives at Kew is a little known chronicle of life on the home front during Britain’s ‘finest hour’. From 18 May to 27 September 1940, the Home Intelligence department of the Ministry of Information compiled daily reports (Sundays excepted) on the morale and opinions of the British public. From Dunkirk, through the fall of France, the Battle of Britain and the opening stages of the London Blitz, they monitored the hopes and fears, and the everyday complaints, of a people under threat from invasion and falling bombs.

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