Frankie quite often writes about the management of the war, and in particular the public relations aspect and the Ministry of Information.
18/8/40 My darling – Did you hear Duff Cooper’s speech. I hated it. Quite apart from the vulgarity of all that boasting it is like flying in the face of Providence. Everyone hates it I think. The ordinary people are very brave and quite unmoved by the raids – in fact rather excited by them I think – and very pleased with the Air Force, but they like to take it all quietly and grimly only being pleased about what has happened and not counting unhatched chickens. When someone talks like Duff Cooper it is as though he brought bad luck on all of us. Winston’s boasting is all right because he seems only to say “All right do your damnedest – we can take it” which is quite different. If only all the lesser men wouldn’t try to copy him.
14/8/40 I have just finished listening to Anthony Eden who I thought for his class was not bad. But it is a lowish class. Outside Churchill they seem to be tiny little men. Maybe they’re just bad speakers.
She doesn’t think much of the Ministry of Information’s efforts:
27/11/40 Lady Stapledon came to lunch and we talked about the war. One gets so bored with these static periods and the fact that we never do anything. What’s the good of bombing Bari one night and Durazzo the next? Why don’t we bomb them all all day and all night? If it’s still because we can’t then I think it’s about time we executed the whole cabinet and began all over again.
I’m glad to see that American journalists are at last beginning to protest against the idiotic British censorship. On the same day that the Germans say they have bombed Birmingham our communique’s still refer to a Midland Town! The M. of Information sends people round to see what morale is like and, thank god, I hear that the reports they get all say that morale is only bad where damaged by their own bloody silliness.
I could tell the Ministry of Information that morale would be a good deal better if any Government office was capable of answering a letter under 6 weeks. Quite apart from no answer from the War Office, my especial grievance, I need 100 poles for fencing. Before I can get them I have to get permission from 3 different authorities, the first being the M of Agriculture and Fisheries. I wrote to the bastards about 3 weeks ago and no answer of any sort. What the M of Information needs to know is that the people of Britain want to get on and win this bloody war — and not in 1943.
28/11/40 After my rant of last night I got a letter from the War Office enclosing two forms on which I can cable at internal rates. The conditions are that I must fill in all your details including in what country you are serving. Now since not only do I not know but the whole idea is that I shouldn’t know, this seems almost too good even for the War Office.
14/4/41 The news about Libya and Egypt is terrible. (10 April 1941: Siege of Tobruk) The way news is presented is so vile and puts one into such a temper. To-day they announced that we had “inflicted casualties on the enemy during the course of a successful withdrawal”. Sometimes I would like to rub Duff Cooper’s poppycock nose in the dust. Who is he or anyone else to go on thinking they can announce news by saying on the 6 o’clock that the Germans are claiming a certain fact but of course it is all nonsense and on the 9 o’clock that it isn’t all nonsense at all but has in fact happened.
17/4/41 The news is very worrying. We seem to have under-rated the Germans again and this seems to me unforgivable.
20/4/41 The news is frightfully bad. The feeling here is absolutely general that appalling blunders must have been made and people are feeling angry both at the turn of events and at the way in which the news is presented. We are not children and we are all tired of being treated like children by people who are capable of making such a tremendous balls-up of everything.
There are many things which are on our side but, my God, the Greek thing makes one realize that there is much that is not.