Themes

Intelligence

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‘Careless Talk Costs Lives’

At the start of World War Two the British government started a national campaign to warn the public of the risks of talking about potentially sensitive information.

The danger was that people might unwittingly give military intelligence to enemy sympathizers living in Britain who would then pass it on. This started the major campaign which ran with the slogan ‘Careless Talk Costs Lives’.

The Ministry of Information launched the campaign in February 1940 and distributed two and a half million posters to public places such as offices, shops and pubs.

The Navy was represented because of its role of escorting merchant ships, particularly across the Atlantic. The risk was that serving men and women, their families, or workers in 100s of naval establishments might give away information on departures or arrivals of shipping.

The government perhaps overstated the danger actually posed by careless talk, as the enemy would have required a vast surveillance network to monitor what everyone was saying. However, the campaign did succeed in involving the public in the war effort at a vital time.

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