ON BOARD ss. YASUKUNIMARU (NYK)[1] CROSSING BAY OF BISCAY, 28.3.39

Yasukuni is 11, 950 tons. Do not yet know, but from the vibrations[2] judge that she is a motor-ship. Apart from the bridge, only 3 decks above water-level. Cabins and other appointments pretty good, but certain difficulties in that entire[3] crew and personnel are Japanese and apart[4] from the officers the majority do not speak much English. Second-class fare Casablanca-London £6.10. As the boat normally goes straight to London from Gibraltar & on this occasion went out of her way to deliver a load of tea, fare from Gilbraltar would probably be the same. P. & O. tourist class is £6.10 London-Gibraltar. Food on this ship slightly better than on the P. & O. & service distinctly better, but the stewards here have the advantage that the ship is almost empty. Facilities for drinking not so good, or for deck games, owing to comparatively restricted space.
Do not know what the accomodation° for passengers would be, but presumably at least 500. At present there are only 15 in the second class, about 12 in the third, & evidently not many in the 1st, though I don’t know how many. One or two of the 2nd & 3rd classes are Danes or other Scandinavians, one or two Dutch, the rest English, including some private soldiers who got on at Gibraltar. It appears that for its whole voyage the ship has been as empty as this. Since the Chino-Japanese war English people from the far east will not travel on the Japanese boats. All the P. & O. boast said to be crowded out in consequence.
Run of the ship during the last 24 hours 378 miles. This was in pretty good weather conditions. Left Casablanca 4pm on 26.3.39, & allowing for waiting for tides etc. in London river should apparently dock on evening of 30th or morning of 31st. (morning of 30th) (in dock about 9am = 87 hours Casa-dock.)[5]
Ship gives out cyclostyled sheet of news every day. Movies occasionally (have not seen them yet.)
In Casablanca went to the pictures, & saw films making it virtually certain that the French Gov.t expects war. The first a film on the life of a soldier, following up all the different branches & with some very good shots of the inner arrangement of the Maginot line. This film had evidently been hurriedly constructed & went into much greater detail than is normal in films of this kind. The other was the Pathé news gazette, in which the announcer gave what was practically a political speech denouncing Germany. Then more shots of British & French troops etc. The significant point was the attitude of the audience – utterly unenthusiastic, hardly a clap, & a few hostile comments.
This time all French people are convinced it is war. A number began talking to us spontaneously about it, all deploring the prospect (eg. in one or two cases, “It does no good to us, it’s only the rich who profit out of it”, etc., etc.), though sometimes describing Hitler as a “salaud.”
A.R.P. (ie F.A.P.A.C.) notices, calling for volunteer helpers, posted in Marrakech for the first time about 20th March. According to Madame M., whose son is at St Cyr, even the cadets there do not want war, though ready for it, of course.

[1]NYK] N.Y.K.
[2] vibrations] vibration
[3] entire] the entire
[4] Orwell typed his handwritten diary as far as the word ‘apart.’ The rest of the diary exists only in handwritten form. The point at which typing should resume is marked in the manuscript with the figure 20 – the number of the next page to be typed.
[5] (morning of the 30th…Casa-dock.)] a later addition.

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29 Responses to ON BOARD ss. YASUKUNIMARU (NYK)[1] CROSSING BAY OF BISCAY, 28.3.39

  1. timothyMN says:

    Waiting for Orwell posts is like waiting for a bus…

    .. you just about give up…

    … then suddenly two come along at once.

  2. Bonnie says:

    So unlike the Kobayashi Maru, then…but wait: the maginot line cometh…

  3. edwebb says:

    Food good, drinks less so,
    And everywhere war lurks:
    Line soon to be crossed

  4. George~~

    Thank you for the postcard.

    I would like to reciprocate with this, if you don’t mind.

  5. grrg63 says:

    Yasukuni maru(NYK,11933grt) IJN Aux. Submarine Depot Ship
    Completed in Aug 1930.
    Torpedoed on 31 Jan 44 North of Truk by USS Trigger(SS-237).

  6. Holden Caulfeild says:

    “Do not know yet,but from the vibrations judge that she is a motor ship…

    I know he is probably referring to turbine vs piston, or some damn thing….but it kinda sounds like maybe he thinks there is a deckload of Morrcans down there with paddles…

    Jl3 your not working for M5 anymore,cut that sleuthing out !!

  7. “(War) does no good to us, it’s only the rich who profit out of it….
    Gee, we’re lucky THAT’S no longer the case.

  8. art brennan says:

    Not even a generation since The Great War. What is it with us? And, what is it with T.S. Eliot?

  9. Roving Thundercloud says:

    How do you cyclostyle a sheet of news? It sounds like it was designed to reproduce line drawings and send them by telegraph; but it doesn’t sound like it would be good for text:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cyclostyle_(copier)

  10. Cyclostyle (TM), Date: 1883, a machine for making multiple copies that utilizes a stencil cut by a graver whose tip is a small rowel.

    This is not a code; it is a cipher and has no relationship to offset printing.

    Now we know why he was impelled to keep a small rowel close at hand.

    Contrary to any scurrilous rumors that may erupt, I am not with MI-6.

  11. On April Fool’s Day Eve, unverifiable covert surveillance discovered that nightly entertainment was provided free-of-charge, 24/7, in the luxurious lounge located deep within the bowels of the YASUKUNIMARU (NYK).

  12. Awake! Young Men of England
    by Eric Blair (1914)

    OH! give me the strength of the Lion,
    The wisdom of reynard the Fox
    And then I’ll hurl troops at the Germans
    And give them the hardest of knocks.

    Oh! think of the War Lord’s mailed fist,
    That is striking at England today:
    And think of the lives that our soldiers
    Are fearlessly throwing away.

    Awake! Oh you young men of England,
    For if, when your Country’s in need,
    You do not enlist by the thousand,
    You truly are cowards indeed.

  13. Holden Caulfeild says:

    M5 is code for MI 6 by the way…
    do I have to explain everything ??

  14. Pingback: 3rdBlog from the….. » Blog Archive » In the Event of an Emergency…..

  15. “Please! Please, don’t do that! NO! A-a-a-a-argh!?!”

  16. I found this in the Cyclostyle (TM).

  17. Steve says:

    That Cyclostyle link is very cool! Can anyone translate a little of the text? What’s the rabbit doing with the coffee pot?

  18. Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of addicts to George Orwell’s Blog are looking at their calendars, incessantly refreshing this very page and checking their news feeds, wondering if he has forsaken them; they feel like lab rats, left out of the loop by default.

    In case anyone out there is wondering, Gone with the Wind will beat out Dark Victory, Goodbye Mr. Chips, Love Affair, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Ninotchka, Of Mice and Men, Stagecoach, The Wizard of Oz and Wuthering Heights for the 1939 Oscar.

  19. Paul Jakma says:

    Why is “from the vibrations” given a footnoted correction? It is perfectly acceptable idiom, at least in British english, if not in US english (though, I suspect it’s perfectly acceptable even in that variant, e.g. Beach Boys “good vibrations”).

  20. Paul Jakma~~

    I concur–while “vibration[s]” might have presented less of an assault on the optic nerve, it would have been no less irrelevant.

    IMHO, his assessment of the now-infamous “vibration[s]” may have been as to whether or not the ship was propelled by internal-combustion or steam because I’m fairly certain he would have noticed any unfurled sails or, perhaps, scores of oars swirling in cadence as he covertly prowled the secret shadows of obscure decks by the misty starlight, seeking out and sabotaging enemy surveillance while listening to Irving Berlin.

    He knows he’s being watched, he just doesn’t know it’s me.
    :shock:

    (Of course, they arrived back at Civilization days ago. Don’t believe the rumors.)

  21. Steve says:

    Once back at civilization, they found a great many eggs. After they’ve all been counted, we’ll hear from him again.

  22. Barnaby says:

    Semms like rather a slow boat…

  23. Barnaby says:

    Or as they say in English: “Seems like rather a slow boat”.

  24. This week’s “New Yorker,” to which I subscribe has a piece on Orwell by James Wood in its “Life and Letters” section. It’s satisfyingly long and and has prompted me to start on his essays and other writings.

  25. In an attempt to savor this terminal blog while it lasts, I’ve been trying not to read [too far] ahead in Orwell’s essays and stuff as I look over Blair’s shoulder and reconnoiter Earth from his perspective.

    This can be frustrating; like, when I saw Greenstreet and Lorre lurking in the shadows on the fog-enshrouded pier as the Blair’s breathed in massive gulps of English air and ecstatically strode down the gangplank but they couldn’t hear my screams.

  26. The hastily encrypted message read as follows:

    Have mercy! I’ve been wringing my hands for weeks!

    There was no attribution.

    Legend has it that the message floated down onto Wallington out of a hole in the sky on 09 April 1939. Wormholes were not so common in 1939 as they are today and so it was not recognized as such; luckily no one saw my face as I peered down, taking careful aim.

  27. Pingback: Aboard the Yasukuni Maru to London, March 1939 « Far Outliers

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