8.8.40

The Italian attack on Egypt, or rather on British Somaliland, has begun. No real news yet, but the papers hint that Somaliland can’t be held with the troops we have there. The important point is Perim, loss of which would practically close the Red Sea.

H.G. Wells[1] knows Churchill well and says that he is a good man, not mercenary and not even a careerist. He has always lived “like a Russian commissar”, “requisitions” his motor cars, etc., but cares nothing about money. But [H.G. Wells] says Churchill has a certain power of shutting his eyes to facts and has the weakness of never wanting to let down a personal friend, which accounts for the non-sacking of various people. [Wells] has already made a considerable row about the persecution of refugees. He considers that the centre of all sabotage is the War Office. He believes that the jailing of anti-Fascist refugees is a perfectly conscious piece of sabotage based on the knowledge that some of these people are in touch with underground movements in Europe and might at some moment be able to bring about a “Bolshevik” revolution, which from the point of view of the governing class is much worse than defeat. He says that Lord Swinton is the man most to blame. I asked him did he think it was a conscious action on Lord [Swinton]’s part, this being always the hardest thing to decide. He said he believed Lord [Swinton] knows perfectly well what he is doing.

To-night to a lecture with lantern slides by an officer who had been in the Dunkirk campaign. Very bad lecture. He said the Belgians fought well and it was not true that they surrendered without warning (actually they gave three days’ warning) but spoke badly of the French. He had one photograph of a regiment of Zouaves in full flight after looting houses, one man being dead drunk on the pavement.

[1] When the diary was typed, five hyphens were shown here, but Orwell wrote ‘H.G. Wells’ above them; so his name has been given here without the square brackets. The second use of his name and initials, in square brackets, had several hyphens; the third had five hyphens, so the initials have been dropped. For the significance of this minutiae about the number of hyphens, see introduction to war-time diary.

[2] Orwell wrote ‘Swinton’ over the seven hyphens originally typed, so his name is given here without square brackets. The next appearance of ‘Swinton’, in square brackets, replaces seven hyphens; the third use replaces six. The six must, in this context, stand for ‘Swinton’, so it is apparent that the number of hyphens cannot be wholly relied upon. Philip Cunliffe-Lister, Viscount Swinton (1884-1972; Earl, 1955), entered Parliament as a Unionist (allied closely with the Conservatives) in 1918. He was Secretary of State for the Colonies, 1931-35; Secretary of State for Air, 1935-38; Chairman of the United Kingdom Commercial Corporation, 1940-42; Cabinet Minister Resident in West Africa, 1942-44; and Minister of Civil Aviation, 1944-45. Peter Davison

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2 Responses to 8.8.40

  1. Pingback: Airminded · Post-blogging 1940

  2. Cody Garrett says:

    Thank God he’s writing again. What’s happened to the garden? It’s summer and all…

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