16.8.40

Things are evidently going badly in Somaliland, which is the flanking operation in the attack on Egypt. Enormous air battles over the Channel, with, if the reports are anywhere near the truth, stupendous German losses. E.g. about 145 were reported shot down yesterday. . . . The people of Inner London could do with one real raid to teach them how to behave. At present everyone’s behaviour is foolish in the extreme, everything except transport being held up but no precautions taken. For the first 15 seconds there is great alarm, blowing of whistles and shouts to children to go indoors, then people begin to congregate on the streets and gaze expectantly at the sky. In the daytime people are apparently ashamed to go into the shelters till they hear the bombs.

On Tuesday and Wednesday had two glorious days at Wallington. No newspapers and no mention of the war. They were cutting the oats and we took Marx[1] out both days to help course the rabbits, at which Marx showed unexpected speed. The whole thing took me straight back to my childhood, perhaps the last bit of that kind of life that I shall ever have.

[1] The Orwells’ dog, a large poodle descried by Humphrey Dakin as ‘a very nice dog’. He and his wife, Orwell’s sister Marjorie, looked after Marx when the Orwells were in Morocco. Dakin maintained that Marx was later given away ‘to complete strangers’, who had him put to death, though the Dakins would have liked to keep him permanently. This account is not corroborated. Peter Davison

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6 Responses to 16.8.40

  1. Pingback: Airminded · Post-blogging 1940

  2. It’s all a bit surreal isn’t it? It’s like those films where people come out on the streets to watch the UFO landing in the local park. It says a lot about human nature. And about how daft we all are.

  3. Stephen says:

    Yes and the lesson that one “real raid” would teach could only be learned by the survivors. This is another astonishing post. He proves again that he is no strategist, with the latest update from Somaliland trumping the air war over the Channel. His acute observations of mass behaviour in wartime air raids. Then his pastoral reverie, summer in the fields with echoes of childhood. I’m puzzled by the brisk language of his final sentence which belies the sentiment. Is he writing this for himself or for some future reader?

    PS Some friends a few years ago had a dog called Karl, short for Karl Barks.

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  5. Barry Larking says:

    If you seek to understand Orwell’s irritation over the way people fail to take air raids seriously, then read ‘Homage to Catalonia” and the incident of the P.O.U.M. sentry. In this Orwell tries to examine his own motives and short comings with great honesty. What is interesting is how the public school, ex-Imperial policeman in him is slowly but never completely grasped. The voice we read in ‘George Orwell’ is a carefully crafted one, but not easily so.

    The air battles of which he speaks were then unique and no one had the language to describe such things. The B.B.C. actually did ‘running commentary’ of one “over the Channel” which I have heard (it may be online somewhere) which sounds exactly as if the commentator were at Ascot or the Boat Race. It drew criticism.

    As for strategy, the Suez Canal was vital to the U.K., a fact widely appreciated at the time.

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