1.3.41

The B.s, who only came up to London a few weeks ago and have seen nothing of the blitz, say that they find Londoners very much changed, everyone very hysterical, talking in much louder tones, etc., etc.  If this is so, it is something that happens gradually and that one does not notice while in the middle of it, as with the growth of a child.  The only change I have definitely noticed since the air-raids began is that people are much more ready to speak to strangers in the street. . . .  The Tube stations don’t now stink to any extent, the new metal bunks are quite good[1], and the people one sees there are reasonably well found as to bedding and seem contented and normal in all ways – but this just what disquiets me.  What is one to think of people who go on living this subhuman life night after night for months, including periods of a week or more when no aeroplane has come near London? . . .  It is appalling to see children still in all the Tube stations, taking it all for granted and having great fun riding round and round the Inner Circle.  A little while back D. J. [2] was coming to London from Cheltenham, and in the train was a young woman with her two children who had been evacuated to somewhere in the West Country and whom she was now bringing back.  As the train neared London an air-raid began and the woman spent the rest of the journey in tears.  What had decided her to come back was the fact that at that time there had been no raid on London for a week or more, and so she had concluded that “it was all right now”.  What is one to think of the mentality of such people?

[1] Tiers of metal bunks were provided so that people could sleep in Underground stations (used as air-raid shelters) in safety and moderate comfort.  For the effect of sheltering in this manner, see Henry Moore’s drawings: these express more than photographs.  Moore suggests sleepers ‘doomed and haunted,’ suffering ‘an “unease” that is profoundly disturbing’ (Denis Rudder, quoted by Eric Newton in his introduction to War Through Artists’ Eyes, 1945, 9.  Moore is represented on 62, 63, 65).

[2] Denzil Jacobs, a member of Orwell’s Home Guard section, who was returning from auditing accounts in Cheltenham (letter to the editor, 23 May 1997); see 3590B, n. 15. Peter Davison

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4 Responses to 1.3.41

  1. Pingback: P.O.S.Z.U. » Tube Shelter Perspective

  2. Stephen says:

    Perhaps “the mentality of such people” as the tearful mother is driven by their love of their children. Is it churlish to note that this was not an emotion with which GO was familiar.
    GO is suggesting that when there is no enemy aircraft for a few days one should A) move children out of the Tube where tey are having fun riding the Inner Circle but B) definitely not bring children back from the countryside. So what shoud they do: stroll around at street level, engaging with the suddenly talkative Londoners.
    I think he is the one starting to show signs of blitz fatigue.

  3. Yes George you sound like a bit of a plonker with this one.

  4. Pingback: Indignant Desert Birds » Sunday Morning Reading Material: First Sunday in March 2011– Day After My Birthday Edition

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