20.3.41

Fairly heavy raids last night, but only 1 plane brought down, so no doubt the rumours about a “secret weapon” are all baloney.

A lot of bombs at Greenwich, one of them while I was talking to E[ileen] over the ‘phone. A sudden pause in the conversation and a tinkling sound:

I. ‘What’s that?’

B. ‘Only the windows falling in.’ [1]

The bomb had dropped in the park opposite the house, broke the cable of the barrage balloon and wounded one of the balloon barrage men and a Home Guard. Greenwich church was on fire and the people still sheltering in the crypt with the fire burning overhead and water flowing down, making no move to get out till made to do so by the wardens.

German consul in Tangier (the first time since 1914). It appears that in deference to American opposition we are going to let more food into France. Even if some kind of neutral commission is set up to supervise this it will do no good to the French. The Germans will simply allow them to keep such wheat, etc., as we send in and withhold a corresponding quantity elsewhere. Even while we make ready to allow the food ships in, there is no sign of the government extorting anything in return – e.g., expulsion of German agents from North Africa. The proper course would be to wait till France is on the verge of starvation and the Pétain government consequently rocking, and then hand over a really large supply of food in return for some substantial concession, e.g. surrender of important units of the French fleet. Any such policy totally unthinkable at present, of course. If only one could be sure whether —-, —- and all their kind are really traitors, or only fools.

Looking back through this diary, I see that of late I have written in it at much longer intervals and much less about public events than when I started it. The feeling of helplessness is growing in everyone. One feels that the necessary swing of opinion cannot now happen except at the price of another disaster, which we cannot afford and which therefore one dare not hope for. The worst is that the crisis now coming is going to be a crisis of hunger, which the English people have no real experience of. Quite soon it is going to be a question of whether to import arms or food. It is a mercy that the worst period will come in the summer months, but it will be devilish difficult to get the people to face hunger when, so far as they can see, there is no purpose in the war whatever, and when the rich are still carrying on just as before, as they will be, of course, unless dealt with forcibly. It doesn’t matter having no war aims when it is a question of repelling invasion, because from the point of view of ordinary people keeping foreigners out of England is quite a sufficient war aim. But how can you ask them to starve their children in order to build tanks to fight in Africa, when in all that they are told at present there is nothing to make clear that fighting in Africa, or in Europe, has anything to do with the defence of England?

On a wall in South London some Communist or Blackshirt had chalked “Cheese, not Churchill”. What a silly slogan. It sums up the psychological ignorance of these people who even now have not grasped that whereas some people would die for Churchill, nobody will die for cheese.

[1] The laconic humour is typical of Eileen. Peter Davison

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7 Responses to 20.3.41

  1. Stephen says:

    “Looking back through this diary, I see that of late I have written in it at much longer intervals and much less about public events than when I started it” … but at much greater length than during your ‘egg count’ phase.

  2. Mattias says:

    “If only one could be sure whether —-, —- and all their kind are really traitors, or only fools.”

    Am I missing something? Why are they stricken? Who are they?

  3. And how about an update on those alarm clock prices George.

  4. Moses says:

    Petain and Laval?

  5. anonymous says:

    Mattias – my guess is that they’re stricken because they’re still alive or something.

  6. Barry Larking says:

    The names which have been omitted above have been left out of all the published versions of Orwell’s war time diaries. One is almost certainly Sir Samuel Hoare a diplomat serving at that time in Madrid. None would be alive today obviously.

    Orwell suspected Sir Samuel was in favour of a ‘compromise peace’ with Hitler. There have been allegations of surreptitious contacts and so on but if there were approaches made by either side via Madrid nothing concrete has turned up. Perhaps some have felt these unfair to Sir Samuel’s reputation and so withheld his name. Of the other name I can think of a few candidates. However, given the war situation and the United Kingdom’s plight, one cannot entirely blame anyone for being practical. It was all very well to talk about “Finest Hours” and so forth, quite another to see where the war was going. The nearest reliable ally the U.K. possessed was 3000 miles away and Canada’s neighbour the U.S.A. was neutral and in public somewhat anti-British still. (I recommend Noel Coward’s diary for details of his own experience in America at this time.)

  7. “On a wall in South London some Communist or Blackshirt had chalked “Cheese, not Churchill”. What a silly slogan. It sums up the psychological ignorance of these people who even now have not grasped that whereas some people would die for Churchill, nobody will die for cheese.”

    Can anybody explain to me what’s the matter of this slogan ?

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