11.5.41

The most important news of the last few days, which was tucked away on a back page of the newspapers, was the Russian announcement that they could not any longer recognize the governments of Norway and Belgium. Ditto with Jugo-Slavia, according to yesterday’s papers. This is the first diplomatic move since Stalin made himself premier, and amounts to an announcement that Russia will now acquiesce in any act of aggression whatever. It must have been done under German pressure, and coming together with Molotov’s removal [1] must indicate a definite orientation of Russian policy on the German side, which needs Stalin’s personal authority to enforce it. Before long they must make some hostile move against Turkey or Iran, or both.

Heavy air-raid last night. A bomb slightly damaged this building, the first time this has happened to any house I have been in. About 2 a.m., in the middle of the usual gunfire and distant bombs, a devastating crash, which woke us up but did not break the windows or noticeably shake the room. E[ileen] got up and went to the window, where she heard someone shouting that it was this house that had been hit. A little later we went out into the passage and found much smoke and a smell of burning rubber. Going up on the roof, saw enormous fires at most points of the compass, one over to the west, several miles away, with huge leaping flames, which must have been a warehouse full of some inflammable material. Smoke was drifting over the roof, but we finally decided that it was not this block of flats that had been hit. Going downstairs again we were told that it was this block, but that everyone was to stay in his flat. By this time the smoke was thick enough to make it difficult to see down the passage. Presently we heard shouts of “Yes! Yes! There’s still someone in Number III”, [2] and the wardens shouting to us to get out. We slipped on some clothes, grabbed up a few things and went out, at this time imagining that the house might be seriously on fire and it might be impossible to get back. At such times one takes what one feels to be important, and I noticed afterwards that what I had taken was not my typewriter or any documents but my firearms and a haversack containing food, etc., which was always kept ready. Actually all that had happened was that the bomb had set fire to the garage and burned out all the cars that were in it. We went in to the D.s. who gave us tea, and ate a slab of chocolate we had been saving for months. Later I remarked on E[ileen]’s blackened face, and she said “What do you think your own is like?” I looked in the glass and saw that my face was quite black. It had not occurred to me till then that this would be so.

[1] Vyacheslav Molotov (see Events 28.8.39, n. 4) had been Chairman of the Council of People’s Commissars (later Council of Ministers) from 1930, but was replaced in May 1941; he remained Deputy Chairman.

[2] Number III was the Orwell’s flat in Langford Court, Abbey Road, NW8. It was not a house, as Orwell describes it a line or two later, but a block of flats. Peter Davison

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2 Responses to 11.5.41

  1. jhameac says:

    Interesting that this block of flats was literally across the street from Abbey Road Studios, and would be on the Beatles album cover of great fame. What history, a noisey night during the Battle of Britain for example, lies quietly under everything!

  2. M G says:

    @jhameac

    Is that the one on the right hand side, as you look at the image? That’s the only block I can see peeking through the trees.

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