Church bells rung this morning – in celebration of the victory in Egypt. [1] The first time that I have heard them in over two years.

[1] Following the attack launched at El Alamein on 23 October 1942, the Eighth Army cleared Egypt by 11 November 1942; Tobruk, in Libya, was retaken on 12 November. Allied forces landed in Morocco and Algeria on 8 November, and by 12 November were close to the western Tunisian border. Final victory in North Africa, however, was not to come until mid-May 1943.

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A little bit of India transplanted to England. For some weeks our Marathi newsletters were translated and broadcast by a little man named Kothari, completely spherical but quite intelligent and, so far as I could judge, genuinely anti-Fascist. Suddenly one of the mysterious bodies which control recruitment for the BBC (in this case I think MI5) [1] got onto the fact that Kothari was or had been a Communist, active in the students’ movement, and had been in jail, so the order came to get rid of him. A youth named Jatha, working at India House and politically OK, was engaged in his place. Translators in this language are not easy to find and Indians who speak it as their native tongue seem to tend to forget it while in England. After a few weeks my assistant, Miss Chitale, came to me with great secrecy and confided that the newsletters were still in fact being written by Kothari. Jatha, though still able to read the language, was no longer equal to writing it and Kothari was ghosting for him. No doubt the fee was being split between them. We can’t find another competent translator, so Kothari is to continue and we officially know nothing about it. Wherever Indians are to be found, this kind of thing will be happening.

[1] This is presumably a reference to the mysterious and unexplained ‘College’ to which Orwell refers from time to time.

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The authorities in Canada have now chained up a number of German prisoners equal to the number of British prisoners chained up in Germany. What the devil are we coming to? [1]

[1] The Germans chained some 2,500 Allied prisoners (mainly Canadian) taken at Dieppe because they claimed that British Commandos had chained their German prisoners. The British War Office denied this. Canada then manacled 1.376 German prisoners. On 15 October, the Swiss Red Cross offered to mediate. See Orwell’s (unpublished) letter to the Times, 12 October 1942, in which he argues that by such retaliation we ‘descend…to the level of our enemies’ (CW, XIV, pp. 97-8). On 18 October, Hitler ordered German troops to shoot all captured Allied Commandos ‘to the last man.’

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Today in honour of the anniversary of the Chinese Revolution the Chinese flag was hoisted over Broadcasting House. Unfortunately it was upside down.

[According to D[avid] A[stor], Cripps is going to resign shortly – pretext, that the War Cabinet is a sham, Churchill being in reality the sole power in it.]

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New viceroy of India to be appointed shortly. No clue as to who he will be. Some say General Auchinleck – who, it is said, gets on well with leftwing Indians.

Long talk with Bradner, who is back after his 6 months tour in India. [1] His conclusions so depressing that I can hardly bring myself to write them down. Briefly – affairs are much worse in India than anyone here is allowed to realise, the situation is in fact retrievable but won’t be retrieved because the government is determined to make no real concessions, hell will break loose when and if there is a Japanese invasion, and our broadcasts are utterly useless because nobody listens to them. Bradner did say, however, that the Indians listen to BBC news, because they regard it as more truthful than that given out by Tokio or Berlin. He considers that we should broadcast news and music and nothing else. This is what I have been saying for some time past.

[1] Laurence Bradner (1903-?) author and lecturer in English literature in India for twelve years before the war, was employed by the BBC as Intelligence Officer, Eastern Service, 1941-44. In 1954 his study George Orwell was published. Pages 8-9 give a succinct insight to Orwell at the BBC:

“Everyone liked and respected him and he was the inspiration of that rudimentary Third Programme which was sent out to the Indian student. He soon sensed that the audience for the programme was not so large as was thought by the senior officials and, before I went to India early in 1942 to find out, he gave a great deal of time to discussing the problems with me. I found that our programmes were at a time of day when nobody was listening and that they could hardly be heard because the signal was so weak. Very few students had access to wireless sets…

I was always grateful to Orwell while we worked together in the B.B.C. He laughed very readily at the nonsense that went on, and made it tolerable. This did not interfere with his sense of responsibility, for he knew how important radio propaganda could be, if intelligently organised, and he worked very hard on his own talks, which were always good and usually brilliant. His voice was a great handicap. Thin and flat, it did not go over well on shortwave broadcasting”. [The quality of Orwell’s voice had been badly affected by his being shot through the throat when fighting in Spain.]

Bradner goes on to refer to the proposal to put into print the good talks that were not being heard, and it was he who suggested that Blair broadcast under the name Orwell (see CW, XIV, pp. 89 and 100-2). After the war, he was Director of Publications for the British Council.

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Open-air church parade in Regents Park yesterday. How touching the scene ought to be – the battalion in hollow square, band of the Coldstream Guards, the men standing bareheaded (beautiful autumn day, faint mist and not a leaf stirring, dogs gambolling round) and singing the hymns as best they could. But unfortunately there was a sermon with the jingoistic muck which is usual on these occasions and which makes me go pro-German for as long as I listen to it. Also a special prayer “for the people of Stalingrad” – the Judas kiss. [A detail that gets me down on these occasions is the clergyman’s white surplice, which looks all wrong against a background of military uniforms. Struck by the professionalism of the band, especially the bandmaster (an officer in the black peaked cap of the Guards). As each prayer drew to its close, a stirring in the band, the trombones comes out of their leather suitcases, the bandmaster’s baton comes up, and they are ready to snap into the Amen just as the priest reaches “through Jesus Christ our Lord”.]

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Most of the ammunition for our Sten gun is Italian, or rather made in Germany for Italy. I fancy this must be the first weapon the British army has had whose bore was measured in the millimetres instead of inches. They were going to make a new cheap automatic weapon, and having the vast stocks of ammunition captured in Abyssinia handy, manufactured the guns to fit the cartridges instead of the other way about. The advantage is that the ammunition of almost any continental submachine gun will fit it. It will be interesting to see whether the Germans or Japanese come out with a .303 weapon to git captured British ammunition.

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Yesterday met Liddell Hart for the first time. Very defeatist and even, in my judgement, somewhat inclined to be pro-German subjectively. [In a great stew about the barbarism of bombing Lübeck. Considered that during the wars of recent centuries the British have the worst record of all for atrocities and destructiveness.] Although, of course, strongly opposed to the Second Front, also anxious for us to call off the bombing. There is no point in doing it, as it can achieve nothing and does not weaken Germany. On the other hand we ought not to have started the bombing in the first place (he stuck to it that it was we who started it), as it merely brought heavier reprisals on ourselves.

Osbert Sitwell [1] was also there. [he was at one time connected with Mosley’s movement, but probably somewhat less inclined to go pro-German than L-H.] Both of them professed to be disgusted by our seizure of the Vichy colonies. Sitwell said that our motto was “When things look bad, retake Madagascar”. He said that in Cornwall in case of invasion the Home Guard have orders to shoot all artists. I said that in Cornwall this might be all for the best. Sitwell: “Some instinct would lead them to the good ones”.

[1] Sir Osbert Sitwell (1892-1969) was educated at Eton and served in the Grenadier Guards, 1912-19. In 1916 his poetry, with his sister Edith’s, was published as Twentieth-Century Harlequinade. He also wrote short stories (Triple Fugue, 1924; Open the Door, 1941), a number of novels, including Before the Bombardment (1926), The Man Who Lost Himself (1929), Those Were the Days (1938), A Place of One’s Own (1941), many essays and some critical studies (particularly on Dickens). He selected and arranged the text of William Watson’s Belshazzar’s Feast (1931). Orwell described his Left Hand, Right Hand!, The Scarlet Tree, and Great Morning! (1944-47) as ‘among the best autobiographies of our time’; see CW, XIX, pp 385-8.   

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Ghastly feeling of impotence over the India business, Churchill’s speeches, the evident intention of the blimps to have one more try at being what they consider tough, and the impudent way in which the newspapers can misrepresent the whole issue, well knowing that the public will never know enough or take enough interest to verify the facts. This last is the worst symptom of all – though actually our own apathy about India is not worse than the non-interest of Indian intellectuals in the struggle against Fascism in Europe.

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Lecturing last night at Morley College, Lambeth. Small hall, about 100 people, working-class intelligentsia (same sort of audience as Left Book Club branch [1]). During the questions afterwards, no less than 6 people asked “Does the lecturer think it was a great mistake to lift Theban from the Daily Worker” – reasons given, that the D.W’s loyalty is not reliable and it is a waste of paper. [Only one woman stood up for the D. W., evidently a Communist at whom one or two of the others expressed impatience (“oh, she’s always saying that”!)] This after a year during which there has been a ceaseless clamour for the lifting of the ban. One is constantly being thrown out in one’s calculations because one listens to the articulate minority and forgets the other 99 per cent. Cf. Munich, when the mass of people were almost certainly behind Chamberlain’s policy, though to read the New Statesman etc. you wouldn’t have thought so.

[1] The Left Book Club, founded by Victor Gollancz in 1936, still published a book a month on anti-Fascist or Socialist topics. Local group meetings had been revived in the middle of 1942, and some fifty branches were formed. The Road to Wigan Pier was published under its auspices.

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