Orwell Diaries 1938-1942

VILLA SIMONT, 12.3.39 [1]

Troops[2]  returning from manoeuvres[3]  passed the house a few days back, to the number of about 5000 men, more than half of[4]  these Senegalese. The spahis look pretty good, general physique better than the average of the population. Horses about 14 hands, strong but not much breed, all colours, whites and greys predominantly, seemingly some castrated and some not, but no mares (never ridden in this country).[5]  Notice at the rifle range that[6]  all horses[7]  are well accustomed to fire. Seeing them on the march en masse, I do not now think (as I did before) that the Senegalese infantry are superior to the Arabs. They look much of a muchness. With the cavalry were some kind of small-bore quick-firing guns[8]  – could not see the mechanism[9]  as they were enveloped in canvas, but evidently the bore of the gun was[10]  1” or less. Rubber tyres to wheels. Transport wagons have huge all-steel disc wheels and are pulled by three mules. In addition there were[11]  pack batteries (screw guns[12] ). These[13]  guns were round about 3”, perhaps 75mm, though, of course, different from the quick-firer 75mm. Field gun.[14]  To carry the whole gun, ammunition etc. evidently requires 6-8 mules. The breech-piece of the gun is a load for one mule. A column such as we saw could manoeuvre[15]  without difficulty anywhere in country such[16]  as this, except in the mountains. The men are sent on manoeuvre[17]  with their heavy khaki overcoats etc., but do not seem to be overloaded as they used to be. Most seemed to be carrying 40 – 50 lb.
Five English and Americans from the Foreign Legion have been to visit us from time to time:
Craig. Glasgow Irish, but Orange. Fairly superior working-class, claims that  his father is well-paid office employee[18]  and to have been the same as himself. Age about 25, healthy and good physique. Distinct signs of paranoia (boasting about past grandeurs etc.) as is usual with these types. Has been about 2 1/2 years in the Legion and spent half of this in prison camps etc., having made two attempts to desert[19].  Speaks little French. Somewhat “anti-red”, showed hostility at mention of Maxton. Does not like the French and would try not to fight if war came[20].
Williams. American, dark hair, possibly a touch of dark blood. Health and physique not very good. He has nearly finished his 15 years, then gets small pension (about 500 francs a month) and expects to remain in Morocco. Is now orderly at the officer’s mess. Not well-educated[21]  but well-disposed and evidently thoughtful.
Rowlands. Age about 30-35. “Superior” type and curious accent which might belong to an[22]  Eurasian. Drinks when possible. Has done 5 years in the Legion, or nearly and thinks of leaving (they engage[23]  for 5 years and can re-engage if they wish). Evidently has not been much in trouble. Gentle disposition, thoughtful type, but not intelligent.
Smith. American, age about 40, employed as bandsman. Some tendency to drink. Has a good many years of service. Not intelligent[24]  but evidently good-hearted.
Also a young Scotsman whom I only met once. Evidently there are only two or three other Englishmen and Americans in this lot (the 4th). It is clear that[25]  Englishmen etc. don’t get on, will not put up with the rough conditions etc., and are also handicapped by inability to learn French, which the Germans are better able to do. All the above-mentioned are still privates. The Legion is predominantly German and the NCOs are usually Germans.
It is clear that life in the Legion is now thoroughly dull. None of the above has[26]  seen any fighting except innocuous skirmishes. Fights occur among the men sometimes, but the dueling once prevalent has been put down. After a year or so of service a Legionnaire[26]  is still only earning about 2 francs a day (3d), and it never gets much above this unless he becomes an NCO. A sergeant gets 1200 francs a month but has to pay for[28]  his food and also something for his clothes. Uniforms are badly-fitting but the men get a fair quantity of clothes. They have to launder them themselves. Each man gets 1/2litre[29] of wine a day. There is no free tobacco issue, and recruits are usually unable to smoke for their first six months.
After the collapse of[30] Catalonia the Petit Marocain immediately became much more pro-Franco. Every comparison of French papers with those we receive from England makes it clear that the French and British publics get their news in very different forms, and that one or other press, more probably both, is habitually lying. Eg. the local press did not mention the machine-gunning of refugees[31] in Catalonia, alleged in the English press.
To judge from the legionnaires’ rumours there is still some expectation of war. Once the rumour went round that they were to be mobilised tonight. Within the last few days they have received a large consignment of machine guns[32] and other small-arms at the depot[33] here, as though in expectation of fresh drafts of men. Whenever a French warship touches at Casablanca numbers of sailors are sent[34] on voluntary-compulsory trips[35] to Marrakech, where they fraternize with the soldiers.
Some of the crops of barley are now in ear and look fairly good. It appears that by local standards there has been a large rainfall this year and crops are expected to be good.

[1] The section of the Morocco Diary from 12 March to ‘Japanese and apart’ in the fourth sentence of 28 March (see 541) exists in manuscript and typed forms. Both are Orwell’s work. The typed version is given here, except for obvious errors. In the following textual notes, unless stated otherwise the typed version is given first. Orwell invariably uses an ampersand for ‘and’ when writing, but spells it out when typing; some other words (e.g. ‘about’ and numerals) are contracted when written but are typed in full. These are not noted. It can be seen that Orwell’s practice in such matters as hyphenation varies.
[2] Troops] Troops,
[3] Typescript erroneously spells this ‘maneouvres’.
[4]  ‘of’ is omitted
[5]  ‘never ridden in this country’ is omitted.
[6]  Typescript has ‘than’.
[7]  horses] the horses
[8]  quick-firing guns] quick-firing gun
[9]  the mechanism] mechanism
[10]  evidently the bore of the gun was] bore of the gun evidently about
[11] were] were were
[12]  screw guns] screw-guns
[13]  These] The
[14]  quick-firer 75mm. Field gun. ]ordinary 75mm.
[15]  Country such] such a country
[16]  manoeuvre] manooeuvres
[17]  ‘that’ is omitted
[18]  office employee] office-employee
[19]  desert] escape
[20]  came] came along
[21]  -educated] -,educated
[22]  an] a
[23]  engage] enlist
[24]  intelligent] intelligent,
[25]  ‘that’ is omitted
[26]  has] have
[27]  légionnaire (The accent, correct in French, is not used in English. Not noted again.)
[28]  pay 300 for (Orwell may have omitted the amount because, on reflection, uncertain of its correctness.)
[29]  litre] a litre
[30]  of] in
[31]  refugees] the refugees
[32]  machine guns] machine-guns
[33]  depot] depôt (See n. 27.)
[34]  on] on a
[35]  trips] trip Peter Davison