Orwell Diaries 1938-1942


This is the first day on which newspaper posters are definitely discontinued… Half of the front page of the early Star[1] devoted to news of the Belgian surrender, the other half to news to the effect that the Belgians are holding out and the King is with them. This is presumably due to paper shortage. Nevertheless of the early Star’s eight pages, six are devoted to racing.

For days past there has been no real news and little possibility of inferring what is really happening. The seeming possibilities were: i. That the French were really about to counterattack from the south. ii. That they hoped to do so but that the German bombers were making it impossible to concentrate an army. iii. That the forces in the north were confident of being able to hold on and it was thought better not to counterattack till the German attack had spent itself, or iv. That the position in the north was in reality hopeless and the forces there could only fight their way south, capitulate, be destroyed entirely or escape by sea, probably losing very heavily in the process. Now only the fourth alternative seems possible. The French communiqués speak of stabilising the line along the Somme and Aisne, as though the forces cut off in the north did not exist. Horrible though it is, I hope the B.E.F.[2] is cut to pieces sooner than capitulate.

People talk a little more of the war, but very little. As always hitherto, it is impossible to overhear any comments on it in the pubs, etc. Last night, E.[3] and I went to the pub to hear the 9 o’c news. The barmaid was not going to have it on if we had not asked her, and to all appearances nobody listened.

For further notes on Orwell’s War-time Diary, click here.

[1] There were at this time three London evening papers: Star, Evening News, Evening Standard; only the last has survived; it is still published.

[2] British Expeditionary Force, the troops in France at the time of the country’s fall to the Germans

[3] Eileen, Orwell’s wife. Peter Davison