This afternoon a parade in Regent’s Park[1] of the L.D.V.  of the whole “zone”, i.e. 12 platoons of theoretically about 60 men each (actually a little under strength at present.) Predominantly old soldiers and, allowing for the dreadful appearance that men drilling in mufti always present, not a bad lot. Perhaps 25 per cent are working class. If that percentage exists in the Regent’s Park area, it must be much higher in some others. What I do not yet know is whether there has been any tendency to avoid raising L.D.V. contingents in very poor districts where the whole direction would have to be in working-class hands. At present the whole organisation is in an anomalous and confused state which has many different possibilities. Already people are spontaneously forming local defence squads and hand-grenades are probably being manufactured by amateurs. The higher-ups are no doubt thoroughly frightened by these tendencies. . . . The general inspecting the parade was the usual senile imbecile, actually decrepit, and made one of the most uninspiring speeches I ever heard. The men, however, very ready to be inspired. Loud cheering at the news that rifles had arrived at last.

Yesterday the news of Balbo’s[2] death was on posters as C.[3] and the M.’s[4] and I walked down the street. C. and I thoroughly pleased, C. relating how Balbo and his friends had taken the chief of the Senussi up in an aeroplane and thrown him out, and even the M.’s (all but pure pacifists) were not ill-pleased, I think. E. also delighted. Later in the evening (I spent the night at Crooms Hill[5]) we found a mouse which had slipped down into the sink and could not get up the sides. We went to great pains to make a sort of staircase of boxes of soap flakes, etc., by which it could climb out, but by this time it was so terrified that it fled under the lead strip at the edge of the sink and would not move, even when we left it alone for half an hour or so. In the end E. gently took it out with her fingers and let it go. This sort of thing does not matter. . . . but when I remember how the Thetis[6] disaster upset me, actually to the point of interfering with my appetite, I do think it a dreadful effect of war that one is actually pleased to hear of an enemy submarine going to the bottom.

[1] Orwell was then living at 18 Dorset Chambers, Chagford Street, NW1; illustrated in Thompson, 54. This was about 150 yards from the south-east boundary of Regent’s Park.

[2] Italo Balbo (1896-1940), head of the Italian Air Force, was responsible for the bombing of Ethiopians during the Italo-Ethiopian War 1935-36.

[3] Cyril Connolly.

[4] Unidentified. Probably not L.H. Myers and his wife, for whom the description ‘all but pure pacifists’ is inappropriate.

[5] The home of Gwen O’Shaughnessy in Greenwich.

[6] In June 1939 the British submarine Thetis failed to surface on its trials. Only four of the complement of 103 were saved, owing to faulty escape apparatus. The submarine was recovered and entered active service as HMS Thunderbolt in November 1940. All the crew were told of the submarine’s history and given the opportunity to decline to serve in her. After a successful career, she was depth-charged and lost with all hands in March 1943. The non sequitur here is a result of Orwell’s cut. Peter Davison

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5 Responses to 30.6.40

  1. Pingback: Airminded · Post-blogging 1940

  2. Barry Larking says:

    Following the Thetis disaster Haldane, the famous scientist shut himself inside a steel cabinet in an attempt to explore the conditions on board the sunken submarine. How useful this was must be doubtful, but his assertaion that he felt calm and experienced no panic, suggesting the men who died passed away peacefully, is claimed to have helped relatives of those who died.

  3. Max says:

    That’s interesting because Haldane (who was a Communist) later did a talk on the BBC India Service which Orwell produced (according to the Complete Works). I wonder what they talked about afterwards over a cup of tea?

  4. Stephen says:

    The external reality of the war: enthusiastic volunteers drilling in Regent’s Park. Internally, the travail of a mouse prompts the spectre of 99 drowned submariners.

  5. Pingback: 1.12.40 « THE ORWELL PRIZE

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