As soon as the air-raids began seriously it was noticeable that people were much readier than before to talk to strangers in the street. . . . . This morning met a youth of about 20, in dirty overalls, perhaps a garage hand.  Very embittered and defeatist about the war, and horrified by the destruction he had seen in South London.  He said that Churchill had visited the bombed area near the Elephant[1] and at a spot where 20 out of 22 houses had been destroyed, remarked that it was “not so bad”.  The youth: “I’d have wrung his bloody neck if he’d said it to me.” He was pessimistic about the war, considered Hitler was sure to win and would reduce London to much the same state as Warsaw.  He spoke bitterly about the people rendered homeless in South London and eagerly took up my point when I said the empty houses in the West End should be requisitioned for them.  He considered that all wars were fought for the profit of the rich, but agreed with me that this one would probably end in revolution.  With all this he was not unpatriotic.  Part of his grouch was that he had tried to join the Air Force 4 times in the last 6 months, and always been put off.

To-night and last night they have been trying the new device of keeping up a continuous A.A. barrage, apparently firing blind or merely by sound, though I suppose there is some kind of sound-detector which estimates the height at which they must make the shells burst. . . . . . The noise is tremendous and almost continuous, but I don’t mind it, feeling it to be on my side.  Spent last night at S’s place[2] with a battery firing in the square at short intervals throughout the night.  Slept through it easily enough, no bombs being audible in that place.

The havoc in the East End and South London is terrible, by all accounts. . . . . . . Churchill’s speech last night referred very seriously to danger of imminent invasion.  If invasion is actually attempted and this is not a feint, the idea is presumably either to knock out our air bases along the South Coast, after which the ground defences can be well bombed, at the same time causing all possible confusion in London and its southward communications, or to draw as much as possible of our defensive forces south before delivering the attack on Scotland or possibly Ireland.

Meanwhile our platoon of Home Guards, after 3 ½ months, have about 1 rifle for 6 men, no other weapons except incendiary bombs, and perhaps 1 uniform for 4 men.  After all, they have stood out against letting the rifles be taken home by individual men[3]. They are all parked in one place, where a bomb may destroy the whole lot of them any night.

[1] The Elephant and Castle, a public house, gave its name to this major working-class residential area, shopping centre, and meeting point of several important roads.

[2] Stephen Spender’s flat, and the Horizon office, in Landsdowne Terrace, WC1.  Orwell originally typed ‘S.S’s place’ but the first S was crossed out.

[3] See Orwell’s ‘London Letter,’ Partisan Review , July-August and November-Decemver 1941, 787 and 843.  On 22 September 1940, Churchill wrote to President Roosevelt saying that the 250,000 rifles ‘are most urgently needed, as I have 250,000 trained and uniformed men [the Home Guard] into whose hands the can be put.’ If they could be made available, it would ‘enable us to take 250,000 .303 rifles from the Home Guard and transfer them to the Regular Army, leaving the Home Guard armed with about 800,000 American rifles’ (The Second World War, II, 596; U.S.: Their Finest Hour, 672). Peter Davison

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9 Responses to 12.9.40

  1. Interesting to remark, and one wonders what Orwell must have thought, about the fact that despite the invasion of much of Europe and the intensive bombing of England, the United States has not yet come into the war, and seems unwilling even to provide munitions (which must be begged for) to the British.

    Unknown to Orwell, it would be more than a year before the United States finally entered the war, and only as the result of a direct attack on it from Japan. It must have occurred to him that, just as he suspected of British government, there were major fascist sympathies at play in the American government, and that they would have no problems dealing with, or conducting trade with, a fascist Britain. Hence, we surmise, the inevitability of revolution.

  2. Pingback: Airminded · Post-blogging 1940

  3. London Weather 1940:The first week of September was dry and warm with sunny periods. On the 4th it was sunny all day with the temperature rising above 26°C. The second week was rather changeable and cooler, but amounts of rain were small. After mid month, although several dry days occurred, Atlantic weather systems became more active. On the 19th, over 18mm of rain fell, and towards the end of the month it became very cool.. The maximum on the 29th was only 13.1°C.

    12 September 1940, RAF Duxford
    First rain fell for several weeks.

    Meanwhile, a crazed anarchist revolutionary confiscated the Home Guard’s only rifle and positioned himself strategically on the roof of his home.

    The crazed anarchist revolutionary allegedly said [loudly], “I’m the ‘Home Guard’ around here! Now, bugger off! It’s Tea Time!”

    Someone among the curious bystanders queried, “OI! Is that ‘that Blair bloke’ up there?” Another said, “I say, has anyone seen my bow and quiver?”

  4. Four teenagers follow their dog when it disappears down a hole near Montignac, France, and discover 17,000-year-old drawings now known as the Lascaux Cave Paintings. The 15,000- to 17,000-year-old paintings, consisting mostly of animal representations, are among the finest examples of art from the Upper Palaeolithic period.

  5. truth is life says:

    Poor Eric, forced to blunder around trying to account for radar…

  6. George may already be on Uncle Adolf’s banned authors list and having his stuff chucked on the flames, but for the life of me I can’t think why.

  7. Book-Burning was/is among the most heinous of Thought-Crimes. There is a genocidal aroma that wafts from Book-Burning. The source of the aroma is not necessarily apparent to all.

    Burgess Meredith sitting on the debris-covered steps of the crumbling library with his broken glasses in his hand and staring into nowhere.

    Meanwhile, it’s Friday the 13th so the British bring heavy units of the Royal Navy nearer to the likely invasion area. The battleships Nelson and Rodney join the Hood at Rosyth and the Revenge is at Plymouth. There are, of course, strong cruiser and destroyer forces in relevant positions.

    Buckingham Palace is again hit. At 11:10 building is straddled by a stick of six bombs dropped by a low-flying aircraft. Two of these burst in the Quadrangle, some eighty yards from the window behind which the King and Queen were discussing the day’s arrangements with the King’s secretary, Sir Alexander Hardinge. The blast showered them with broken glass.
    Two other bombs fell in the forecourt. One wrecked the Royal Chapel and one exploded harmlessly in the garden.

    Mussolini is “hungry for victory” and appears mentally unstable but I’m no Psycho-Analyst.

  8. Pingback: 14.9.40 « THE ORWELL PRIZE

  9. Pingback: Orwell’s Diary Entry For Sept.12th 1940 « Orwell's Dreams

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