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 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 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. They are all parked in one place, where a bomb may destroy the whole lot of them any night.
 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.
 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.
 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