Heavy bombing in this area last night till about 11 p.m……. I was talking in the hallway of this house to two young men and a girl who was with them. Psychological attitude of all 3 was interesting. They were quite openly and unashamedly frightened, talking about how their knees were knocking together, etc., and yet at the same time excited and interested, dodging out of doors between bombs to see what was happening and pick up shrapnel splinters. Afterwards in Mrs. C’s little reinforced room downstairs, with Mrs C. and her daughter, the maid, and three young girls who are also lodgers here. All the women, except the maid, screaming in unison, clasping each other, and hiding their faces, every time a bomb went past, but betweenwhiles quite happy and normal, with animated conversation proceeding, The dog subdued and obviously frightened, knowing something to be wrong. Marx [1] is also like this during raids, i.e. subdued and uneasy. Some dogs, however, go wild and savage during a raid and have had to be shot. They allege here, and E. says the same thing about Greenwich, that all the dogs in the park now bolt for home when they hear the siren.

Yesterday when having my hair cut in the City, asked the barber if he carried on during raids. He said he did. And even if he was shaving someone? I said. Oh, yes, he carried on just the same. And one day a bomb will drop near enough to make him jump, and he will slice half somebody’s face off.

Later, accosted by a man, I should think some kind of commercial traveller, with a bad type of face, while I was waiting for a bus. He began a rambling talk about how he was getting himself and his wife out of London, how his nerves were giving way and he suffered from stomach trouble, etc., etc. I don’t know how much of this kind of thing there is ….. There has of course been a big exodus from the East End, and every night what amount to mass migrations to places where there is sufficient shelter accommodation. The practice of taking a 2d ticket and spending the night in one of the deep Tube stations, e.g. Piccadilly, is growing . . . . . . Everyone I have talked to agrees that the empty furnished houses in the West End should be used for the homeless; but I suppose the rich swine still have enough pull to prevent this from happening. The other day 50 people from the East End, headed by some of the Borough Councillors, marched into the Savoy and demanded to use the air-raid shelter. The management didn’t succeed in ejecting them till the raid was over, when they went voluntarily. When you see how the wealthy are still behaving, in what is manifestly developing into a revolutionary war, you think of St. Petersburg in 1916.

(Evening). Almost impossible to write in this infernal racket. (Electric lights have just gone off. Luckily I have some candles.) So many streets in (lights on again) the quarter roped off because of unexploded bombs, that to get home from Baker Street, say 300 yards, is like trying to find your way to the heart of a maze.

[1] The Orwells’ dog. Peter Davison

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9 Responses to 17.9.40

  1. Chris Squire says:

    The barber was no doubt using a cut-throat razor!

  2. jhameac says:

    And his dog is named Marx!? I wonder I hadn’t I picked up on that earlier. What a delightful detail.

  3. “accosted by a man…some kind of commercial traveller…bad face…rambling talk”

    He could be a German spy, George. Don’t forget: Careless Talk Costs Lives! Let us know if he bumps into you again.

  4. I was talking in the hallway of this house to two young men and a girl who was with them. Psychological attitude of all 3 was interesting.

    [my favorite portion of this most excellent post]

    The 4th hallway-lounger, needless-to-say, had no attitude. He merely leaned against the wall, looking at everybody, listening, taking notes.

    Marx is safe at home, eh? Where are you, George? Where is this mysterious hallway in which you lurk?

  5. Since it is now Wednesday, September 18, during the day there is a German attack by 50 bombers on targets in London. There is heavy fighting in which the RAF loses 12 planes and the Luftwaffe 19.

    Meanwhile, in North Africa, the advance of the Italian 10th Army comes to a halt, officially because of supply difficulties. They occupy themselves building various fortified camps and make little effort to keep in touch with the British forces which have pulled back before their superior strength.

    In the darkness, Eric Blair, seeking interviewees, is seen scurrying from one empty furnished house in the West End to another.

  6. Major raids on Clydeside badly damage heavy cruiser HMS Sussex as she refits.
    SUSSEX was so heavily damaged she settled on the bottom and was partly capsized. Due to priority need to repair destroyers, etc. SUSSEX was a low repair priority for a while she was not back in service until August 1942

    Battle of Britain:
    The Luftwaffe returned to London in daylight today but, even after two days rest following its defeat last Sunday, it could put only 70 heavily escorted bombers into the air, in three waves, and they achieved little.

    However the bombs continue to rain down on the capital at night, with the drone of some 230 bombers making every night hideous. Unable to pinpoint their targets, they drop their bombs at random, causing terrible damage and casualties in the streets and among civilians.

    Some of London’s most famous landmarks have been destroyed or damaged. Eight City churches have been hit. One bomb, weighing a ton, lies, unexploded, outside the West door of St. Paul’s Cathedral, where Royal Engineers bomb disposal experts are working on it.

    The West End, Downing Street, the Law Courts, and the House of Lords have all been hit by either high explosives or incendiaries. But it is the ordinary people who are taking the brunt of the attack.

    Sheltering in the Underground, they still raise the Union Jack over the rubble of their homes or declare “Business as usual” on hand-written signs nailed to the wreckage of their shops and businesses.

    The King and Queen, who have been bombed twice in Buckingham Palace, have made several visits to the East End where they have been greeted sympathetically as fellow sufferers from German bombing. When Churchill, cigar clenched in his teeth, visited the bombed-out areas he got a clear message from the people: “Give it ’em back.”

  7. Cabinet Secretary circulates unexploded bomb figures. 3795 proved duds but 2330 have exploded, on average after 3.5 days @UKWarCabinet.

  8. Pingback: Orwell’s Diary Entry For Sept. 17th, 1940 « Orwell's Dreams

  9. Philip Wainwright says:

    Actually, the rich swine were quite willing to have bombed-out eastenders housed in their empty Mayfair homes. When questions were asked in the Commons about this, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Home Security, Ellen Wilkinson, said they had homes available but could not persuade eastenders to go to them. ‘I said to one woman with a large family who had been bombed out of her home, “Look here, we can provide you with a flat in Eaton Square,” and she replied, “Well, Miss, what would I do with a flat in Eaton Square? Where do you think I should do my shopping?”‘ See the Times of October 17th 1940 p 2.

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