The News-Chronicle to-day is markedly defeatist, as well it may be after yesterday’s news about Dakar[1]. But I have a feeling that the News-Chronicle is bound to become defeatist anyway and will be promptly to the fore when plausible peace terms come forward. These people have no definable policy and no sense of responsibility, nothing except a traditional dislike of the British ruling class, based ultimately on the Nonconformist conscience. They are only noise-makers, like the New Statesman, etc. All these people can be counted on to collapse when the conditions of war become intolerable.

Many bombs last night, though I think none dropped within half a mile of this house. The commotion made by the mere passage of the bomb through the air is astonishing. The whole house shakes, enough to rattle objects on the table. Of course they are dropping very large bombs now. The unexploded one in Regent’s Park is said to be “the size of a pillar box.” Almost every night the lights go out at least once, not suddenly flicking off as when a connection is broken, but gradually fading out, and usually coming on again in about five minutes. Why it is that the lights dip when a bomb passes close by, nobody seems to know.

[1] In September 1940 a British expedition, co-operating with Free French forces under General de Gaulle, made an attempt to recapture the port of Dakar, West Africa, from the Vichy government. The expedition was a failure. Peter Davison

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20 Responses to 27.9.40

  1. Fred Engelhardt says:

    Readers of this diary may want to pause and step back to an earlier point in Orwell’s life — The Spanish Civil War. The International Center of Photography in New York has an ongoing exhibition of a recently recovered collection of photos from that war. An article in the New York Times tells the story of the find, and quite a story it is:


    Several links within the sidebar of the article will take you to some of the photos and to an earlier report with further details of the recovery.

  2. Pingback: Airminded · Post-blogging 1940

  3. Carl Butz says:

    Thanks for the link to the “Mexican Suitcase” story. Now, can I get to NYC and the International Center of Photography before 1/9/11? Wow, what a tale!

  4. George~~
    Your closing sentence, “Why it is that the lights dip when a bomb passes close by, nobody seems to know,” leaves me yearning for, at least, an hypothesis.

    I would classify an impact site ½ mile [0.8047km] away in the Medium-Length Whizz category.

    Nevertheless, this is the perfect setting in which to slam the News-Chronicle; that is, sitting in the kitchen as bombs scream above the rooftops, frames swinging on the walls, teapot dancing across the table, windows rattling, plaster dust floating down, lights flickering off, on, buzzing, dimming…..

  5. Fred Engelhardt says:


    If you can’t get there in time you could order the catalog — I assume it’s available by mail.

    When I lived in the UK I attended a retrospective of Capa’s work and I often go back to the catalog of that exhibition.

    As an aside, Capa’s colleague, the British photographer George Rodger, first established his reputation by photographing the streets of London ‘now’ being described by Orwell on this blog. His book, “Humanity and inhumanity[sic]” is well worth tracking down.


  6. Barry Larking says:

    That should of course be “capture”. De Gaulle appealed to few in the French military. He suceeded in persuading the British he could get Dakar to surrender to him. He led the way. The result was a decisive defeat. Later no one tried to talk French Syria or Madagascar round; fighting was intense and bitter.

  7. The lights dipping as a bomb hurtles past is very interesting to note and it reminds me of the strange business of the Foo Fighters, mysterious lights that followed the aircraft. The Foos were never explained.
    My grandmother and her mother in a previous war known as WWI or maybe it was only WWII part 1 (thanks to Europe’s idiotic politicians), looking out of a house window in the NE of England claimed steadfastly to have seen the so-called Angel of Mons in the sky.

  8. andrew says:

    Did you get hit by a bomb? Eric, I’m worried.

  9. George~~
    Now’s your chance to grab a rifle.

    One of my connections, @UKWarCabinet, has access to the minutes of War Cabinet meetings and provides me with near-real-time data. For example:

    First Sea Lord: 5 more US Destroyers received and first 50,000 of 250,000 US rifles delivered. More “on their way”

  10. Thursday, 10 October:
    My high-level mole quotes the Air Chief: Enemy activity “rather heavier than usual” overnight. St. Paul’s Cathedral hit, choir and altar badly damaged…..

  11. Another informant, @RAFDuxford1940, gives me the view from the air:

    Wing to go on patrol at 20,000 feet. Just arriving there when told to pancake. Squadron Leader Lane…..

  12. wordsmithsuk says:

    This sounds awful – you must long to go back to growing potatoes. Someone else must have been enjoying the fruits of your labour this Autumn.

  13. George~~
    You do realize, don’t you, that it is 20 years this month, four years after it was written, since The Mysterious Affar at Styles was published? And yes, it’s true, the adventures of Hercule Poirot form the backdrop of my perspective; more so than, say, Monty Python. Sherlock Holmes and William Booth are the lens through which I peer.

    Saturday the 12th: My Berlin mole has has informed me that Operation Sealion is deferred until the spring of 1941. And guess what, George: It will never take place.

    Meanwhile, The National Gallery was hit by a bomb today, but Myra Hess carried on her Gallery concerts as she has been doing for the past year. Against the bare walls of the central galleries (the pictures are safe in a Welsh slate quarry), lunch-time chamber-music concerts are given to 1,500 people, who pay a shilling a head to hear pianists like Solomon and Denis Mathews as well as Myra Hess’s Bach and Beethoven. Much of the music – like the bomb damage is German.

  14. Do you have any other diarists that can fill in during this rather overlong Orwellian absence? Hitler perhaps?

  15. wordsmithsuk says:

    What’s happened Eric? Are you ill again?

  16. Stephen says:

    A real-time reader would fear that one of those bombs landed a bit too close … has Orwell penned his last entry, counted his last egg, mounted the skull of his last jackal?

  17. Barry Larking says:

    All will be revealed in due course. Orwell was writing other matter apart from this Diary to earn money. He was also like everyone else in London having to cope with major disruption to everyday life.

  18. Steve says:

    Lazy Aussie, I’m sure you’re already aware of WW2: A Civilian in the Second World War. And, about 94 years earlier — an infinity, almost — there’s “The Life and Loves of a Victorian Clerk.”

  19. Thanks Steve. I was hoping for something a little more Hitlery, but those will have to do.

  20. Steve says:

    When JL3 checks in, I’m sure he’ll have more suggestions. I’m hoping EB/GO is prepping the garden for winter.

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