Arthur Koestler [1] is being called up this week and will be drafted into the Pioneers[2], other sections of the forces being barred to him, as a German. What appalling stupidity, when you have a youngish gifted man who speaks I do not know how many languages and really knows something about Europe, especially the European political movements, to be unable to make any use of him except for shovelling bricks.

Appalled to-day by the havoc all round St. Paul’s, which I had not seen before.  St. Paul’s, barely chipped, standing out like a rock.  It struck me for the first time that it is a pity the cross on top of the dome is such an ornate one.  It should be a plain cross, sticking up like the hilt of a sword.

Curiously enough, there don’t seem to have been any repercussions to speak of about that old fool Ironside taking the title of “Lord Ironside of Archangel”.[3]  It really was an atrocious piece of impudence, a thing to protest against whatever one’s opinion of the Russian regime.

[1] Arthur Koestler (1905-1983), novelist and essayist born in Budapest, joined the Communist Party in 1931 (from which he withdrew in the late 1930s) and spent a year in the USSR.  He worked as a reporter during the Spanish civil war, was captured and condemned to death; he escaped when included in an exchange of prisoners.  He was interned in France in 1940 and imprisoned by the British as an alien. Spanish Testament (1937) describes his experiences in Spain, and Scum of the Earth (1941; his first book written in English) his later experiences.  Orwell reviewed his Darkness at Noon in 1941 (see 741), and they become close friends.  See Orwell’s ‘Arthur Koestler’, written in 1944 and included in Critical Essays (1946), 2548; Arthur and Cynthia Koestler, Stranger on the Square, edited by Harold Harris (1984); and Living with Koestler, Mamaine Koestler’s Letters 1945-51, edited by Celia Goodman (1985).

[2] The Pioneer Corps was the equivalent of the Construction Battalions in the United States Navy.  It was in part recruited from those whom the authorities deemed to be politically uncertain – through frequently they were Jewish refugees from Germany and elsewhere who had the strongest grounds for opposing the Nazis.  Later some such Pioneers were transferred to more dangerous and politically sensitive units, where their special knowledge and intelligence could be put to more useful service.

[3] William Edmund Ironside, first Baron of Archangel and Ironside (1880-1959), had been commander of Allied forces sent to fight the Bolsheviks at Archangel in 1918.  He was later Chief of the Imperial General Staff, 1939-40, and head of Home Defence forces, May-July 1940.  He was promoted a field marshal before he retired in 1940. Peter Davison

This entry was posted in Political, War-time and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to 12.2.41

  1. George~~
    When looking at this image or this one, I see just the opposite of what you see.

    I see hope, you see hatred.

  2. Pingback: Indignant Desert Birds » Sunday Morning Reading Material: Second Sunday in February 2011

  3. Barry Larking says:

    Indignant Desert Birds etc., February 13th 8.14 p.m.


    I believe this answers your point, if such it is.

  4. max says:

    Many Jews were recruited to the British army, some of them in high intelligence and the secret service, like Leo Marks. And, of course, Jews who later fought the British in Palestine liked to point out that it was in the British army they they had learned how to fight. But if it was thei German origin that prejudiced the authorities against Jewish soldiers it suggests that they were not being anti-Semitic but simply being ultra-cautious about German nationals.

  5. Barry Larking says:

    Malcolm Muggeridge’s autobiography is useful here. The autobiography was published originally in two parts in the 1970s after Bletchley Park’s activities, of which Muggeridge knew, was made public; the second volume also contains interesting material on Orwell.

    Despite his left wing connections, compulsive womanising, drinking and time spent in Russia, Muggeridge was recruited by M.I.6.! One of his first assignments, he writes, was sitting in a car outside a Chelsea house belonging to a ‘suspected’ Fascist sympathiser of some importance. (Unidentified but almost certainly Cheyne Walk, Chips Channon’s London home). One regular visitor was Lord Ironside, currently C-In-C. Shortly afterwards Ironside was ‘promoted’ then immediately ‘retired’. In a passage which seems to reveal the influence of the publisher’s “m’learned Friend” Muggeridge writes how pleased he was to learn Ironside was subsequently exonerated from any tinge of suspicious behaviour. (Implicitly, treason.)

  6. Dinner in the diner
    Nothing could be finer…

  7. Russian Life in Old Shanghai:
    Since the Russians were stateless, they were not interned by the Japanese when the latter occupied Shanghai from 1941 to 1945. But the White Russians became refugees once again when the Chinese Communists took over the city in 1949.

    So. Now. I find myself wondering if Staff Sergeant 2nd fell in love with the Taxi Dancer (who spoke English with no accent). Or with the Usherette at the Cinema as she conveyed it to me years ago (in English with no accent). Amazing.

  8. George~~
    Right about now, somebody is making a documentary entitled The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp that will be released in a couple of years. I know you won’t want to miss it.

  9. Monday, 24 February 1941

  10. Pingback: 7.4.41 « THE ORWELL PRIZE

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s