7.4.41

Belgrade bombed yesterday, and the first official announcement this morning that there is a British army in Greece – 150,000 men, so they say. So the mystery of where the British army in Libya had gone to it at last cleared up, though this had been obvious enough when the British retreated from Benghazi. Impossible to say yet whether the treaty of friendship between Jugo-Slavia and the U.S.S.R. means anything or nothing, but it is difficult to believe that it doesn’t point to a worsening of Russo-German relations. One will get another indication of the Russian attitude when and if the Emperor of Abyssinia is restored – i.e., whether the Russian government recognises him and sends an ambassador to his court.

…Shortage of labour more and more apparent and prices of such things as textiles and furniture rising to a frightening extent …The secondhand furniture trade, after years of depression, is booming … It is evident that calling-up is now being consciously used as a way of silencing undesirables. The reserved age for journalists has been raised to 41 – this won’t bring them in more than a few hundred men, but can be used against individuals whenever desired. It would be comic if after having been turned down for the army on health grounds ten months ago it were suddenly found that my health had improved to just the point at which I was fit to be a private in the Pioneers.

…Thinking always of our army in Greece and the desperate risk it runs of being driven into the sea. One can imagine how the strategists of the Liddell Hart [1] type must be wringing their hands over this rash move. Politically it is right, however, if one looks 2-3 years ahead. The best one can say is that even in the narrow strategic sense it must offer some hope of success, or the generals concerned would have refused to undertake it. It is difficult to feel that Hitler has not mistimed his stroke by a month or thereabouts. Abyssinia at any rate is gone, and the Italian naval disaster can hardly have been intended.[2] Also if war in the Balkans lasts even three months the effects on Germany’s food supply in the autumn must be serious.

[1] Captain Sir Basil Liddell Hart; see Events 16.7.39 n. 1. His British Way in Warfare was reviewed by Orwell in The New Statesman and Nation, 21 November 1942, CW, XIV, pp. 188-90. Though critical, Orwell also wrote, ‘No military writer in our time has done more to enlighten public opinion.’

[2] The defeat at the Battle of Cape Matapan. The British sank without loss to themselves but the Italians lost the cruisers Zara, Fiume, and Pola and the destroyers Alfieri and Carducci. The battleship Vittorio Veneto was crippled. Peter Davison

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4 Responses to 7.4.41

  1. Max says:

    Orwell is spot on saying that ‘It is difficult not to feel that Hitler has not mistimed his stroke by a month or thereabouts’. It is generally agreed now that Hitler’s diversion into the Greek campaign, by delaying his invasion of Russia, resulted in the Wehrmach’s being caught by the Russian winter and drawn into the great battles which precipitated his long drawnout defeat.

  2. anon says:

    In note 2, it should be “Fiume” and not “Flume”, “Carducci” and not “Carucci”.

    Thank you very much for this great blog.

  3. @anon – thanks for spotting that, you are of course right! Now edited – not sure how that happened…

    And really pleased you’re enjoying the blog – thank you.

  4. Pingback: Cherie's Place » History Recalls

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