28.7.42

Today I have read less newspapers than usual, but the ones I have seen have gone cold on the Second Front, except for the News Chronicle. [the Evening News published an anti-Second Front article (by General Brownrigg [1]) on its front page ] I remarked on this to Herbert Read [2] who said gloomily “The Government has told them to shut up about it”. [It is true of course that if they are intending to start something they must still seem to deny it.] Read said he thought the position in Russia was desperate and seemed very upset about it, though in the past he has been even more anti-Stalin than I. I said to him, “Don’t you feel quite differently towards the Russians now they are in a jam?” and he agreed. For that matter I felt quite differently towards England when I saw that England was in a jam. Looking back I see that I was anti-Russian (or more exactly anti-Stalin) during the years when Russia appeared to be powerful, militarily and politically, ie. 1933 to 1941. Before and after those dates I was pro-Russian. One could interpret this in several different ways.

A small raid on the outskirts of London last night. The new rocket guns, some of which are [now] manned by Home Guards, [3] were in action [and are said to have brought down some planes (8 planes down altogether).]

This is the first time the Home Guard can properly be said to have been in action, a little over 2 years after its formation.

The Germans never admit damage to military objectives, but they acknowledge civilian casualties after our bigger raids. After the Hamburg raid of 2 nights ago they described the casualties as heavy. The papers here reproduce this with pride. Two years ago we would all have been aghast at the idea of killing civilians. I remember saying to someone during the blitz, when the RAF were hitting back as best they could, “In a year’s time you’ll see headlines in the Daily Express: ‘Successful raid on Berlin Orphanage. Babies Set on Fire’.” It hasn’t come to that yet, but that is the direction we are going in.

[1] Lieutenant-General Sir W. Douglas S. Brownrigg (1886-1946) was Adjutant-General to the British Expeditionary Force, 1939-40. He retired in 1940 but was appointed Zone and Sector Commander of the Home Guard, 1941.

[2] Herbert Read (1893-1968; Kt. 1953), poet, critic, educator and interpreter of modern art. Served in World War 1 (DSO, MC) and was particularly influential in the thirties and forties. He was assistant keeper at the Victoria & Albert Museum, and taught at Edinburgh University, 1931-2. Edited the Burlington Magazine, 1933-39. His Education through Art was an important influence after the war. He was an influential supporter of anarchism after World War 1 at least until he was knighted.

[3] The anti-aircraft branch of the Home Guard, under General Sir Frederick Pile (1884-1976, Bt.), was equipped with rocket launchers. These were each capable of firing two one-hundredweight rockets and were massed in batteries of sixty-four. Not all the rockets would necessarily be fired at once. The rockets were not particularly accurate, but they created a ‘box’ of shrapnel capable of damaging and bringing down planes. In my experience on rocket battery 101 at Iver, near Slough, they were not used against low-flying planes in built-up areas because they were liable to sheer off the roofs of houses surrounding the battery. Orwell probably dropped ‘now’ from the typescript because these guns, though to a small extent manned by full-time servicemen, were, like the spigot mortar, chiefly Home Guard weapons.  

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