Fired the Sten gun for the first time today. No kick, no vibration, very little noise, and reasonable accuracy. Out of about 2500 rounds fired, 2 stoppages, in each case due to a dud cartridge – treatment, simply to work the bolt by hand.

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[Hugh Slater is very despondent about the war. He says that at the rate at which the Russians have been retreating it is not possible that Timoshenko has really got his army away intact, as reported. He also says that the tone if the Moscow press and wireless shows that morale in Russia must be very bad.] Like almost everyone I know, except Warburg, Hugh Slater considers that there isn’t going to be any Second Front. This is the inference everyone draws from Churchill’s visit to Moscow. [1] People say, “Why should he go to Moscow to tell them we’re going to [2] open a second front? He must have gone there to tell them we can’t do it”. Everyone agrees with my suggestion that it would be a good job if Churchill were sunk of the way back, like Kitchener. [3] [Of course the possibility remains that Churchill isn’t in Moscow.]

Last night for the first time took a Sten gun to pieces. [4] There is almost nothing to learn in it. [No spare parts. If the gun goes seriously wrong you simply chuck it away and get another.] Weight of the gun without magazine is 5 ½ pounds – [weight of the Tommy gun would be 12-15 lb. Estimated price is not 50/- as I had imagined, but 18/-.] I can see a million or two million of these things, each with 500 cartridges and a book of instructions, floating down all over Europe on little parachutes. If the Government had the guts to do that they would really have burned their boats.

[1] The following passage is crossed through in the manuscript: ‘The question asked on every side is, “If the Second Front is going to be opened, what point is there in Churchill going to Moscow? He must have gone there to tell them we can’t do it.’”

[2] The manuscripts originally had ‘we can’t,’ but this crossed through and altered to read as in typescript.

[3] Field Marshall Horatio Herbert Kitchener (1850-1916; 1st Earl Kitchener), who had reconquered the Sudan (1896-98) and was successful against the Boers in the South African War (1900-02), was regarded as a hero by the British populace. At the outbreak of World War 1 he was appointed Secretary of State for War. He was drowned when HMS Hampshire, taking him on a mission to Russia, struck a mine. He realised earlier than most the need to raise a large army and rapidly increased the strength of ‘Kitchener’s Army,’ as it was called, from twenty to seventy divisions. He found co-operative work difficult and was less popular with Cabinet colleagues than with the general public. Orwell’s second published work, when still at preparatory school, was a poem on the subject of the loss of Kitchener; see CW, X, p. 24.

[4] In 1940 the only sub-machine-gun available to the British army was the American Thompson, but at least 100,000 were lost at sea on the way from the USA causing an urgent need for a cheap home-produced automatic. The Sten, named after its designers, Major R. Vernon Sheppard and Harold J. Turpin, and the place of manufacture, Enfield, cost only £2 10s. It did not rely on machined parts and had no wooden stock. The magazine, based on the German 9mm MP 40, had a tendency to jam or fire single shots unexpectedly. But the Sten proved highly successful and was much favoured by resistance fighters. 

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General dismay over the Government of India’s rash act in publishing the documents seized in the police raid on Congress headquarters. [1] [As usual the crucial document is capable of more than one interpretation and the resulting squabble will simply turn wavering elements in Congress more anti-British.] The anti-Indian feeling which the publication has aroused in America, and perhaps Russia and China, is not in the long run any good to us. The Russian government announces discovery of a Tsarist plot, quite in the old style. I can’t help a vague feeling that this is somehow linked up with the simultaneous discovery of Gandhi’s plot with the Japanese.

[1] after the failure of Cripp’s mission to India, Congress had become increasingly intransigent. At the beginning of August Gandhi inaugurated a campaign of civil disobedience. In attempting to ensure order, the government of India raided Congress headquarters and seized the text of the original draft of the Resolution on Indian Independence submitted to the Congress Working Committee and published it. 

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The Turkish radio (among others) also says Churchill is in Moscow.

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D[avid] A[stor] says Churchill is in Moscow. [1] He also says there isn’t going to be any second front. However, if a second front is intended, the Government must do all it can to spread the contrary impression beforehand, [and D.A. might be one of the people used to plant the rumour.

D.A. says that when the commandos land the Germans never fight but always clear out immediately. No doubt they have orders to do so. This act is not allowed to be published – presumable reason, to prevent the public from becoming over-confident.]

According to D.A., Cripps does intend to resign from the Government [2] and has his alternative policy ready. He can’t, of course, speak of this in public but will do so in private. However, I hear that Macmurray [3] when staying with Cripps recently could get nothing whatever out of him as to his political intentions.

[1] Churchill arrived in Cairo on this day, then, via Teheran, reached Moscow on 12 August. He and Stalin did discuss the opening of a second front (see The Second World War, IV, pp. 411, 430-33).

[2] Cripps came near to resignation but did not leave the War Cabinet until 22 November 1942, the day he was appointed Minister of Aircraft Production, a post he held until the end of the war in Europe.

[3] John Macmurray (1891-1976) was Grote Professor of the Philosophy of Mind and Logic, University of London. 

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If the figures given are correct, the Germans have lost about 10 per cent of their strength in each of the last raids. According to Peter Masefield this isn’t anything to do with the new guns but has all been done by the night fighters. He also told me that the new FW 190 fighter is much better than any fighter we now have in actual service. [An aircraft construction man named Bowyer who was broadcasting together with him agreed with this.] Oliver Stewart considers that the recent German raids are reconnaissance raids and that they intend starting the big blitz again soon, at any rate if they can get their hands free in Russia. [1]

Not much to do over the bank holiday weekend. [2] Busy at every odd moment making a hen-house. This kind of thing now needs great ingenuity owing to the extreme difficulty of getting hold of timber. No sense of guilt or time-wasting when I do anything of this type – on the contrary, a vague feeling that any sane occupation must be useful, or at any rate justifiable.

[1] Peter Masefield (1914-2006; Kt. 1972), was war correspondent with the RAF and US Eighth Air Force, 1939-43. Became Chief Executive of British European Airways, 1949-52. He was scheduled to discuss Aviation in one of Orwell’s broadcasts to India on 31 July 1942 with Oliver Stewart (1895-1976, editor of Aeronautics, 1939-62), but when he had to drop out, Orwell engaged E.C. Bowyer who was on the staff of the Society of British Aircraft Constructors.

[2] The weekend would have been spent at the Orwells’ cottage at Wallington.   

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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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Talking today with Sultana, one of the Maltese broadcasters. He says he is able to keep in fairly good touch with Malta and conditions are very bad there. “The last letter I get this morning was like a – how you say? (much gesticulation) – like a sieve. All the pieces what the censor cut out, you understand. But I make something out of it, all the same.” He went on to tell me, among other things, that 5 lbs of potatoes now cost the equivalent of 8 shillings. [He considers that of the two convoys which recently endeavoured to reach Malta the one from England, which succeeded in getting there, carried munitions, and the one from Egypt, which failed to get there, carried food.] I said, “Why can’t they send dehydrated food by plane?” He shrugged his shoulders, seeming to feel instinctively that the British government would never go to that much trouble over Malta. Yet it seems that the Maltese are solidly pro-British, thanks to Mussolini, no doubt.

[The German broadcasts are claiming that Voroshilov [1] is in London, which is not very likely and has not been rumoured here. Probably a shot in the dark to offset their recent failure over Molotov, [2] and made on the calculation that some high-up Russian military delegate is likely to be here at this moment. If the story should turn out to be true, I shall have to revise my ideas about the German secret service in this country.]

The crowd at the Second Front meeting in Trafalgar Square estimated at 40,000 in the rightwing papers and 60,000 in the leftwing. Perhaps 50,000 in reality. My spy reports that in spite of the present Communist line of “all power to Churchill”, the Communist speakers in fact attacked the Government very bitterly.

[1] For General Kliment Voroshilov, see Events, 31.8.39, n 1. Churchill was to meet him, on 12 August 1942, but in Moscow (see Winston Churchill, The Second World War, IV, p. 429).

[2] For Vyacheslav Molotov, see Events 28.8.39, n. 4. Churchill gives an account of a private talk with him at this time in The Second World War (IV, pp. 436-37). A principle issue at stake was the opening of a Second Front. 

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Yesterday and today, on the Home Guard manoeuvres, passing various small camps of soldiers in the woods, radiolocation [= radar] stations etc. Struck by the appearance of the soldiers, their magnificent health and the brutalized look in their faces. All young and fresh, with round fat limbs and rosy faces with beautiful clear skins. But sullen brutish expressions – not fierce or wicked in any way, but simply stupefied by boredom, loneliness, discontent, endless tiredness and mere physical health.

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I now make entries in this diary much more seldom than I used to, for the reason that I literally have not any spare time. And yet I am doing nothing that is not futility and have less and less to show for the time I waste. It seems to be the same with everyone – the most fearful feeling of frustration, of just fooling round doing imbecile things, not imbecile because they are a part of the war and the war is inherently foolish, but things which in fact don’t help or in any way affect the war effort, but are considered necessary by the huge bureaucratic machine in which we are all caught up. Much of the stuff that goes out from the BBC is just shot into the stratosphere, not listened to by anybody and known by those responsible for it to be not listened to by anybody. And round this futile stuff hundreds of skilled workers are grouped [, costing the country tens of thousands per annum,] and tagging on to them are thousands of others who in effect have no real job but have found themselves a quiet niche and are sitting in it pretending to work. The same everywhere, especially in the Ministries.

[However, the bread one casts on the waters sometimes fetches up in strange places. We did a series of 6 talks on modern English literature, very highbrow and, I believe, completely un-listened to in India. Hsiao Chi’en, the Chinese student, reads the talks in the “Listener” and is so impressed that he begins writing a book in Chinese on modern Western literature, drawing largerly on our talks. So the propaganda aimed at India misses India and accidentally hits China. Perhaps the best way to influence India would be by broadcasting to China.]

The Indian Communist party, and its press, legalised again. I should say after this they will have to take the ban off the Daily Worker, otherwise the position is too absurd.

This reminds me of the story David Owen* told me and which I believe I didn’t enter in this diary. Cripps on his arrival in India asked the Viceroy to release the interned Communists. The Viceroy consented (I believe most of them have been released since), but at the last moment got cold feet and said nervously: “But how can you be sure they’re really Communists?”

We are going to have to increase our consumption of potatoes by 20 percent, so it is said. Partly to save bread, and partly to dispose of this year’s potato crop, which is enormous. [1]

*Then secretary to Stafford Cripps [Orwell’s handwritten footnote in typescript].

[1] The Ministry of Food (where Eileen worked) promoted a cartoon character, Potato Pete, in a campaign to persuade people to eat a pound of potatoes a day.

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