Extrapolating from Dunkirk

May 30, 2010 at 11:52 am (history, Rosie B, war)

Further to Jim’s post on Orwell and Dunkirk, here are a couple of entries from Orwell’s diary of the time:-

29th May 1940

One has to gather any major news nowadays by means of hints and allusions. The chief sensation last night was that the 9 o’c news was preceded by a cheer-up talk (quite good) by Duff-Cooper [Minister of Information], to sugar the pill, and that Churchill said in his speech that he would report again on the situation some time at the beginning of next week, and that the House must prepare itself for “dark and heavy tidings”. This presumably means that they are going to attempt a withdrawal, but whether the “dark tidings” means enormous casualties, a surrender of part of the B.E.F., or what, nobody knows.

30th May 1940

The B.E.F. are falling back on Dunkirk. Impossible not only to guess how many may get away, but how many are there. Last night a talk on the radio by a colonel who had come back from Belgium, which unfortunately I did not hear, but which from E’s. account of it contained interpolations put in by the broadcaster himself to let the public know the army had been let down (a) by the French (not counterattacking), and (b) by the military authorities at home, by equipping them badly. No word anywhere in the press of recriminations against the French, and Duff-Cooper’s broadcast of two nights ago especially warned against this… Today’s map looks as if the French contingent in Belgium are sacrificing themselves to let the B.E.F. get away.

Borkenau says England is now definitely in the first stages of revolution. Commenting on this, Connolly related that recently a ship was coming away from northern France with refugees on board and a few ordinary passengers. The refugees were mostly children who were in a terrible state after having been machine-gunned etc., etc. Among the passengers was Lady ——–, who tried to push herself to the head of the queue to get on the boat, and when ordered back said indignantly, “Do you know who I am?” The steward answered, “I don’t care who you are, you bloody bitch. You can take your turn in the queue.” Interesting if true.

Orwell turned his wishes into prophecies – common enough, of course.  He thought at the time that the only way that Britain could defeat Nazi Germany was through revolution or else by the government turning Fascist itself, in which case the war was not worth it.  He was wrong on both counts, and later admitted it.

In June 1945 he wrote:-  “Never would I have prophesied that we could go through nearly six years of war without arriving at either Socialism or Fascism, and with our civil liberties almost intact.” which he ascribes to people feeling unable to influence events in any way, and so therefore just continuing on their daily round.

1 Comment

  1. Orwellian, Marxian, etc « Poumista said,

    [...] George Orwell Champagne Charlie on why Orwell got it right about Dunkirk, and Rosie Bell reading Orwell’s diary from that time. [...]

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