ORWELL AIMS RIFLE AT COLONEL BLIMP
It was Orwell's view that the Home Guard should develop into
"a quasi-revolutionary People's Army".
He wrote a centre-page article for the Evening Standard headed
"Don't Let Colonel Blimp Ruin the Home Guard".
It was a statement of the social needs for a citizen militia spirit
in place of the old Territorial Army mentality.
To Orwell Today,
Your page ranks high when searching for the source of Orwell's quote on rifles so I thought I'd provide a source on it for you.
I paid to have this photocopy made from The British Library: Don't let Colonel Blimp ruin the Home Guard, by George Orwell, Evening Standard, January 8, 1941
Thank you so much for thinking of ORWELL TODAY and sending along the link to your photocopy of the Colonel Blimp article where Orwell coined that infamous phrase:
"That rifle hanging on the wall of the working class flat or labourer's cottage
is the symbol of democracy.
It is our job to see that it stays there."
It's been fifteen years since the discussion about the origins of that quote began on the website -- at which time it was mistakenly ascribed to an article in TRIBUNE magazine but then later correctly attributed to the the EVENING STANDARD newspaper. In books citing the quote there have been excerpts but I've never read the article in its entirety -- and certainly never seen the original newspaper page!
See EVERY MAN SHOULD HAVE A RIFLE and ORWELLIAN GUN CONTROL and ORWELL WAS ARMED and ORWELL'S RIFLE ON WALL and ORWELL RIFLE QUOTE BOOK to read the previous discussions.
Since receiving your email I've done a little more research on the Home Guard and Orwell's role in it, and also to find out more about "Colonel Blimp" and why Orwell chose that name.
It turns out there really was a "Colonel Blimp". It was the name of a cartoon character from a comic-strip that had been running in newspapers since 1934 -- and everyone in England read it. The artist used a real-life blimp as the model for Colonel Blimp who was fat and full of hot air like the balloon. Then in 1943 a movie based on the Colonel Blimp comic strip came out titled THE LIFE AND DEATH OF COLONEL BLIMP.
So when Orwell wrote his Colonel Blimp article in 1941, this is who he had in mind as the personification of a "totalitarian" system (be it communist, capitalist, corporatist, fascist, militarist, feudalist, imperialist, etc) as opposed to a "democratic" system which Orwell hoped would be established after WWII -- a system where the working class merged with the middle class to form a socialist government "of the people, by the people, for the people". That's what Orwell was fighting for -- and that's what he'd been fighting for in the Spanish Civil War. Orwell believed that a revolution was beginning to take place in Great Britain and that the post-war Home Guard would form its militia.
When WWII began in September 1939 Orwell and his wife Eileen were living in the village of Wallington, Hertfordshire where they ran a little shop and grew their own vegetables and raised chickens and goats. Orwell was an acclaimed writer already from the publication of his books ROAD TO WIGAN PIER, COMING UP FOR AIR and HOMAGE TO CATALONIA. He was also a much-in-demand journalist writing book reviews and articles for a variety of magazines and newspapers. Orwell's health at that time was very bad -- he'd been shot through the neck in Spain (where he was fighting on the side of the republican working-man's socialist government against fascists and communists). Back in England he'd been hospitalized, in 1938, at a tuberculosis sanitorium (his wife's brother was his doctor) because he'd experienced episodes of hemorrhaging from his very bad lungs.
Although Orwell had been against England joining the war (for various reasons) once it was declared he tried to enlist to "do his part" but was flat-out rejected because of course he flunked the medical. Eileen had moved to London doing war-work in the office of the Ministry of Information and so Orwell followed her there and they rented a flat where he continued to write his journalism.
In June 1940 Orwell joined the Home Guard and, because of his military experience in Spain with the militia -- street fighting and geurilla warfare -- he was a valuable asset in training the new recruits to do the same in England. Actually, Orwell had quite alot of experience in all things military as he had been in the Cadet Corps in prepatory school and in the OTC (Officer Training Corps} at college. Upon graduation, when Orwell was 19 years old, he'd joined the Imperial Police stationed in Burma. So Orwell was used to wearing a uniform:
Above, in chronological order are pics of Orwell in uniform, ie as a 3-year-old sailor in 1906; with his father, age 60, who enlisted during WWI; at St Cyprian's Prep and Eton College before, during and after WWI 1914-18; in Burma circa 1922; in Spain in 1937 and in England in the Home Guard 1940-43.
During his three years with the Home Guard (he resigned due to health issues in 1943) Orwell was very busy not only in training sessions three evenings a week and on weekends -- but also as a talks-producer at the BBC and in keeping up with his journalism (the Colonel Blimp article being just one of many he wrote for many publications). As if that weren't enough, Orwell was also writing a daily war-time diary. These articles and diary entries are published in THE COLLECTED ESSAYS, JOURNALISM AND LETTERS OF GEORGE ORWELL, all four volumes of which I own.
I did an index search through those volumes looking specifically for references Orwell made to the Home Guard and to blimps in general and to Colonel Blimp in particular. They are scattered throughout the two war-years volumes from 1940 thru 1945. There are far too many to quote, but to help readers get a greater understanding of Orwell's thinking and role on the subject, I've scanned token pages and transcribed passages that represent the crux of the matter. Readers can click to enlarge for context and greater understanding.
The Colonel Blimp article you photographed in the British Library is not included in the four volumes, so I'll transcribe part of that here:
It seems a long time -- actually it is a bare seven months -- since the million-and-a-quarter men who rushed to enrol themselves in the Local Defence Volunteers were doubtfully told that perhaps, some day, there might be rifles for a few of them, and that the rest would have to do what they could with shotguns -- always supposing that the shotguns were procurable. By the late autumn those local Defence Volunteers (now the Home Guard) had developed into a formidable army, well equipped with rifles, machine guns, anti-tank bombs and grenades and, above all, with a form of organisation calculated to get the best out of the numbers...
Even if the immediate danger of invasion recedes the Home Guard is likely to continue in existence. There is even talk of retaining it as a post-war formation. Its political development is therefore of the greatest importance. For no army is ever really non-political. The driving force behind the Home Guard has been the common man's perception that British democracy is very far from being a sham. It came into being as an anti-Fascist force. It is therefore the greatest pity that its actual organisation has been less democratic than the spirit of its rank and file. The control of the Home Guard is almost entirely in the hands of its richer members, all too often retired colonels whose main military experience was gained before machine guns were developed or tanks heard of....
Perhaps in the last few months there has been just a little too much of the spirit of Colonel Blimp and the old style sergeant-major -- people who may have been useful in the days of single-shot rifles, but who are a positive danger in an irregular force designed for geurilla fighting. With the onset of winter and the failure of the invasion to materialise, more and more time has been devoted to parade-ground drill and more and more stress laid on heel-clicking and butt-slapping... The rank and file have not missed the significance of this, nor of the tendency to give all commands to the middle and upper classes... In any army, the spirit of Colonel Blimp and the spirit at Osterly Park must struggle together to some extent. The danger of letting Colonel Blimp have too much the better of it is that he may end by driving working-class volunteers away. It would be from every point of view a disaster if the Home Guard lost its all-national, anti-Fascist character, and developed into a sort of Conservative Party militia like a middle-aged version of public-school O.T.C....
The working classes flocked into the ranks at the beginning, and still greatly predominate there. They saw in it the possibility of a democratic People's Army in which they could take a crack at the Nazis without being bawled at by the sergeant-major in the old-fashioned style. And let there be no mistake about it, the Home Guard is much nearer to being that than to being the other thing. The men who are in are proud to be there, they have done their job willingly and they are conscious of having learnt a lot...
Even as it stands, the Home Guard could only exist in a country where men feel themselves free. The totalitarian states can do great things, but there is one thing they cannot do: they cannot [will not] give the factory-worker a rifle and tell him to take it home and keep it in his bedroom. THAT RIFLE HANGING ON THE WALL OF THE WORKING CLASS FLAT OR LABOURER'S COTTAGE IS THE SYMBOL OF DEMOCRACY. IT IS OUR JOB TO SEE THAT IT STAYS THERE".
~ end quoting Orwell Don't Let Colonel Blimp ~
Also, I've scanned and transcribed passages relating to the Home Guard and blimps from Bernard Crick's GEORGE ORWELL: A LIFE.
Then, below that, I've excerpted and linked to articles related to the history of the Home Guard, blimps and to sitcoms and movies (subsequent to the 1943 original) based on the Home Guard. For research purposes -- and for enjoyment, I've watched several episodes and clips, and suggest readers do the same. Having read Orwell's version of the Home Guard it's fascinating to watch those days and times dramatised so authentically in the sitcoms and movies - in between some hilarious laughs that don't take away from the historical accuracy.
All the best,
Jackie Jura, November 2018
pages 27-28... It is almost certain that England will be invaded within the next few days or weeks, and a large-scale invasion by sea-borne troops is quite likely. At such a time our slogan should be ARM THE PEOPLE... The advantages of arming the population outweigh the danger of putting weapons into the wrong hands.... ARM THE PEOPLE is in itself a vague phrase, and I do not, of course, know what weapons are available for immediate distribution. But there are at any rate several things that can and should be done now, ie, within the next three days: 1. Hand-grenades... 2.Shotguns... 3.Blocking fields against aircraft landings... 4.Painting out place-names... 5.Radio sets for every Local Defence Volunteer [Home Guard] headquarters... All of these are things that could be done within the space of a very few days. Meanwhile, let us go on repeating ARM THE PEOPLE, in the hope that more and more and more voices will take it up....
pages 368-392... Last night to a lecture by General _____, who is in command of about a quarter of a million men. He said he had been 41 years in the army. Was through the Flanders campaign, and no doubt limoge [dismissed] for incompetence. Dilating on the Home Guard being a static defensive force, he said contemptuously and in a rather marked way that he saw no use in our practising taking cover, "crawling about on our stomachs", etc etc evidently as a hit at the Osterley Park training school. [a traiining centre for the Home Guard, founded and run by Tom Wintringham with Hugh Slater, where they taught guerilla warfare and street fighting based on their experiences in the International Brigade during the Spanish civil war]. Our job, he said, was to die at our posts. Was also great on bayonet practice, and hinted that regular army ranks, saluting, etc etc, were to be introduced shortly... These wretched Old Blimps, so obviously silly and senile, and so degenerate in everything except physical courage are merely pathetic in themselves, and one would feel rather sorry for them if they were not hanging round our necks like millstones.... The time has almost arrived when one will only have to jump on the platform and tell them how they [the rank and file] are being wasted and how the war is being lost, and by whom, for them [the rank and file] to rise up and shovel the Blimps into the dustbin...
Meanwhile our platoon of Home Guards, after 3-1/2 months, have about 1 rifle for 6 men, no other weapons except incendiary bombs, and perhaps 1 uniform for 4 men. After all, they have stood out against letting the rifles be taken home by individual men. They are all parked in one place, where a bomb may destroy the whole lot of them any night...
The Home Guard now have tommy guns, at any rate two per company. It seems a far cry from the time when we were going to be armed with shotguns -- only there weren't any shotguns -- and my question as to whether we might hope for some machine-guns was laughed off as an absurdity...
pages 116-117... The Home Guard is the most anti-Fascist body existing in England at this moment, and at the same time is an astonishing phenomenon, a sort of People's Army officered by Blimps. The rank and file are predominantly working-class, with a strong middle-class seasoning, but practically all the commands are held by wealthy elderly men, a lot of whom are utterly incompetent. The Home Guard is a part-time force, practically unpaid, and at the beginning it was organised, I think consciously and intentionally, in such a way that a working-class person would never have enough spare time to hold any post above that of sergeant. Just recently the higher positions have been stuffed with retired generals, admirals and titled dugouts of all kinds. Principal age-groups of the rank and file are between 35 and 50 or under 20. Officers from Company Commander (Captain) upwards are much older on average, sometimes as old as seventy.
Given this set-up you can imagine the struggle that has gone on between the blimpocracy, wanting a parade-ground army of pre-1914 type, and the rank and file wanting, though less articulately, a more democratic type of force specialising in guerilla methods and weapons... Although the Home Guard is now more similar to the regular army, or rather to the pre-war Territorials, than it was when it began, it is much more democratic and consciously anti-Fascist than some of its commanders would wish. It has several times been rumoured that the Government was growing nervous about it and contemplated disbanding it, but no move has been made to do this. A very important point, technically necessary to a force of this kind but only obtained after a struggle, is that the men keep their rifles and usually some ammunition in their own homes. The officers wear practically the same uniform as the men and there is no saluting off parade. Although the class nature of the command is widely grasped there has not been much friction. Within the lower ranks the spirit is extremely democratic and comradely, with an absence of snobishness and class-uneasiness that would have been unthinkable ten years ago....
pages 149-153: ...The Home Guard force, then known as the Local Defense Volunteers, was raised last spring in response to a radio appeal by Anthony Eden, following on the success of the German parachute troops in Holland. It got a quarter of a million recruits in the first twenty-four hours. The numbers are now somewhere between a million and a half and two millions; they have fluctuated during the past year, but with a tendency to increase. Except for a small nucleus of administrative officers and NCO instructors attached from the regular army, it is entirely part-time and unpaid. Apart from training, the Home Guard relieves the army of some of its routine patrols, pickets on buildings, etc and does a certain amount of ARP (Air Raid Precautions) work. The amount of time given up to the Home Guard by ordinary members would vary between five and twenty-five hours a week... The strategic idea of the Home Guard is static defence in complete depth, ie from one coast of England to the other. The tactical idea is not so much to defeat an invader as to hold him up till the regular troops can get at him...
The Home Guard can by now be regarded as a serious force, capable of strong resistance for at any rate a short period... There are great and obvious difficulties in the way of keeping a force of this kind in the field for more than a week or two at a time, and if there should be prolonged fighting in England the Home Guard would probably be merged by degrees in the regular army and lose its local and voluntary character. The other great difficutly is in the supply of officers. Although there is in theory no class discrimination, the Home Guard is in practice officered on a class basis more completely than is the case in the regular army. Nor is it easy to see how this could have been avoided, even if the wish to avoid it had been there. In any sort of army people from the upper and middle classes will tend to get the positions of command -- this happened in the early Spanish militias and had also happened in the Russian civil war -- and in a spare-time force the average working man cannot possibly find enough time to do the administrative routine of a platoon commander or company commander. Also, the Government makes no financial contribution, except for a token payment when men are on duty all night, and the provision of weapons and uniforms. One cannot command troops without constantly incurring small expenses, and 50 pounds a year would be the very minimum that any commissioned officer spends on his unit. What all this has meant in practice is that nearly all commands are held by retired colonels, people with "private" incomes or, at best, wealthy businessmen. A respectable proportion of the officers are too old to have caught up with the 1914 war, let alone anything subsequent. In the case of prolonged fighting it might be necessary to get rid of as many as half the officers. The rank and file know how matters stand and would probably devise some method of electing their own officers if need be. The election of officers is sometimes discussed among the lower ranks, but it has never been practised except, I think, in some of the factory units...
Up to a point one can foresee the future of the Home Guard. Even should it become clear that no invasion is likely it will not be disbanded before the end of the war, and probably not then. It will play an important part if there is any attempt at a Petain peace, or in any internal fighting after the war. It already exerts a slight political influence on the regular army, and would exert more under active service conditions. It first came into being precisely because England is a conservative country where the law-abidingness of ordinary people can be relied upon, but once in being it introduces a political factor which has never existed here before. Somewhere near a million British working men now have rifles in their bedrooms and don't in the least wish to give them up. The possibilities contained in that fact hardly need pointing out...
pages 268-272... Orwell took the Home Guard very seriously. He joined on 12 June 1940 what became C Company of the 5th County of London Battalion (the St John's Wood company). He was made a sergeant immediately and had to train a section of ten men. Based on St John's Wood (a fashionable area that bordered on poor areas), the section was a remarkable social mix.... As well as lack of uniform and arms, there was at first lack of any clear definition as to what the Home Guard were meant to do. It was agreed that an invasion was imminent, but were they to be an auxiliary force like the Territorials deployed in the field with the regular army, were they simply to be armed civilians for guard duty and to provide pockets of last-ditch defense in their own localities, or were they, beyond the latter tasks, to be a guerilla force, trained to survive and operate behind enemy lines? Unless there was clarity about their tactical role, there could be no clear training programme. Naturally enough, as Orwell grumbled both in the section post and in print, they were officered in the main by retired veterans of the First World War who stuck to ideas of trench warfare and were slow to assimilate the lessons of the German Blitzkrieg, if they thought of tactics at all. So the Home Guard spent most of its time on weapons-training and drill. Orwell intimated that the first was all right, if there were weapons; but the latter, being used as toy soldiers by "Colonel Blimps", was a total waste of time....
Some people of similar mind were more successful, and Orwell made contact with them. When in December he wrote a piece in Tribune urging Left-wing socialists to join the Home Guard, not to think of it as a "fascist organisation" (or if so, by joining to make it less so), he could refer to two schools of thought in the Home Guard. One was simply the regular (auxiliary) army mentality; but "one school (for a long while centred around the Osterly Park training school...run by veterans of the Spanish Civil War) wants to turn it into a guerilla force, like a more orderly version of the early Spanish Government militias". He urged his readers to join and to "give a shove in the right direction -- from below". And there followed these naively disguised inflammatory words:
"Let no one mistake me. I am not suggesting that it is the duty of Socialists to enter the Home Guard with the idea of making trouble or spreading subversive opinions. That would be both treacherous and ineffective. Any Socialist who obtains influence in the Home Guard will do it by being as good a soldier as possible, by being conspicuously obedient, efficient and self-sacrificing. But the influence of even a few thousand men who were known to be good comrades and to hold Left-wing views could be enormous. At this moment there is not even in the narrowest and more old-fashioned sense of the word, anything unpatriotic in preaching Socialism. We are in a strange period of history in which a revolutionary has to be a patriot and a patriot has to be a revolutionary. The Communists, Independent Labour Party and all their kind can parrot "Arms for the Workers", but they cannot put a rifle into the workers' hands: The Home Guard can and does. The moral for any Socialist who is reasonably fit and can spare a certain amount of time (six hours a week, perhaps) is obvious."
At some stage, Orwell attended the Army's famous and controversial Osterley Park School for small-scale infantry tactics (set up hurriedly after Dunkirk when all sorts of desperate ideas were given a try)... Orwell let the cat out of the bag that the Home Guard should develop into "a quasi-revolutionary People's Army"... Orwell wrote a centre-page article for the Evening Standard (which, though Lord Beaverbook [who owned the newspaper] was in the Government, was constantly gunning for the "old guard" at the War Office), headed "Don't Let Colonel Blimp Ruin the Home Guard". This began as a reasonable statement, with only a few socialist overtones, of the Osterley Park new "battle-drill" case...as against the parade-ground school. It was a statement of the social needs for a citizen militia spirit in place of the old Territorial Army mentality. But at the end it went right over the top (which the sub-editor actually emphasised by either allowing or imposing capitals): "Even as it stands, the Home Guard could only exist in a country where men feel themselves free: The totalitarian states can do great things, but there is one thing they cannot do: they cannot give the factory-worker a rifle and tell him to take it home and keep it in his bedroom. THAT RIFLE HANGING ON THE WALL OF THE WORKING CLASS FLAT OR LABOURER'S COTTAGE IS THE SYMBOL OF DEMOCRACY. IT IS OUR JOB TO SEE THAT IT STAYS THERE"...
Fred Warburg [future publisher of ANIMAL FARM and 1984] has written an entertaining and essentially accurate report of what it was like to serve as corporal under Sergeant Orwell. Orwell's earnestness had its funny side... (he would have made a good extra character in the BBC's "Dad's Army"). But the testimony of others in his section points to his efficiency with weapons and to the knowledgeable and realistic training he gave his unit in street-warfare and fieldcraft, though his deliberate neglect of and sardonic attitude towards drill and spit-and-polish had also been remembered. Certainly he had the respect of all surviving members of the Home Guard section: he knew what he was talking about and taught them relevant things. His enthusiasm, like theirs, faded away as the likelihood of invasion diminished. Eileen remarked to a friend about the Home Guard period that "I didn't mind bombs on the mantlepiece, but didn't like the machine-gun under the bed".
He obtained his discharge in November 1943 for "medical reasons". Even so late, after his three years in the Home Guard, he wrote two pieces for The Observer urging that a more democratically organised Home Guard should continue even after the War, and should replace the Territorial Army....
~ end quoting Orwell A Life by Crick ~
watch Dad's Army Movie 2016 (official trailer), YouTube
Dad's Army Movie 2016, Wikipedia (Dad's Army is a 2016 British war comedy film, based on the BBC television sitcom Dad's Army. Directed by Oliver Parker, set in 1944, after the events depicted in the television series. Catherine Zeta-Jones plays an elegant German spy, posing as a journalist, reporting on the Walmington-on-Sea Home Guard platoon. The production design was by Simon Bowles, and the cinematography by Christopher Ross. The film was released on 5 February 2016 in the United Kingdom by Universal Pictures. DVD and Blu-ray released in the United Kingdom on 13 June 2016. It received mostly negative reviews from critics...)
Dad's Army Movie 1971 (...a 1971 British war comedy film and the first film adaptation of the BBC television sitcom Dad's Army. Directed by Norman Cohen, it was filmed between series three and four and was based upon material from the early episodes of the television series. The film tells the story of the Home Guard platoon's formation and their subsequent endeavours at a training exercise...)
watch Dad's Army TV Sitcom 1968-1977, YouTube (...a BBC television sitcom about the British Home Guard during the Second World War and became one of the best-loved and most successful British sitcoms of all time...)
Dad's Army TV Sitcom 1968-1977 (clips and episodes of Home Guard during the Second World War....)
How accurate was Dad's Army BBC TV serives 1968-1977 (...The historical reality, back in the summer of 1940, had not, in fact, been very different from the fiction. The date - 14 May - had been the same, although it was not until shortly after nine o'clock in the evening that Eden spoke to the nation via the BBC's Home Service. Neither he nor his government had previously shown any enthusiasm for a policy which involved ordinary citizens, fearing imminent invasion, being allowed to take matters into their own hands instead of relying on the orthodox forces of security and public order (namely, the Army and the Police). However, when reports began reaching the War Office concerning the appearance up and down the country of 'bands of civilians...arming themselves with shotguns', it had been clear that the time for a rethink had arrived. Without much agreement as to whether the aim was to sustain or suppress this burgeoning grass-roots activism, Eden and his advisors proceeded to improvise some plans and, as one observer put it, evoked 'a new army out of nothingness'... The Local Defence Volunteers was launched without any staff, or funds, or premises of its own. The wartime reality, again, was similarly shambolic. Before Eden's broadcast had ended, police stations in all regions of the nation found themselves deluged with eager volunteers. By the end of the first 24 hours, 250,000 men -- equal in number to the peacetime Regular Army -- had registered their names. Although the age range was meant to run from 17 to 65, it was not strictly enforced at the beginning, and more than a few old soldiers contrived to creep back in (such as Alexander Taylor, a sprightly octogenarian who had first seen action in the Sudan during 1884-5). Membership continued to grow at a remarkably rapid rate: by the end of May the total number of volunteers had risen to between 300,000 and 400,000, and by the end of the following month it exceeded 1,400,000 -- around 1,200,000 more than any of the Whitehall mandarins had anticipated. Order did not need to be restored: it had yet to be created.
Dad's Army TV Series 1968-1977 (...a BBC television sitcom about the British Home Guard during the Second World War. It was written by Jimmy Perry and David Croft, and broadcast on the BBC from 1968 to 1977. The sitcom ran for nine series and 80 episodes in total; there was also a radio version based on the television scripts, a feature film and a stage show. The series regularly gained audiences of 18 million viewers, and is still repeated worldwide....)
Life & Death of Colonel Blimp Movie 1943 (This is a surprisingly good film made in England during the worst of WWII in England, under the most trying of conditions (political as well as military)... The title derives from a satiric British editorial cartoon character with that moniker, popular in the 1930's and early '40s, by the artist David Low. "Colonel Blimp" in these political cartoons was an old school fool of a British military officer, fat with a droopy walrus mustache, usually depicted in a steamroom, presumably at a stuffy old gentleman's club, wrapped in a towel, spouting stupid reactionary drivel to some other old guard gent...)
Home Guard Uniforms & Equipment
Osterly Park: Home Guard Training Establishment (The grounds of Osterley Park were used for the training of the first members of the Local Defence Volunteers (forerunners of the Home Guard) when the 9th Earl, a friend of publisher Lord Hulton, allowed writer and military journalist Captain Tom Wintringham to establish the first Home Guard training school (which Hulton sponsored) at the park in May/June 1940, teaching the theory and practice of modern mechanical warfare, guerilla warfare techniques and using the estate workers' homes, then scheduled for demolition, to teach street fighting techniques. The painter Roland Penrose taught camouflage techniques here, attempting to disguise the obvious charms of a naked Lee Miller. Maj Wilfred Vernon taught the art of mixing home-made explosives, and his explosives store can still be seen at the rear of the house, while Canadian Bert "Yank" Levy, who had served under Wintringham in the Spanish Civil War taught knife fighting and hand-to-hand combat. Despite winning world fame in newsreels and newspaper articles around the world (particularly in the US), the school was disapproved of by the War Office and Winston Churchill, and was taken over in September 1940. Closed in 1941, its staff and courses were reallocated to other newly opened War Office-approved Home Guard schools...)
The Real Dad's Army The Home Guard was set up in May 1940 as Britain's 'last line of defence' against German invasion. Members of this 'Dad's Army' were usually men above or below the age of conscription and those unfit or ineligible for front line military service. On 14 May 1940, Secretary of State for War Anthony Eden made a broadcast calling for men between the ages of 17 and 65 to enrol in a new force, the Local Defence Volunteers (LDV). By July, nearly 1.5 million men had enrolled and the name of this people's army was changed to the more inspiring Home Guard. The Home Guard was at first a rag-tag militia, with scarce and often make-do uniforms and weaponry. Yet it evolved into a well-equipped and well-trained army of 1.7 million men. Men of the Home Guard were not only readied for invasion, but also performed other roles including bomb disposal and manning anti-aircraft and coastal artillery. Over the course of the war 1,206 men of the Home Guard were killed on duty or died of wounds. With the Allied armies advancing towards Germany and the threat of invasion or raids over, the Home Guard was stood down on 3 December 1944...
Photograph of Orwell in the Home Guard (This photograph shows George Orwell with his fellow volunteers from the St John's Wood Company of the Home Guard. Orwell had intended to join the regular army when Britain entered the Second World War, but he had been rejected due to his poor health. He subsequently served as a sergeant for three years with the Home Guard, a part-time army of volunteers who guarded coastal areas and other strategic locations. Orwell was convinced that the existence of the Home Guard had contributed to Germany's failure to invade Britain. In an article he published in The Observer in 1943, he praised the volunteer army and argued that only a non-authoritarian state such as Britain would have freely distributed arms to volunteer troops: "Its mere existence -- the fact that in the moment of crisis it could be called into being by a few words over the air, the fact that somewhere near two million men have rifles in their bedrooms and the authorities contemplate this without dismay -- is the sign of a stability unequalled in any other country of the world. (from "Three Years of Home Guard", The Observer, 9 May 1943)
Blimp Etymology (The origin of the word "blimp" has been the subject of some confusion....Two possible derivations: Colloquially [non-rigid airships] always were referred to as 'Blimps'. Over the years several explanations have been advanced about the origin of this word. The most common is that in the military vernacular the Type B was referred to as 'limp bag', which was simply abbreviated to 'blimp'. An alternative explanation is that on 5 December 1915 A. D. Cunningham, R.N., commander of the Capel-Le-Ferne Air Ship Station, flipped the envelope of the SS.12 with his fingers during an inspection, which produced a sound that he pronounced as 'blimp'; and that the word then caught on as the nickname for all small non-rigid airships...)
Zeppelin's first raid on London The Blitz and Battle of Britain are infamous in British history as the first time Britain had been heavily bombed from the air. But what is little known is that one of the first bombing raids that took place over the British Isles was during World War One. In May 1915 a German Zeppelin airship took off from Germany and made its way to London, where it dropped bombs over the north of the city. It was the first time that London had ever been attacked from the air. Britain had already been at war for around 10 months when the bombing took place. Some had anticipated that Germany would launch bombing attacks on the capital as soon as the war started, but the Germans had to adapt and develop their zeppelin fleet so that they could be used for bomb raids. In addition it is believed that Kaiser Wilhelm hesitated at attacking Britain from the air since he had such close connections with the British royal family, and thought that the war would not continue for very long. But as the war continued he finally approved the bombings.... There was no anti-aircraft weaponry available at that time, but small gun posts were placed around London and a fleet of aircraft were kept on call should the Zeppelins arrive... Around 15 aircraft were ordered to find and destroy the Zeppelin, but only one pilot found it and his aircraft experienced engine failure before he could attack. While the survived its first bombing raid, just a week later British bombers attacked the air base where it was stored and destroyed it.
ORWELL RIFLE QUOTE BOOK
ORWELL'S RIFLE ON WALL
ORWELL WAS ARMED
ORWELL & GUNS TO EUROPE
ORWELLIAN GUN CONTROL
EVERY MAN SHOULD HAVE A RIFLE POEM
ORWELL'S DEMOCRATIC SOCIALISM
HOW ORWELL DOC O'SHAUGHNESSY DIED (..."It is with a great sense of loss that the death of Major O'Shaughnessy has to be recorded, as the result of enemy action at Dunkirk [June 1940]. When assisting in the treatment of wounded men in a street in Dunkirk, he was gravely wounded in the thorax by a bomb splinter. He died shortly afterwards from his wounds"...)
ORWELL'S HOMAGE TO CATALONIA & SOLDIER ORWELL AT SPANISH FRONT & ORWELL BULLET THRU NECK
20.Thought Police & Snitches (...The proper thing was to kill yourself before they got you. Undoubtedly some people did so. But it needed desperate courage to kill yourself in a world where firearms, or any quick and certain poison, were completely unprocurable...)
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