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. (‘Three Years of Home Guard’, The Observer, 9 May 1943)
- Full title:
- Orwell in the Home Guard
- c. 1940–43
- Photograph / Image
- George Orwell
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George Orwell: © With kind permission of the estate of the late Sonia Brownell Orwell. You may not use the material for commercial purposes. Please credit the copyright holder when reusing this work. You may not use the material for commercial purposes. Please credit the copyright holder when reusing this work.
UCL: © Orwell Archive, UCL Library Special Collections.
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- UCL Library Special Collections
- ORWELL/T/2/D, ORWELL ARCHIVE - 2D33
- Article by:
- John Sutherland
- Power and conflict, Literature 1900–1950
John Sutherland describes the biographical and historical events that produced George Orwell’s Down and Out in Paris and London, which combines memoir with a study of poverty in two European cities in the late 1920s.
- Article by:
- Greg Buzwell
- Power and conflict
During the Second World War, Nazi Germany conducted a sustained bombing campaign on cities and towns across Britain. The raids killed 43,000 civilians and lasted for eight months. Here Greg Buzwell examines how novelists have woven the effects of the Blitz into their work, from Graham Greene and Elizabeth Bowen in the 1940s to Sarah Waters in the 21st century.