Having failed the medical test to allow him to go off to war, author George Orwell (seen above, back row second from right) helped contribute to the war effort in an easier capacity: the BBC. He worked in the Overseas Service department, producing programs and propaganda to be broadcasted to India as a way to combat Germany’s own propaganda. Although Orwell considered the years 1941 to 1943 “two wasted years” at the Corporation, they were anything but. Orwell worked extremely hard writing scripts and booking a variety of literary heroes, like TS Eliot and Dylan Thomas.
Orwell’s office was located at 200 Oxford Street in London at a department store hastily converted into a radio studio (which has since been gone back to being a department store). As to be expected, Orwell did not conform to the rigid office life and the bureaucracy that goes with it. He drew upon his experiences as an office drone for his last novel, Nineteen Eighty-Four. Much of Winston Smith’s work life at the Ministry of Truth is a satire of office life, as Orwell saw it, at the Beeb. Room 101 is based upon a real room that housed department meetings. Very boring meetings. The scenes of the canteen where Winston eats his lunch is also based on the real canteen underneath Orwell’s office. The canteen is still there, now an eatery off to the side of the store Topshop, if you so desire to eat at the same place Orwell ate.
Orwell resigned from the BBC in 1943 after his worst fears were confirmed: very few Indians actually listened to the programs. Attempts have been made in recent years to make a statue of Orwell to be placed in front of the BBC but the BBC has declined, despite people offering to donate money for the cause, such as actor Rowan Atkinson. According to the top heads, Orwell is “too left wing”.