Professor Grau examined Eric today at the Hospital General de Cataluna
His diagnostic is:
"incomplete semi-paralysis of the larynx
due to abrasions of the right-side larynx dilating nerve".


He confirmed Dr Farre's statement that
no essential organ had been touched;
the bullet went right through,
between the trachea and the carotid

It really is a miracle that Orwell lived as long as he did (short as his life was, dying at 46) because he could have been dead at 34 when he was shot through the neck by a bullet fired from a sniper's rifle during the Spanish Civil War. See ORWELL'S HOMAGE TO CATALONIA & SOLDIER ORWELL AT SPANISH FRONT & TOUR ORWELL'S SPANISH TRENCHES

In the book ORWELL REMEMBERED -- published in 1984 -- friends and associates of Orwell describe their experiences with him. The following excerpt is the letter that Orwell's militia commander -- Georges Kopp -- wrote to Orwell's brother-in-law, Dr Laurence O'Shaughnessy who was the best throat/lung/tuberculosis specialist in England -- explaining Orwell's injury.

Orwell's wife, Eileen was extremely close to her brother and his death exactly three years later (hit by a bullet in May 1940 while evacuating wounded at Dunkirk) was a blow from which she never fully recovered. Laurence was also very important in Orwell's life -- not only because he was his brother-in-law but also because he was his doctor. ~ Jackie Jura


OrwellNeckBullet OrwellNeckWound
Bullet in the Neck
letter to Dr Laurence O'Shaughnessy, London

from Georges Kopp, Barcelona, 31 May 1937

Georges Kopp (1902-51) was a Belgian engineer, socialist and soldier of fortune, who was Orwell's battalion commander in Spain. He became friendly with both George and Eileen who had followed her husband to Spain. When Orwell was wounded and permanent loss of voice was feared, Kopp wrote this letter at Eileen's request, to her brother, an eminent surgeon, as neither he nor Eileen were fully confident in the local doctors. Kopp was imprisoned by the Communists in Barcelona and Orwell relates in HOMAGE TO CATALONIA how he tried to get Kopp's release. When Kopp escaped from Spain, he joined the French Foreign Legion, before again escaping, this time to England where he married Eileen's half-sister. He eventually bought a farm at Biggar in Scotland.

Eric was wounded the 20 May at 5 a.m. The bullet entered the neck just under the larynx, slightly at the left side of its vertical axis and went out at the dorsal right side of the neck's base. It was a normal 7 mm bore, copper-plated Spanish Mauser bullet, shot from a distance of some 175 yards. At this range, it still had a velocity of some 600 feet per second and a cauterising temperature. Under the impact, Eric fell on his back. After dressing his wound at a first aid post some half a mile from the actual line, he was transferred to Barbastro and then to the hospital of Lerida, where I saw him with Eileen some 50 hours after him having been wounded.

Eric's general state was some sort of excellent; the temperature (taken in the left armpit) had never reached 37°C. Eric complained about his right arm aching from the shoulder down to the tip of the middle finger along a humer-cubital line and about a pain, according to himself severe but not unbearable, in the left side somewhere between the ultimate rib and the spleen. His voice was hoarse and feeble, but covering all the practical purposes of conversational speech. Breathing absolutely regular. Sense of humour untouched.

At the Hospital in Lerida, Eric only received an external treatment of his wound. After a couple of days, the dressing of the entrance wound could be dispensed with. He remained at this hospital, under care of Dr Farré, up to 27 May when he was transferred to Tarragona.

Dr Farré told me on 22 May that no essential organ had been touched by some sort of unexplainable luck; he admitted that the pain in the arm might be produced by abrasions of one of the arm's main nerves and that the pain in the left side was probably due to hitting the ground when falling from his tremendous height. He told me that there was nothing to fear about the basic wound.

We had Eric ordered to be evacuated from Tarragona to Barcelona and went to fetch him 29 May; we found him with a semi-complete aphasia and a slight fever. The pain in the left side had disappeared in due course. The one in the arm (supposed of nervous origin) subsisted unchanged. The doctor at Tarragona's Hospital had told Eric on that very morning that his larynx was "broken" and that he would never recover a normal voice. In fact, Eric was able to utter any articulate sound but feebly and with the characteristic, grinding, noise of the brakes of a model T, very antiquated, Ford; his speech was inaudible outside a range of two yards.

Eric reached the sanatorium Maurin in Barcelona on 29 May at 10 p. m., having travelled 60 miles in a saloon-car without any special accommodation. His temperature reached at 11 p.m. 37.8°C (in left armpit); he received an aspirin and went immediately to bed, without any meal.

On Sunday, 30th, his voice had improved considerably, his temperature was normal in the morning and his appetite restored. He was able to walk about the place and its park without any exhaustion. I saw him from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. and found his voice and spirits continuously improving during this period. Eileen was with her husband all the time and states his comportment was absolutely peace-timely.

Today, 30th (31st?) Eric travelled by tram and tube, on his own initiative, down to the Centre of Barcelona, where I met him at 11.45 a.m. He explained his escapade by the want of cocktails and decent lunch, which were duly produced by Eileen's tender care (with help of a barman and several waiters).

Eric's temperature had remained normal, the pain in the left side had not reappeared and the pain in the right arm was rather reduced. His voice, according to himself, had improved since yesterday, but Eileen and I don't share this impression, without thinking it was worse. I explain this apparent contradiction by the fact that to reach his present quality of speech costs him less effort than yesterday.

I arranged to have Eric thoroughly examined tomorrow morning by Professor Grau of Barcelona's University and for a subsequent treatment either by some professor or by another prominent specialist of this town. I propose to add to this "bulletin" Professor Grau's opinion with the narrative of the manipulations he will perform on my friend's throat.

Professor Grau examined Eric today, 1 June, at 9.30 a.m. at the "Hospital General de Cataluna. His diagnostic is: "incomplete semi-paralysis of the larynx due to abrasions of the right-side larynx dilating nerve". He confirmed Dr. Farré's statement that no essential organ had been touched; the bullet went right through, between the trachea and the carotid. Professor Grau said that electrotherapy was the only thing to be recommended just now and some sort of promises to restore Eric's voice in a long, indefinite, but reasonable time.

He took Eric to Dr Barraquer, specialist in electric treatments of nervous disturbances and began by having a private talk of some 12 minutes with his colleague. It is not known if they spoke of Eric's wound or of some other topic. When Eric, Eileen and myself were ushered in Dr Barraquer's study, Professor Grau explained the case just as if he had never spoken of it before and wanted his friend to investigate any possible nervous lesions outside of the purely laryngic zone.

Dr Barraquer's additional diagnostic was: "abrasions of the first right-side spinal rachidean nerve", which accounts for the pain in the arm. Dr Barraquer also advocated electrotherapy for both of the nervous lesions and it was agreed upon Eric coming twice a week (on Wednesday and Friday) to have an electrical treatment and once a week (on Fridays) to let Professor Grau look into his throat and hear him saying 'aaaaaah' whilst his tongue is maintained stretched out at full length by the Professor.

Both of the doctors concerned with the case are decent, efficient and fully civilised people, with a lot of similar cases having passed before them since war begun; the machinery and installations of the General Catalonian Hospital is complete and modern; most of the nurses are brunettes.

Of course, the doctors have not given any definite opinion upon the duration of the treatment and I felt I could not possibly put any questions about it before they can prove the effect of electrotherapy on Eric's nerves. I think that in any case it would be advisable to let the treatment go at least two weeks and then ask the medical people what about having it continued in England.

I advocate you writing to Dr Barraquer (who speaks fairly good English), a 'colleague's letter' in the reply to which you may be told something more than we mere mortals are admitted to here. Then you would be able to form a reasonable opinion about the case and send Eileen definite instructions which I am sure she will follow without any reluctance so high is her admiration for your professional capacities.

With the hope I shall some day have the opportunity of sharing this feeling not only from faith but on experimented evidence, I remain

Yours sincerely,
Georges Kopp






OrwellIDPhoto Dunkirk Map OrwellDocO'Shaughnessy
(wounded in thorax by bomb splinter)
Email, Nov 14, 2014

OrwellSpainScarves Scarf George Orwell was wearing when shot going on sale, Telegraph, Sep 23, 2013
The socialist writer was picked out by a sniper while he helped fight against fascism during the Spanish Civil War in 1937. Although he survived the bad neck wound, it ultimately contributed to his early death 13 years later. During the intervening years, the British author wrote the classic novels Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty Four. On the day he was shot near Barcelona, Orwell was wearing two neckerchiefs and a neckscarf. English compatriot Hugh O'Hara, who treated Orwell in the aftermath of the shooting, removed the scarfs and kept them. He later gave them to comrade Donald Batemen and they are now being sold after his recent death with a pre-sale estimate of £1,200. It is thought Orwell was shot because he was considerably taller than the Spanish fighters and his head protruded out of the trench...

OrwellAmericanMilton The Man Who Saved Orwell: Harry Milton, Hoover Publications, Stanford University
In HOMAGE TO CATALONIA Orwell wrote: "The American sentry I had been talking to had started forward. "Gosh! Are you hit?" People gathered round. There was the usual fuss -— "Lift him up! Where’s he hit? Get his shirt open!" etc, etc. The American called for a knife to cut my shirt open. I knew that there was one in my pocket, but discovered that my right arm was paralyzed."....

Orwell’s vivid description of being wounded on the front lines near Huesca occurs near the end of his memoir of the Spanish Civil War, Homage to Catalonia. Many years later, Harry Milton, describing the incident to a reporter in California, attributed Orwell’s misfortune both to his height and to his somewhat reckless habit of looking over the top of their unit’s fortified position: "I heard the crisp sound of a high velocity shot and Orwell [toppled] over. He landed on his back." Milton recounts giving first aid, as Orwell waited to be taken to the hospital. In another article about the shooting, Milton claims only a modest role for himself: "I simply stopped the bleeding." Milton does, however, claim some credit for influencing Orwell’s political consciousness as it developed during his time in Spain.

The revolution Orwell encountered in Barcelona was unique in European history. It had been initiated, in response to the fascist putsch, by the large Spanish anarchist movement (the CNT/FAI), with the support of an independent and anti-Stalinist Marxist party, the POUM (Partido Obrero de Unificacion Marxista), in whose militia both Orwell and Milton had enlisted. It was a revolution organized from the bottom up, with worker and peasant collectives taking direct control of the Catalonian economy. It was also a process independent of the Spanish Communist Party, occurring without direction or support from Moscow. A revolution in marked contrast to the Soviet model, it incurred the deep enmity of Stalin, who moreover at that time was pursuing foreign policy aims that had no place for such an event. In Spain, therefore, Orwell and Milton found themselves in the heat of both battle and a sharp political struggle on the left. Behind the Republican lines, a kind of civil war within the Civil War was taking place, one which pitted anarchist and Marxist revolutionaries against Stalinist elements -— including agents of the Comintern and Soviet security forces -— who sought to stifle precisely those forces of the Spanish left that were not controlled by Moscow. Stalin was determined to curb the power of the anarchists and to destroy the POUM, which was branded as "Trotskyist." In this, he had an ally in the Spanish republican government, whose own powers had been challenged by the revolutionary movement unleashed in July 1936. In an armed confrontation in Barcelona during May 1937, the pro-Moscow forces emerged strengthened, forcing those who supported the social revolution to abandon their barricades. Anarchist and POUM militants were arrested and, in some cases, assassinated. It was this repression that Orwell describes at the end of HOMAGE TO CATALONIA, and that solidified the anti-Stalinist views informing later works such as NINETEEN EIGHTY-FOUR....








Jackie Jura
~ an independent researcher monitoring local, national and international events ~