In 1940, shortly after the publication of Henry Buckley’s enormously enjoyable and revealing eyewitness account of the Spanish Republic of 1931–9, German incendiary bombs destroyed the warehouse containing all remaining unsold copies of the book. Though always acknowledged by historians as one of the best works ever written on the Spanish Civil War, it is only now, with this first reprint, that the book has been given the chance to become a popular classic.
Buckley himself, to judge from Paul Preston’s excellent short introduction, was a much loved but relatively discreet presence in the exuberant world of the foreign press corps in Spain. He had none of Hemingway’s machismo, nor was he fortunate enough to have carried off major journalistic scoops like George Steer’s reporting of the massacre of Guernica. Yet this shy-faced, softly spoken, ‘little sandy-haired man’ had a remarkable ability to adapt quietly to everything and to remain the most fair-minded of observers.
Among the many qualities that made him such an exceptional journalist was his irrepressible honesty. From the very start of his book he confesses to having come to Spain with virtually no knowledge of the country and to sharing with so many of his colleagues an ad hoc, muddling-through approach