The Spanish newspaper El Mundo has published a feature length story on British correspondent George Steer to mark the 80th anniversary of the attack on Guernica in 1937 during the Spanish Civil War. Steer, reporting for The Times, is credited with having been the first to report German involvement in the attack, and his “scoop” is described in El Mundo:
On April 26 he got a car to travel to Marquina. He passed through Guernica and, shortly, crossed with a Heinkel 51 at the height [a la altura ?] of Arbácegui and Guerricaiz. He had to jump into the gutter, machine-gunned. He returned to Bilbao and, at night, learned of the disaster. In the event, he returned to Guernica to build his famous chronicle. The impact of his work is known. More interesting is the story of his failure. German propaganda, despite its obvious contradictions, managed to sell its version. Even the Times stung [picaron?]. That is why Steer dissociated himself from the newspaper and, little by little, began to say goodbye to journalism.
Waugh had known Steer earlier in Abyssinia where he was also reporting the invasion by Italy for The Times. According to El Mundo:
In Ethiopia, the pilot episode of World War was filmed and The Times hired Steer to write from the court of Haile Selassie I, besieged by fascist Italy. There was also Evelyn Waugh, correspondent of the Daily Mail, who left a couple of novels about that war: Black Snack [i.e., Black Mischief] and Bomb News [i.e., Scoop]. Those who once laughed at the evils of these stories will feel uncomfortable if they ask. The Ethiopian war was not a comedy, it was a tragedy. And Steer became so involved in the Ethiopian cause that he ended up on the blacklist of the Italians.
Steer is said to have contributed to the character of Pappenhacker in Scoop and his actions are also described in Waugh in Abyssinia. The El Mundo article describes Steer as
… small, red-haired and mustachioed and, if anything, he looked like Chaplin. He was hyperactive and quarrelsome, heavy as a meat pie and innocent in the most blessed sense of the word, always looking for just causes to make them his own. Evelyn Waugh mocked him for his eagerness.
That’s not that far off the description of Pappenhacker in Scoop:
…young and swarthy wth great horn goggles and a receding stubbly chin. He was having an altercation with some waiters… “He seems to be in a very bad temper.” “Not really: He’s always like that to waiters.” … (Penguin, 2012, p. 41)
In Waugh in Abyssinia, he is described as “zealous”, and in a later book review, Waugh remarked upon a “devotion to duty even at the expense of personal dignity and competitive zeal that was notable” even among the notorious “rough and tumble” of the international press corps. See previous post.
The translation is by Google Translate with a few edits and questions in brackets on which readers are invited to comment or propose improvements.