The Spanish Civil War saw the death of a half-million people between 1936 and 1939, but outside of Spain, it gets little space in history books because of World War II. That's also why many war crimes and shady dealings did not get proper documentation or an adequate investigation at the time. In the decades since, these mysteries remain. For example, what really happened to Dick Sheepshanks?
Dick Sheepshanks was a 27-year-old Reuters war correspondent during the Spanish Civil War, and his life was the stuff of a Hollywood blockbuster. Sheepshanks headed for Spain in 1937 with several other journalists to cover Franco’s Nationalists, but he was killed in December in the Republican shelling of the village of Cudete. When news of his death reached London, Sir Roderick Jones (who headed the Reuters News Agency and unknowingly shared a love interest with Sheepshanks) paid him all the tributes as befitted a national hero.
Then things get weird. According to some who had known him – including Jeanne Stourton, the aforementioned love interest – Sheepshanks had become suspicious of one of his fellow journalists, and the only one of the group to survive: Kim Philby. If that name sounds familiar, it’s for good reason – Philby went on to gain infamy as Britain’s most notorious traitor during the Cold War.
According to Stourton, Sheepshanks had grown increasingly suspicious of Philby’s motivations, and Philby took it upon himself to take Sheepshanks out of the picture. A comparison between eyewitness reports and photographic evidence has raised a number of unanswered questions, and it’s been suggested that Philby may have had a hand in the attack. What exactly happened to the Reuters journalists remains undetermined, and the death of Ernest Richard Sheepshanks has become a compelling Spanish Civil War mystery.