Tubby was covering another kind of war when he had his first real close encounter with Death. It was some time before Hitler set the world ablaze, and Tubby was making a picture record of the horrors of the bloody Spanish Civil War, when he had the misfortune to fall into the hands of General Franco's soldiers.
He and other prisoners were taken to a farm where they were locked up in a number of stone barns.
For two days, at dawn, Tubby and his fellow prisoners, sat in fear as they heard orders being shouted, the thud of marching boots, a brief silence, then the obvious sounds of rifles being cocked, a shouted command, then the ragged crackle of gunfire from a firing party.
Tubby said, 'Both mornings, even though we were expecting it, when the shots rang out every man in the barn jumped like puppets on a string. And my guts felt as if they were being twisted by an invisible hand. Just before the guns fired on the second morning I heard one faint voice cry, “Long live the Republic.” It was the only sound we heard from the men who were being executed.'
On the third day it was the turn of Tubby and a dozen other men in the barn with him to be marched out at dawn, lined up against the farmhouse wall and blindfolded.
The firing party got their orders, the bolts of the rifles being slammed home sounded like the snap of thunder, the firing party commander shouted the order – and the only sound was the click of rifle triggers being pulled – followed by shrieks of laughter from the soldiers.
The blindfolds were removed and the prisoners, those who could walk, marched back to the barn. Some, those who had fainted, were given a helping hand by the stronger minded, such as Tubby. This nasty example of mental cruelty by Franco's men was repeated for three mornings.
Years later, Tubby said, 'Every time I heard those triggers click my heart almost leapt out of my throat. I almost crapped myself. I never knew when it was going to be the real thing.'
Tubby's ordeal came to an end later on that third day when word came from somewhere that he was to be released, and so without ceremony, apology and camera he was sent on his way.
'I still wonder, from time to time,' he said, 'what happened to my cell mates. I like to think they were as fortunate as me.'