Leicestershire PoW's astonishing story being made into a blockbuster film
A photograph of a Leicestershire prisoner of war confronting Nazi leader Heinrich Himmler convinced Hollywood producers to make the soldier's gripping story into a movie.
A-list actors are said to be queuing up to star in the film about Horace Greasley, a Second World War soldier who risked his life repeatedly for his German sweetheart, Rosa.
Horace, from Ibstock, was a private with the 2nd/5th Leicestershire Regiment when he was captured on May 25, 1940, during the British retreat to Dunkirk.
He then spent five years in prisoner of war camps, working in quarries and factories.
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Horace met Rosa at a marble quarry labour camp in Silesia, then part of East Germany. She was the quarry director's daughter, and worked as a translator.
Rosa was also part-Jewish and was forced to hide her background – and her hatred of the Nazis – from everyone around her.
They forged a relationship and when Horace was transferred to a factory camp, Rosa was heartbroken. She pursued him and eventually tracked him down, but she had no access to the camp.
However, Horace managed to force apart the bars of his cell and, night after night, for two-and-a-half years, would sneak past the guards to meet Rosa in an old chapel, before sneaking back in – his arms filled with supplies for his starving comrades.
During an inspection, Horace came face to face with Himmler, one of the Nazi leaders.
Himmler was also head – or Reichsfuhrer – of the SS, the organisation which ran the Nazi extermination camps, where millions of people were killed.
Their meeting was captured on camera by a German war correspondent – and the image is now considered to be one of the most iconic images of the 21st century. Horace's amazing story was turned into a book called Do The Birds Still Sing In Hell? ghostwritten by Ken Scott, in 2008.
"I found the picture of Himmler and Horace when I was looking for a front cover for the book," said Ken. "Horace looked at the photograph and said, 'who is that with me'?
"I told him it was Himmler and he said, 'I only went over to show him my ribs and ask for some more food'.
"It was taken by a German war correspondent and, only about six months ago, the photo appeared in an online magazine in the US as part of a collection called the 40 most iconic photographs of the last 100 years. That is when all the action started."
The photo had appeared with a link to Mr Scott's book and, within weeks, 13 major film companies had called to buy the rights.
Ken chose US-based Silverline Productions, because they promised not to over-dramatise the movie.
"They said the tale was amazing enough already and they aren't going to change it to be something it wasn't, and I liked that," said Ken.
"A guy called Jason Usry wrote the bare bones of the screenplay and then it was sent to me to change the dialogue because they want Horace to be a British prisoner of war , not a GI from Texas."
The film is being produced by Straton Leopold, who was executive producer on Mission Impossible III and The Sum of All Fears, starring Ben Affleck and Morgan Freeman.
Ken is flying to Savannah, in Georgia, in the next few weeks for a read- through with students to test the script.
In the meantime, the actors are being chosen and a director is being lined up.
"I wish I could, but I can't say who is on board yet, as things are still getting signed on the dotted line," said Ken.
"But I can say it will be a mix of German and British actors and they are A-listers – you will know who they are.
"As for the director, they are currently choosing between two.
"One of those they were thinking of, they said that they might not get him because he had only done three major movies in his career – that's how big we are talking here."
Filming is due to start in north Poland in March or April next year, with scenes being shot in Pinewood Studios in the UK and a few being filmed in Hollywood.
Horace was liberated on May 24, 1945, and continued to receive letters from Rosa, by then a translator for the Americans.
But the letters suddenly stopped and Horace found out Rosa had died in childbirth not long after he got home.
Horace never knew if the child was his.
He married wife Brenda and the couple moved to Spain's Costa Brava.
Horace died two years ago, and Brenda returned to Leicestershire.
Ken said: "Finally, the world's attention will be on Leicestershire and people will see Horace's amazing story.
"I really hope that in a few years, when it is done, Brenda will be walking down the red carpet at the premiere."