Saturday, June 4, 2011

The WWII Prisoner of War Who Escaped Over 200 Times

It was 1939 when Horace Greasley joined the British Army to help defeat the Nazis that had just invaded Czechoslovakia and Poland. Twenty year old Horace went through seven weeks training with the 2nd / 5th Battalion of the Leicesters and then embarked on his first combat mission -- where he was promptly captured.

Horace found that being captured by the German's was not a fun experience. He first faced a ten week forced march across France and Belgium -- one of those horrific scenes you have seen in the movies where there was no food and if you fell to the side of the road your ended up getting shot. He and the other prisoners survived by eating what little food was given to them by sympathetic villagers and drank water from ditches. At the end of the march, Horace and the other prisoners were loaded on a train for a three day trip to Polish prison camp.

This where Mr. Greasley's story begins. I guess you could say it is a story of consummate lust, at least it started out that way. Perhaps it is a story of an evolving, intense love affair. Perhaps it could have been an episode of Hogan's Heroes, or perhaps it may become a movie. It has been reported both Steven Spielberg and Ron Howard are interested in the story.

You see, this prison camp was at a marble quarry where the prisoners had to work. The quarry director had a seventeen year old daughter named Rosa Rauchbach who did interpreting for the Germans. She caught Horace's eye, and he caught Rosa's eye, and their eyes were filled with lust for each other. So, right under the noses of the Nazis, they would find secluded places in the camp  -- many times in the camp workshop --  to engage in raucous sex.

Now Horace admits that his interludes with Rosa were not affairs of the heart -- they were simply screwing. But, I suppose they actually talked in between trysts, and as a result they began to fall in love with each other.

Purported to be Horace when Himmler visited the camp
But just when love was blossoming, Horace was suddenly transferred to Freiwaldau (E173 Setzdorf), an annex of Auschwitz which was a few miles away. This was devastating. But he was able to exchange messages with Rosa through a barber who passed the messages back and forth via work parties. Finally they worked out a plan to meet nearby. She would travel close to his camp, and with the help of his fellow prisoners, he tunneled under the fence at night to meet with her.Then he would sneak back into camp, sometimes bringing food or much needed supplies that she would give him. In fact he was able to construct a radio so his fellow prisoners could hear BBC from the radio parts she supplied.

Now may sound a bit improbable. But note that the Prison Camp was far removed from the war, and to escape was pretty useless because there was simply no place to go. In fact, to escape was essentially considered suicide. So guarding of the camp was pretty lax.

Now all of this sneaking in and out resulted in Horace and Rosa engaging in their unmarital activities three times a week which means they were probably having more sex that most couples back at Ibstock, Leicestershire which is where he was from.

This crazy life continued until it was interrupted by the war ending. He was shipped back to Britain, but they were able to exchange letters -- and he even vouched for her so that she could become an interpreter for the Americans. But suddenly he received news that she, and her infant, died in childbirth. It is assumed the child was his.

Horace's story was later confirmed by Intelligence Officers of MI9 debriefing of prisoners of war. Horace Greasley holds the record for the most escapes from a Prisoner of War camp.

Horace went on to open a hairdresser place and run a cab company. He later met Brenda and they married in 1975.

At 89 years of age, Horace met with ghost writer Ken Scott and they published his story. Mr. Greasley passed away at the age of 92, in February of 2010, shortly after the book was published. If you are interested in reading more, this is the Amazon link to his book. Also here is a line to the website maintained in his name.


  1. Wow. That is quite a story! The things we do for love, huh? I bet in the movie they end up together.

    Thanks for sharing a very interesting story.


  2. The awesome power of lust. Love it.

  3. Quite the story!! Although it ended alright for Mr. Greasly, I wish it had ended as well for Rosa! Ah well... :)

  4. WHERE do you find these stories?! I guess I'll have to buy the book now.

  5. They must have had Sgt. Schultz guarding the camp - "Col. Hogan I see nuthinggg, NOTHINGGGG!"

  6. Now I want to read the book. Great story.

  7. Very interesting. Fortunate for all of us he was able to write his book. Thanks for the info about Mr Greasley.

  8. Suddenly, the books are appearing as the last of the boys and girls of WWII disappear. I've just finished Mitchell Zukoff's Lost In Shangri-La (stupendously good!); I drug those last pages of the epilogue out as long as I possibly could. Thanks for handing me my next book!

  9. I'm reserving it at the library right now!

  10. Hey Jerry!
    Wow! What an amazing story! This guy was living the life (considering he was a POW and all). Hope you are doing well and that you had a good father's day.

  11. Just stumbled on this by accident, thanks for your nice words. ken scott