At what lengths are you willing to take in the name of love? Probably travel a hundred miles across the globe to be with the person you love? Willingly go through the difficulties of life so that they could get a comfortable life? Or even sacrifice your comfort zone if it meant making them happier? Oh, the things we do for love. For Horace Greasley, the fact that the Second World War was raging on or that he was a prisoner captured by the enemies did not stop him from seeing his beloved. That’s how he ended up escaping and coming back about 200 times from the Nazi prisoner of war camp.
Choosing the Military Life
Joseph Horace Greasley’s mom gave birth to him on the Christmas Day of 1918 in Ibstock, Leicestershire, along with a twin. He was 20 when the war broke out, contently working as a hairdresser. He and his twin Harold were conscripted immediately in the first draft. He could’ve been a fireman had he accepted the job offered to him by a client, but he didn’t. Had he taken the job, he would have been exempted from the draft but even when working in the fire service paid better than being in the army, Greasley still chose to join the military and turned down the fireman opportunity.
Was it perhaps Cupid urging him to take the military so he could meet the love of his life? Or was it perhaps patriotism? Whichever it was, he took the military path and proceeded to the next step.
He then took seven weeks’ worth of training with the 2nd/5th Battalion Leicestershire Regiment before being deployed to France with the British Expeditionary Force.
In May 1940, the French, British, and Belgian troops were trapped by the German forces in Western France after their six-week Battle of France. What happened next was the largest evacuation that the world had ever witnessed, with the Allied soldiers transported from the beaches and harbors of Dunkirk, known as Operation Dynamo.
At the end of the eight-day evacuation, 338,226 Allied soldiers had been rescued. Horace was not one of them as he was captured by the Germans and had to endure the 10-week march to Belgium until he was forced into a train and then finally into a prisoner of war camp in Polish Silesia, an annex of Germany. He was still lucky that he survived the whole journey, as many of the other captured Allies died in the journey, not being able to endure the awful conditions of the trip.
Love Conquers All
It was in that condition that Horace met the 17-year-old Rosa Rauchbach, a daughter of the marble quarry director, near the camp where he was imprisoned. She worked for the Germans as an interpreter because she could speak English fluently, and that was how the two started to get close to each other.
When Greasley and Rauchbach met, they knew they had found their true love. Nothing would stop them from feeling each other’s arms, not even the wires of the Nazi’s prisoner camp. Not even the risk of Rosa getting caught, as she had her Jewish roots hidden from the Nazis, as being discovered would definitely cost her life, perhaps a risk more dangerous than Greasley’s secret trips outside the fence.
Within weeks, the lovers would meet in their secret rendezvous, sneaking from the Nazi guards who had no idea that one of their prisoners was freely coming in and out of their camp like a hotel guest. Their love continued to grow in a span of one year until Greasley was sadly transferred to Freiwaldau camp, some 40 miles away from the love of his life.
Distance did not even discourage Greasley from being reunited with Rauchbach. From there, he would again escape, meet Rosa, and return to the camp. If you’re wondering why he did not just escape while he was at it, it was because the nearest neutral country was Sweden, which was over 400 miles away from his camp. It would be impossible. To see each other, Rosa would travel some 20 miles while Horace braved the enemy terrain to see the love of his life.
Not a Fairytale
While it looked like Rosa and Horace would continue with their fairytale after the war ended, and he vouched for her so she could work as a translator for the Americans, Greasley would come home to the devastating news that Rosa and her baby died during childbirth. He also was never able to find out if the baby was his.
Later on, he would marry a woman named Brenda, and they lived together in Costa Brava, Spain. He also wrote an autobiography in 2008 with the help of a ghostwriter named Ken Scott, as Horace was already 89 at that time and needed assistance recording his memoirs. The book was titled “Do the Birds Still Sing in Hell?”
There had been controversies on whether his claims were true. Controversies that were well-answered by his widow, firm on the stand that her husband was not a liar.