British POW’s dramatic account of 200 escapes from a Nazi camp is more fiction than memoir, historians claim
- ‘Do the Birds Still Sing in Hell?’ tells the ‘incredible true story of Horace Greasley’
- Historian Guy Walters said the details of his escapes are ‘complete fabrication’
- Greasley also claimed to be in photo speaking to head of SS Heinrich Himmler
A bestselling memoir detailing a prisoner of war’s escapes to pursue a romance with a German civilian has been described as fiction rather than fact by historians.
‘Do the Birds Still Sing in Hell?’, which tells the ‘incredible true story of Horace Greasley’ and his 200 escapes from a camp in Poland has failed to win over writers.
Two authors have said that the 42,000 people who bought the book since it was reissued by publisher John Blake have been duped and that it should actually be classified as fiction.
Greasley also claimed to be in a photograph of a prisoner of war speaking to the head of the SS Heinrich Himmler. He says he is the man on the right wearing a Russian hat
Guy Walters who wrote The Real Great Escape said that Greasley, who died in 2010, didn’t make any claims to have escaped in a questionnaire for the War Office after his liberation in 1945, according to The Times.
Greasley also claimed to be in a photograph of a prisoner of war speaking to the head of the SS Heinrich Himmler.
However Walters disagrees, saying the photo is a close match to footage of Himmler visiting a prison camp in Minsk which was 700 miles away from his camp in Poland.
‘Do the birds still sing in hell?’ tells the ‘incredible true story of Horace Greasley’
Walters said: ‘The notion that he escaped 200 times is a complete fabrication an contradicts his own words.
‘Tens of thousands of readers are buying books like this in good faith and are being utterly duped by publishers who are too lazy to carry out even the most basic checks.’
He added that a quick Google would have pointed out the problems with the story and that either John Blake did not bother or simply did not care.
He also said that the failure to check the authenticity of memoirs was damaging to historians who researched their work too.
In his opinion ‘sensational’ memoirs spoil things for the publication of genuine stories that may be less ‘sexy’.
John Blake did not respond to requests for comment.
Ken Scott, who ghost wrote the book for Greasley said that he stands by the account, saying that the prisoner had loosened part of his window to make trips away.
Brenda Greasley, the prisoner’s widow, has also defended the memoir, saying that Walters’ comments have made her ‘furious’, adding that the photo did resemble her husband.
Another author Adrian Weale also said the story was exaggerated and that it isn’t history.