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International film stars eyeing up role of Essex Brigadier hero

PUBLISHED: 11:49 03 March 2017 | UPDATED: 11:49 03 March 2017

Edward Todhunter

Edward Todhunter

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Internationally famous British actors are interested in starring in the film version of a book featuring an Essex born hero.

British Generals as prisoners: (left to right) Brigadier John Combe, Major-General Carton de Wiart, Bridadier Edward Todhunter, Major-General Michael Gambier-ParryBritish Generals as prisoners: (left to right) Brigadier John Combe, Major-General Carton de Wiart, Bridadier Edward Todhunter, Major-General Michael Gambier-Parry

Dr Mark Felton, historian and historical author, who was born in Colchester, is having a second novel made into a film. Castle of the Eagles: Escape from Mussolini’s Colditz, is in the very first stages of making its way to the silver screen, with an Oscar nominated and multiple BAFTA award winning screenwriter in negotiations to write the script featuring a real life Brigadier from Essex.

On researching the story of daring escape Mark said: “Obviously coming from Essex myself it was interesting to find someone that came from the home county.”

Both the true-story novel and soon-to-be film have deep ties to Essex with one of the main protagonists and escapees, Brigadier Edward Todhunter, born near Harlow and a core member of the Essex community.

The story centres around real life characters, including Todhunter, who were heavily involved in the escape that saw 13 senior British and Commonwealth officers spring themselves from an ‘escape proof’ prisoner-of-war camp in a medieval Tuscan castle under Mussolini’s Italy.

Mark has even had the opportunity to read some of the Brigadier’s letters from during his years in captivity. He said: “What I particularly enjoyed from his letters was this British kind of determination that they were going to get out and do their duty, their great determination.

“They [the 13 escapees] all went on after the army to give their lives to the country or their county and I think that’s very admirable. He [Brigadier Todhunter] was a very proud Essex man.”

Brigadier Todhunter, age 41 when he was captured, was also a Essex magistrate, served in the Essex Yeomanry and later became High Sheriff of Essex.

The real life heroes tried all sorts of breath-taking escapes, six of them making a bid for freedom in March 1943 after spending seven months of hard labour digging a secret tunnel through solid bedrock.

Mark added: “You have this rather incongruous story of middle aged men stuck in this castle trying to get out. You would think men of that age would be taking it easy.”

Several internationally famous actors have shown an interest in the film but any names are yet to be confirmed.

Castle of the Eagles is available to buy online or to order in all good bookshops.

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