THE heroic actions of the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry on D-Day will be brought to life on the big screen in a feature-length film.

Shooting could begin in the summer for Pegasus Bridge and two well-known British actors have already been confirmed, with more expected to join the cast.

The film tells the story of former Oxford city policeman Major John Howard leading his 2nd Battalion D Company on a daring and ultimately vital operation which secured two bridges for the D-Day landings – an operation known as Pegasus Bridge.

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Nearby fighting involved the 7th Parachute Battalion in the village of Benouville, which will also be heavily featured.

Maj Howard was born in London but moved to Oxford to become a policeman in 1938.

After the war he retired to live in the village of Burcot near Abingdon before he died aged 86 in 1999 and was buried in Clifton Hampden.

Writer and producer Lance Nielsen, whose movies include 2014 feature The Journey and 2008 film Jericho’s Walls Are Falling, saidit was important to tell the story of what went on.

The Oxford Times:

Front, from left, producers Alex Tabrizi, Nicola Gregory, David Freedman and translator/transport manager Alma Lejard; back centre, director/writer Lance Nielsen, with actors Jake Francis and Mike Beckingham, and members of the French re-enactment group

He said: “We wanted to do it in part for the veterans and their families to tell their story. The Pegasus Bridge story is quite popular in some circles, but wWe wanted to regenerate interest in the subject.

“If it can bring more visitors to the museum in Normandy and get more people interested then that would be fantastic.”

 

The Oxford Times:

Major John Howard pictured at Pegasus Bridge

Maj Howard’s men captured two crucial bridges despite being outnumbered, which allowed troops landing after them to make their way inland. Planning the operation took the best part of two years.

Mr Nielsen confirmed that one scene will be filmed in the county overlooking the Oxford skyline. It will depict Maj Howard and his wife Joy during his last period of leave before the daunting operation.

Mr Nielsen said: “We are aware of the significance of the story to the Ox and Bucks and to the county as a whole.

“One scene will take place up a hill in Oxfordshire with a view of the city skyline, but we will amend some of the shots to make it feel 1940s.”

The actual bridge site will not be used in the filming because the area has changed so much since the 1940s.

 

The Oxford Times:

Behind the scenes of the test shots in France

Part of the 1962 film The Longest Day starring John Wayne, Jane Fonda and Sean Connery chronicled the Pegasus Bridge raid, but Mr Nielsen’s plot focuses entirely on Maj Howard’s men.

The film will begin with the first glider landing before flashing back a month earlier and recounting the planning which went into the operation. The script has been viewed and tweaked by the relatives of some veterans, including Maj Howard’s daughter Penny.

The cast and crew will film for eight weeks in the UK and two weeks in France but will not be filming at the site where the bridge stood.

Several well known faces have already signed up to t The film should start shooting in August and be on the screen by June 2017.

Jason Flemyng, famous for roles in Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch, as well as more recently X-Men: First Class has been cast as Major Howard’s boss Brigadier Nigel Poett.

TV actor Danny Webb, of A Touch of Frost, The Bill and Casualty but perhaps best known for playing Morse in Alien 3, will play General Richard Gale, commander of the 6th Airborne Division.

Veterans or their families who want to get in touch toaid the film-making should email sendthis80@aol.com