Oxfordshire war hero to be honoured in 2017 movie

An Oxfordshire war hero is set to be honoured in a feature film to be released in 2017.

Major Reginald John Howard, then 33, led a perilous mission which was vital to D-Day’s success and marked the start of Allied progress towards Hitler’s defeat in the Second World War.

He headed the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry of 180 men who held off German forces trying to cross two strategic road bridges near Normandy to back-up forces fighting the Allies.

Using gliders they landed by the bridges on June 6 in 1944 and fought off German forces for 13 hours until reinforcements arrived.

German forces had laced the bridges with explosives so they could blow them up to stop the Allies crossing to march towards Germany.

But Major Howard’s men landed so close to the bridge that they caught the German forces by surprise.

Two of Major Howard’s men died on the day and 14 were wounded.

Now London filmmaker Lance Nielsen is bringing Major Howard’s story to life in a feature-film that starts filming in the summer.

He told the Guardian: “I had been really interested in the subject and read every single book on the subject. After visiting the site of the bridge in 2011, I just thought a film has to be made about it, so in May I sat down and put a script together.”

The feature, titled Pegasus Bridge, will shoot on location in Normandy for two weeks and will also film for eight weeks in England.

The film will also include a scene of Oxford’s skyline in which Major Howard gestures to the city as a reason to fight.

Major Howard served in the Oxford City Police in 1938 before taking command of D Company, 2nd Battalion of the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry, which was a regiment of the British Allied Army Sixth Airborne Division.

He passed away on May 5 1999 at the age of 86 and served as a public servant after leaving the army in 1946. He lived in Burcot and is buried in Clifton Hampden.

The film will depict the fighting on Pegasus Bridge and Ranville Bridge from both the Allied and the German perspective.

The stand-off was known as Operation Deadstick and was crucial to D-Day’s triumph which marked the start of the liberation of German-occupied north-west Europe, which involved 156,000 allied soldiers.

Mr Nielsen, 41, from Kingston-upon-Thames released his debut feature, a drama called The Journey, last November.

Only two roles have been cast so far with Jason Flemyng of X-Men fame and Midsomer Murders actor Danny Web in key roles.