AN EDMONTON soldier nicknamed the Count of Auschwitz for rescuing 400 Jews from a Nazi concentration camp is likely to have his memory honoured for the first time in the UK.

Charles Coward, a sergeant major in the British army, used his position as a Red Cross liaison officer in charge of escorting Jews to the gas chambers, to bribe guards with food and smuggle healthy prisoners out.

He also sent coded messages back to the British authorities detailing the numbers of Jews arriving at the camps and the moves of the German military, and was a prosecution witness at the Nuremburg Trials.

His life has been immortalised in a Sixties film The Password is Courage starring Dirk Bogarde, while he was one of only 13 UK citizens to be awarded the status of Righteous Among the Nations by Israel, and a ward at North Middlesex hospital is named after him.

But this is the first time his life-saving efforts will be recognised by the British Government.

The move is seen as a reaction to comments made by Shimon Peres, the Israeli President, who commended Mr Coward’s actions in the House of Commons in November.

His own father, Yitzak Persky, was also a prisoner of war who saved Jews from the gas chambers, and met Mr Coward, reportedly describing him as a “most impressive character”.

Mr Coward’s daughter Linda Clarke, who lives in Enfield Town, met with Communities Minister Shahid Malik and representatives from the Holocaust Educational Trust last Tuesday to tell them about her father and discuss the new award, which has not yet been officially named.

Mr Coward’s son-in-law Barry Clarke said: “This award has been a long time coming.

“He was a very private man and seemed like a gentleman, he didn’t seem that type of person. I think it was really other people who were pushing for recognition.”

Mr Coward was a sergeant major in army when he was captured near Calais in 1940 aged 35 and in 1943 was sent to the prisoner of war camp at Monowitz (known as Auschwitz III).

On one occasion he swapped clothes with a prisoner and spent the night in a camp in an attempt to rescue a British doctor. He smuggled food into the camp and even explosives on one occasion to a resistance movement, which led to part of it being blown up.

An English Heritage blue plaque marks his former home at 133 Chichester Avenue, where he lived from 1945 until his death in 1976 of cancer, aged 71.