The man who was the inspiration for the film The English Patient had a gay Nazi lover, letters have suggested.

Count Laszlo de Almásy, a Hungarian-born adventurer, was the inspiration for the heterosexual hero played by Ralph Fiennes in the film.

In the film, Fiennes’ character is a womaniser but letters discovered in Germany show that Almásy actually had a gay relationship with a soldier called Hans Entholt.

The claim was made by the Heinrich Barth Institute for African Studies in Cologne, although it has not released any further details about the correspondence.

But a staff member from the insitute told Germany’s Der Spiegel magazine that there was evidence he had several gay lovers, including “Egyptian princes”.

Entholt, an officer in the Wehrmacht, died after stepping on a landmine.

The letters also showed that Almásy did not die of a morphine overdose, as the character does in the film and novel on which it is based.

Instead, he died from amoebic dysentery in 1951.