Search

Campaign for Norfolk memorial to 97 soldiers massacred by the SS

PUBLISHED: 16:58 24 November 2018 | UPDATED: 17:42 24 November 2018

Dennis O'Callaghan with a statue of Private William O'Callaghan carrying Private Albert Pooley from the massacre site at Le-Paradis in 1940. Picture: Ian Burt

Dennis O'Callaghan with a statue of Private William O'Callaghan carrying Private Albert Pooley from the massacre site at Le-Paradis in 1940. Picture: Ian Burt

Archant © 2013

A memorial to remember 97 British soldiers who died in an infamous Second World War massacre could soon be a reality as a campaign is launched for a fitting tribute in Norfolk.

The original graves of the 97 Royal Norfolks murdered in cold blood by SS troops after fighting a delaying action to enable their comrades to escape from Dunkirk. Picture: SuppliedThe original graves of the 97 Royal Norfolks murdered in cold blood by SS troops after fighting a delaying action to enable their comrades to escape from Dunkirk. Picture: Supplied

More than 300,000 troops were evacuated from Dunkirk in May 1940, marking a cornerstone of the eventual victory of the Second World War.

But the evacuation was only made possible by the defence of the Dunkirk perimeter, with one of the battlefields centering on the village of Le Paradis and Lestrem, in northern France.

It was at Le Paradis where soldiers, most of whom were from the Royal Norfolk Regiment, were ordered to fight to the last bullet and stopped the enemy in their tracks.

But when their ammunition ran out and they surrendered, instead of being taken in as prisoners of war they were brutally massacred by the SS in what was later recognised as a war crime.

The original graves of the 97 Royal Norfolks murdered in cold blood by SS troops after fighting a delaying action to enable their comrades to escape from Dunkirk. Picture: SuppliedThe original graves of the 97 Royal Norfolks murdered in cold blood by SS troops after fighting a delaying action to enable their comrades to escape from Dunkirk. Picture: Supplied

Against the odds two soldiers, including William O’Callaghan, from Dereham, survived and escaped to safety.

Now, a campaign has been launched to honour those who died with a memorial in their own county.

Rob Edwards, who is running the campaign, said while there are five memorials to the heroes in Le Paradis, in Norfolk there are none.

He said: “We need to remind future generations of the price those heroes paid and it’s a stark reminder that we should not take our peace for granted.”

A memorial in France showing the heroic actions of Dereham soldier, private William OCallaghan carrying his injured comrade private Bert Pooley to safety during the massacre in Le Paradis. Picture: Submitted by Dennis OCallghan.A memorial in France showing the heroic actions of Dereham soldier, private William OCallaghan carrying his injured comrade private Bert Pooley to safety during the massacre in Le Paradis. Picture: Submitted by Dennis OCallghan.

Already the campaign has garnered support from Norfolk MPs, councillors, and high ranking Army personnel.

But also from Dennis O’Callaghan, Pte O’Callaghan’s son, who is also president of the Dereham branch of the Royal British Legion.

Mr O’Callaghan, 72, said: “It’s not just for our family it’s for all the families of those who lost their lives there. My father came back but there’s no memorial to those who gave their lives in defence of this country. There are many families still in Norfolk whose relatives were there.”

Although wounded Pte O’Callaghan bravely carried his injured comrade Bert Pooley to safety during the massacre and both later gave evidence at the War Crimes Court in Hamburg.

William O'Callaghan and Albert Pooley arriving at the War Crimes Court in Hamburg. Photo: LibraryWilliam O'Callaghan and Albert Pooley arriving at the War Crimes Court in Hamburg. Photo: Library

Mr O’Callaghan said: “I think my father would welcome that the people who actively gave their lives were remembered.”

The launch of the campaign for a Norfolk memorial will be held on November 27 at Holiday Inn, on Cromer Road, Norwich. All those interested are invited to attend from 7.30pm.

Most Read

Latest from the Watton and Swaffham Times

Hot Jobs

Show Job Lists