Campaign for memorial to soldiers massacred by Nazis takes step forward
- Credit: IAN BURT
It was a ruthless act of Nazi brutality which spawned the little-known story of a Dereham soldier's remarkable heroism.
And now a long overdue memorial saluting the British soldiers killed in the Le Paradis massacre has taken a step closer to becoming a reality.
In what was later recognised as a war crime, 97 troops - many from the Royal Norfolk Regiment - had their cries of surrender cruelly snubbed by Hitler's SS Blackshirts on May 27, 1940.
But from the bloodshed in this small French hamlet, near Dunkirk, emerged an awe-inspiring tale of bravery.
Dereham soldier William O'Callaghan somehow managed to escape, carrying his injured friend Bert Pooley to safety and surviving the slaughter.
Over the years no less than five memorials have been unveiled across the Channel paying tribute to their fallen comrades, but still to this day there are none in Norfolk.
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And now Le Paradis Memorial Appeal - a registered charity - has taken another step towards its ultimate goal after almost £10,000 was raised at a fundraising dinner and auction hosted by North Norfolk Railway.
The registered charity has reached £37,000 and their progress is music to the ears of Dennis O'Callaghan, son of war hero William.
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"Everything is proceeding very nicely at the moment," said Mr O'Callaghan, who is president of the Royal British Legion's Dereham branch.
"Getting this memorial is so important, not only to my family but to countless others.
"My father always said he would like a memorial in the county so that families would have a place of pilgrimage and somewhere to get some closure.
"We've got a Le Paradis massacre website and, when people find out about us, they come forward with no end of stories."
While emphasising frustration over decades of delays, Mr O'Callaghan says this new opportunity to establish a memorial must be seized.
He added: "This was nearly 80 years ago and opportunities have not been taken when they should have been.
"I've been campaigning for more than 40 years and to get people interested and committed has taken all that time."
To donate to the memorial appeal, visit the campaign website.