Soldier’s act of wartime heroism honoured with new memorial in France
PUBLISHED: 13:54 07 June 2019 | UPDATED: 13:54 07 June 2019
The little-known story of a Norfolk soldier’s remarkable act of heroism in the Second World War has been honoured with a new memorial in France.
A memorial has been unveiled at the site of the Le Paradis massacre which saw soldier William O'Callaghan, from Dereham, carry his injured comrade Bert Pooley to safety.
The two men were the only survivors of the May 1940 massacre, when German soldiers machine-gunned and bayonetted 97 captured soldiers from 2nd Battalion The Royal Norfolks and 1st battalion The Royal Scots, as well as other units.
The soldiers had all surrendered to SS officers in the French hamlet of Le Paradis, near Dunkirk.
The new memorial is located at the barn where the massacre took place and features poem The Dead by Rupert Brooke.
William's son, Dennis, is now president of the Dereham branch of the Royal British Legion and said: "The new memorial is at the site of where it actually took place.
"I didn't know it was there, it was very emotional for me. I knew nothing about it.
"It's a very moving tribute. There are a few memorials there already, it's something which shouldn't be forgotten."
Despite being wounded himself, Pte O'Callaghan was able to carry Pte Pooley half a mile to the relative safety of a neighbouring farm.
Pte O'Callaghan, who died in 1975, spent five years as a prisoner of war in Poland, but in 1948 he and Pte Pooley testified at the war crimes trial of Fritz Knoechlein, who was subsequently hanged.
There are a number of other memorials to those who died in the massacre, including a piece of artwork which depicts Pte O'Callaghan carrying Pte Pooley to safety, which was unveiled near Le Paradis in November last year.
Every year in Dereham, a memorial service at William O'Callaghan Place is held to remember him, with this year's service taking place on Sunday, May 19.
It is also hoped that in the future there will be a memorial in Norfolk to mark the event.
To see more about the work being done to remember the Le Paradis massacre,