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Service to honour massacre survivor

PUBLISHED: 15:12 13 May 2009 | UPDATED: 15:14 07 July 2010

A remembrance service is being held in Dereham on Sunday, May 24 to honour the life of William O'Callaghan, who survived a second world war massacre by "playing dead".

A remembrance service is being held in Dereham on Sunday, May 24 to honour the life of William O'Callaghan, who survived a second world war massacre by “playing dead”.

Private O'Callaghan - who lived in the town - served in the Royal Norfolk Regiment and his battalion was captured by the German forces in Le Paradis in France.

Out of about 100 soldiers, all but two were marched into a field and shot.

Mr O'Callaghan - better known as Bill - and Private Bert Pooley only survived by pretending to be dead.

After Mr O'Callaghan returned to his country in 1945, the War Crimes Investigation Unit took up the case of 'Le Paradis Massacre' and himself and Pooley gave evidence against the German Lieutenant, Fritz Knoechlein, who ordered the shooting.

Both soldiers successfully brought Knoechlein to justice.

In remembrance of this remarkable story, there is an annual service held at William O'Callaghan Place, at the bottom of Swaffham Hill, which has been named after him.

This year's service is to be held at 11am on Sunday, May 24, where the friends and family of Mr O'Callaghan are going to be present, along with the British Legion, representatives from Dereham and Breckland Council.

See next week's Times for a special feature on Mr O'Callaghan.

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