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Annual service in memory of war hero cancelled due to coronavirus pandemic

PUBLISHED: 12:08 28 April 2020 | UPDATED: 12:08 28 April 2020

William O'Callaghan with his troop at a POW camp on February 15, 1942.
 Pixcture: Archant

William O'Callaghan with his troop at a POW camp on February 15, 1942. Pixcture: Archant

© ARCHANT NORFOLK 2009

A memorial service that has been held for more than 30 years to remember a Dereham war hero has been cancelled due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Dennis O'Callaghan with a memorial unveiled at the sight of the Le Paradis massacre. Picture: Supplied by Dennis O'CallaghanDennis O'Callaghan with a memorial unveiled at the sight of the Le Paradis massacre. Picture: Supplied by Dennis O'Callaghan

Pte William O’Callaghan was one of only two survivors of an infamous massacre in May 1940, 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. They had surrendered to SS officers in the French hamlet of Le Paradis, near Dunkirk.

Although wounded himself, Pte O’Callaghan was able to carry his injured comrade Bert Pooley half a mile to the relative safety of a neighbouring farm.

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In his honour, a housing development off Swaffham Road in Dereham was named William O’Callaghan Place, and an annual service is held there.

The barn where the murder of soldiers from the 2nd Battalion of the Royal Norfolk Regiment at  Le Paradis took place. Picture: SuppliedThe barn where the murder of soldiers from the 2nd Battalion of the Royal Norfolk Regiment at Le Paradis took place. Picture: Supplied

His son Dennis O’Callaghan said: “We have had to cancel the planned service in his memory on Sunday, May 17, due to coronavirus.

“We have held a service there for over 30 years but due to this virus we will not be able to go-ahead this year. The service normally starts at 11.15am and finishes at 11.30am

“Some people travel a distance to attend but all read the local papers to see when it is.”

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