‘No respect’ - British Legion president expresses disgust after wreath he laid in memory of his war hero father William O’ Callaghan is stolen

Dennis O'Callaghan laid a wreath in memory of his war hero father William on Sunday. By Tuesday it h

Dennis O'Callaghan laid a wreath in memory of his war hero father William on Sunday. By Tuesday it had disappeared. Picture: Ian Burt - Credit: Ian Burt

A British Legion president has expressed his disgust after a wreath he laid in memory of his war hero father was stolen for the third time in recent years.

(L TO R) William O'Callaghan and Albert Pooley arriving at the War Crimes Court in Hamburg, members

(L TO R) William O'Callaghan and Albert Pooley arriving at the War Crimes Court in Hamburg, members of the 2nd Battlion Royal Norfolk Regiment. Picture: LIBRARY. - Credit: Eastern Daily Press �2004

Pte William O'Callaghan was one of only two survivors of an infamous massacre in May 1940, when German soldiers machine-gunned and bayoneted 97 captured Royal Norfolks, who 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.

Pte O'Callaghan 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.

Pte O'Callaghan is remembered every year in Dereham, his home town, with a small service at an estate named after him.


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This was held on Sunday and by Tuesday morning a wreath laid by Pte O'Callaghan's son Dennis O'Callaghan, who is president of the Dereham branch of the Royal British Legion, was no longer there.

Mr O'Callaghan, who is on France this week to visit Le Paradis and mark the 77th anniversary of the massacre, said: 'It's just appalling.

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'This is the third time this has happened over the years.

'Who ever has done this obviously has no respect for any kind of remembrance.

'The information is there to show why the wreath is there, so they would have been fully aware.

'It amazes me that someone can stoop that low and it really does leave a sour taste in the mouth.'

Mr O'Callaghan has asked for the wreath to be returned to William O'Callaghan Place, off Swaffham Road, by either whoever was responsible or by anyone who finds it dumped anywhere.

Mr O'Callaghan's god daughter Faye LeBon said: 'The wreath is of limited financial value and can easily be replaced by the British Legion.

'However, this is a matter of respect for those local people who fought for our country.

'Two of those men took the fight to The Hague after the war to secure justice for the 97 who made the ultimate sacrifice.'

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