The Norfolk 97 had such a cruel ending - here is our chance to honour them now
- Credit: Supplied
Nick Conrad is supporting plans for a memorial to the brave Norfolk men at the siege of Duriez Farm
Norfolk has a proud military history. Over the past decade the Royal Air Force and British Army have held a central role in our county. Of course, many Norfolkians have held prominent positions in the Royal Navy too. Last year I was honoured when to be appointed the president of The Le Paradis Memorial Campaign, a cause which is gathering huge support. We are calling for a permanent memorial to the brave men who lost their lives in this small French village. This memorial enshrines the legacy of those who fell fighting for a free Europe for future generations. It's a timely poignant reminder of the value of democracy, tolerance and respect. If you don't know about this massacre, then please ensure you read this article. I'm confident you will draw the same conclusion as me. We have a collective duty to make sure this story is remembered by our children.
In May 1940, the British and Allies beat a retreat to Dunkirk. Our troops hurriedly scrambled for the coast in the hope of salvation. The invasion had been disastrous, abandoned equipment was strewn across the French countryside. The terrifying reality of capture motivated the swift exit and evacuation. The Germans, thankfully, halted - allowing 338,000 men the comforting sight of The White Cliffs of Dover and the relative sanctity of Blighty. Not all could evacuate. Some brave souls had to stay to fight. A handful of those men were from our county and their fate was sealed in a little-known rural village.
The Second Battalion of the Royal Norfolk Regiment and the Eighth Lancashire Fusiliers were given the daunting task of holding the line. The 3rd Company SS Division Totenkopf, consisting of fanatical and hardened Nazis, pressed on. Inevitably confrontation came.
Set up in their makeshift headquarters at a rural farmhouse known as Duriez Farm, they fell under a hail of bullets. In a fog of confused orders, they did their level best to halt the German advance. Eventually they gave up the ramshackle farmhouse, sheltering in a nearby cowshed. As the ammunition ran out, the desperation and reality of the situation became apparent. The 99 men, under the command of Major Lisle Ryder, consulted and consoled each other before raising the white flag.
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The Germans seized the men's weapons and marched them towards another barn. Lined up against the cold stone outbuilding, they expected to be taken prisoner. However, two German machine guns were raised in their direction and many were mowed down under a hail of bullets - crudely ripping through their flesh before ricocheting off the masonry. Survivors were bayonetted until their lifeless bodies surrendered. Remarkably, two men survived.
I've just given you a potted overview of one of the most incredible stories from the Second World War. Hearing about the actions of these brave men fills me with pride. The remarkable men came from our county of Norfolk. They are part of us. We are part of them. Now our country needs to honour them. That's why I'm passionately advocating for a memorial to be erected in Norfolk.
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The successful evacuation from Dunkirk, that 'miracle' that to this day stirs such emotion inside of me, was made possible by the selfless defence of the Dunkirk perimeter - by troops who knew they would not be rescued.
These men are true heroes, and their story must be enshrined in a prominent monument in our county. They did their duty. Now let us do ours.
How to donate
Post cheques to:
Paradis Commemoration Group Memorial Appeal
c/o DTL Education Ltd
Norwich NR1 1RB
Or to donate by bank transfer, email us for more details at Memorial4LeParadisHeroes@gmail.com