Tales of heroism needed for Dereham Memorial Hall

Tales of heroism by Dereham people throughout the centuries are being collected to be exhibited in the town's refurbished Memorial Hall.

A special committee has been established by the town council to collect information which can be displayed in the arts venue on Norwich Street when it opens in December after a �2.6m restoration.

A bronze sculpture has already been commissioned by local artist Neal French, which depicts one of Dereham's most celebrated acts of valour – soldier Bill O'Callaghan carrying his wounded comrade to safety after surviving the infamous Le Paradis massacre of 1940.

But as the artwork is intended to represent all of the town's wartime heroes, it is hoped that many other tales of selflessness and bravery will be contributed to show alongside it.

The new working party will be chaired by town councillor Phillip Duigan, who hopes to include tales of civilian heroism as well as battlefield exploits – although the focus will remain on acts which happened in times of conflict.

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'We are trying not to be too prescriptive at the moment,' he said. 'We are trying to find stories of people who have served, mainly in the military, but not necessarily.

'I can think of an example of a policeman or someone who has worked heroically for an ex-servicemen's organisations. A hero does not necessarily have to be heroic, it could just be an ordinary person or soldier who did their bit.

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'That is what the Memorial Hall was originally for, to remember people who gave their lives in the wars. The point of having this working party is to encourage people to bring their heroes to us.

'As far as I am concerned if you have got a relative and you think they are a hero – even of you think they're only a hero to you – then that is what we want.'

Mr Duigan said the working party aimed to collect 100 stories eventually, but its initial job would be to assess the selection criteria and how the information would be displayed

'That will be limited by the amount of room we had, but we could discuss the possibility of digital photo screens or something like that,' he said.

The committee hopes to meet within the next month. Suggestions of Dereham heroes can be living or dead, and could be associated with any of history's conflicts. But they must each have a link to Dereham, whether they were born in the town before achieving their heroic moment, or moved to it afterwards.

?To contribute stories of heroism, contact Dereham Town Council at the Assembly Rooms on Ruthen Place, call 01362 693821 or email generalenquiries@derehamtowncouncil.org.

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