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Soldier to be honoured in France for his heroism in the Le Paradis massacre

PUBLISHED: 14:25 09 November 2018

Dereham war hero William O'Callaghan.  PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY COPY: FOR:EDP NEWS.

Dereham war hero William O'Callaghan. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY COPY: FOR:EDP NEWS.

© ARCHANT NORFOLK 2009

The remarkable heroism of a Norfolk soldier during an infamous Second World War massacre is to be honoured in France this weekend.

(L TO R) William O'Callaghan and Albert Pooley arriving at the War Crimes Court in Hamburg. Picture: Supplied Copy: Rowan Entwistle For: EDP NEWS EDP Pics ©2004  Tel: (01603) 772434(L TO R) William O'Callaghan and Albert Pooley arriving at the War Crimes Court in Hamburg. Picture: Supplied Copy: Rowan Entwistle For: EDP NEWS EDP Pics ©2004 Tel: (01603) 772434

A memorial will be unveiled with an image depicting the moment William O’Callaghan, from Dereham, bravely carried his injured comrade Bert Pooley to safety during the Le Paradis massacre.

It is hoped this event could also, one day, be honoured with a memorial in Norfolk.

The two men were the only survivors of the May, 1940 massacre 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.

The soldiers had all surrendered to SS officers in the French hamlet of Le Paradis, near Dunkirk.

A memorial showing the heroic actions of Dereham soldier, private Bill O’Callghan carrying his injured comrade private Bert Pooley to safety during the massacre in Le Paradis, which is being unveiled in France. Picture: Submitted by Dennis O’Callghan.A memorial showing the heroic actions of Dereham soldier, private Bill O’Callghan carrying his injured comrade private Bert Pooley to safety during the massacre in Le Paradis, which is being unveiled in France. Picture: Submitted by Dennis O’Callghan.

The memorial, featuring helmets to honour the 97 dead soldiers and two survivors are featured on the memorial, which will be unveiled close to a school in Lestrem, near Le Paradis, on Saturday.

Pte O’Callaghan’s son, Dennis, who is now president of the Dereham branch of the Royal British Legion, said: “I think this memorial is an excellent way of honouring the heroism of all the members of the British forces - showing how it is all about comradeship.

“The idea for this came from the local council in Lestrem.

“It close to the local school so the children can see each day the sacrifices made to give them their freedom.

Dennis O'Callaghan with a statue of Private William O'Callaghan carrying Private Albert Pooley from the massacre site at Le-Paradis in 1940. Picture: Ian BurtDennis O'Callaghan with a statue of Private William O'Callaghan carrying Private Albert Pooley from the massacre site at Le-Paradis in 1940. Picture: Ian Burt

“A lot is rightly being done at the moment to remember those who served in the First World War, but it’s also important to show the sacrifices made in the Second World War.”

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

Pte O’Callaghan, who died in 1975, 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.

Mr O’Callaghan said: “The events of the Le Paradis massacre are not widely known in this country, but more and more people are working to change that.

“I would like for there one day to be a memorial to the victims somewhere in Norfolk.

“Many of them were brothers, sons and friends of people from this county.”

To see more about the work being done to remember the Le Paradis massacre, go to http://www.leparadismassacre.com/

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