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Soldier's act of wartime heroism honoured with new memorial in France

PUBLISHED: 13:54 07 June 2019 | UPDATED: 13:54 07 June 2019

Dennis O'Callaghan with the new memorial which has been unveiled at the sight of the Le Paradis massacre. Picture: Supplied by Dennis O'Callaghan

Dennis O'Callaghan with the new memorial which has been unveiled at the sight of the Le Paradis massacre. Picture: Supplied by Dennis O'Callaghan

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The little-known story of a Norfolk soldier's remarkable act of heroism in the Second World War has been honoured with a new memorial in France.

The new memorial which has been unveiled at the sight of the Le Paradis massacre. Picture: Supplied by Dennis O'CallaghanThe new memorial which has been unveiled at the sight of the Le Paradis massacre. Picture: Supplied by Dennis O'Callaghan

A memorial has been unveiled at the site of the Le Paradis massacre which saw soldier William O'Callaghan, from Dereham, carry his injured comrade Bert Pooley to safety.

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.

The new memorial is located at the barn where the massacre took place and features poem The Dead by Rupert Brooke.

(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: Supplied(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: Supplied

William's son, Dennis, is now president of the Dereham branch of the Royal British Legion and said: "The new memorial is at the site of where it actually took place.

"I didn't know it was there, it was very emotional for me. I knew nothing about it.

"It's a very moving tribute. There are a few memorials there already, it's something which shouldn't be forgotten."

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

William O'Callaghan was from Dereham and was captured and fled after playing dead during WWII. A service is being held to remember him. Pictured BACK ROW 3RD FROM RIGHT with his troop at the POW camp in February 15th 1942. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY COPY: FOR:EDP NEWS © ARCHANT NORFOLK 2009 (01603 772434)William O'Callaghan was from Dereham and was captured and fled after playing dead during WWII. A service is being held to remember him. Pictured BACK ROW 3RD FROM RIGHT with his troop at the POW camp in February 15th 1942. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY COPY: FOR:EDP NEWS © ARCHANT NORFOLK 2009 (01603 772434)

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.

There are a number of other memorials to those who died in the massacre, including a piece of artwork which depicts Pte O'Callaghan carrying Pte Pooley to safety, which was unveiled near Le Paradis in November last year.

Every year in Dereham, a memorial service at William O'Callaghan Place is held to remember him, with this year's service taking place on Sunday, May 19.

It is also hoped that in the future there will be a memorial in Norfolk to mark the event.

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

To see more about the work being done to remember the Le Paradis massacre,

http://www.leparadismassacre.com

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