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Their names will be remembered: go-ahead given for Le Paradis memorial in Norwich

PUBLISHED: 17:19 04 June 2020 | UPDATED: 09:05 05 June 2020

VE Day Dunkirk Le Paradis. Pictured: The original graves of the 97 Royal Norfolks murdered by SS troops after fighting a delaying action to enable their comrades to escape from Dunkirk. Picture: Supplied

VE Day Dunkirk Le Paradis. Pictured: The original graves of the 97 Royal Norfolks murdered by SS troops after fighting a delaying action to enable their comrades to escape from Dunkirk. Picture: Supplied

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Just days after the 80th anniversary of the Le Paradis massacre in France, campaigners told there will be a permanent memorial at Norwich Cathedral

Rob Edwards, left, convener of the Campaign for a Memorial for the Heroes of Le Paradis, and Dennis O'Callaghan, son of one of the survivors of Le Paradis massacre, at the launch of the campaign.   Picture: DENISE BRADLEYRob Edwards, left, convener of the Campaign for a Memorial for the Heroes of Le Paradis, and Dennis O'Callaghan, son of one of the survivors of Le Paradis massacre, at the launch of the campaign. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

A permanent memorial to the 97 British soldiers – the majority of them Norfolk Regiment men - massacred by Nazis at Le Paradis in May 1940 will stand at Norwich Cathedral.

The Le Paradis Memorial Appeal heard the news that its application to erect a memorial had been granted just days after the 80th anniversary of the tragedy.

The charity had been campaigning for the tribute to the men for the past 18 months and had already received approval from Norwich Cathedral but have now passed the final milestone: a green light from the Cathedrals Fabric Commission.

Ninety-seven men were executed by German soldiers on a day of savagery etched into Norfolk history books 80 years ago in a tiny village in northern France.

The 2nd Battalion, the Royal Norfolk Regiment was part of the force whose unenviable task it was to delay the German advance while the Dunkirk evacuation of 338,000 allied servicemen began.

When they were forced to surrender to the Germans, 99 men were marched to a barn where two machine guns were manned, told to line up against the wall and then gunned down. Only two men surivived the bloodbath: Private William O’Callaghan of Dereham and the man he carried to safety, Londoner Private Albert Pooley.

The memorial will be placed in the south east bay of St Saviour’s Chapel, the Regimental Chapel of The Royal Norfolk Regiment.

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The charity, working with the Cathedral, now moves into the creation and installation phases of the project which it estimates will take some months to complete.

Portland stone, used in Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemeteries, will be used to create a striking memorial which will stand 5ft 6in tall and has been designed by the Cardozo Kindersley Workshop in Cambridge.

It will read, above an etched Royal Norfolk Regimental Cap Badge: “To the memory of the 97 soldiers who died in the massacre on 27th May 1940 at Le Paradis, Northern France”.

On the left-hand, a straight edge will rise from the ground “reflecting the sharp brutality of the act, lives cut off suddenly and completely” while on the right, the memorial will be rough stone to echo “the open, raw wounds that were felt by the two survivors and are still felt by the families and friends of those who were massacred.”

The stone will stand with its rough back to the cathedral to symbolise the men being lined up with their backs to the wall before they were shot.

Brigadier Max Marriner CBE, who has liaised with the Cathedral on behalf of Le Paradis Memorial Appeal, said: “There are many people we would wish to thank for this success: our supporters, donors, creative and technical advisors and, crucially, the excellent support given to this project by the Dean and her Team at Norwich Cathedral.”

Dennis O’Callaghan, son of massacre survivor Bill O’Callaghan, added: “This is fantastic news. This is an ideal location for the memorial and at last families will not have to travel to France to pay their respects.

“This decision means that the horrific price paid by 97 British soldiers, and 97 British families, will finally have deserved recognition in Norfolk”.

And Rob Edwards, Chair of Le Paradis Memorial Appeal, said: “This is a giant step forward. We can now start to plan for the day when we finally have a memorial in Norfolk to those massacred at Le Paradis.”

· For more details about the Memorial Appeal can be found at www.memorial4leparadisheroes.uk/


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