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Memorial to 97 massacred soldiers could be erected at Norwich Cathedral

PUBLISHED: 06:43 29 November 2018 | UPDATED: 06:43 29 November 2018

Rob Edwards, front centre, convener of the Campaign for a Memorial for the Heroes of Le Paradis, and Dennis O'Callaghan, front right, son of one of the survivors of Le Paradis massacre, at the launch of the campaign. With them are the members of the Le Paradis Commemoration Group, Nick Smith, left, John Head, front left, and Peter Steward, right; and members of the Royal Norfolk Regiment Living History group, from 3rd left, Paul Coe, Harrison Peckett, and Bob Skinner. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Rob Edwards, front centre, convener of the Campaign for a Memorial for the Heroes of Le Paradis, and Dennis O'Callaghan, front right, son of one of the survivors of Le Paradis massacre, at the launch of the campaign. With them are the members of the Le Paradis Commemoration Group, Nick Smith, left, John Head, front left, and Peter Steward, right; and members of the Royal Norfolk Regiment Living History group, from 3rd left, Paul Coe, Harrison Peckett, and Bob Skinner. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Copyright: Archant 2018

A campaign is underway to see a memorial dedicated to 97 soldiers killed in an infamous massacre created in Norfolk.

The Le Paradis Commemoration Group is aiming to fund the memorial to remember the Royal Norfolk Regiment soldiers killed while defending the Dunkirk perimeter in May 1940.

The soldiers, based in the village of Le Paradis in northern France, were ordered to fight to the last bullet to halt the German advance as thousands of troops were evacuated from Dunkirk.

But when they ran out of ammunition and surrendered, they were lined up and shot by SS soldiers in what was later recognised as a war crime.

On Tuesday, 40 people, including members of the commemoration group, met in Norwich to discuss plans for the proposed memorial.

An illustration of the hand to hand fighting in the final attack at Le Paradis, Northern France, 27th May1940. Picture: Courtesy of the Long familyAn illustration of the hand to hand fighting in the final attack at Le Paradis, Northern France, 27th May1940. Picture: Courtesy of the Long family

While there are memorials in France, there is nothing in Norfolk to commemorate their lives.

Rob Edwards, 69, who is running the campaign, said: “We are looking for somewhere central that will have a heavy footfall because we feel they deserve that recognition.

“We are determined to see it in place by May 27, 2020, as that is the 80th anniversary of the massacre.”

Mr Edwards said the city’s cathedral was suggested as a possible location, adding that the cathedral had given some support to the idea.

The memorial to those who were massacred, mostly Royal Norfolks, on the wall of the barn where it happened at Le Paradis, Northern France. Picture: Courtesy Nick SmithThe memorial to those who were massacred, mostly Royal Norfolks, on the wall of the barn where it happened at Le Paradis, Northern France. Picture: Courtesy Nick Smith

In regard to design, he said a “substantial” granite block with an inscription to memorialise the 97 soldiers was the most popular option.

The group will now have to find ways to fund the memorial, which could cost up to £15,000 to create, excluding ongoing maintenance fees.

Also present at the meeting was Dennis O’Callaghan, whose father William O’Callaghan, from Dereham, survived the massacre and escaped to safety.

Mr O’Callaghan, 72, said: “My father came back but there’s no memorial to those who gave their lives in defence of this country. There are many families still in Norfolk wholes relatives were there.”

What the memorial to those who died, mainly Royal Norfolks, at the massacre at Le Paradis, 27th May1940, could look like. Picture: Rob EdwardsWhat the memorial to those who died, mainly Royal Norfolks, at the massacre at Le Paradis, 27th May1940, could look like. Picture: Rob Edwards

Though wounded, Pte O’Callaghan bravely carried his injured comrade Bert Pooley to safety during the massacre and both later gave evidence at the War Crimes Court in Hamburg.

Mr O’Callaghan said: “I think my father would welcome that the people who actively gave their lives were remembered.”

Visit www.leparadismassacre.com

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