By Cllr Greg Peck
Last week, as we came to the climax of the commemorations of the end of the First World War, I hope you managed to visit the wonderful Broadland Remembers exhibition at Whitwell Station. Broadland District Council did an excellent job of putting the exhibition together.
Left to right: Greg Peck, County Councillor, Reepham; Shaun Vincent, Leader, Broadland District Council; and Graham Everett, District Councillor, Reepham.
It listed every parish in Broadland with the names of the fallen. It was very humbling to see the long lists from even the smallest villages, often with multiple entries from the same family.
One board had several poems by Wilfred Owen, including my own personal favourite, Dulce et Decorum Est.
The exhibition ran for a week and included talks and a reading by local author Brenda Gostling from her book Sister Poppy at the Front.
We must never forget the debt we owe those men and women who sacrificed so much to give us the freedom we enjoy today.
However, it is not enough to just remember this debt once a year on Remembrance Day. I have signed up as a founder supporter of the campaign for a memorial in Norfolk to the memory of the 97 soldiers from 2nd Battalion, Royal Norfolk Regiment and other units who were massacred at Le Paradis on 27 May 1940.
The successful evacuation of more than 300,000 troops from Dunkirk in May 1940 was the cornerstone of our eventual victory in the Second World War. It was made possible by the selfless defence of the Dunkirk perimeter by troops who knew they would not be rescued.
One battlefield centred on the villages of Le Paradis and Lestrem. Here, detachments from the Royal Norfolks and the Royal Scots fought the enemy to a standstill, inflicting heavy losses. They surrendered only when they ran out of ammunition.
As prisoners-of-war they were entitled to all the protection of the Geneva Convention. Instead they were massacred by their Waffen SS opponents; machine gunned to the ground and finished off with pistols and bayonets – now known as the Le Paradis Massacre. Ninety seven died, the majority from the Royal Norfolks.
Against all the odds, two men survived and led a successful post-war campaign to bring to justice the officer responsible for the massacre. He was found guilty of war crimes and executed in 1949.
The massacre, the courage and the sacrifice are still remembered by the French, and there are several memorials in Le Paradis and Lestrem to those who died.
However, there is no permanent memorial in Norfolk to these heroes. We need to do something about this. You can visit the campaign website.
For the full story of the massacre click HERE
Cllr Greg Peck, Norfolk County Council, Reepham Division
Tel: 07972 230282