Le Paradis Massacre
May 27, 1940: The Le Paradis massacre takes place. The Battle of Dunkirk began just the day before. This important engagement of World War II lasted until June 4, 1940 with the United Kingdom, France, and Belgium fighting against Germany. The battle for France began in earnest on May 10, the same day Winston Churchill became PM of Britain. By May 26, the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) and the French First Army were trapped in an area about 60 miles long and 15-25 miles wide between the sea and advancing German troops. Two massive German armies flanked the allied forces. The Germans had about 800,000 men under Generals Gerd von Rundstedt and Ewald von Kleist. Lord Gort was in charge of the British troops while three French generals were also involved in defense with approximately 400,000 troops fighting for the Allies.
The 2nd Battalion of the Royal Norfolk Regiment was involved with the BEF. After an engagement at Le Cornet Malo, the men fell back to their headquarters at Cornet Farm, just outside Le Paradis. The commanders had been informed by radio that they were isolated and on their own and no assistance would be forthcoming. Their last contact with Brigade Headquarters was at 11:30 AM. They were in a defensive position as Waffen-SS troops attacked the farm building with mortars, tanks, and artillery which basically destroyed the building and forced the men to relocate to a cowshed. Ninety-nine men survived the attack but they had run out of ammunition.
Their leader, Major Lisle Ryder, ordered a surrender. The cowshed was near a road that was a boundary between two British regiments and as they raised their white flag, they surrendered to SS Hauptsturmfuhrer Fritz Knochlein’s unit rather than to the men they had been fighting. The 99 men, most of them wounded, were disarmed and led down a road off the Rue du Paradis. They were marched to a barn, lined up, and fired upon by two German machinegunners. Knochlein then armed some men with bayonets to make sure all the men were dead before they rejoined their units. Private Albert Pooley and one other man managed to survive. Private William O’Callaghan had pulled himself and Pooley into a hiding place (a pig sty) where they survived on raw potatoes and water from puddles before the farm owners discovered them and offered them aid. They were eventually captured by Germans but survived the war.
French civilians were forced to bury the 97 dead in a mass grave. The bodies were exhumed in 1942 and reburied in a local cemetery by the French authorities. Their final resting place became the Le Paradis War Cemetery. Excavation in 2007 revealed that approximately 20 more men, probably from the Royal Scots, were buried nearby in another shallow grave. After the war, Knochlein was tried for war crimes with Pooley and O’Callaghan able to testify against him. He was found guilty and was executed on January 28, 1949 at the age of 37.
When the war of the giants is over the wars of the pygmies will begin. – Winston Churchill
The object of war is not to die for your country but to make the other bastard die for his. – George S. Patton
Never think that war, no matter how necessary, nor how justified, is not a crime. – Ernest Hemingway
There is no instance of a nation benefitting from prolonged warfare. – Sun Tzu
Also on this day: No More Burnt Toast – In 1919 a toaster with a timer is patented.
St. Pete – In 1703, St. Petersburg, Russia was founded.
Model T & A – In 1927, Ford Motor Co. began the switch from Model T to Model A.
Centralia – In 1962, a fire that is still burning was started.