Remembering the Fallen: on this day in 1940, Major Lisle Charles Dudley Ryder, 2nd Battalion, the Royal Norfolk Regiment, was one of over ninety British soldiers murdered during the Le Paradis massacre.
One of six children, he came from a distinguished military family and was born in India where his father was Surveyor of India. He attended Cheltenham College and the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst, being commissioned in the Royal Norfolk Regiment in 1922. Major Ryder later served with the Royal West African Field Force, sailed on the schooner Penola during the British Graham Land Expedition to the Antarctic with his brother, Captain Robert Ryder V.C., and then served in India, returning to England in August of 1939.
On trhe 24th of May, 1940, British and Allied forces were endeavouring to reach Dunkirk for the evacuation. The 3rd SS Division (Totenkopf), known to be aggressive and fanatical fighters led by Haupsturmfuhrer (Captain) Fritz Knoechlein, came under fire from British troops as they moved towards the town of Bethune. The Germans were ordered to retreat and attack later, which they did on the 27th of May. The British troops consisted of those from the 2nd Norfolks, the 8th Lancashire Fusiliers and the 1st Royal Scots – they had set up their headquarters on a farm at the hamlet of Le Paradis and then had to retreat from the farmhouse to a cowshed. They soon ran out of ammunition.
Major Ryder consulted with his men and they agreed to surender, stepping out of the cowshed with a white flag. Haupsturmfuhrer Knoechlein ordered them to be stripped of their weapons after which they were kicked and beaten with rifle butts . Then they were lined up and machine-gunned – any who survived were shot or bayoneted. Two men, Private William O’Callaghan and Private Bert Pooley, were both injured but not fatally, and lay still under their dead comrades until they were later able to escape.
Captain Charles Long had been injured just before the surrender and had been lying in a ditch – he was taken prisoner by a different German detachment and survived the war. Ten months after being captured he wrote to Major Ryder’s widow from the prisoner-of-war camp; part of the letter reads: “Sailor [the major’s nickname] was a fine CO and it was only by his unfailing courage and personal example that we were able to hold the enemy for 3 critical days. He was everything a leader should be and we all mourn a good friend and a gallant officer. All our sympathy goes to you. No man could have had a prouder end and those few of us who remain will not forget him."
After the war Private O’Callaghan and Private Pooley hunted down Hauptsturmfurher Knoechlein, finding him in a prisoner-of-war camp in Sheffield. He was tried in Hamburg, found guilty, and was hanged on the 28th of January in 1949 in Hamelin, Germany.
Major Ryder lies buried in the Le Paradis war cemetery near the village of Lestrem in France. Raised in Eastbourne in Sussex, he was 38 years old and married.