August 27th, 1940: From The Archives:
Three young women were killed in a German air raid on the Shelbourne Co-Operative at Campile, Co Wexford, in August 1940 in the first fatal Luftwaffe bombing on Ireland during the second World War. This is an extract from the report in the next day’s paper (which, like all newspapers at the time, was subject to government censorship). – JOE JOYCE
THE NAMES of the dead girls are Mary Ellen Kent (34), daughter of a large farmer from Tarrath, manageress of the staff canteen, and her sister, Kitty, aged 25, who had, apparently, delayed to serve a late customer and Kathleen Hurley, aged 25, of Garryduff.
Mr Simon Murphy, manager of the Society, told a dramatic story of the bombing. “Shortly after 12.30 today,” he said, “we had closed for lunch, but I was still attending to a customer, and as I left Father Doyle from Duncannon arrived. I attended to him and then started to go to my lunch. As I did so I saw a very large plane circling over the stores.
“There had been military manoeuvres in the vicinity in the last few days, and, apart from thinking that it looked a very big and foreign-looking plane, I took little notice of it. As I went in to my meal some 40 girls left the canteen and came out to look at the plane. I was sitting at my meal for about three minutes when there was a terrible crash, and I was blown through the window into the yard.
“The next thing I remember is that I was standing on my feet, and that there was a number of flying slates and stones all around me.
“I could hear women screaming, and ordered some of them to take refuge in a coal store, which seemed to me the next best think to an air-raid shelter. Unfortunately, outside some ammonia, which was stored nearby, escaped and the fumes drove everybody back. We all ran out into a field of mangolds and lay there quiet for a few minutes.
“Other bombs dropped during this time, but after a minute or so the plane went away, and I called some 20 men, and we got out the extinguishers to work on the stores, which were firmly ablaze.
“When we had the fire under control we called the roll, and found that everybody had been accounted for except three girls.
“One of these we found slumped over a table, with her head blown off, and another had apparently tried to get down some stairs. We were only able to identify them by their clothing.”
Altogether five bombs were dropped. One of these fell in a field close to an hotel owned by Mrs Johanna Hart, blowing out the windows. The second bomb was the one which was dropped by the railway siding. The third dropped outside the kitchen window of the Co-operative Society; the fourth went through the roof and two floors, and was the one which did most damage. The fifth bomb failed to explode, and was later taken in charge by the military. It bore German markings.