A Shattered Peace: The Bombing of Campile

By Loretta Kenny

Campile is a village in South Wexford. In the early twentieth century a train station was opened as part of the construction of the Rosslare to Waterford railway. The Shelburne Co-operative Agricultural Society opened in 1919, followed by the opening of the Campile Creamery in 1927. The village at this stage was thriving and this prosperity was enjoyed by everyone in the parish and further afield. All this was to change on Monday 26th August, 1940.

It was the usual busy morning at the Co-op and workers were glad to hear the hooter blow for the dinner hour. Most of the staff went home as they lived nearby and the rest had their dinner in the restaurant which was attached to the Co-op. Mary Ellen Kent, her sister Catherine, Kathleen Hurley and Kitty Farrington headed to the restaurant. At the Station Masters House, Josephine McCrohan and her sister Frances were washing up after dinner when they thought they heard the sound of a plane. They ran outside and stood on a box to get a better view. The plane was flying quite low and was also travelling very slow. The plane then turned, started to fly really low and then dived over the Co-op. As it dived, objects like balls of clay started falling from the plane. They jumped off the box and ran into the house when suddenly there was a loud bang and the back door of the house fell on top of them. Plaster, masonry and dust were flying all around and all hell seemed to have broken loose. They ran out of the house again and some of the Co-op Staff, who were lying on the roadside,
told them to lie down.

Meanwhile, as the four girls left the restaurant the first bomb exploded and Mary Ellen, Catherine and Kathleen were killed instantly. It destroyed the restaurant and nearby creamery completely. The second bomb went through the roof of the Co-op and started a fire. The third bomb hit a window and damaged the railway line close by. The fourth bomb exploded in a nearby wheat field and left a massive crater. It is said there were two other bombs which did not explode.

This tragedy affected the village for many years to come. Kitty, who survived the bombing went on to have a long life and died in 2001. The Co-op was rebuilt but the creamery never was.

Seventy years after that fateful event the Campile Memorial Garden was officially opened on Saturday 28th August, 2010. The main sculpture is made from Breccia Medicea marble and it has been worked into a piece representing healing. The standing stones on either side are made from Carrera white marble. This is the work of two artists, Ciaran O’Brien from Co. Wexford and Anika Lintermann from Aachen, Germany.

A strange incident happened on the day. Just as Sean Connick T.D. and the German
Ambassador Mr. Busso von Alvensleben were about to unveil the monument all eyes travelled to the sky as a plane flew over. It was uncanny.

There are a few theories given why Campile was bombed. One was that British Soldiers captured in France had butter wrappers with Shelburne Co-op, Campile written on them, another theory is that the plane was lost and another is that he thought he was over a Welsh village.

This was an event that has shaped our village and a story that I hope will never happen again.

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