As World War II raged across Europe, Ireland as a neutral country had been spared its ravages. But on an August day in 1940 a quiet Co. Wexford village was inexplicably targetted by German bombers, resulting in the deaths of three young women, writes Gerry Breen.
Eighty years ago, on 26th August, 1940, the Co. Wexford village of Campile was bombed in broad daylight by the German Luftwaffe. The aerial bombardment, carried out by a Heinkel bomber, caused devastation and resulted in the senseless loss of three young lives. It was an unexplained attack on a neutral country and it marked the saddest day in the history of the peaceful lives of the hard-working people of the area.
The three young women who were killed on that fateful day were Mary Ellen Kent (30), her sister, Kitty Kent (26), both from Terrerath, and Kathleen Hurley (27) from Garryduff.
Mary Ellen and Kitty were the daughters of Michael and Ellen Kent. Kitty had been delayed in going to her dinner on the day of the bombing, and Kathleen Hurley, who was the daughter of William and Catherine Hurley, had just returned to work following her summer holidays.
The raid lasted about twenty minutes, striking terror into the hearts of the residents of the peaceful village and leaving behind a trail of destruction.
Bombs were dropped on the creamery and restaurant of Shelburne Co-op by the Germans, and the railway was also targeted. Up until then Ireland, which had been declared a neutral country on 2nd September, 1939, by the Taoiseach of the day, éamon De Valera, was thought to be insulated from the terrible conflict which was raging throughout the world.
The havoc caused by the bombing at Campile and the killing of three young women sent shock waves throughout the country, and the horror of the events of that August day are still vivid in the memory of the people of the area eighty years later.
On that fateful day the Luftwaffe had, apparently, set out to bomb English Channel ports, and the RAF shot down 45 aircraft from the invading force. Around lunchtime, the coast watching service spotted two German bombers crossing the Irish coast in Co. Wexford. The bombers headed west, following the Rosslare to Waterford railway line.