Carlow and World War Two
January 2nd - 3rd, 1941
From day one of the 2nd World War, the Carlow connection, although small
was there, through the men & women who would join the
British and Commonwealth forces and fight directly with
Germany and Japan.
However on the night 2nd of January 1941 World War Two
arrived in Co Carlow with dramatic and fatal consequences on
the innocents of a neutral land. This night ended sadly with
the death of 3 members of the Shannon family. Their house
was in Knockroe, near Borris, when a German bomber flying
above let loose one Stick of eight bombs which hit the house
destroying the most of it. The family had no chance of
escaping, no air raid warnings were made as with cities. The
names of those who died were the two Sisters, Mary Ellen
(40) and Bridgid (38) Shannon, along with their niece
Kathleen Shannon (16)
The excuse offered by Hitlerís government for the January
bombings, as for the other bombing, was that German aircraft
had mistaken the Irish east coast for the west coast of
Britain. The view most commonly held in Ireland was that the
German bombings resulted from aircraft off-loading supplies
to ensure a safe return to base
A report from the Wexford Echo
Thursday, October 18, 2007
WW2 bombs fell from the
Friday, 1 September 1939 was a dark day in world history.
Adolf Hitlerís army invaded Poland. Two days later, Britain
and France declared war on Germany and World War II began.
The Irish Free State took a neutral stance, while the rest
of Europe went to war, and from then until 8 May 1945, the
period was known in Ireland as Ďthe Emergency.í
Ireland succeeded in remaining relatively peaceful, but
this may have been achieved more by geographical advantage
than through the strategy adopted by the Government.
Parts of this country, particularly in the east and
south-east felt the wrath of bombing raids. County Wexford
experienced the horror of dropping bombs off the coast; at
Ballymurn, near Enniscorthy; at Campile in the south-western
district; and in the Blackstairs Mountain range separating
the counties of Wexford and Carlow.
The worst air attack on Wexford took place on 26 August
1940 when the Shelbourne CoOperative at Campile was
destroyed in an unexpected lunchtime strike.
Three lives were lost, and had it happened at any other
time of the working day, casualties could have been far
greater. Most workers were on their break, instead of being
in charge of their daily chores.
A German aircraft was observed entering Irish territory
at Carnsore Point at 1.40 p.m. before disappearing in an
easterly direction at 2.10 p.m. It was a mere half hour over
County Wexford, but left death and destruction in its wake.
Circling over Campile, the aircraft dived to an altitude of
a couple of hundred of feet over the district and discharged
a line of bombs. It was 1.52 p.m.
The first bomb struck the restaurant of Shelbourne
Creamery, partly demolishing part of the main creamery
structure as well as the restaurant. Three girls died and
their bodies were buried in the debris following the
explosion. Dead were Kitty and Mary Kent, and Kathleen
Hurley. Damage to the structure was extensive.
The second bomb went through the roof, the second and
first floors of the corn store. The bomb ignited a quantity
of pollard on the ground floor, but the fire was
extinguished within five minutes and the damage caused was
The third bomb exploded in a yard attached to the
creamery, but while it broke it failed to explode. Bomb
number four struck the kitchen window of the restaurant.
This missile caused slight damage to the railway station,
although the permanent way was not affected, but rails were
displaced at a siding.
The concussion shattered the windows of the Station
Masterís residence and slates were dislodged from the roof.
Two girls were slightly injured by splinters of broken glass
and suffered from head injuries.
The fifth bomb fell in a field north-east of the creamery
and exploded there, making a crater 15 feet deep by 30 feet
At 2 p.m. a bomb was dropped at Ambrosetown, near
Ballycullane, causing damage at the home of local character,
James Hawkins. All three people in the cottage at the time
escaped injury. Roof damage and cracked walls resulted from
the explosion. Speculation existed that other bombs had been
dropped at Ballymitty, Kearystown and Scar, but searches by
the Irish Air Command located nothing.
Controversy arose too, and it surrounded a debate as to
the identity of the aggressor. It was satisfactorily agreed
that the aircraft was a German machine. Statements taken
from witnesses eliminated any other origin.
While the aerial attack on Campile was the most serious
attack to strike the Model County, it was not the only one.
Terror from the skies visited the Ballymurn district on
Friday, 3 January 1941, when ten bombs were dropped in a
line over the Ballinkeele House estate close to the village.
Miraculously no injury was caused to life or limb. The
bombs, many of them poor quality incendiaries, caused
several craters in a grove. The frightening attack was heard
at around 7.40 p.m.
The memory was indelibly etched on local memory and
several witnesses recalled that evening of terror.
Locals would chat around the fireside recalling how the
trees in the grove were scarred, large craters were made,
and one bomb remained unexploded although buried several
feet into the ground for some time, until it was safely
removed by military personnel.
The aircraft, identified as German in origin, flew in
from the coast and glided over the village of The Ballagh.
Having discharged its deadly cargo over Ballymurn, and as
soon as it had turned in a circle and disappeared by the
same route, many families were on their knees praying the
The drone of the plane was heard for miles around, as
indeed, were the terrifying explosions caused by the
Later on the same night as the people of Ballymurn
gained comfort from their great escape, similar terror was
inflicted on the unsuspecting communities of Kilmacanogue,
Co. Wicklow, Curragh racecourse in Co. Kildare, and Knockroe
on the Carlow side of Mount Leinster.
There were only about half a dozen homes in the
townland of Knockroe, a few miles north of Kiltealy, but in
one of them, three members of the Shannon family were killed
when eight bombs were dropped at 6.45 a.m.
One of the bombs landed and exploded on the residence
of the Shannon family, where eight people were sleeping that
John Shannon, with his son, Raymond, and his brother,
Patrick, and his sons, James and Michael were asleep in the
east end of the house. Johnís wife, Mary Ellen, their
daughter Kathleen, and Bridget Shannon were sleeping in the
west end of the house.
All three females were killed instantly when the room
disintegrated by an exploding bomb. James and Mary Shannon
were also injured, but the other men escaped unharmed.
It was an anxious time for people who experienced the
threat of dropping bombs. It was too, for many, the first
time that they heard an aircraft and for years afterwards
the sound of an aircraft brought emotions of fear,
especially amongst the older generation.
Of course, many aeroplanes crash landed around County
Wexford, the most notable being around the coastline and on
the Blackstairs mountain range, some with a loss of life,
while in some cases the airmen survived.
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