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Carlow County - Ireland Genealogical Projects (IGP TM)

Carlow Bombing

January 2nd - 3rd, 1941

Source: Terry Curran c2007

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 skies

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 minimal.

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 in diameter.

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 rosary.

The drone of the plane was heard for miles around, as indeed, were the terrifying explosions caused by the dropping bombs.

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 night.

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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