On Saturday August 28th a memorial garden to those killed on August 26th 1940, when the small Irish village of Campile, Co. Wexford, was bombed by a lone German Heinkel aircraft which dropped 4 bombs over the Shelbourne Co-op and Creamery and destroyed it in seconds, was formally opened. The 1940 bombing resulted in 3 deaths – sisters Mary Ellen Kent aged 30, Kitty Kent, aged 30, and restaurant worker Kathleen Hurley aged 27. Eyewitnesses later said that they saw two German aircraft flying over Carnsore Point at the southern tip of County Wexford before they turned west and followed the main Waterford / Rosslare railway line to Campile. One aircraft diverted to Ambrosetown while the other headed for Campile where just before 2 p.m. it dropped 4 bombs on the village. At the time the bombs fell about 85 people were working in the Co-op but most had left the restaurant following lunch. However restaurant manager Mary Ellen Kent, assistant Kathleen Hurley and drapery worker Kitty Kent were not so lucky and their bodies were later recovered from the rubble.
The bombing of Campile was subsequently raised by the Irish chargé d’affaires in Berlin with the German authorities who admitted liability in October with the Irish Department of External Affairs, the modern day Department of Foreign Affiars, issuing a statement noting that the German government “ because of the their desire to act in the spirit of their friendly relations with Ireland, are prepared to admit the possibility that bombs had been dropped by a German aircraft, the pilot of which had lost his way owing to bad visibility. The statement added that the German foreign office had expressed regret for the incident, offered sincere sympathy to those who suffered and expressed its willingness to pay compensation for the losses and damage sustained. Compensation for this attack was included in a post war settlement agreed in 1957 between the Irish and German governments concerning war damage to Irish territory and property by the Luftwaffe on several occasions.
On Saturday August 28th 2010 over 500 people, including relatives of the 3 victims, and 5 survivors from that fateful day, attended a special ceremony in Campile to mark the 70th anniversary of this event at which a memorial garden on the site of where the creamery formerly stood was opened by Sean Connick, T.D. and Minister for State, at which German ambassador to Ireland, Mr. Brusso von Alvensleben was present. The ceremony was organised by a group from the Campile Historical Society and the Campile Development Committee which formed the Campile Memorial Group which then proceeded to provide the Memorial Garden and organise the Memorial Day. The group commissioned Ciaran O’Brien, a County Wexford sculptor, to design and produce the artwork for the garden from Breccia Medicia marble and were carved in situ in Cararra, Italy, and was assisted by a German sculptor Anika Untermann.
Ambassador von Alvesleben said that he hoped that the memorial sculptures would recall the horrors of war and preserved the memory of the 3 women who died that day.
Various theories circulated at the time of the bombing as to why the creamery was attacked by the German including one that butter boxes from it has been found by the Germans on the beaches of Dunkirk and was bombed in retaliation for supplying the Allied armies. But according to Campile historian John Flynn whose book ‘Campile Bombing, August 1940 ‘ will be published shortly, the creamery was supplying butter to the British market and the bombing was a warning to the Irish government that if it was neural it should not be supplying goods to wartime Britain and was to cease this trade immediately.