The sack of Wexford -Oct 11 1649

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The Sack of Wexford took place on October 11  1649, during the Cromwellian conquest of Ireland, when the New Model Army under Oliver Cromwell took Wexford town in south-eastern Ireland. The English Parliamentarian troops broke into the town while the commander of the garrison, David Sinnot, was trying to negotiate a surrender – massacring soldiers and civilians alike. Much of the town was burned and its harbour was destroyed. Along with the Siege of Drogheda, the sack of Wexford is still remembered in Ireland as an infamous atrocity.

Oliver Cromwell was the most influential General of the English Civil War, famous for creating the New Model Army and decisively defeating King Charles I at Naseby in 1645.

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However, his fighting career didn’t end with the final defeat of the King. Ireland still held Royalists, who had recently allied with the local Confederate rebels, and the these combined forces were preying on Parliamentary shipping. Cromwell was not a man to sit my and let this happen and in August 1649 he landed in Ireland with a highly trained army of Civil War veterans.

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The town’s garrison initially consisted of 1500 Confederate soldiers under David
Sinnot. However, the morale of the town was low – perhaps as a result of hearing of the fall of Drogheda (below) on September 11 – and many of the civilians in Wexford wanted to surrender. Sinnot however, appears to have strung out surrender negotiations with Cromwell and was steadily reinforced, bringing his garrison strength up to 4,800 men by the 11th of October.

While negotiations continued on the 11th October Cromwell’s troops suddenly stormed the vulnerable town. Cromwell denied giving the order,cromwel6-233x300

but chaos ensued as the Parliamentarian troops flooded into Wexford. The town’s castle was inexplicably surrendered without a fight by its English Royalist captain, Stafford, and after this any notion of a fight was over. Irish troops fled from their stations in panic and were then pursued and often massacred by Cromwell’s men. Many more tried to cross the nearby river Slaney to escape the orgy of violence unfolding in the town, but most, including the governor Sinnot, drowned or were shot as they tried to swim. Violence in the town grew out of hand, spreading to its civilian population and the buildings as well as the survivors of the garrison. By the end of the day 2000 soldiers and 1500 civilians had been killed, at the cost of just 20 of Cromwell’s men.

 

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The Bombing of Campile,Co.Wexford-Ireland.

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Ireland remained officially neutral during World War II. However, on 26 August 1940, the German Luftwaffe bombed Campile in broad daylight.

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On August 26 1940 the tiny village of Campile in Co Wexford was bombed by the German Luftwaffe, killing three local women and giving Ireland — until then largely insulated from the terror of World War Two — its first experience of the conflict.

 

Sisters Mary Ellen (30) and Kitty Kent (26) and restaurant worker Kathleen Hurley (27) all perished after the Heinkel bomber dropped four bombs over the Shelburne Co-op and Creamery, demolishing it in a matter of seconds.

Mary Ellen and Kitty were the daughters of Michael and Ellen Kent from Terrerath. Mary Ellen worked as the manageress in the restaurant, while Kitty worked in the drapery. In a cruel twist of fate Kitty had been delayed in going to her dinner that fateful day and would otherwise not have been in the restaurant when the bombs were dropped. Kathleen Hurley, the daughter of William and Catherine Hurley, also worked in the restaurant and had just returned that morning after two weeks’ of summer holidays.

 

 

Four German bombs were dropped on the creamery and restaurant sections of Shelburne Co-op on that day. The railway was also targeted by the bombers. The attack has never been fully explained, although there are numerous theories as to why the bombing occurred.

One was that the German pilots were lost and had mistaken the south-east coast of Wexford for Wales.

It was also suggested that butter boxes emblazoned with the Shelburne Co-op name were discovered by the Nazis a few months earlier following the evacuation of Dunkirk and that the bombing was in retaliation for supplying foodstuffs to the Allied armies.

However, Campile historian John Flynn, who has written a new book to mark the 70th anniversary of the disaster, argues that the bombing was a message from Hitler to Taoiseach Eamon de Valera warning him to keep his promise on Ireland’s neutrality.

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After consulting military reports, Mr Flynn said it was clear that Campile was a “definite target” that fateful day.

One theory that has always been battered about is that the co-op was supplying butter to the Allies armies when we were supposed to be neutral.

it was also alleged that the Co-op sold boots to the British Army and these were found by the Germans. Another theory is the RAF were able to put the German bombers, which were targeted by a radar beam, off course and that they were totally reliant on crew judgement in the case of the bombing of Campile.

The 20-minute ordeal terrorised the peaceful village and left behind a trail of devastation, with huge gates ripped off their hinges, slates torn off roofs, railway siding was twisted and sleepers were pulled up.

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On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the bombing, a plaque was erected on the co-op walls in memory of the three women that died during the attack.

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One thing that always puzzled me is why did de Valera  formally offer his condolences to the German Minister in Dublin on the death of Adolf Hitler in 1945 ?

Under Hitler’s leadership several dozens of Irish citizens were killed, for Campile wasn’t the only town that was bombed. I know under the guise of the neutrality diplomatic protocol, he may have felt compelled to do so.

But neutrality means  2 things “the state of not supporting or helping either side in a conflict, disagreement, etc.; impartiality.” and “absence of decided views, expression, or strong feeling.”