Waterford Harbour

Waterford Harbour
Cheekpoint village 1940's

Friday, 26 August 2016

The Campile Bombing

The day after my fathers ninth birthday, 26th August 1940, he witnessed something that profoundly marked his life.  Up on the hills around the village he caught sight of his first ever German air plane which was followed closely by the dropping of bombs on the small rural village of Campile directly across from the Cheekpoint in which three people died. He carried that day for the rest of his life.

The war years in Ireland, which some called trivially in my mind, "the emergency", was a time of rationing, hunger and a certain mount of fear in Ireland, at least initially.  The threat of invasion was real from either warring side, and in villages like Cheekpoint, sailors risked their lives to keep meager supply lines open at extreme risk to themselves.

On that day, Monday 26th August, he climbed up out of the village with his pal down the road, Jim Doherty.  They were going to set snares in the hope of extra food at home.  It was a bright clear morning with patchy cloud and a warm sun.  The hill fields, which were between the village and the Minaun afforded a brilliant view of not just the meeting of the rivers, but of the harbour and the land stretching away to the Irish sea via the neighbouring county of Wexford.
Heinkel HE 111
accessed from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heinkel_He_111
Whilst ducking in and out of the furze shrouded ditches where runs of rabbit were more obvious, their youthful ears heard an unfamiliar sound. Glancing around they spied the dark green plane (it would later be confirmed as a Heinkell HE 111), and as they watched it came up the Wexford side of the river towards Nook and then along the shoreline to Dunbrody and the main Waterford - Rosslare railway line.  It then continued towards Sliabh Coillte and turned in an arc towards the Barrow Bridge. Descending as it went, it proceeded to follow the railway line.  It was only a few hundred feet as it came in over the small railway station and rural village at Campile, and then out of the bottom of the plane dropped three bombs, in quick succession.

Their mouths fell open with the vision of what they saw and as they instinctively ran for the village, I'm sure their minds were filled with panic and dread.  My fathers grandmother and Jim's mother were both from the Wexford side, and even at a young age the connections would have been obvious to them.  They heard the sound of the bombs rather than saw them.  It was later he heard that the plane had turned around and made a second run.

Arriving home, my father found the house empty, but proceeding to the quay, he found the area ablaze.  Already boats had left for Campile pill and Great Island and others were getting ready. He tried to tell what he had seen, but all the adults were fully aware, and their thoughts now were with their neighbours and in some cases family and there was more than one person in tears.

It was late that night before the grim news was brought to the village.  A direct hit on the farming co-operative  Three young women were dead and parts of the village on fire and in rubble. The death toll was considered miraculously low, a fair had been on earlier and most of the staff of the co-operative had gone home for lunch. Army, guards and volunteers alike had spent the evening clearing the rubble, ensuring that everyone was accounted for.
view of the damage accessed from
http://scoilmhuirecampile.com/index.php/a-h-local-history/
The funerals were massive and the event was widely reported, and people travelled from as far away as Belfast to view the scene.  At the inquiry afterwards, various opinions were expressed as to why it had occurred and indeed some eyewitnesses claimed that the plane had come over the Minaun and had turned at the Barrow Bridge.  As my Father explained it, it was all a matter of perspective.

As for the reason, the most prevalent account you will hear today is that allied soldiers had been captured on the continent and butter from the co-op was identified in their supplies, and thus it became a legitimate target.  However the inquest found that the co-operative and the supplies that travelled on the railway line was the actual target. (a lesser known event that day was that a sister plane had bombed a viaduct further along the railway line)

Of course some people hold the view that it was all a big mistake.  I recall attending a wedding in the Tower Hotel many years back, when a chap in our company put forward the opinion that the airmen thought they were over England or Wales.  My father was less than civil about the matter.  He pointed out that the day was so fine they could have been in no doubt where they were, he also explained that they followed the coast and the train tracks like reading a map.  But to cap it off he said, and to this the assembled crowd had no more to say, if the Luftwaffe thought they were in Wales, why did they descend to a few hundred feet to drop their bombs?  They would have dropped them from a height where they would have a fighting chance of surviving a ground barrage. The only reason they came so low he pointed out, was they knew their was nothing to shoot at them from the ground, and they were bombing a defenceless and harmless neutral.

Although the principal of the piece challenged my Fathers account he shut up fairly lively when he realsied that my father was actually present.  Drinks were bought to smooth over the matter and the conversation was quickly moved on.  My dad was dead before a remembrance garden was erected to the event, and an excellent book was produced by the Horeswood Historical Society in 2010.

I'll return to WWII next week and an courageous rescue by the crew of the Irish Willow and a link to Waterford and Dunmore East

I publish a blog each Friday.  If you like this piece or have an interest in the local history or maritime heritage of Waterford harbour and environs you can email me at russianside@gmail.com to receive the blog every week.

My Facebook and Twitter pages are more contemporary and reflect not just heritage 
and history but the daily happenings in our beautiful harbour:  
F https://www.facebook.com/whtidesntales  T https://twitter.com/tidesntales

Friday, 19 August 2016

A brief history of Faithlegg

This Sunday 21st August my wife Deena and I will conduct a heritage walk through Faithlegg commencing at 12noon at the Church.  Its the 11th year that we've organised something for Heritage Week . Faithlegg is probably best known now as a location for weddings, its hotel or to golfers who want 18 rounds in a stunning location.  But to others, its a significant historic location.  So what might you see in Faithlegg.

Well to start with the Churches themselves make a beautiful starting point.  The newer church dates from 1826 and is still in use today.  I served as an altar boy here in my youth, and I mentioned before how we traveled on the mass bus every Sunday morning, something that usually leaves younger readers agape.  There's an interesting love story attached to the stain glass windows concerning a young heiress of the Power family and an ex Mayor of Waterford, John A Blake. Blake was the man responsible for the Peoples Park in Waterford city.

The church beside it of course is ancient, and many hold the view that it is the site of two churches, and probably stands on the remains of something earlier.  Of course the townland next door is called Kilcullen, or the Church of Cullen, and another church site is located there. If that's not enough, there was a chapel in Faithlegg House, and mass was conducted on the Minaun in penal times! Surely to be interred here means automatic entry through the pearly gates.
Last resting place of the Bolton family
We have graves historic, such as the tomb of Thomas Francis Meagher, we have graves for sea captains, sailors and the lady who died twice! But most of all we have, in the Council award winning graveyard, the graves of men and women who worked their fingers to the bone to raise a family and try and live a good life.  I put a few of them into the ground, as I worked as a gravedigger in the 1980's when work was scarce and any job was welcome.

Faithlegg itself has a long history.  It was granted by Henry II to a Bristol Merchant named Aylward after the Norman landings in 1171/2.  Aylward initially built a Motte and Baily to protect himself, but as tensions eased a fine stone castle was built on the lands above the church.  The last of the Aylwards were hung from the trees around abouts after the siege during the Cromwellian invasion, and to this day, there is the mystery of the abandoned Faithlegg village around the castle site.
Motte & Baily with Keep atop - via Google images
Entering Faithlegg we come across the emblem of the area, St Huberts Deer, probably reflecting the Power family's love of hunting, St Hubert being the patron saint of Hunters and their dogs.  Hubert, the legend goes, was an avid hunter who went out one Good Friday morning into the Ardennes in search of a stag. As he was pursuing his quarry the animal turned with apparently, a crucifix standing between its antlers, while he heard a voice saying: "Hubert, unless thou turnest to the Lord, and leadest an holy life, thou shalt quickly go down into hell".  He quickly converted! 

Faithlegg House was designed and built in 1783 for Cornelius Bolton, who would later go on to create an industrial village at Cheekpoint, we covered that at last years Heritage Week event. Bolton was the last in the line of the family who gained the estate after the Cromwellian invasion. Following bankruptcy it was bought by the Power family in 1816, and the Hotel as it stands today is largely the extension and ornate refit of the house undertaken by the newly wedded Pat Power and Olivia Nugent (daughter of the Earl of Westmeath) in the 1870's
Faithlegg Harries at the "Big House" AH Poole photo 1890's
Returning to Faithlegg we can't but stop to consider the early christian site, dedicated to St Ita.  Her holy well has long been a feature in the parish, but it was once known as Tobar Sionnach. or the Well of the Fox.

These and much more will feature on our walk this coming Sunday 21st August, at 12 noon.  But if you want to walk it yourself here's a self guided walk to follow.  And if you are coming, your own stories of the area would be welcome too.

I publish a blog each Friday.  If you like this piece or have an interest in the local history or maritime heritage of Waterford harbour and environs you can email me at russianside@gmail.com to receive the blog every week.

My Facebook and Twitter pages are more contemporary and reflect not just heritage 
and history but the daily happenings in our beautiful harbour:  
F https://www.facebook.com/whtidesntales  T https://twitter.com/tidesntales

Friday, 12 August 2016

Menacing mines in Waterford Harbour

Floating mines were a feature of both World Wars.  Deployed at sea or around the coast, the target was primarily the shipping that sustained the allied side or to thwart naval incursions.  Although the sailors that suffered on merchant ships were non combatants, the mines also threatened those who fished and even those who lived beside the sea, and Waterford and Wexford endured its fair share.  

I recently recalled the tragic loss of life at Dunmore East in 1917, when a German U Boat was destroyed.  The U Boat, UC-44 was deploying mines at the mouth of the harbour between Dunmore East and Hook Head in Co. Wexford.  At the time, it was a regular occurrence, as was the efforts of the Admiralty to clear them.    However the allies were also deploying mines, most of the access points to the Northern and Southern routes to the English coast were blanketed by minefields in a futile attempt to thwart the U Boat menace. The first Irish casualty of the mines in WW I was the SSManchester Commerce which was sunk off Donegal 26th Oct 1914.  It would be the following July before the admiralty were satisfied that the estimated 200+ mines had been cleared from the area. Maintaining access to Waterford became a job of constant vigilance against the mine laying subs, which included patrols by Sub Chasers, overhead surveillance and constant clearing of the harbour by Mine Sweepers.
An American Sub Chaser anchored above Passage East.
The Americans entered the war in April 1917
Passed on to me by Paul O'Farrell


Mines were also a feature of WWII but this time Ireland was neutral and the country was not directly targeted.  However, it was the Irish who mined Waterford harbour at this stage, which operated between Passage East and Ballyhack from 1941. The mines were deployed in the channel, and were operated by control from Ballyhack, known as command detonated mines.  If any threat was seen, the mines were to be detonated by the shore watch. (1)  I'd imagine the minefield was directed more towards protecting Ireland from a German sea borne attack, which also led to something I've written about previously, the removal of all road signs

During WWII mines became more sophisticated.  The German side were the first to develop magnetic mines that detonated as a ship passed close to them. Mines were also deployed from airplanes, which meant the seas around Ireland became a target after the fall of France.  Mines were reported regularly from ships, shoreline walkers and the lookout posts, operated by the Marine and Coast Watching Service from Sept 1939, that lined the coastline. (2)

Many injuries and fatalities were associated with them.  When a mine beached on the other side of the Hook at Cullenstown in 1941, four members of the LDF died and another was injured.  While a lighthouse keeper on Tuskar Rock died after a mine washed up and another man was injured.  19 men died (largest loss of life nationally) when a mine was spotted on a Donegal beach in 1943.  While waiting for a bomb disposal team an onlooking crowd refused to move back to a safe distance. (3)

The Great Western in camouflage during WWII
Posted by Tommy Deegan on the Waterford History Group Facebook page
The above loss of life gives some context to the following story shared by Noreen Kane on the Waterford History Group on 24th June 2016.  Its based on recollections of her dads (Liam Lundon 1934 – 2009) childhood in Passage East
“Even though there was a war on school was fairly uneventful. There was one particular incident when one morning my father who was the local Garda came in to the school and informed the teacher that the school had to be evacuated as a mine had been spotted on the strand directly underneath the school. It was a glorious spring day we were all marched up the back road to Garret Meades house. We spent the rest of the day there until the "all clear" was given. To this day I don't know how the mine was disposed of"

The school at that time was further out the Crooke road, where the building still stands over looking the harbour. (It closed when the new school opened in 1969) But was the mine disposed of, or just made safe?  Graninne Flanagan commented on our own Facebook page recently about an old mine that was on the beach between Crooke and New Geneva, where apparently her mother used to picnic. My Brother in Law, Bernard Cunningham recalled the mine and said it was the same, his mother Eileen (RIP) often recalled the incident. That having been made safe it was left on the beach. However, it was removed in recent years by a scrap merchant.  I've also heard of another mine that beached at Passage and that was taken away which made the Munster Express in late 1941, and a virtual raft of other incidents down the harbour and all along the coast and along the Wexford shoreline.  They even travelled as far upriver as Mooncoin! There were questions asked in the Dail about a delay in clearing a mine from a packed Tramore Beach in the summer of 1941 and the naval vessel Muirchu was a frequent visitor, called to dispatch mines using gunfire to detonate the threat.

A major incident concerned the Barrow Bridge which had to be closed in March 1946 after a mine drifted too close to the structure.  It was spotted by two Cheekpoint men Heffernan and O'Connor. They reported the sighting to the Garda station in Passage East and a unit from the Curragh was dispatched under Comdt. Fynes to deal with the threat.  Locally it was always said that the boys had thrown a lasso around the mine and towed it away from the bridge as a train approached, saving countless lives as a result.

A more sober account can be found in that weeks Kilkenny People.  The mine grounded between Snow Hill Quay and Drumdowney Point as the tide went out and once settled on the mud, a rope was tied around it, to prevent it floating away. (and no less heroic to my mind, if a little less dramatic) Although the Boat train departed from Waterford that evening, it was decided to close off the line to rail and shipping on the Saturday. The bomb disposal unit had to wait for the tide to go out before they approached the mine. The unit managed to make safe the mine by 4pm that evening, meaning the 5pm train could depart with safety.

My own brush with a mine came while I was herring fishing in Dunmore East.  The details are sketchy I'm afraid, as I could find no record in the newspapers.  However I remember a particularly nasty SE wind and a trawler coming in off Dunmore, but refused entry.  The trawler was being towed if I recall correctly.  The mine was trapped in the nets and part of the nets had fouled the screw. Holding off Dunmore, a team of army bomb disposal experts arrived in Dunmore that day.  I vividly recall their energy and enthusiasm as they jumped out of a dark green jeep with large kit bags and boarded the pilot boat Betty Breen to go out to the trawler.  However, they were back after an hour, green in the face and much less energetic.  The trawler was sent over under the Hook and the decision was taken to await a team from the Navy to deal with the issue.

You might think that such problems no longer exist.  However the most recent article I could find for Dunmore was the Irish Independent of March 2005 and the most recent nationally was August 2007 in the same paper, this time a mine trapped in nets off Co Cork.  Be careful out there, you never know what secrets the sea might give up, particularly on a stormy day.

 (1) & (2)   MacGinty. T.  The Irish Navy.  1995.  The Kerryman. Tralee
 (3)        Kennedy. M. Guarding Neutral Ireland.  2008. Four Courts Press. Dublin

I publish a blog each Friday.  If you like this piece or have an interest in the local history or maritime heritage of Waterford harbour and environs you can email me at russianside@gmail.com to receive the blog every week.

My Facebook and Twitter pages are more contemporary and reflect not just heritage 
and history but the daily happenings in our beautiful harbour:  
F https://www.facebook.com/whtidesntales  T https://twitter.com/tidesntales

Friday, 5 August 2016

U Boat tragedy in Dunmore East

Standing on the breakwater at Dunmore East last night, I found it hard to try cast my mind back to the scene 99 years ago to the day. For on August 4th 1917 just after midnight an explosion ripped through the hull of a U Boat laying mines between Dunmore and the Hook. Three fishermen; Jack McGrath and two brothers Tom & Patsy Power, rowed out from the village in their fishing boat to assist1. Later that night they pulled the half dead captain of the submarine Kapitanleutnant Kurt Tebbenjoahnnes out of the water. From a crew of 30, he would be the only one to survive.

Once in Dunmore, Tebbenjoahnnes was cared for in the home of a Mrs Chester and was seen to by a Mr Austin Farrell. Later that morning he began his journey to London and life as a POW.
UC-44 lying at the quayside at Dunmore September 2017
accessed from: http://www.warrelics.eu/forum/imperial-
germany-austro-hungary/german-u-boat-photos-postcards-156303/

Meanwhile a salvage operation was initiated under a Lieutenant Commander Davis. Divers (tin openers) were deployed, and entered the sub to bring up the U Boats papers and later cables were dropped from a surface vessel, brought under the sub and then brought back to the surface. At low tide, the cables were secured to the decks of two ships and when the tide rose, so did the submarine. Once the sub was sufficiently off the bottom, the salvage vessels moved towards Dunmore. In all it took twenty lifts and as a consequence of bad weather it would be September 25th before they reached harbour.

Salvage operation at Dunmore via Paul O'Farrell

Although the U boat sank, at least 3 of her crew, the Captain, Tebbenjoahnnes, and two engine room staff; Richter and Fahnster escaped. When the explosion happened they were in the conning tower, and were separated from the main craft. Their escape necessitated them opening the outer hatch and a swim to the surface that lay 90 feet above. All three broke the surface together, but eventually they drifted apart.


An intact mine being unloaded (1 of 9 remaining aboard) note Dunmore
Lighthouse to the left.  via Paul O'Farrell on the Waterford Maritime History page

Richter's corpse washed up on Wexford shore in the following weeks and was buried in Duncannon and after the war re-interred in the German Military Cemetery at Glencree Co Wicklow. Apparently Joahnn Fahnster's body was never recovered.

Of the remaining twenty seven souls little is known. There is a thread online claiming that 19 bodies were contained in the submarine when she reached Dunmore, undoubtedly the others would have washed out of the damaged hull. The reference for this claim is cited as Robert Grants book the U Boat Hunters. Some claim that in line with naval policy, they were taken out and buried at sea. It has been speculated that to inter so many in a cemetery on land would draw attention to the fact that the U-boat had been salvaged and thus lose an advantage to the German side. Many accounts don't even mention the crew, their average age being 20! Perhaps seeing the crew list will make it more real.


Rank                Surname               Christian name
Matrose
BARTZ
John.
Ltnt.z.S.d.Res.
BENDLER
Wilhelm
O.Masch.Mt.
BIENERT
Fritz
Heizer
BORGWALDT
K:
Btsm.Mt.d.Res.
BÖTTCHER
A.
O.Matrose
BÜRGER
O.
Masch.Anw.
CLASEN
H.
Ob.Matrose
DÜSING
August
Ob.Masch.Mt.
FAHNSTER
Johann
Heizer
FEHRLE
Erwin
F.T.Gast
GIESENHAGEN
K.
T.Heizer
GOLOMBOWSKI
-
U.Maat
HEUER
Otto
Ob.Btsm.Mt.
HORAND
Hans
Matrose
IDSELIS
Michael
Heizer
KERSTEN
Heinrich
Masch.T.Mt.
KLEIN
Karl
F.T.O.Gast
KRÄMER
A.
O.Masch.Mt.
LEHMANN
R.
Masch.Mt.
MÜLLER
Heye D.
Ob.Btsm.Mt.
PABSCH
J.
Masch.Anw.
RICHTER
W.
Matrose
ROTTSCHALK
Walter
Masch.Mt.
RÖSLER
P.
Ob.Heizer
SCHICKENDANZ
W.
Steuermann
SCHULTER
J.
Masch.Mt.
SCHMITZ
F.
Mt.Ing.O.Asp.
SEIFARTH
Helmut
Matrose
ZIELOSKO
Emanuel


What actually happened to the German U Boat UC-44 that night is still a matter of some speculation and controversy. Some say she struck her own mine, some that there was a design flaw, or tampering with the mines, whilst others say she was destroyed by mines left from a previous deployment. Truth like so much else becomes another victim during war.

I left Dunmore wondering if anyone else looked out last night on the sea and thought about the incident. To date, nothing marks the event, or makes mention of the seamen or their plight. They were, after all, just doing their duty. Ordinary men called in a time of crisis to do extraordinary things. As much as we may have objected to their mission, surely a century later we can at least acknowledge that they existed.

1 Joefy Murphy had a comment (posted below) that there may be confusion with the names. I heard recently that there may be been another Dunore fishing boat in the area. 

My thanks to Michael Farrell of the Barony of Gaultier Historical Society for providing the names of the Power brothers of Dunmore mentioned above. And to Ray Mcgrath for the name of his father also mentioned. Thanks also to Paul O Farrell for the photos and to Mick and Nicki Kenny for information on the crew list.

If you would like to read more, I have published two blogs on the incident itself and the aftermath
http://russianside.blogspot.ie/2016/02/the-dunmore-east-u-boat-trap.html
http://russianside.blogspot.ie/2016/02/dunmore-east-u-boat-trap-part-ii.html

I publish a blog each Friday.  If you like this piece or have an interest in the local history or maritime heritage of Waterford harbour and environs you can email me at russianside@gmail.com to receive the blog every week.

My Facebook and Twitter pages are more contemporary and reflect not just heritage 
and history but the daily happenings in our beautiful harbour:  
F https://www.facebook.com/whtidesntales  T https://twitter.com/tidesntales