Tuesday, 14 June 2011

The Great Tempest and Flood of January 31st 1953

The loss of the life and property as witnessed on February 1st 1953 was in every way catastrophic. The complete and utter devastation had never been envisaged, nor could have been even imagined. Waves, higher than a house were forced landwards by Hurricane force winds intent on destroying man's puny sea defences. The Toll of lives lost on that fateful night along our immediate coastline was one hundred, comprising:



Kings Lynn

Gt. Yarmouth

Sea Palling




Hy.c. 7pm that evening, 32 ft. waves had breached the banks of the Great Ouse and the the Flax, adjacent to the South Gates in Lynn. (Cattle, sheep and pigs, and other livestock perished on the marshes; as didmudcaked human beings brought in to the Mortuary, Fiftenn hundred people were evacuated - the Civil Defence, Social and Emergency Services, with the Royal Air Force, were stretched to, and beyond, their combined forces. The 7.30 train to Hunstanton was brought to a halt before Heacham by floodwater high enough to extinguish the furnace in the engine. The track ahead had been swept away and the train stranded. Beach Huts and Bungalows, approximately fifty, were demolished, and by the Tempest and their remains strewn everwhere. The tragedy also took 65 lives as it raged onwards unchecked, and unabating. The local Hunstanton and Heacham residents battled against the floods to rescue families trapped between the South Beach and the town. The American Air Force at Sculthorpe draftes in men and huge machines. One American Serviceman, Coporal Heis Leeming, waded up to his neck in the swirling waters, pusing a dinghy from house to house and rescuing a total of twenty seven people. He was the hero of that night, all the more so as he was a non-swimmer, and in recognition of his bravery was awarded the George Medal.

Hunstanton Town Hall was used as a temporary mortuary and many a heart wrenching scene took place as boddies were identified. The water supply had been contaminated by flood damage and so water traversed the town giving out drinking water.. The caravans and beach bungalows had all disappeared, leaving in their place rubble and household items strewn everywhere.

The bodies of local residents were interred, whilst their American neighbours were returned to the UNited States with full military honours.

Not until futher floods in January 1978 was a public warning system brought into operation in the form of 1938 - 1945 air raid warning sirens stood at the rear of the Townhall until the eirly 1960's when the kitchen garden of the Golden Lion Hotel was taken over and transformed into a shopping precinct. The siren was then relocated to the Fire Station.

As a result of a fierce storm in March 1883, the promenade to the South of the Town (towards Heacham) and had been swepted away, and it was mainly this beach which nature used in her cruel onslaught on mankind and the land. In this modern age, the promenade has been extended right through to Heacham. In the aftermath of the Great Tempest in 1953 gangs of Irish labourers were imported to build the banks of defence stretching to Snettisham.

Never since, has such a storm of devastating furiosity occured. Even the one of January of 1978, when the pier was reduced to Iron supports in the sand, was nowhere near the strength of 1953. It must be recorded, however, that although much material damage was wreaked, no loss life was experienced. Severe storms have been experenced along this coastline for many years 1883, 1938, 1947, 1948, 1949, 1953 and 1978. It is interesting to note that in the year 1549, Commissioners were appointed to oversee land defence against the sea. Whatever had been achieved over 404 years was swept away into oblivion on January 31st 1953.

God Rest Their Souls
Lives lost in the Great Flood and Tempest of January 31st 1963 
Frederick F Axford
Mahel C Axford
Kathleen C Coates
William Dover
Samuel E  Hurling
Dorothy M Hurling
Phyllis Papworth
Patricia A Papworth
Jennifer Papworth
Susan Papworth
Thel R C Southwell
William Stubbings
Derek Stubbings
Marjorie Stubbings

Citizens of the United States of America
Temporarily Resident
Bernard F Bailey
Agnes L Bailey
Pamela D Bailey
Herbert E Branch
Sandra K Branch
Herbert E Branch junior
Maynard W Martin
Dorothy V Martin
Russell O Martin junior
John W Martin
Rose E Richardson
Joseph M Richardson
Jame R Richardson

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