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You are in: Norfolk » A Sense Of Place

01 February 2003 1642 GMT
Norfolk remembers the floods of 1953
Picture: Floods sweep through Sea Palling
Sea Palling hit by floods in 1953
Picture credit: Eastern Daily Press, Norwich
The catastrophic floods of 1953 were caused by a freak combination of winds, atmospheric pressure and high tides.

Anglian Water
UK Environment Agency
Norfolk Broads Authority

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Have your say on the 1953 floods. Visit our message board.

Floods hero Reis Leming returns
Fred Sadd, a Caister fire-fighter, swam the length of a street to rescue 25 people.
The residents of Walcot woke up on the morning of Sunday 1 February 1953 to find a 4,000 ton coaster sitting high and dry on the beach.
The 7.27 train from Hunstanton to King’s Lynn was brought to a halt by bungalows swept into its path.
Sixteen Americans, billeted between Hunstanton and Heacham, were among the dead.
Two American servicemen were awarded the George Medal for their heroism: Reis Leming and Freeman Kilpatrick.
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The waters, which were up to two meters higher than normal, hit just after six o’clock on the evening of Saturday 31 January. Norfolk’s badly neglected sea defences didn’t stand a chance.

A northwesterly gale had been blowing in Norfolk for the best part of two days.

The winds were so strong that PC Henry Nobbs of Snettisham later told the BBC that he’d left the game between Norwich City and Coventry at Carrow Road early.

"The ball was being blown into the air all the time and the players couldn’t control it," he said.

When PC Nobbs arrived back in west Norfolk, just after 6pm, the sea was already over the car park in Hunstanton and there was flooding in King’s Lynn and Heacham.


BBC Flood Night

A special radio broadcast took place on Friday 31 January to mark the 50th anniversary of the 1953 floods.

Use this link to hear an archived copy of this programme.

The Flood Night special begins 15 minutes into this stream. You will require Realplayer to hear the audio.

More than 80 people died on the coast of northwest Norfolk that night. Others survived a bitterly cold night on rooftops, some on a train.

Ninety minutes after the floods hit the coastal areas around The Wash, the sea broke through the defences at Sea Palling, where seven people drowned.

The next day a Mr Fox spoke to a BBC reporter and described how he tried to escape from his home as the floodwater destroyed its walls.

Tragically, his newborn baby which he’d strapped to his back, was swept away in the torrent. His two elder children died from exposure and then his wife died in hospital shortly after being rescued.

By 9pm that evening the storm surge had reached Great Yarmouth where 10 people died.

When the clear-up operation began the next day in the town, it was estimated that 3,500 homes had been ruined.

Do you remember the 1953 floods or do you live close to the coast today and worry about a possible repeat of the tragedy? Have you say now.


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