in the evening prior to the water flooding the lower part of the
town, along with fishermen and motor boat owners, we had been busy
on the sea front hauling boats up from the beach onto the promenade.
"The tide was abnormally high and by nine thirty or so that
evening, the sea water was actually running over the promenade into
the road. I lived on Orwell Road near to St. John's Church and as
I made my way home the gale force wind was causing the tiles to
fall off the church roof at such a rate that it resembled a waterfall!
"The first I knew of the flooding was when very early the next
morning a police constable came knocking on our front door with
a message telling me to get down to the Ordnance Hotel as quickly
as possible where I was to meet up with Rupert Bullock our Group
Scoutmaster, who was also a local magistrate.
"The bottom of Garrison Lane, along side the Ordnance Hotel
had become a beach. There was shingle all over the road and the
water was lapping the newly formed shore. I was soon rowing up Langer
Road towards the worst affected area. With others, I spent the day
rowing back and forth ferrying people from their homes to the rescue
centre that had been established in the Cavendish Hotel.
"We were later joined in our rescue work by a contingent of
soldiers, many of who had never been in a boat before or were able
to swim. Not the best qualifications for the job in hand and some
doubt was cast on their ability to be of much help. However, these
doubts were soon forgotten as, like every one else engaged in the
rescue work, they got stuck in and did a splendid job.
"A search of the caravan site on Walton Avenue for possible
survivors in the smashed up caravans was made all the more unpleasant
by the presence of dead livestock. Cattle and pigs were scattered
all around, looking as though they had been blown up like huge balloons.
We did find our appetites had been affected, when on returning to
the Cavendish Hotel, we were offered pork sandwiches to restore
"Quite late in the evening, a man came into the rescue centre
concerned that he had not been able to find any trace of a relative
and her daughter. They lived in one of the prefabs and had not been
seen in the rescue centre.
"We set out in our rowing boat in the dark with just a tilley
lamp to guide our way. We found the prefab, which had been washed
some considerable distance from its foundations to be halted by
"Inside we found the young mother and her small child, who
clearly had been making a futile and frantic effort to escape. Sadly,
both had drowned in the appalling onslaught of the water. The terror
of the ordeal they must have suffered is quite unimaginable.
"We spent a couple of more days helping people to find belongings
and carrying out other tasks associated with the cleaning up process
until we had to give up through sheer exhaustion. The work of clearing
up was to go on for very much longer as considerable work had to
be carried out to make homes habitable again.
"The enduring memory of those terrible days is of the amazing
fortitude of the people involved and their ability to come to terms
with the horror of what had happened. Nowadays, those enduring
any kind of trauma are given counselling. Back in 1953 there was
no such thing available and people had to rely on the support of
family and friends to be able to learn to get their lives back on
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