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1953 flood survivors remember disaster and its aftermath

Ryl Anderson's pictures of Chapel St Leonards taken during the Easter holidays after the 1953 floods show the lasting devastation they brought.

Ryl Anderson's pictures of Chapel St Leonards taken during the Easter holidays after the 1953 floods show the lasting devastation they brought.

 

Survivors of the 1953 floods relived vivid memories of the disaster and its devastating aftermath during yesterday’s 60th anniversary events.

Coastal communities which suffered the North Sea’s ferocity paid respect to the drowned victims and pressed for the lessons learned to not be forgot.

In Ingoldmells, where 18 of Lincolnshire’s 42 victims lost their lives, many eye-witnesses shared stories and photographs of the floods during a civic reception held at the Royal Arthur Centre.

Anderby resident John Leeman explained how his mother Dorothea had been awarded a British Empire Medal for her work with the Women’s Voluntary Service caring for the flood victims in Ingoldmells Village Hall.

Dorothea and other volunteers provided food and shelter to the many villagers left homeless by the floods, working through the night to support the stretched emergency services.

John said: “It’s still very vivid in my mind and I don’t think there’s much we could do about it happening again other than to keep our eyes on the tides and the wind and to stay prepared.”

Fellow survivor Doreen Watkinson can also remember the fateful night when gale force winds and an unusually high spring tide combined with catastrophic effect,

Even now, the sound of wind blowing off shore sends a shiver down her spine.

She said: “When the winds are up, it’s something we always think about - it’s always there.”

For days after the floods, Doreen remembers having to check in with the police using special identity cards while fears remained that a repeat disaster may strike and take more lives.

On two occasions the tide rose so perilously high that Doreen and her family were evacuated from their homes, once in the middle of the night when she was awoken by the police pounding on her door.

Despite the efforts from authorities and local residents, the aftermath of the floods lasted long after the tides had receded.

Holidaymakers visiting the coast during the Easter holidays several weeks after the floods could still see the devastation caused to land and property.

Ryl Anderson remembers the wrecked homes and debris scattered beaches she saw while visiting Tomlinson’s Leisure Park in Chapel St Leonards with her parents.

She said: “We were told not to go anywhere near it but it was like a playground to us.”

 

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