2nd October 2013: The Great Floods of 1953

Wye Historical Society began its new season of lectures on Wednesday 2nd October when Bronwen Sadler, Secretary of the Kent History Federation, addressed a packed audience on the subject of 'The Great Floods of 1953'.

By way of introduction Mrs Sadler referred to two earlier flood disasters, one at Dolgarrog in Wales and the other at Lynmouth, although these pale into relative insignificance compared with the hurricane that hit the east coast of England in 1953 resulting in the loss of 307 lives and the flooding of 150,000 acres of land. Mrs Sadler explained that, occurring as it did at the end of January in freezing temperatures, the northerly hurricane, with wind speeds of up to 140 mph, whipped up abnormally high tides. Sea defences along the east coast proved sadly inadequate having been justifiably neglected during World War II. Lincolnshire was the first area to suffer but Canvey Island saw the worst tragedy with 58 deaths and the total population left homeless. Mrs Sadler presented a wealth of meticulous detail illustrated by photogaphs and newspaper cuttings showing the devastation of homes, towns and villages, as well as survivors many of whom would have spent the bitter night of the disaster clinging to the roofs of their homes to avoid the rising flood waters, clad only in their nightwear.

The lasting impression from the talk was both of horror and of heroism. The horror facing the people involved in the floods was graphically described as was the unsung heroism of those who fought bravely (and often unsuccessfully) to save family and friends or who took part in the huge rescue operation that followed.

Jenny Oram