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The 1953 Lincolnshire Floods ~ Disaster !

Flooding in Lincolnshire in 1953 ~ Disaster !
I sit here in my study, it’s not yet 6am, the room lit only by a Bankers Lamp, the wind howling around the eaves, the trees, despite being sans foliage, bend to its will and the rain drums a relentless tattoo against the window . . .
They say you should never start a book with a description of the weather but in this case it’s entirely forgivable (even if my prose isn’t)
It’s the 60th anniversary of massive floods in Lincolnshire . . .

This week saw Flood Warnings issued by Weather Forecasters and the Water Boards, driving through Lincolnshire I’ve seen flooded fields as The Snow melts and the rain comes down but it’s a country mile from the North Sea Floods which were suffered by Lincolnshire in 1953.

31 January – 1 February 1953 saw unprecedented flooding for areas bordering the North Sea, the Netherlands, Belgium, England and Scotland were catastrophically affected . . .
100s of people died . . .

The army took over in Lincolnshire in what the press dubbed Lincolnshire Dunkirk.
People were evacuated as 900 troops took command of the operation.

In Mablethorpe there was a complete evacuation of all residents ordered.
In Skegness 200 people were left homeless and the famous Holiday Camp was completely under water.
Cleethorpes to Barton coasts saw heavy flooding, ships turned over in Immingham Docks and people were evacuated from Goxhill.

I’ll refrain from a load of boring statistics as they’re available elsewhere and offer nothing new.
What I’d be very keen to hear of though is stories related to this, either from press reports, anecdotal or personal experience - the human interest angle of living history is ever of interest.

My thanks to Neville for the forewarning and also for a scan.

Regards to all,
Rod

12 Comments »

  1. veronica said,

    January 31, 2013 @ 8:08 pm

    Like you, the human interest angle is more important to me than hard facts. Lots of snippets but just a couple of golden nuggets first.

    West London Observer

    20th March 1953

    It was reported that Bognor had collected 2000 handkerchiefs to send to the east coast flood victims .

    So many clothes were donated to the children of the east coast flood disaster that it was decided to send some of the clothes over to the children who had experienced the same disaster in Holland.
    ( I am glad that the other communities were supported also.)

    31st July 1953

    The Lord Mayor of London announced that the Lord Mayor’s Fund for the relief of the victims of the east coast flooding had, by reaching £4,745,325 become the largest Mansion House Fund in history.

    (That’s a massive post war amount)

    There were several fund raising events throughout 1953, including charity football matches, concerts held and books and comics donated.

  2. Rod said,

    January 31, 2013 @ 9:13 pm

    V,
    excellent, always appreciated, I love these snippets of news you get.
    Best
    Rod

  3. minnie said,

    January 31, 2013 @ 9:30 pm

    bit off topic, sorry, not the ‘53 floods but the Louth flood 1920 - two members of the family were drowned, Hannah and Frederick Fytche

  4. v said,

    January 31, 2013 @ 10:02 pm

    Minnie

    that is so sad and something that will always remain with your family .

    V

  5. Amiguru said,

    January 31, 2013 @ 10:26 pm

    Minnie,

    I have two contemporary newspapers in my archive of that flood too. I’ll have a look over the next few days and if there is any mention of your relatives in them I shall post it here.

    Regards,
    Neville

  6. Amiguru said,

    February 1, 2013 @ 7:34 am

    1953 seemed to promise to be an eventful year. At the end of January, King George VI had been dead for almost a year and we had a new young queen in his stead. Her coronation at the beginning of June was to be an exciting time for me as an 11-year old, not least for the fact that I would see a television for the very first time when, seemingly the whole population of my village, Huttoft, (near Sutton-on-Sea) had crowded into the Village Hall to witness the event.

    That, however, was still five months ahead on the evening of 31st. January when my Dad took our dog, Jimmy, out to the wash-house at 10 p.m., where she always slept. As he was closing the shed door, he noticed the full moon reflecting off the adjacent field. He was not concerned at this as it was a former rig-and-furrow field under grass and he thought that it must have rained hard and the water was standing in the furrows. It is easy to imagine the horror he would have felt if he had known that it was the North Sea approaching!

    There being little to keep us up in those days with no distracting goggle-box in the corner and so we were soon all in bed. The next morning, my four-years-old sister came and woke me at about 7 a.m., telling me to look out of the window. As can be imagined, as a typically grumpy adolescent, I was dis-inclined to do as she asked until it became a logical ploy to do comply and then get back to bed.

    Bleary-eyed, I couldn’t believe what I saw; where there had been a lane, fields and a garden was water as far as the eye could see! It was only interrupted by the occasional tree top and a single tractor exhaust-pipe :shock: The cliche - ‘I thought I was dreaming’ comes to mind, but as you can imagine, I just didn’t know what to make of it.

    Communication was limited in those day, and of course we had no telephone, nor electricity supply, (nor gas or mains water - but that’s another story!), but as a consequence we had a battery wireless driven by a high-tension, 90 volts battery almost as big as a modern car battery, and lead-acid 3 volts accumulator for low tension! By this means the disaster that was unfolding around our home dawned on us. Slowly bulletins of tragedy came in and my Dad had to decide what to do should the next tide be any higher. Fortunately, our house was on a rise and the sea had only flooded the ground floor to a depth of about three inches but a decision had to be made of an escape plan should the need arise.

    Apart from Mum, he had to consider us children, apart from myself and my sister, Pam, there was Peter who was only two and to cap it all, not one of the family could swim! As needs must, Dad had the idea of turning nature on its head and the 5 feet long tin bath that usually contained water was put to the purpose of keeping water out! We three children dutifully climbed into the bath and Dad practiced towing us up the nearby railway line as an exit route should the need arise. :P

    That’s already enough from me but to help the imagination along, here’s a photo taken not long before this event which illustrates my tale admirably.

    Apart from us, on the left can be seen the wash house referred to above, and hanging on the wall is the emergency craft!

    I’ll post another comment later about the aftermath, both for us and the district.

    Regards,
    Neville

  7. Rod said,

    February 1, 2013 @ 7:38 am

    Neville,
    absolutely wonderful, many thanks for taking the time
    Regards
    Rod

  8. v said,

    February 1, 2013 @ 8:21 am

    What an amazing story and an even more amazing father to his children.

    This is real history and I wish i had ‘’come to'’ Social History earlier in my life than I did! ……( I opted for the political history O level rather than social at age 14 and continued along the political history route for decades. Ridiculous that kids opt at such a young age )

    You say, ‘’ Dad practiced towing us up the nearby railway line as an exit route should the need arise. ‘’
    I think that says it all about the man. He’d have pulled you 3 in the floods regardless of what may happen to himself as he walked.

    Neville , thanks for letting us know this ; it must have been a very frightening time for you all.

  9. Amiguru said,

    February 1, 2013 @ 3:18 pm

    Rod,
    Its always a pleasure when I’ve the time to do it; as it happens I’m very involved in a Special Floods Exhibition down in the Annex too and have to leave by 4.20 so I’d better get my skates, or should I say wellies, on!

    V,
    Many thanks - glad you find it interesting.

    Within the first couple of days of the tragedy we needed to go to Sutton-on-Sea for supplies and the sheer devastation was horrendous as any search of the web will portray but one of the worst things was something that the web cannot, yet, convey - the stench! Most of the human bodies had been recovered by then but added to the mix of static water, debris, and sewage were the carcases of cows, sheep, pigs and chickens as well as wildlife such as foxes, rabbits, rats etc. Just like their human counterparts, they too didn’t know how to escape in the darkness, the storm and the freezing water….total disorientation as their environment was turned topsy-turvy.

    As we got into Sutton it became apparent to us that we had been lucky for apart from the obvious damage, the army was in town trying to restore all and one of the most illustrative scenarios is that soldiers were in bungalows that had lost their windows, shoveling sand out through the window openings, lying on their stomachs as their backs were almost touching the ceilings!

    Shopping was almost out of the question among the chaos so it was decided that Mum and us three youngsters should go to stay with relatives in Lincoln for as long as needed; and so we became refugees. :( I became a temporary pupil at St. Faith’s School on West Parade for two or three weeks and didn’t mind one bit as I became popular due to my status, particularly with two very pretty girls :lol:

    My Dad was a signalman at Sutton-on-Sea station and he stayed behind as a great deal of rail movements were needed to transport all of the materials needed to restore order. He did his shifts then slept in the signalbox as this was more logical than returning home each day.

    I think we were away for about three weeks and on our return we were given a new carpet contributed by Canada, for which we were most grateful and thankful that it was all that had been damaged in our house.

    One final and curious thing that sticks in my mind was the mountains of gypsum down all the lanes which had been supplied to farmers to neutralise the salt that had soaked into their fields. To us children it was just another opportunity to play, in that we used by running up and down the heaps, pretending they were mountains; they looked a bit like grey sand-dunes and had a peculiar smell. Eventually they were put to their intended use and were finally dispersed. They seemed not to be toxic by the way, what ever the case - I’ve lived to tell the tale!

    I have never lived more than a couple of miles from the sea and so I have enjoyed it greatly, and still do, but hold it in great respect for the mighty force that it is!

    Regards,
    Neville

  10. Brian said,

    February 1, 2013 @ 5:20 pm

    Dad had a newsagency business in Humberstone and a summer shop that sold the usual trade of the seaside, buckets spades,pacamacs, postcards and papers etc. It was only a wooden shed with a front opening about 10 x 8 feet and stood at the top of North Sea Lane just in front of where the Pleasure Island overspill Car Park is now situated. The land behind was just farmland in those days. The sea burst through the sea wall at the Buck Beck outfall and flooded the land to a depth of over 4 feet rapidly reaching dad shop which although on higher ground was soon lifted off its foundations and smashed to pieces. As the tide receded the wreckage went with it through the hole in the sea wall and out into the Humber.
    I will never forget the words of the village bobby who stood at the back door in the early hours of the following morning with his bicycle and wearing his helmet and cape, dripping wet and gave him the bad news ” Cyril, your shops been swept away, it was last seen floating down’t river” with a slight smirk on his face ( Dad and the Bobby didn’t get on all that well, something to do with an unpaid paper bill). Of course Dad didn’t believe him at first but a trip to the top of the road and then the beach at first light revealed Dads shop scattered all over the foreshore, hundreds of bits of white painted wood. He did very well out of the Insurance though and had a brand new replacement built.

  11. Rod said,

    February 2, 2013 @ 8:01 am

    Brian,
    amazing story, thanks for taking the time to share it - giving the exact location detail really helps as well Brian.
    Thank goodness your father was insured !
    Best
    Rod

  12. brian stafford said,

    February 2, 2013 @ 9:58 pm

    He had to Rod, his dad was the regional manager for the Wesleyan & General Insurance Co. I recall from what Dad told me in later life the floods were the biggest payout the company had ever had at that time

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