Turnstone - Sixty years on – and how we will remember that dreadful night

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The weather might have been more reminiscent of 1963 – when it was cold enough to freeze the sea – but it was memories of the1953 tidal surge that were vividly recalled by John Smith’s presentation in Hunstanton Town Hall last Wednesday evening.

The illustrated talk was organised by Hunstanton Civic Society to commemorate the sixtieth anniversary of the devastating floods, which claimed the lives of 31 victims living in the South Beach area of the town and many more elsewhere in England, Belgium and Holland, where 1,700 people lost their lives.

Closer to home there was considerable loss of life and severe damage to property in Heacham and Snettisham. Both villages will be commemorating the sixtieth anniversary on or around January 31st.

To enable people to attend events elsewhere, the commemoration in Hunstanton is scheduled to commence at 1 pm. This will be when a Norfolk Green bus will be named: Reis L Leming in honour of the young American airman who was awarded the George Medal for his heroism on that dreadful night.

Arrangements had been made for Reis to be in Hunstanton last November for celebrations to mark the sixtieth anniversary of his squadron - the 67th Air Rescue Squadron – subsequently renamed the 67th Special Operations Squadron. Sadly he passed away just days before the event.

British Airways had offered free upgraded flights to England for Reis and his wife Kathy from their home in Bend, Oregon.

The same offer has now been extended to Kathy Leming and she will arrive in Hunstanton next week, accompanied by Reis’s daughter, Debra and son, Michael.

Reis would have been transported from South Beach Road to the Flood memorial in the esplanade gardens in a WWII jeep driven by Barry Beck, Chairman of the Norfolk Military Vehicles Group.

Kathy, Debra and Michael have accepted Barry’s offer to use the same mode of transport – weather permitting -–otherwise the Norfolk Green double-decker bus will be at their disposal.

After a short ceremony at the Flood memorial at 2 pm and the unveiling of a new ‘Reis Leming Way’ sign, there will be a service in St Edmund’s Church commencing at 2.30 pm.

This will be followed by an illustrated presentation at the Princess Theatre (free admission) courtesy of Hunstone Productions featuring some very interesting archive material provided by the BBC.

The presentation will be repeated at 7pm for those with work commitments during the day.