65 years since the cruel sea struck Hunstanton
Tomorrow it will be 65 years since the worst flooding of modern times struck Hunstanton and the rest of England’s east coast.
And remarkably an account of the storm of January 31, 1953, and its aftermath has recently come to light.
The following brief summary is based on a detailed report written by Captain Edward Frost and provides a fresh insight into the part played by the USAF 67th Air Rescue Squadron (known today as the 67th Special Operations Squadron).
Capt Frost sets the scene at RAF Sculthorpe thus: “Payday night and nothing, not even the stormy bitter cold gale blowing outside, could dampen the gala Saturday night party spirit. Even now the airmen’s barracks were almost empty ... There was nothing to indicate what was to happen in the next few hours.”
He goes on to describe a series of phone calls from Hunstanton Police station starting at 7pm with a request for an amphibious vehicle of some kind to evacuate people from the flooded area.
It soon became apparent that much more would be required, and by 7.45 all available 67th Air Rescue personnel, equipped with life rafts, life preservers, radios, anti-exposure suits, lifeboats, trucks, blankets, medical supplies etc were dispatched to Capt Dowling, who had rushed to Hunstanton from his home to take charge of military rescue operations.
At 8.15 the first trucks with personnel, equipment and lifeboats arrived in Hunstanton. Capt Dowling immediately briefed the boat crews on the area to be searched and the dangers likely to be encountered from the very high wind, heavy seas and near freezing water temperatures.
Due to the danger involved, assignment to a boat crew was on voluntary basis.
There is a vivid description of the hazards faced by one of the lifeboat crews in rescuing eleven people, despite the propeller and rudder becoming entangled in barbed wire and a fence post.
Another boat crew overcame similar difficulties in rescuing six people, including David Axford, but his mother and father were already dead when the crew reached their almost submerged trailer.
As the problems with these A-3 lifeboats were reported it was decided to use life rafts, designed to carry four or six people.
It was at this point that Reis Leming succeeded in rescuing 27 people in three separate trips. At one point he had 15 survivors in a six-man raft.
Before he became unconscious from exposure and exhaustion, Reis rescued Mr and Mrs Quincey, their three children, Susan, Jane and William, together with their dog.
On the anniversary of their tragic deaths, Neil Quincey intends to pay his respects to the the 31 victims named on the Flood memorial in the Esplanade gardens.