One of the worst peace-time disasters happened sixty years ago on the night of Saturday 31 January and Sunday 1 February 1953 when a storm surge – “the Great Tide” – breached the poor sea defenses of the Eastern England coastline. Today ‘red warnings’ from weathermen and other early communication systems would probably have prevented the high death toll among those who lived by the sea. We should not judge the event by today’s standards. That was then and this is now. The event spurred significant defenses to be built along our coastline as a consequence.
One of the best sites covering the 1953 Flood Disaster, with particular reference to Canvey Isand is ‘Beyond The Point’. Joe and Liam, two teenagers from Castle Point are enthusiastic local historians with a particular interest in industrial heritage and their locality. They record the unseen history of south east Essex. The young men are using the Internet to publish their journals, and they remind me of the young and pioneering Eric Rudsdale of Colchester who in the 1920s got involved in archaeology in Colchester and wrote a detailed diary. Joe and Liam’s account of the events on Canvey Island can be found here: http://beyondthepoint.co.uk/2013/01/30/canvey-island-floods-60-years-on/ . See also their account and BBC Essex recording of the unveiling of a memorial plaque to those who died : http://beyondthepoint.co.uk/2012/05/21/121997-plaque-to-commemorate-53-flood-victims-is-unveiled-by-vincent-heatherson/
The Essex Record Office blog has posted pictures of the disaster: http://www.essexrecordofficeblog.co.uk/the-1953-floods-in-essex/
A commemoration service was held at Chelmsford Cathedral yesterday, with the Princess Royal in attendance. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-essex-21264408 and ‘BTP Facebook page’ http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.526850860670449.115207.238743826147822&type=1
BBC Look East interviewed author Patricia Rennoldson Smith on their programme last night.
The BBC website has a number of items which recall the event, including memories of the events at Canvey Island: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-essex-21233959 . Fifty nine people died as tide engulfed their bungalows just after midnight, some of whom struggled onto the rooftop to avoid the water only to suffer from the intense cold of the winter night.