Sixty years on: floods of 1953

Sixty years ago today the South of England experienced one of the worst natural disasters in British history. More than three hundred people died when a storm battered the coast. Thousands in Kent were forced to flee their homes in the following days

Great Flood - How we would cope now

Up to twenty milimetres of rain could fall over the weekend, leading to flooding around some of our rivers. It will be as nothing though compared to the disaster of Sixty years ago when dozens of people died and coastal towns along the North Kent coast were wrecked.

Forecasters say we are now much more prepared, thanks to the Thames Barrier and stronger sea defences - and a much better warning system. Derek Johnson speaks to March Douch and colin Bowley from the Environment Agency's Flood Warning Centre in Kent.

RAF fill sandbags with mud!

Black and white picture sent in
226 Sqr. of RAF Stradishall 1953 Credit: John Choat

John Choat was a 20 year-old in 226 Squadron of RAF Stradishall when the great storm hit the East coast. He remembers going to the rescue of the emergency services when the flood waters began to rise outside Felixstowe.

"We ran out of sand so we had to fill our bags with mud," he said.

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"Water, water everywhere, never seen anything like it."

60 Years ago today - the east of the country was devestated by the worst floods in living memory.

A massive storm, high winds and a tidal surge sent the sea flooding into Kent, Essex and right up the coast to Yorkshire.

300 people died - and over 24 thousand homes were destroyed. Holland was hit too with over 1800 losing their lives there.

Derek Johnson remembers the 1953 East Coast Flood and speaks to relief worker Tony Larkins, Eyewitness Bron Sadler, Manda Gifford from Canterbury Museums and Galleries and photographer Derek Darby.

Floods of '53 - your memories

Thousands of people had to leave their homes during the floods Credit: ITV News Meridian

William Jarvis says he remembers the last London bus trying in vain to make it out of the Isle of Sheppey as the sea wall broke. "When the water got to them they had to get on the roof of the bus'',he says.

James Little from Ropley in Hampshire was serving with the Royal Engineers at Chatham and was deployed to reinforce the Thames' banks. He says ''There were warehouses containing very large rolls of newsprint paper that had swollen up with water and demolished the buildings by collapsing the walls"

Don Deverill from Ruscombe in Berkshire remembers cycling with school chums from London to Whitstable ''The sea wall had been smashed to pieces'', he says ''Great pieces of concrete everywhere. We sat and had fish and chips amongst the rubble then cycled home.''

Peter Willson from Bearsted in Kent was a 15 year-old newspaper boy in Wainscott in Medway. He says '' I had to wade through flood waters and lift by bag very high on my handlebars to get through all the floods to Upnor which was cut off. An experience that I will never forget.''

"It looked like the houses were moving" - floods of 1953 remembered

Sixty years ago today the South of England experienced one of the worst natural disasters in British history.

More than three hundred people died when a huge storm battered the Eastern coast of England and thousands of homes were destroyed.

Canvey Island in Essex was badly hot, with more than 50 residents killed. Bronwen Sadler from Headcorn in Kent was a ten year-old trapped in her home with her family. As a leading member of the Kent History Federation she now gives lectures on the flood.

Derek John has been talking to her.