Prince of Wales gets history lesson from villager who pulled bodies from 1953 floods in Norfolk
The Prince of Wales heard how a teenager pulled bodies from a beach following the devastating North Sea floods which killed hundreds of people more than 70 years ago.
Prince William arrived unannounced to an exhibition at Snettisham, in north Norfolk, marking the anniversary of the storm surge which forced 30,000 people from their homes in Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex.
The flood waters swept along the east coast on the evening of 31 January 1953, killing 307 people in England and taking the lives of many more in Scotland, the Netherlands and at sea.
The event at Memorial Hall was organised by David Bocking, who was just 18 when the floods hit his village.
After hearing about the surge, he caught the bus home from King's Lynn where he was supposed to be having a farewell party before joining the army a few days later.
"It was about 5pm. My father and I went down to the beach because we had heard water had come over," he said.
"It was 100mph winds. We got half a mile away from where father's animals were and we walked into water. We walked in further and it got deeper and deeper.
"We all had torches - and we started to see bodies.
"The tide had come round and as people had tried to come off the beach along the road, there was a gully with water which was very, very strong, and it just whipped them away."
Mr Bocking and his father began helping to pull the bodies from the water. In Snettisham alone, 25 people died.
Now 88, the parish councillor is the only person still living in the village who can remember that day.
He said it was important to pass those memories on.
But he had not expected to be giving a history lesson to the heir to the throne.
Mr Bocking said the Prince of Wales had "poked his head round the door" without any warning and spent half an hour looking at the photographs.
"He didn't know anything about the flood," said the organiser. "Nobody had really told him about the floods but he walked around, spoke to everybody and asked about the different pictures.
"He was very interested in it."
Mr Bocking said he had previously mentioned the exhibition to the prince's aunt - Diana, Princess of Wales' sister - who lives in the village.
"I spoke to her a couple of hours before he came and she hadn't heard a thing," he said. "Then he walked through the door."
Events have been taking place in many coastal communities in the east to mark the anniversary of the floods.
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