1953 flood survivor recalls freezing night on roof that left little sister dead of exposure

310123 Eddie Evans and little sister Judith
Eddie Evans with her little sister Judith who died of exposure after the 1953 floods Credit: Family photo

A woman who lost her four-year-old sister in the 1953 North Sea floods after her family were forced to shelter on a freezing roof for hours has been speaking about the ordeal.

Eddie Evans, who was six, had to shelter with her mum, dad and little sister Judith on the corrugated iron roof of their home at Canvey Island in Essex as water surged around the building.

The family, who were only wearing their nightclothes, were on the roof for 13 hours, drifting in and out of consciousness in the cold.

Judith, who died of exposure, was one of 59 people from Canvey Island in Essex who lost their lives.

Mrs Evans, who now lives in Norfolk, said she has never been able to live near the sea again after that terrible night.

Eddie Evans said she has never been able to bear being near the sea after that terrible night Credit: ITV Anglia

She lived in a shack near the sea wall in Canvey with her parents Ted and May Goodman and remembers waking up to find mattresses sliding into the water and furniture floating in the house.

Her father climbed out of a window and broke a hole in the corrugated iron roof so the family could clamber up to escape the rising tide.

Eddie Evans with her mum and baby sister Judith Credit: Family picture

"My sister and I had our little nighties on, we'd been to bed. My Dad had a pair of underpants and Mum had a cotton dressing gown so that's all we had and we just hugged each other on the roof to try and keep some warmth - with the two of us girls in between them.

"I was more conscious than Mum, Dad or my sister and I had to keep yelling for help because my Dad said keep yelling Ed.

"And then I came too again in the ambulance and saw the ambulance man working on my sister, rubbing her chest, and I said: "Hello Judith. You ok?" And he said: "She's ok darling you go back to sleep, I'm looking after your sister."

"Well we eventually got to Southend General Hospital and I went one way to a ward and she was taken the other way and it turned out afterwards that that was towards the morgue. Mum never got over it. Ever."

The storm surge ran down the North Sea on a Spring tide backed by winds well over 100 mph on the night of January 31 1953.

Rescuers in boats at Canvey Island Credit: Pathe

Sea defences along the east coast were breached in 1200 places, 150,000 acres were flooded and 40,000 people left homeless.

Mrs Evans remembers 'dreadful' sights, seeing a house torn from its foundations and floating past the family as they clung to the roof.

"I can still close my eyes and see it all. I still remember it so vividly, everything."

She said their family was never the same after losing Judith.

"It was very difficult and mum didn't ever get over it."

Mrs Evans is grateful that though nature is still just as powerful it is not as unpredictable. But she still can't be beside the sea.

"Because I can still see it in my mind's eye. It's still there. It's a memory that won't go. I just don't like it."

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