The East Coast Floods, 1953

Canvey Island, 1953

As I sit here writing about Royal Signals gallantry awards, the news is dominated by accounts of the Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Jose and Katia and the massive earthquake in Mexico. By coincidence, the section that I am writing is about the East Coast Floods of 1953.

You can read about the floods and the gallantry awards that followed here.

One of the military awards was to a Royal Signals NCO—Corporal (later Sergeant) Thomas Stephenson:

Corporal T. Stephenson was driving the leading vehicle or the convoy of army vehicles which reported to the Civil Authorities on Canvey Island at approximately 0630 hrs. on 1st February 1953 for flood rescue work.

He parked his vehicle where directed and then spent the rest of the day on rescue work.

He was working in the most severely flooded area where bungalows had been flooded to a depth of about 3’6” to 5’. He spent from about 0700 hrs. until about 1800 hrs. without a break carrying old people and children who had been isolated by the floods to places of safety from which they could be evacuated. He had no previous knowledge of the area in which he was working and the sunken paths and deep ditches, filled in some places with water to a depth of 9’ constituted a very grave danger to which he paid no attention. He worked without any rest in this very dangerous area, often wading in water to a depth well above his waist without giving any thought to his own safety until ordered to stop when rescue work was made impossible by darkness.[1]

Update, May 2019. When I wrote this article is asked ‘This photograph shows a Royal Signals NCO at Canvey Island—is this Corporal Stephenson?’ I can now confirm that it is!

Corporal T. Stephenson at Canvey Island

1. (Back) The National Archives (TNA). Public Record Office (PRO). (1953). Royal Air Force: Rescue Services (Code B, 67/33): Assistance to civil ministries: East Coast and Netherlands floods, 1953. AIR 2/11955.

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