Doubly-unlucky Alec loses hand in factory accident and home in Walcott floods

Floods. Walcott damage after the sea surges. Alec Brackenbury with his destroyed home.
PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY Floods. Walcott damage after the sea surges. Alec Brackenbury with his destroyed home. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY

Tuesday, December 17, 2013
8:00 AM

Alec Brackenbury was among those made homeless when the storm surge swept away his seafront caravan at Walcott.

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Tidal surge victim Alec Brackenbury with the new caravan to replace the one he lost when the storm hit Walcott.
PHOTO BY SIMON FINLAYTidal surge victim Alec Brackenbury with the new caravan to replace the one he lost when the storm hit Walcott. PHOTO BY SIMON FINLAY

But for Mr Brackenbury, 48, the trauma was doubly distressing because he is still recovering from a devastating factory accident earlier in the year which has left him without a hand and part of his forearm.

That disaster, which happened in June while he was servicing machinery at the Heinz factory in Westwick, near North Walsham, also robbed him of his livelihood as a self-employed micro-brewer.

“This year has been like living through a nightmare - it just gets worse and worse,” said Mr Brackenbury.

“I’ve lost a hand, my business, my dignity, girlfriend, self-respect, my ability to drive - and now my home.”

He said he was very grateful to those who had rallied round to help - offering him free temporary accommodation, clearing debris from his caravan yard, and hauling in a new trailer home for him - but he could not spend the winter on the site in case his arm stump developed frostbite and he lost even more of it.

Mr Brackenbury and his former girlfriend watched from his van, parked out of the sea’s range, as the storm surge threw up huge waves which knocked his caravan over.

He believes the adjoining shipping tanker, in which his Bees Brewery had been based before his accident, gave some measure of protection and meant that about 60pc of his belongings inside the caravan were not damaged.

Margaret Moore, of the Keswick Hotel, Bacton, had offered him a free bed for a few days and the next day he struggled with his one arm to remove his belongings.

“I was helped by three people but it was really hard and by the end my elbow and shoulder were really hurting,” he said.

On Wednesday a team of volunteers had arrived to clear his yard of debris and make way for a trailer donated by Castaways Holiday Park in Bacton.

“These people are all saints, and I’m very grateful to them,” said Mr Brackenbury.

But he said there were no services connected to the caravan and, even if there were, his disability meant he could not risk spending a winter in the UK.

He is now pinning all his hopes on having a prosthetic hand fitted this Friday - exactly six months since his accident.

If he can then drive, Mr Brackenbury plans to visit family, including his two daughters in Leicester, for Christmas and then fly to somewhere warm until the worst of the winter has passed.

“At the moment I’m waking up each morning not knowing what’s going to happen. I don’t know how to live my life,” he said.

“I’m used to being self sufficient. I’ve never signed on and I’ve always owned my own home. I have had suicidal thoughts but I would never do it because I’ve got too much to live for and I want to see my daughters grow up.”

■ Mr Brackenbury feels that there is very little help available for those who have lost an upper limb and he wants to hear from others in his position so that they can swap advice and offer mutual support. Ring 07971 577 526.


  • DAISY ROOTS, please give it a rest, you really are boring us. People should be allowed to live where they want not where you think. The reason so many died in 1953 was because of a total lack of sea defences. Also many died of hypothermia. Your take on history is so wrong it makes your argument totally invalid.

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    Wednesday, December 18, 2013

  • What a terrible year for you, but, things will get better, we have limbless people in the family and they work. Just give yourself time.

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    Tuesday, December 17, 2013

  • A terrible thing to happen-but I will say it again-what is NOrth Norfolk council doing allowing people to live all they year around in caravan sites bang on the beach-caravan sites one can only assume were originally given permission for holiday use. The serious loss of life at Heacham in the 1953 floods ( and at Canvey Island etc) was mainly because so many people were living in post war temporary accommodation-ie holiday homes. There should be a bit of whip cracking at NNDC and GYBC to see just what has changed in their planning guidelines to now allow all year round residency in sites formerly used for seasonal occupation

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    Daisy Roots

    Tuesday, December 17, 2013

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