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Sunday, November 11, 2012
Past the empty arcades and the seafront cafes with steamed-up windows, they marched through the drizzle along the Prom.
Members of the 67th Special Operations Squadron, led by the City of Norwich Pipe Band, made a stirring sight as they filed up from the seafront towards the waiting crowd.
The Mildenhall-based 67th paraded through Hunstanton today as part of its 60th anniversary celebrations.
For shortly after the formation of its forerunner, an air sea rescue squadron based at RAF Sculthorpe, the Norfolk coastline was swamped by the 1953 floods.
Young airman Reis Leming - a 22-year-old from the 67th who couldn’t swim - became a hero after he waded into the water towing a rubber dinghy and rescued 27 people from the waves. Thirty one others died along Hunstanton’s South Beach Road when the sea broke through.
Mr Leming was due to attend Saturday’s ceremony, when a pathway through the Esplanade Gardens high on the cliff tops was named after him.
Sadly, Mr Leming passed away at his home in America, aged 81, just days before he was due to return to Norfolk.
Addressing the parade, Hunstanton Mayor Elaine Clutton said: “We’re gathered here today to remember the 31 victims of the 1953 floods and to remember Reis Leming, who should have been here today to celebrate the 60th anniversary of his squadron, the 67th Air Rescue Squadron, but sadly he passed away earlier this week.”
John Maiden, from Hunstanton Civic Society, read out the names of the Norfolk people who lost their lives in 1953 - some of whom were his classmates at primary school.
Lieut Col Shelley Rodrigiuez, commanding officer of the 67th, read out the names of the Americans who lost their lives that same night.
A wreath to Mr Leming and the victims off the floods was named next to the memorial bearing their names, by the 67th’s oldest surviving veteran, Col (Rtd) Bill Goodwin and its newest recruit, airman Eric Wellman.
Then Lieut Col Rodriguez and Mr Maiden unveiled the new sign marking Reis Leming Way. Mr Leming never knew that the little seaside town where he is still hailed a hero had that honour planned for him, as it was intended as a surprise.
As the parade was dismissed, Mrs Clutton said it had been very moving.
“Considering the awful weather it was nice to see so many local people turn up,” she said.