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Anger at bid to move memorial to victims of 1953 floods in Hunstanton

Scenes from the 1953 Hunstanton floods

Scenes from the 1953 Hunstanton floods

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For more than 60 years, it has stood in memory of those who lost their lives when the sea smashed through a town’s defences.

Photos by Morris Ward of the damage to Hunstanton in the 1953 floods. Picture: Morris Ward. Photos by Morris Ward of the damage to Hunstanton in the 1953 floods. Picture: Morris Ward.

Now there is anger over plans to re-site the hand-carved tribute as part of a £1.3m seafront revamp.

National Lottery officials have given West Norfolk council £993,000 towards a heritage gardens project on Hunstanton’s cliff-top esplanade.

The tablet in Hunstanton, that records those that died in the great flood of 1953. Picture: Ian Burt The tablet in Hunstanton, that records those that died in the great flood of 1953. Picture: Ian Burt

But the borough council wants to move the slate memorial carrying the 31 names of those who perished in 1953 broke through the town’s defences from where it stands opposite the war memorial, to a new memorial garden 50yds away.

Historian Dick Melton, 77, who spent much of his working life on the resort’s seafront at the Kit Kat Club and Thomas’s Arcades, said: “That was put there in four bits and if they try to move it, it’s going to fall to bits so it will never be the same again.

Scenes from the 1953 Hunstanton floods Scenes from the 1953 Hunstanton floods

“There’s a lot of people who remember the floods. It means a lot to the people of Hunstanton. When you look at the names you’ve got three or four whole families there.”

Borough and town councillor Richard Bird said a public meeting should be held to discuss the move.

Hunstanton floods Hunstanton floods

“I’m on the committee that’s been looking at these gardens and to the best of my knowledge there hasn’t been a meeting for several months,” he said.

“In that time, some plans have been worked up and put on the web, but nobody’s noticed them because nobody’s said they were on the web.

Scenes from the 1953 Hunstanton floods Scenes from the 1953 Hunstanton floods

“One of the contentious issues is the 1953 flood memorial. It’s on the website, nobody complained about it, ergo we’re going ahead with it when there’s a some strong opposition.”

A council spokesman said it had intended to move the memorial to a new Time and Tide Garden which would include stories of RNLI rescues and the history of the town’s pier.

The USAF 67th SOS squadron was granted the freedom of Hunstanton, after the units action which saved lives during the 1953 floods. Picture: Matthew Usher. The USAF 67th SOS squadron was granted the freedom of Hunstanton, after the units action which saved lives during the 1953 floods. Picture: Matthew Usher.

“The memorial’s current position means it is often overlooked or stood on during services,” she said. “It was discussed with the RNLI and the civic society during the previous public consultation and was never questioned or queried.”

She said the council had received a number of comments regarding relocation, adding: “We are currently considering these and if there is an opportunity to improve the setting of the memorial in its existing location then we will update the plans accordingly.”

The memorial stone along Hunstanton Sea front dedicated to those who lost their lives during the great floods that hit the East Coast on January 31st 1953. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday January 31, 2013. 60 years ago the Great Flood battered the east coast of England and by the following morning the death toll was estimated at over 300 in English costal towns and villages. See PA story WEATHER Floods. Photo credit should read: Chris Radburn/PA Wire
The memorial stone along Hunstanton Sea front dedicated to those who lost their lives during the great floods that hit the East Coast on January 31st 1953. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday January 31, 2013. 60 years ago the Great Flood battered the east coast of England and by the following morning the death toll was estimated at over 300 in English costal towns and villages. See PA story WEATHER Floods. Photo credit should read: Chris Radburn/PA Wire

Neil Quincey, now 90, carried stone from the beach to build the memorial after he, his wife and three children were rescued from their beach front property by American serviceman billeted in the town.

The path the memorial stands beside has been named Reis Leming Way, in memory of a young airman who helped ferry 27 people to safety.

Neil Quincey at his Hunstanton home. Picture: Ian Burt Neil Quincey at his Hunstanton home. Picture: Ian Burt

“They can’t guarantee to move it in one piece and if they can’t do that they shouldn’t try,” said Mr Quincey.

High tides, gale force winds and a deep low pressure system create Norfolk’s perfect storm on the night of January 31, 1953.

Some 100 people drowned around the county that night while thousands more were left homeless.

Thirty-one - 15 local people and 16 members of American service families - lost their lives as the waves smashed defences along Hunstanton’s low-lying South Beach Road.

Many more would have perished had it not been for the heroism of Reis Leming, a 22-year-old US airman based at Sculthorpe, who waded out to flooded properties and rescued 27 people.

Mr Leming passed away days before a special service at Hunstanton, in January 2013, when a walk was named after him beside the flood memorial.

Colleagues from hias former unit, now the 67th Special Operations Squadron, led a parade in his honour and laid wreaths at the memorial as a giant transport plane thundered overhead.

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