Photo Gallery: Flooded Wells lifeboat station packed for carol concert
- Credit: IAN BURT
Wells Lifeboat Station was packed with 200 carollers for a special festive service, just 10 days after it was damaged by the flood waters of the tidal surge
Battered but unbeaten, the Wells lifeboat station stood defiantly against the onslaught of the North Sea at the height of the recent storm surge.
And about 200 grateful townspeople packed the boathouse last night to show their appreciation – and to prove the community's determination to bounce back from its hardships with a musical display of seasonal spirit.
The Wells Lifeboat Carol Service, first held five years ago, took on an added significance this year after the exposed coastal outpost found itself on the frontline of the battle against the rising waters on December 5.
While everyone else was battening down the hatches, the crew opened their main doors to the advancing tide, so they could not be jammed shut, or stoved in, which could damage the boat – by doing so, they put themselves at the mercy of the ocean.
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The station was completely flooded, its inshore lifeboat doors were torn off, and an estimated 20 tonnes of sand and shingle were dumped on the floor of the building when the waters receded.
But the station remained fully operational throughout and, although repairs are still continuing, it was also ready to receive visitors for the traditional carol service, led by lifeboat chaplain the Rev Neil Woodruff.
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Among the crew members who read at the service was lifeboat coxswain Allen Frary, also the chairman of the town council. He said: 'This is a thanksgiving, in some respects, for the support we received from the town, and also from further away, following the floods.
'We have bounced back from everything that happened ten days ago. The crew that turned up to create a skeleton crew within our flood plan did not do it for money or for personal gain. They turned up because this is their lifeboat station.
'That is the spirit that runs through the lifeboat station, and through Wells itself. The town has dealt with everything with the same community spirit that has always run through Wells.'
Mr Frary was unable to put a figure on the damage to his boathouse, but said the RNLI had estimated more than £500,000 of damage had been suffered in total by lifeboat stations along the east coast.
The carols were accompanied by Fakenham Town band and led by the Wells Churches Together Choir, with prayers said by the Rector of Wells, the Rev Andrew Good, who said: 'The townsfolk here support the lifeboat crew very much all throughout the year, but especially when something like this happens.
'We are here to say thanks. The town itself bounced back immediately, but there are still flooded businesses and people's homes which are uninhabitable.
'Their Christmas will not be what they were expecting, but everyone has pulled together and looked after each other.'
During the service, Wells lifeboat chairman Peter Rainsford gave an account of the drama on the night of the floods. He said: 'Completely surrounded by an angry sea, the crew must have wondered if it would ever stop? Yet they worked tirelessly to clear the debris and keep the station operational.'
The collection at the service raised £500 for Wells Lifeboat funds.