Town remembers those lost and the heroes of the 1953 floods
- Credit: Archant Archive
A town remembered those who lost their lives and the heroism of those who risked their own to save others in the 1953 floods.
Some 31 perished on the night of January 31, when a storm surge crashed through the sea defences at Hunstanton.
Sixteen of those killed were American service personnel, who were billeted in houses along South Beach Road.
The terrible night also saw heroic acts, as US airmen from the 67th Air Rescue Squadron went to rescue those in danger.
On what would have been the eve of the 69th anniversary of the disaster, members of the present day 67th Special Operations Squadron, based at RAF Mildenhall, joined Hunstanton mayor Adrian Winnington, town councillors and people from the town at the flood memorial in the Esplanade Gardens.
The names of the dead were read out by Mr Winnington and the 67th SOS Squadron's commander, Lt Col Jared Williams.
The party then walked a short distance along the clifftops to a walkway which is being named in honour of an American airman who saved 18 lives on the night of the storm.
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Freeman Kilpatrick, who died at the age of 87 in 2014, was a 26-year-old US Air Force Sergeant stationed at RAF Sculthorpe, near Fakenham.
Sgt Kilpatrick, from Louisiana, lived with his wife Sara and daughter Suellen in a bungalow on South Beach Road.
On the night of the storm, he was due to go out but as he stepped out the door he saw the storm surge, he ran to his neighbours' houses to warn them and take them to higher ground.
By then he had swam back to his own home, the water was rising rapidly and the family had to get out onto the roof. Their house was washed away and they spent hours clinging onto the wreckage before they were themselves rescued.
Sgt Kilpatrick was later presented with the George Medal for bravery, one of just five Americans to have been presented with the honour in peacetime.
They included fellow 67th Sqn airman Reis Leming, who waded out and rescued 27 people on the night of the storm despite the fact he could not swim, before collapsing from hypothemia.
A walkway in Hunstanton is named after airman Leming.
Lt Col Williams spoke of the special bond forged between Hunstanton and the 67th SOS Sqn at a buffet at the town hall.
He said the twinning was the only one which existed across the entire US military.
Lt Col Williams was resented with two copies of a painting honouring the relationship on behalf of Hunstanton by Mr Winnington - one for the squadron's HQ and one for his home after he leaves the UK later this year.