Jaywick remembers the 1953 North Sea floods
- 31 January 2013
- From the section Essex
Although Jaywick's sea defences held firm, 35 villagers perished in the 1953 North Sea floods.
The village's vulnerability had long been known. The building of sea walls started in the 18th Century.
But, 60 years ago all those efforts were circumvented by the North Sea.
The killer waters came not from the sea front, but from behind.
The village was caught off guard by a threat which had been unforeseen.
Survivors remember how the water rushed in and how fate could be dictated by ground undulations, which meant the flood levels varied from home to home.
The floods stopped at the Cottage Cafe, half a mile inland. Today, the building is the Jaywick Methodist Church.
For those who lived through the floods, the site is revered.
Harry Francis, 73, was taken there to safety with his family six decades ago.
Speaking from the site, Mr Francis said: "The first thing I remember was my arm falling out of my bed into freezing cold water, being told to get up quick and get dressed.
"My dad was yelling at us to get out and get into the lounge. The bungalow started to move, it started to shake and started to rock.
"He went to the front door and opened the front door and opened it and waded to the back and kicked a hole in it, That stopped the rocking, but the water level went from 3ft (1m) to 5ft (1.5m)."
His parents then smashed a hole in the ceiling and got the family into the loft space.
"That's when we realised how bad it was. The water was only a couple of inches below the ceiling. We all just sat on rafters," he continued.
"Out of the back of our bungalow we were calling to a family and this family were calling back to us.
"And then they stopped calling and we thought they had been rescued.
"But they hadn't. They had all drowned."
Monty Dare was working in Harrods in London when the floods struck. But his family were all in Jaywick and he only learned of the floods from a newspaper.
'Running on hammock'
"There on the front page was a picture of my father carrying my ten-month old baby sister Jill out of the boat and behind him was her nanny being given a piggy back," he said.
"All our family has in the boat. They were the first out here."
"My mother got up in the morning and it was very windy and she looked out and she thought she saw water.
"And as she turned around to run back to the bedroom the carpets all lifted up from the floor because she was running on about 1ft (30cm) of water.
"It was like running on a hammock. The water rose to about 3ft inside the bungalow.
"A near neighbour of ours drowned in her bed. The water had come up to the picture rail."