Mr Alan Whitehand recalls his experiences in the 1953 fen floods. (Feb. 2002)
Reading Mike Petty’s stories of Flood in 1937 and 47 brought back memories of my own experiences in the 1947 floods in our own area. I was working for Derek Crouch, Sheltons Farm, Feltwell Fen in 1946 and severe frost and snow at the end of that year all workers were laid off because crops could not be lifted from the frozen and snowbound fields. The weather remained severe with further heavy snowfall until early March. About March 10th there was a sudden thaw quickly followed by heavy rain which soon melted the snow drifts and the frozen earth could not absorb all this water. The River levels rose very quickly and the Little Ouse at Hockwold burst a bank and a breach about 20 yards long occurred. A friend and myself cycled to the scene and we were soon enrolled filling sandbags alongside villagers, prisoners of war and farmers.
I vividly remember Mr Tom Spencer knocking iron stakes into the breach with a 14lb hammer and hundreds of men passing sandbags, like a chain gang to fill the breach. Also I remember my friend and I in a boat for some reason, probably delivering sandbags; but unfortunately my friend fell overboard and that ended our little adventure. Luckily it was a lovely day after all the terrible previous weather and we made our way home.
Southery – a few nights later.
I spent two nights on the A10 at Southery, a different experience from Hockwold. There were hundreds of men and machines, floodlights and atrocious weather conditions. We built a sandbag wall six or more feet tall covered with tarpaulins, canvas sheeting etc. You could sometimes feel the road shaking under your feet or see a straw stack or a tree go floating by, quite frightening at times. One morning I came home soaked to the skin, it had poured with rain all night. Went back the next night and the work continued. There was a good support system in Southery, mobile canteens etc, where you could get drinks, soup etc. Part of Southery recreation field was dug up for sandbag material. All this toil and effort was in vain as water seeped through a forgotten gulley and Southery Fen was flooded. Luckily I had gone home when it burst and thank God no one was hurt. Hope it never happens again.
Memories of Flood 2 by Miss Alice Baker
At that time I was living and working in Surrey. I used to visit my parents frequently in Feltwell, and on this occasion, was planning a week’s holiday with them. As usual, I took the train from Liverpool Street to Ely, intending to change on to the Norwich line and proceed to Lakenheath. However, at Ely we were told that it was impossible to go any further as the line between Ely and Norwich was completely flooded. I was able to take a train to Kings Lynn and then catch the weekly bus to Feltwell. I stayed for the week and was able to start the journey back to Lakenheath. The floods were only just receding. I remember how eerie it was: we were suspended on the railway line, only just above the water, and surrounded by the floating carcases of the poor animals who had drowned, as well as great quantities of other debris.
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