The Perfect Storm…reflections on the storm of 1953.

It was England’s worst natural disaster of the twentieth century. A combination of a winter windstorm and high spring tides brought disaster and flooding to Scotland, England, the Netherlands, and Belgium. Between January 31 and February 1st a storm tide in the North Sea raised the water level by as much as 5.6metres above sea level in parts of the East coast. There was catastrophic flooding on a massive scale and huge loss of life.

In the Netherlands there were approx 1836 deaths, In England in the east coast counties of Lincolnshire, Suffolk, Essex 307 lives were lost, a further 19 in Scotland and 28 people lost their lives in the Flanders region of Belgium. A further 230 people lost their lives at sea, on small craft, fishing vessels and with the sinking of the MV Princess Victoria. Many of those on shore were drowned in their beds as they slept. Thousands of people were made homeless.

The entire crew of 13 from the fishing trawler the Michael Griffith from Fleetwood were lost to the storm along with two crew from the Islay rescue lifeboat. They had set sail on the Thursday from Fleetwood under skipper Charles Singleton with the youngest crewmember being the deckhand George Palin. The boat vanished south of Barra Head in the early hours of Saturday morning following a stark radio message in morse- “Full of water – no steam – helpless”. Eleven women were widowed and 20 children were left fatherless.

The car ferry MV Princess Victoria, travelling from Stranraer to Larne was also lost of Saturday 31st January. Just 90 minutes after she left Stranraer a wave burst through the stern doors and despite all efforts the car decks were flooded. There were 44 survivors but 133 others perished. Not a single woman or child survived the disaster. They had all been put together in one lifeboat and it was lifted by a wave and smashed against the hull of the ship and they were all lost to the water. Portpatrick, Donaghadee and Cloughy lifeboats all made attempts to locate and help rescue those aboard. The Donaghadee lifeboat, the Sir Samuel Kelly joined the frantic search for survivors after the ship went down finally at approx 13.58 with her Captain still bravely at the helm. Its crew eventually plucked 33 men to safety. Bravery medals were awarded to many for their valiant rescue efforts that day.

This still remains one of the most little-known tragedies of the twentieth century. Thank you dad for telling me about it.

© Alison Jean Hankinson

399px-A_tribute_to_the_Lifeboatmen_of_Portpatrick_-_geograph.org.uk_-_26385

The featured image is from Wikimedia and is in the public domain- By Wrecksite (www.wrecksite.eu) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

the other image is the memorial at Portpatrick again in wikimedia- andy [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Guardian, the storm in pictures

Author: alisonhankinson

I am a school teacher and a mum and a red cosmic skywalker, and sometimes a netball coach...but beneath it all I am a writer...

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