Sutton on Sea
for Seaside Holidays in Lincolnshire

1953 Flood Report from Miss Norah Willis (now Mrs Norah Coles) Senior Mistress

That Dreadful Night”
“The Ferns” Alford
31st January 1953 12.50a.m.

The fatal force of storm Z. The disaster was cased by a combination of “storm surge” and high spring tide.

It affected large areas of the eastern seaboard of the United Kingdom and also large areas of Holland.

Low pressure weather system nicknamed “Z” began to develop in the North Atlantic on Thursday January 29th and worked its way up the west coast of Scotland with gale force north westerly winds – several ships were sunk and inland, large areas of forest were flattened.

January 30th; low Z rounded the top of Scotland and began moving southward into the North Sea.

Because of the confined nature of the sea and its relatively shallow depth, the pressure system’s winds created a wall of water which rushed along the coasts on both sides of the North Sea.

Weather forecasts gales and heavy seas.

There was no mention of possible flooding!

The storm surge lasted 1½hrs in front of the spring tide everywhere along the coast – the high tide lasted 3 hours. The sea defences were not strong enough to hold back the weight of the water.

By this time the sea was breaking through Sandilands and had reached “The Grange” and Links.

Six people died and by 7.10 a.m. Mablethorpe town centre was flooded and the police station in Victoria Road was no longer operable. The waves 6ft 6ins high were lashing over the sea defences.

The first incident centre was set up at Maltby-le-Marsh at Whites Farm.

Alford Secondary Modern School was the reception centre for flood victims as far north as Mablethorpe.

The headmaster called in all staff living locally and negotiated with 2 army officers who arranged to donate palliasses from their stores and those of the scouts, guides and Salvation Army locally. Meanwhile further bedding was arriving from Nottingham and even further afield. By 5.30 a.m. we had our first arrivals, upset and in varying states of shock. Cadburys and Rowntrees were serving hot chocolate from their vans on the playground.

The assembly hall was partitioned off into three sections- for the dying, those expecting babies and people with pets. All manner of creatures even Tarantulas! Those with infections were isolated using the staff room.

Domestic Science – Bathroom with dettol in large zinc pails

A tramp, clothes sodden, had to be cleaned up and he was wearing three pieces of each garment each pinned with safety pins 83 in number when all removed and counted.

Classrooms were used as interview rooms to trace relations and issue food and clothing passes.

The Dining Hall functioned for long stay people - all manner of meals were concocted.
The school cook managed admirably using her canteen supplies.

School equipment and rations were used. Alford butchers supplied extra meat; Crawford’s bakers supplied 70 2lb loaves
Grimsby baker supplied 100 loaves etc etc,

Some of the boy pupils came voluntarily to peel potatoes veg and washing up and general kitchen duties carrying some potatoes to the fish and chip shop who served up fish & chips!

We had 1,700 people rescued in the first 3 days – over 3000 in total. The school closed for 2 whole terms to wind up rescue work. Rescue teams worked day and night with doctors, Salvation Army and members of staff when available.

It is difficult to preserve people’s dignity in a situation like this. We sent out S.O.S. messages to local people for towels, soaps and deodorants and extra help for sorting clothes etc.

Head of School Mr B.C. Coles was awarded M.B.E. for services given.
Miss Norah Willis (now Mrs Norah Coles writer of this account) Senior Mistress
Mr J. Benjamin Senior Master who had to be rescued from Sutton with his family.

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