Gorleston Floods

  • Theme - Environment
  • Year - 1953
  • Location - Gt. Yarmouth
  • Filmmaker - Bernard Bothams


The storm surge that struck the east coast of England during the night of Saturday 31st January, 1953 caused the worst natural disaster in northern Europe for over two centuries. The surge was generated by an intense, rapidly moving, low-pressure weather system which travelled southeast across the North Sea, producing very high winds - combined with a high tide, the result was disaster on a huge scale. The sea wall was breeched and flood defences were overwhelmed. Hundreds of acres of land were underwater and thousands of homes damaged or destroyed. Over a hundred people on the east coast lost their lives either by drowning or exposure.

This film, shot on the following day as the tide recedes, shows men in waders trying to salvage what they can from the old prefab homes at Pier Plain in Gorleston. Small boats toured the streets to rescue any inhabitants who had been stranded in their houses. The footage was caught by a local man, amateur film-maker Bernard Bothams. Mr Bothams was showing films at the Boys Brigade Hall in Yarmouth on the night of the floods. Unable to get home, he remained in Yarmouth for the night, returning home on the Sunday afternoon. He immediately started filming and took several shots over the next few days, as the water subsided.

The disaster received national news coverage and the plight of so many families living in wet, water-damaged home resulted in some extraordinary acts of generosity. Sack loads of coal, a gift from Lancashire, arrived to enable people to dry out their houses. The film shows coal men delivering the sacks and grateful householders waving as the lorries depart.


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