Tilbury Floods

The Floods - Stories from Palmers School for Girls Magazine 1953

A few weeks ago, much of Tilbury was flooded, and our Hostel became a Rest Centre for refugees. On that first Sunday night, 576 people passed through it, 350 staying the night there. Although most soon moved on to friends or to other centres, about 78 remained for almost three weeks. The homes of 28 of our own girls were affected, but remarkably little fuss was made about clothes or books lost – or indeed about anything. With that same absence of any fuss, parents of the more fortunate immediately offered clothes, toys, books, and in many cases opened their homes to the victims. We have chosen three accounts of the experiences and impressions of our girls at this time from those submitted; only lack of space prevents our including more.


“The most startling thing that has ever happened to me was when I was awakened by my mother at 3.30 in the morning of Sunday February 1st.. I was told to dress quickly in my warmest clothes as there was a flood. This I did with some difficulty as there were no lights. After dressing I went downstairs and found that the level of the water did not quite reach the top of my Wellington boots. I was standing on a chair when the water reached the electric meter and flames rose up the wall with a brilliant splutter, and then darkness again. After collecting as much food and fuel as we could, I’ve returned upstairs, as it was impossible to do more in the dark. My sister and I went to bed and slept till daylight. After seeing that we were safe and lighting  a fire, my father waded out to get in touch with the police and Council officials,to assist in relief and rescue work. Daylight revealed the extent of the damage. All of our possessions downstairs were standing or floating in about three feet of water, and what had looked so cosy on Saturday night now looked cold and desolate. My parents said that we were lucky to have lost only those possessions that money could replace: we should be thankful that were all safe. On Monday, at mid-day.my father brought a boat which took us and our remaining neighboughs to a lorry and “dry’ land.”

How I envied my, father, meeting the Queen Mother, Princess Margaret and Queen Eiizabeth within a week of each other. He had to show them the Rest Centres and damaged houses, and afterwards remarked how natural, charming and gracious they all were. lt was with great excitement that we learnt that the Queen would be visiting this area, and when we were told that we would be allowed to go out and see her we were delighted. We saw her perfectly as she drove very slowly past and we all cheered heartily. I noted how calm and radiant she looked as she acknowledged our cheers.” – P. JONES. III.

“I woke up at 3 a.m. to find that the Thames had broken through the wall. That morning my father went into the water, which came up to his chest, and fetched my grandmother from her house nearby, and carried her back to the balcony of our first-floor flat.For three days we had little food. We could not use the water unless it was boiled. On Wednesday, we got three boats and the men rowed across-Civic Square to the traffic lights, where some shops on higher ground were open and selling food and milk.

In the afternoon a lorry came round with free sugar, tea, cheese and milk. There were some photographers from the papers who took photographs of the men in a boat, and we were in the background. On Thursday my friend and I got into a rowing boat, pushed ourselves off and I started to row around Civic Square to pick up a man who wanted to go across. He rowed us back……….The water had gone down a lot by Saturday.” – B. Cooper. 1A


“I woke up early on February the first. I could hear a strange noise, like a water-burst. Daddy must have heard it as well, because he went downstairs to find out what it was. When he saw the water coming in, he called Mummy and me. We did not know what to do at first, but Daddy started shifting the most valuable things upstairs. We managed to move everything except the sideboard piano, carpet a table and two chairs. He knocked up Mr. Lambert (our neighbour) and Mr. Carter (the other). As the lights went out soon after that (because the water covered the meter) we went to bed until it was light.

Daddy invented a string, tied from one window to the other, with a basket in the middle. When Mr. Lambert wanted something, Daddy would pull the end of the string, and the reverse when Daddy wanted something. We passed things like matches and candles.

We looked out of the bedroom window and saw my uncle waving to us. He said that if I could get to the end of the avenue, he would take me to my nan’s ……..He took me, though he had to carry me most of the way. My nan cooked us our dinner and tea and we slept in chairs all night. In the morning we went to Culford Road School in an army lorry. When we got there, a lady named Mrs. Knott asked us if we would like to live with here, as she had a spare bedroom. We said we would, so we went with her.

That afternoon we heard that everyone had to be evacuated from Tilbury, so Daddy went to get the animals. I was very pleased when Mrs. Knott said I could have my dog with us, and our cat is at my Auntie’s. But the goldfish and the rabbit are still there.

I could not let this story be read without thanking our neighbours for helping us, the army depot for helping us to get away from the flood, the teachers and helpers of Culford Road School and Miss Leworthy and her helpers for the clothes. May I also thank Mrs. Knott for giving us such a good home. I thank everybody for being so kind to my Mother, Father and myself.” – C. Fiford 1A  (Carol Lockyer) Age 11

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