VICTIMS of the great 1953 Canvey flood are comemmorated by a new plaque, which has been unveiled near their almost-forgotten resting place.
A total of 58 islanders lost their lives when the North Sea breached Canvey’s sea defences in January 1953.
After the tragedy, 23 of those who died were buried at Jotman’s Cemetery, in Jotman’s Lane, Benfleet, without relatives and friends being told.
However, 61 years on and after extensive research by the Canvey Community Archive and Canvey councillor Joan Liddiard, a memorial plaque has been unveiled to mark the the spot where they are buried.
Archive editor Janet Penn said: “This is something for which I have worked passionately for quite some time, so I’m delighted the plaque is now in place.
“It was a really lovely and moving service and we couldn’t have asked for a better day.”
Despite the archive group’s best efforts, the graves of about 30 flood victims have yet to be located.
The plaque cost £1,500 – paid for by donations from the public and victims’ families. It was officially unveiled by Castle Point mayor Maryse Iles and Canvey Town Council chairman Doreen Anderson on Saturday – the 61st anniversary of the terrible flood.
Mrs Liddiard said: “I’m really pleased it’s now in place. It’s mostly about giving closure to these families who have gone for years never knowing where their loved ones were buried.
“A few people were quite moved because, as young people, when the flood happened, they were never really allowed to speak about it all.
“It’s strange, because I was six when the flood happened. Our family never lost anyone, and I was just a child, so I thought of it all as a bit of an adventure, but on Saturday, I felt guilty for having those thoughts even though I was so young at the time.
“This is something which needed to be done. I hope these families now feel they have somewhere to go and remember their relatives.”
Christopher Starling, 63, now lives overseas, but at the time of the flood, lived in Whernside Avenue, Canvey.
He lost his mother, Violet, and brother, Leonard, in the flood, and had never known where they were buried.
He said: “If it had not been for the hard work of the Canvey Community Archive I would never have known their graves existed or theywere buried there.
“It means a tremendous amount to me to have this plaque and to be able to remember them properly. I hope to visit the cemetery regularly from now on. I’m so thankful to everyone who helped make this happen.”