TWO Canvey neighbours who were just boys when their streets were engulfed by gushing water during the North Sea flood are “delighted” Princess Anne will be coming to Essex to remember those who lost their lives in the disaster.
Long-serving Castle Point and Essex County councillor Ray Howard and his neighbour Ian Norrington remember the moment they were woken up in the middle of the night to see water gushing down the streets where they lived on Canvey and then being evacuated to safety at what is now King John School, in Benfleet.
As survivors of the flood the pair have welcomed the news that Princess Anne is set to attend the special memorial service at Chelmsford Cathedral on January 31 to mark the 60th anniversary of the disaster that claimed the lives of 95 people in Essex.
HRH the Princess Royal will be at the event to remember residents of Canvey and Jaywick, near Clacton, who died on the night of the flood on January 31 in 1953.
Mr Howard, who was 11 and lived in North Avenue at the time, has dedicated his life to Canvey and the island’s flood defences since 1974.
He has been invited to give a speech on the day to some 650 guests at the cathedral, something which he describes as an “honour”.
He said: “I’m delighted Princess Anne is coming and I’m sure she will listen with great interest and realise what went on 60 years ago.
“I have been to a number of meetings and working behind the scenes on this to make it a memorable occasion.
“I will endeavour to do my best, but I will be nervous.”
Mr Howard said he wants to not only remember those who died in the flood in his speech, but also recognise the efforts of those who helped in the aftermath such as the WRVS and the island’s firefighters.
Mr Norrington, now 72, struggled to fight back tears as he recalled his memories of the “terrible” night.
His bungalow in the Newlands area of Canvey, which was near to where the sea wall was broken down, was almost covered by the flood water.
He, along with his family, including his pregnant mum, stayed alive by huddling up in blankets on a 14ft sailing boat that one of his older brothers made as part of an apprenticeship.
They also had to cling on to the gutter of their bungalow so the high winds could not blow the boat away. They held on for their lives until the early hours of the morning.
Mr Norrington said: “It was a bit scary but exciting, we were all together and dad was in charge. But we were soon brought down to earth because most of our neighbours died that night.”
Mr Norrington lived with his grandparents in Chiswick, London, with the rest of his family after they were evacuated while his dad stayed on Canvey to help with the clear up and repaired their “devastated” bungalow. The family moved back to the island in the summer of 1953 and Mr Norrington still lives there now with his wife Iris in Canvey Road.