THE family of a heroic paramedic who helped rescue dozens of people from the Canvey Flood claim he never fully recovered from the horrors he witnessed.
Sixty years ago today, brave Gordon Carter, from Southend was one of the first and few Essex County Council ambulance crews called to Canvey when the full force of the North Sea swept inland submerging thousands of homes along the Essex coast.
Despite being unable to swim, the dedicated father of four spent 48 hours alongside his colleague Sid Bray, battling the freezing temperatures and treacherous icy waters to do all he could to rescue islanders from their homes.
But even the pitch-black darkness could not disguise the tragic scenes of the unfortunate families who could not survive the bitter cold.
Gordon’s daughter, Sylvia Harrington, 69, of Symons Avenue, Eastwood, was nine at the time and recalls little of the tragedy, but remembers vividly the grief her father suffered following the disaster.
She said it was time to tell his story.
She said: “I just remember him coming home and crying bitterly to our mother. Our parents tried their best to shield us from what was happening, but we could sense something was very wrong. Our father never cried.
“It wasn’t for a long time until I found out what upset him. He had found a little boy in his pyjamas clasping onto the lead of his dog in the water. Both of them were dead. He tried desperately to resuscitate the boy, despite Sid saying the child had gone, because he didn’t want to give up. It broke his heart.”
Another harrowing scene was that of an elderly man frozen to the gutters of his bungalow where he had tried to escape the rising tide.
Brave Gordon had to pry his hands away from the property to release him and take him off the island.
Gordon’s eldest daughter Jean Hutcheon, 72, said: “He worked for 15 years in the ambulance service and I don’t think he ever fully got over what happened and all the terrible things he saw. Back then you just didn’t speak about what happened because it was too traumatic, you just got on with it.
“He spent very little time at home before having to go back out again to help with the rescue efforts. He was absolutely exhausted but there were so few people to help, everyone had to lend a hand.”
Gordon died in 1974 aged just 52, but his daughters and grandchildren are determined to preserve his tale so future generation know what happened that day.
His daughters promised their mother, Margaret Carter, who died three days before Christmas last year aged 91, that they would not let his heroics be forgotten.
Sylvia added: “This was such a huge part of the county’s history. It is so important for people to remember what happened; especially the younger generations who might not have even been here were it not for the valiant efforts of rescuers.
“Father was so dedicated, and such a family man, we will never forget what he did.”