Great Storm - 1953
The storm of January 1953 was the worst national peacetime disaster of the 20th century and was the greatest storm for hundreds of years.
Starting off at sea, the storm blazed a one thousand mile trail of destruction. Over 2,000 people were killed and thousands more left homeless. The North Sea coastlines of Britain and Holland were decimated.
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Powerful storms occur over south-eastern England every now and again.
During the last 800 years similar storms have affected the region.
7- 8th Dec.1703 - - 28th Feb.1662 - - 23rd Jan.1362 being the most notable dates.
The Great Storm
This hit southern England in 1703 and was probably the worst storm ever experienced in England.
More than 400 windmills were destroyed - many of which caught fire due to the friction of their wildly spinning sails.
The author of Robinson Crusoe, Daniel Defoe, reported seeing a tornado which "snapped the body of an oak". it is described by Defoe in his work- "The Storm 1703".
Destruction on land, bad as it was, paled into insignificance compared to the tragedy that was played out on the seas around our coast. Over 8,000 sailors perished as the storm decimated the British fleet. Hundreds of vessels were lost, including four Royal Navy men-of-war. One ship at Whitstable, in Kent, was lifted from the sea and dropped 250 yards inland.
The original Eddystone Lighthouse, newly rebuilt for the second time, a timber structure heroically built on a semi-submerged rock 14 miles from Plymouth, was also a victim of the 1703 storm. It was washed away, together with its designer, Henry Winstanley.
The south of England felt the full force of the storm being worst in London on the nights of Friday 26th November and Tuesday 30th November, when bricks, tiles and stones flew about with such force, and were so numerous, that none dared venture forth from their homes. After the storm the price of tiles increased threefold.
In London alone, 22 people were drowned, 21 people were killed and 200 injured by falling and flying debris.
The heavy lead on the roof of Westminster Abbey was torn off and carried well clear of the building.
The tidal flood affecting the Thames on the 30th was associated with this storm, though the tidal storm surge for this event was more significant on the Severn and along the Dutch coast.
Twelve Royal Navy warships with over 1,300 men on board were lost and practically all shipping in the Thames was either destroyed or damaged. In the Channel and along the English south and east coasts over 1000 seamen were killed, including many senior RN personnel, and 15 ships. England was, at that time, at war with France and needed every ship.
Thousands more perished in the floods caused by the storm in the rivers Thames and Severn and in Holland.