Hunstanton remembers the great flood of 1953

Family of flood rescue hero Reis Leming fly from America to take part in memorial which included the unveiling of a bus named after him.

Reis Leming

Mr Leming was just 22, and stationed at RAF Sculthorpe, when he waded into the icy flood water, towing a rubber dinghy. An action made all the more remarkable because he could not swim.

Within an hour of the tidal wave striking, American serviceman had arrived to offer help.

The first house Mr Leming, who was 6ft 3ins tall, waded out to was in ruins, its occupants dead. Afterwards he admitted to being “scared to death” but had pressed on regardless.

Further down the street he found a huddle of people on the roof of house. He helped them into the raft, pulled them to higher, drier ground, and turned once more into the water.

For hours he waded back and forth, plucking a total of 27 people from the water until eventually he collapsed.

He became the first non-Briton ever to receive the George Medal and was also awarded the Soldiers Medal – America’s highest honour to any serviceman for heroic action outside of conflict.

A howling wind today greeted the family of a man who is known to one West Norfolk town as a hero.

A crowd gathered at a memorial on Hunstanton seafront to remember the 31 people who died on the night of the great storm. They also remembered Reis Leming, the American serviceman who saved 27 lives.

His wife Kathy and two children, Michael and Debra, were guests of the town and visibly moved by the event which included the unveiling of a bus named after Mr Leming specially liveried with pictures from the floods.

The images, including one of Mr Leming, who died in November, were taken from the EDP archives.

Pictured (from left) Debra Ross, Kathy Leming, Michael Leming, Fr John Bloomfield and Hunstanton mayor Elaine Clutton. Picture: Ian Burt

The Norfolk Green bus also featured a tide mark indicator on the top deck, which showed the depth of the waters on the night Mr Leming waded through the waves with a dinghy to rescue people.

“We are so moved and have got through a lot of tissues today,” said his daughter.

“Dad never really never talked a lot about what he did, but when we came over ten years ago he was treated like a hero by everyone here. It was so touching and I know he wanted to come back.”

His son Michael proudly wore a flying jacket which was specially made for his father and would have been presented to him last November when he was due to return to Hunstanton where a path has been named in his honour.

Sadly he died just days before the trip aged 81, and the jacket was given to Michael.

Mrs Leming said she was deeply moved by the esteem in which her husband was held by the people of Hunstanton.

The City of Norwich Pipe Band paraded along the sea front prior to the service and Mr Leming’s family followed in an American 1941 Plymouth car.

Members of the American air force’s 67th Special Operations Squadron from RAF Mildenhall were also on parade during the service.

The squadron was previously 67th Air Rescue and had been based at Sculthorpe when Mr Leming served.

Lt Col Shelley Rodriguez said the unit was honoured to be taking part in the event, as it had done in November to mark the path naming.

“It is humbling to see how people remember and we are honoured to be here today to mark the anniversary,” she said.

Members of the US airforce based at Sculthorpe were living in Hunstanton at the time of the flood and 16 Americans died.

During the service at the memorial, the names of all 31 victims were read out by town councillor John Maiden and Lt Col Rodrigiuez.

Prayers were led by Fr John Bloomfield who also took a service at St Edmund’s church. 

Cliffs & Beach Information

Hunstanton is famous for its striped cliffs and is otherwise known as Sunny Hunny.

The beach and cliffs face west which means they capture the sunshine and are the perfect spots for viewing some spectacular sunsets. The shallow beach runs for two miles along the coast to Brancaster and the tide can go out a mile, allowing rock pools to appear around the groynes.

The cliffs show an amazing slice of Britain’s history over many million years. Here is the geology – White Chalk from the Upper Cretaceous era forms the top layer, followed by a layer of limestone, known as red chalk from the Lower Cretaceous period formed over a period of 15 million years and finally beneath is grey/green Carstone. As both the red and white chalk contains fossils the beach below is a magnet for keen fossil hunters. On top of the striped cliffs is Hunstanton North Promenade, which has lovely gardens and walks overlooking the sea.

Ideas to keep the children happy!

Playground by the Crazy Golf, swings, seesaw and rocking horse.

Crazy Golf at Esplanade Gardens / Pitch and Putt by the Lighthouse – phone resort services for opening times 01485 535150.

Visit Paint me Ceramics – 22 Westgate, 01485 534340 to make your own pot etc.

Do the bug hunt on Boston Sensory Park, pick up details at TIC.

Oasis Leisure centre – Swimming (indoors) Fun Castle Adventure Play area and Eco Ice Skating – 01485 534227.

Beach combing (rock pools under cliffs when tide out) and sandcastle building.

Paddling and swimming in the sea.

Donkey and Pony rides on the beach.

Visit the Sea Life Centre and Seal Hospital (indoors) – 01485 533576. Use the new pirate ship adventure playground there.

Fairgrounds rides at the end of the promenade and amusements arcades around the town.

Sea Monster Tour or Sea Tours to Seal Island – 01485 534444.

Blackbeard’s Adventure Golf along the promenade– 01485 535737.

Captain Willie’s Soft Play Activity Centre at Searle’s (indoors) – 01485 534211.

Bowlers Ten Pin Bowling Alley and amusements (indoors) – 01485 534960.

Take a Trip on the Land Train from Searles Holiday Park to the lighthouse at Old Hunstanton and back.

Learn to sail, windsurf or kite surf 01485 534455 or 07897 563734.

See a show or a film at The Princess Theatre (indoors) – 01485 532252.

Play Tennis. At the recreation ground, to hire courts contact oasis leisure centre. 01485 534227.

Children’s playgroundat the Recreation Ground.

Watch a game of cricket or football up at the recreation ground.

Swim at Old Hunstanton Beach and have an ice cream at the Old Beach Cafe.

Visit the RNLA Lifeboat Station at Old Hunstanton on a Sunday Morning.

Blue Flag Beach

Hunstanton’s main beach has been awarded Blue Flag status for a third consecutive year. Blue Flag is an environmental award given to resort beaches throughout the world that achieve the highest standards.
Blue Flag beaches meet specific criteria relating to:
• Environmental education and information.
• Environmental management.
• Safety and services.
• Water quality.

Beach Conduct

• Use the litter and recycling bins on the beach.
• Use public transport, walk or cycle to the beach.
• Follow the beach code of conduct.
• Enjoy the nature of the beach and the surrounding area but treat it with respect.
• Stay away from wildlife areas, especially at nesting-time.

Beach Safety

Be safe while visiting Hunstanton’s beach. Some Safety Tips:
• Children’s inflatable’s should always have a line connected, held securely by an adult on the shore.
• Always check the tide before you enter the water. The TIC sell tide books for the whole year, or
Remember to protect yourself against the sun’s ray: ‘Slip – Slap – Slop’
• Slip on a shirt.
• Slap on a hat.
• Slop on sunscreen.

Beach patrols are on duty from Easter to the end of the school summer holidays in September and first aid is available. A lifeboat is based at Old Hunstanton, about a mile along the coast.

Dogs are not permitted on the beach, from the power boat ramp to the northern extremity of the promenade, between Good Friday and 31st October.
Dogs on the promenade, must be kept on a lead at all times and, under the dog fouling legislation, dog owners will also be required to remove dog faeces deposited by their dogs wherever they are in Hunstanton.

• There are ramps onto the beach and toilets for people with disabilities.

Beach Chalets

Located along Hunstanton’s North Promenade, each chalet offers you wonderful sea views across The Wash and your own guaranteed space away from the crowds on the beach.
Chalets are available to hire throughout the season, from the 1st April each year, on a daily, weekly or seasonal basis.
Chalets are an ideal base for a family trip to the beach and even include a free reserved parking space.
Chalets are priced at: £17.60 per day, £82.00 per week or £576.00 per season.
Advanced booking can be made by contacting the on 01485 536148