Remembering the 42 Lincolnshire people who died in Great Flood of 1953...
Sixty years ago, the Lincolnshire coast was ravaged by floods due to severe gales and unusually high spring tide. Forty-two people along 100 miles of the coast died after the sea surged inland. Six decades on from the disaster, a survivor shares his account with Paul Whitelam...
The first waves crashed through the sea defences in Mablethorpe and Sutton-on-Sea just after dark on January 31, 1953.
One hour later, entire streets were under water, and the next morning's high tide saw flood water reach more than two miles inland.
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Thousands of people lost their homes and about 98,842 acres of farmland was flooded, causing the deaths of thousands of animals across the county.
David Lascelles, now 71 and still living in Mablethorpe, says he is lucky to have escaped death in the flood of 1953.
Mr Lascelles, who was born at No 31, Altham Terrace, Lincoln and lived in George Street, Mablethorpe at the time of the disaster, was at the cinema with pals when the sea came crashing in over the sea defences.
"We couldn't have picked a more appropriate film to see at the Lyric Cinema that evening," said Mr Lascelles, who was 11 at the time.
"We were on our way into the main feature film of Hurricane Island when I was beckoned out of my seat by an usherette and shepherded out into the foyer, wondering what I was supposed to have done wrong.
"My sister Connie met me and said: 'Come on, we've got to get home quick.'
"My response was: 'Why, what's wrong?'.
"She replied: 'The sea is over.'
"I owe it to my sister that I am alive to be able to recount it today."
By the time they were halfway home to George Street, the water started to rise and the closer they got to their house, the worse the flooding became.
"Being 11 years old, there was no way I would have made it across the lane on my own – the water was up to my chest and it was hard to stand up in it," said Mr Lascelles.
"We reached our front gate – the top of it only just visible above the water – and managed to make our way into the house.
"We were lucky enough to get a fire going upstairs.
"It was a blessing that we had dry clothes, blankets and the means to make a drink.
"I remember going into the back bedroom at one stage during the night, and peering out the window. I wished I hadn't.
"Occasionally, a big swell would smack into the wall of the house and smother the bedroom window in a sheet of spray.
"I was looking out of our front window over George Street when our garage doors burst open – the sea had broken into the small door at the back and the weight of the water did the rest.
"The contents of the garage: boxes, cans of paint, garden tools, washing machine, dolly tub, sacks of potatoes, bicycles – everything gushed and slithered out across the street and vanished.
"At about the same time there was a splintering, smashing sound as our greenhouse was carried on a big swell and burst into fragments against the front fence posts.
"The chicken hut was next, with two dozen chickens, bashing into trees across the road and getting wedged in the lower boughs."
After a sleepless night, Mr Lascelles was shocked to see the scale of the devastation the next morning.
"Most fences had gone, there was debris in trees, houses were ships anchored in the sea, and there were great sandbanks in the street, dead animals lying in the roads and huge destruction in the direction of the seafront," he said.
After being evacuated to Alford Corn Exchange, then to Lincoln and Scunthorpe, they later returned home to find bulldozers, the RAF, the police and earth moving machines trying to restore order.
"It was a long time ago, but it was like yesterday," said Mr Lascelles.