From a plane over the Thames
Daily Mail Monday February 2, 1953
From the air yesterday the scene between Gravesend and Margate, a happy summer playground for millions of Londoners, was one of appalling devastation.
At Gravesend I could see fresh breaches being made in the banks for miles ahead, as though someone were turning on the flood valves of a dam.
On the other side, lower down, the great oil refineries were inundated, the tops of many of the storage tanks showing up just above the water like giant mushrooms.
Barrels were floating about in the still rising waters, and debris from wrecked store sheds and dumps was swirling around the tanks.
Over Canvey Island we met the full force of the 80-m.p.h. gale, and our light aircraft was almost stationary as we looked down on the hundreds of flooded homes. You could mark the streets only by the lamp-posts sticking out of the water, which had reached the roofs of most of the houses. You couldn’t tell it was an island, looking across it. It was Just one expanse of water.
On the Southend side you could see scores of small craft bucking in the heavy seas as they carried out rescue work.
Plying across to Sheerness, the wind blew our biplane (D.H. Rapide) sideways. Navy ships were plunging at their anchors, and in the dry dock I spotted a strange sight—a frigate lying on her side like a stranded whale.
Much of Whitstable is a shambles. The beach is littered with smashed bungalows, trailers, small boats. The streets for half a mile inshore were flooded and the fields all around were under several feet of water. But many people waved cheerily up to us.
Between here and Margate thousands of rich Kent acres are feet under water.
Herne Bay has suffered. We flew over flooded beach houses and piles of splintered cabins and bungalows. Heavy seas were breaking on the foreshore, drenching boarding-houses and buildings close to the beach.