Lady with the Lamp led ferry boats

Night convoy to the dykes

Yorkshire Post 4th February 1953 by Desmond Clough


Canvey Island, Tuesday

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This is the story of the Florence Nightingale of Canvey Island, a new Lady of the Lamp.

As operations to close breaches in the dykes were getting under way late last night an RAF team carrying sandbags to the crisis point got into difficulties. Floodlights showed the way along the flooded road but convoys could not get nearer than half a mile from the seawall. Separating them was a flooded bungalow town, five feet deep in water, with obstructions lying at every yard in the way of the waiting ferry boats.

Then out of the night appeared a women whom the men were later to call Florence Nightingale. She wore oilskins and carried a storm lantern. “I will show you the way,” she offered and taking her place in the leading boat she directed the sandbag convoy through the night along the submerged road, with only roofs and garrets showing, to the dykes.

Her job was not yet over. Back with the ferry boat went the Lady with the Lamp to the supply centre on higher ground. Stocks of sandbags were replenished; again she led the line of boats across the water and again and again until the dawn had come.

The story of the Florence Nightingale of Canvey was told to me tonight by Aircraftman Alan Bolder of Home Church Lane, Beverley, one of the RAF team fighting to hold back more flood waters from the Island.

“She was wonderful, yet we never learned her name,” he said. “All the boys have been talking about her today. She was certainly a heroine of the floods.”

Bolder and the men with him have the right to be called heroes too. From 11.30am yesterday when he was called to Canvey Island, until 11.30 at night when the WVS arrived with an emergency feeding service, he and his comrades had only a few biscuits to sustain them.

At 6.30 this morning they came off the dyke after 12 hours working filling sandbags with Essex mud. Aircraftman Bolder had five hours sleep this morning and later began another long spell of duty in the Battle of the Breaches.


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