PC Bill Pilgrim joined the force in 1946 first based at Hornchurch before moving to Canvey. He lived with his family in one of the police houses which I believe were the houses near the police station. In an article in the policeman’s newspaper ‘The Law’ in 1998 his son, Bob talks a little about him.
“This picture was taken in Long Road, Canvey during the floods of 1953. It appeared on the front cover of the Daily Mail and can also be seen in the film which is shown to visitors at the Thames Barrier”.
Bob goes on to say “I was only 13 years old at the time of the great flood, but I remember it well, My father was the only PC on night duty and as a keen fisherman he often went up onto the sea wall to see the state of the tide. He did this on that night and was amazed to find the water only a couple of feet from the top of the wall with still about two hours before high water. There was no warning system then and the high tide had already caused chaos at Harwich.
On the night of the floods, 58 people died. My father told me that most people died from exposure rather than drowning, mainly elderly folk having woken up to find very cold water up to their mattress. They managed to get onto the roof of their bungalows still in their nightclothes, and they just couldn’t survive the conditions.
Some years later, after I too had joined the force and dealt with my first major incident, I asked him how he coped on that night. He told me that he woke up a resident in each street and asked him to alert the rest of the road. The problem he found was getting residents to believe him – he was told to “clear off” on more than one occasion.”
Bill’s family were evacuated to Pitsea.
PC Bill left the Island in 1955, he retired in 1972 and died in 1980.