William South

Canvey Island Flood 1953.

My father, Sub Officer South (Bill South) was Officer in Charge at Hadleigh on the night of the flood at Canvey Island.

As a teenager at the time I recall vividly going to the top of Essex Way and seeing Canvey Island under water. Dad rarely spoke of his job but on this occasion I think that the emotion of saving many people made him talk to my mother and myself about it.

I recall how he told us how after going as far as they could by vehicle they commandeered a boat then proceeded to use their safety lines tied them together, with one man then went pulling the boat along and tying it off at the next telegraph pole, one man would then move along to the next telegraph pole tie off the line and they would pull the boat along and enter the houses.

I can remember my father saying that they had rescued a mother and child when the child stated that her kitten was floating on top of the wardrobe and pleaded with Dad to go back and save it, after saving the kitten, quite a task when you are chest deep in icy water and the kitten was reluctant to be rescued, my father and his crew, I believe, went on to save 14 or 16 people that night.

After coming off duty and having a hot bath he then returned to Canvey Island to see what further help he could be.

My father served in the AFS (Auxiliary Fire Service) in London before the war, he then transferred to the National Fire Service on the outbreak of war serving at Homerton Fire Station near the dock area, and after the war he was in the London Fire Service and then transferred to the Essex Fire Brigade.

After National Service I too joined the Essex Fire Brigade before immigrating to Australia.

My Dad immigrated to Australia in 1970 and lived in Queensland until his passing in 1984.

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