Thursday, December 05, 2013

1953 Storm Remembered

It was only last week that we were talking about this in the Barkingside council chamber, otherwise known as the New Fairlop Oak who by the way got a distinction in the “Best Bar None” awards today, as a result of spotting the press release below. Little did we know at the time that history was about to repeat itself this week with the east coast expecting the worst tidal surge in 60 years later this evening. Fortunately communications are now somewhat more sophisticated and we have the Thames barrier. Let’s hope it can cope …

Voluntary group formed in the aftermath of 1953 east coast flood disaster marks 60th anniversary

A national group of communications volunteers will next week (25 November 2013) mark its formation 60 years ago in the aftermath of the east coast flood disaster.

The Radio Amateurs’ Emergency Network (RAYNET) was formed on 25 November 1953 after the east coast floods that year that saw the loss of 307 lives. An earlier attempt to establish a volunteer emergency communications service had been rejected by the Government in 1950.

Ever since, RAYNET volunteers have been active or on standby countless times, including the 1988 Lockerbie air disaster, the 2009 Cumbria floods and more recently the storm of 28/29 October 2013.

RAYNET is able to provide vital communications for emergency responders when existing communications networks fail or become overloaded – as is often the case in disaster situations – or help diverse emergency response agencies communicate with each other.

Today there are around 2,000 RAYNET volunteers, who are mostly licenced radios amateurs (radio ‘hams’). Local RAYNET groups cover the majority of the country.

RAYNET Chairman Cathy Clark said: “The east coast flood of 1953 was a terrible disaster but it precipitated the creation of a group of communications volunteers which, despite advances in technology, is needed now more than ever. With our current unpredictable climate and the high risk of failure of modern communications networks RAYNET volunteers can make a crucial difference.” More ...


  1. How times change - I remember when the initials RAEN were used and the logo was diamond shaped. This was back in the days when cars had chromed bumpers, enamelled badges where common and the RAENet badge would usually be seen alongside the diamond emblem of the RSGB (Radio Society of Great Britain).

    I well remember the 31st January 1953 - I was nine and it was a younger cousin's birthday. We lived in Grays - smack bang between Tilbury and Purfleet, both of which were flooded. What is often overlooked, however, is that the wind changed direction then it was the turn of the Netherlands to take the brunt of the storm.

    Losses of 307 - many on Canvey - seem small compared with the loss of 1,835 on the other side of the North Sea where successive tides continued to ravage the inundated area and it took nine months before the sea defences were finally restored.

    There is a local connection here as that was done by lowering 4 caissons - made in Barking as part of the Mulberry Harbours for the Normandy landings, but unused - were lowered into place.

    In recent years, these caissons have been turned into a flood museum which is well worth a visit.

    One exhibit which parallels the work of Radio Amateurs in this country is this:

    - a radio transmitter built on a sheet of cardboard!

    "On the Sunday after the disaster night, contact had been made with most of the flooded area. The emergency services slowly get going. However, no contact had been possible with Schouwen - Duiveland. Then, on Monday morning, 2 February, Middleberg receives the first signal from the island. From Zierikzee, radio engineer Peter Hassfield makes the first contact between Schouwen - Duiveland and the outside world with his home-made emergency transmitter PA-zero-ZRK (PA0ZRK). Using the few radio parts he can lay his hands on from his boss' workshop on the Sunday afternoon and evening he manages to put together an emergency transmitter"

    You might wonder why there appears to be a bottle standing in the middle of the transmitter but it was an ingenious way of finding a good insulator for the output coil of the transmitter ...

  2. Oops!

    "a radio transmitter built on a sheet of cardboard!"

    That was supposed to say plywood!