A FORMER council chairman has recalled how he joined the rescue effort following the devastating 1953 floods – aged just 13.

More than 100 people died in Essex, including 35 in Jaywick and two in Point Clear, St Osyth, after a huge storm pushed the high tide into the East Coast on the night of January 31, 1953.

John White, 83, from St Osyth, was just a teenager when he joined rescue teams following the flood.

The parish and district councillor, who was previously chairman of Tendring Council, said: “I was in the choir at the church and we got the massage about what had happened the night before – how the rivers had flooded and come half way up Mill Street and that they were having problems at St Osyth Beach.

“I was on my bike and I cycled down there.

Clacton and Frinton Gazette: John White at the scene where he helped with the 1953 flood at St Osyth.

“We found there was a rowing boat that had been used to rescue people from a double decker bus being used as a caravan on Hutley’s Park.

“They then went to Seawick Road, where the only people that were living there at that time were Reg Arthur, the local naturalist, and his mother.

“There was no sign of them because the water was right up the eaves of the bungalow.

“Reg has seen the tide come up, got on a table, knocked a hole in the ceiling and sat on the rafters with his mother, one cat and two chickens.

“They knocked the front out of the bungalow above the guttering and from there our chaps managed to get hold of them and bring them ashore.

“When the first crews got back with the people they rescued, Two of the people who were rowing were absolutely shattered.

“It was a bitterly cold day with a horrible westerly wind.

“They asked for volunteers and one other person standing by agreed to do it, but they couldn’t find a third - and in those winds you needed three people.

“So, I volunteered - I wasn’t dressed for the job at all. I remember it as being the coldest I’ve ever been.

Clacton and Frinton Gazette: Evacuation - a family leaving Jaywick in 1953Evacuation - a family leaving Jaywick in 1953

“We rowed to Marsh Cottage - we could see with binoculars there were people upstairs and waving.

“But by the time we got there – it was quite a job as we kept getting blown into barbed wire fencing – the greatest depth, which had been 19ft, was down to about 7ft and we were able to talk to them.

“In this little rowing boat, we couldn’t reach them, but they seemed quite happy to wait for a bigger boat.

“Eventually a boat turned up from the Navy in Harwich and they were easily rescued with a short length of ladder.”

Mr White also recalled how 33 cows, who found themselves on a earth wall near the former Jaywick Railway, were rescued by his father-in-law Leslie Doe, who ran Clacton Dairies and lived in Grove Cottage, Jaywick Lane.

He was joined by Basil Hutley and a third person - thought to be Ron Lord from Earls Hall Farm - to drive the cattle along the seafront to Clacton Golf Club and then along the higher land to his field at Crossways, Jaywick.

Just one of the cows was lost to the floods after getting caught in barbed wire fencing.