The Great Cley Floods 10 - part 2
“I settled down in the tree, perched in the branches and looked around to take stock. The sea between me and the church and Holt Road was rough, large waves were coming across The Green being driven by the very high winds, the sleet and rain was still coming down very hard, but I could see a lot of activity more than previous up the Holt Road and lots of lights which seemed to be lots of cars. The rescue services had arrived by now and were turning down Church Lane and going towards Town Yard and the Fairstead and down the various little Lokes running down into the main street at Cley to rescue people.
“To my astonishment a lot more people were gathering at the top of the Green near the Church Lane
entrance across by the Garden of Rest to the little bungalow opposite. Looking around again I thought the water was going down. I couldn't believe my eyes but being a good old country boy and living by the sea I made a little mark with my thumb nail on the tree and looked a few minutes later and lo and behold the water had gone down below my mark, so you can imagine how I felt. I can't recall how long it was but it must have been getting late when it virtually left me in the tree, so I was able to get back across my pole onto the garage roof where I flopped down exhausted.
“Unbeknown to me, now was to come my worse time. It’s ironic to say this but when you are in the sea the salt water keeps you warm, but of course the sea water had left me and I was completely out of water laying on the garage roof, and hypothermia was setting in. I was aroused by some noise coming near to me and lifting up my head I saw an object in the darkness coming down the Holt Road, past the church and Fair View where my grandparents lived and moving very slowly, it turned
out to be an army Matador. This was I believe diesel driven having an exhaust pipe out the back going up beyond its cab, it could go into deep water without anything happening to it. This came slowly down past the Swallows Pub around the end of The Green and along the bottom road of the green and finally it stopped. I learnt later that the driver was standing on his seat driving with outstretched arms to his steering wheel, but the water had got too deep for him and he started to reverse. Soon after this an enormous light came and started to sweep the sea it came slowly towards me and I waved frantically. It went past me. Luckily for me the light came back again. I waved. It went past me, then came back and settled on me. I had been found at last. The lights I discovered later was the spot light on the back of Holt ambulance, but the light shining across the
water and the water barely down under the roof was dazzling me and making me feel a bit woozy as the motion of the sea was giving me the same effect as being on a boat and I began to feel sea sick. However, the next thing to happen was some men appeared in a boat. The boat got nearer and I could see two men rowing for all they were worth. All of a sudden a large wave came and took them back as quick as they had come, the boat tipped over the men washed out but luckily were saved
“The boat seemed to come again with a new crew. Steven Stephenson a young man who lodged with Mrs. Maud Felgate told me a few weeks later that the men were so terrified they dare not risk their lives again and he asked who wanted to go next time. From about 100 people standing
there no one answered. Then a man came forward by the name of Billy Pilsop Bishop. They thought two wouldn't be enough, Steven asked if anybody else was coming and Mr. Ian Causell came. They rowed across The Green towards me. The sea still rough, wind blowing, I had my fingers crossed hoping that another wave didn't come towards me. Quite quickly they got to the garage and I can remember one man asking, “Are you going to row Buttercup?” I said, “No I think I'll leave that to you tonight.” I don't remember much more until I was going in somewhere with lights in the ceiling, it turned out to be Holt Ambulance and I thought I was going to be taken to Hospital but to my dismay I was taken out again.
“Later I learnt from Mr. Graham Allen of Langham that they decided it wasn't worth taking me to Cromer Hospital as I would have been dead long before I got there. He also said that he had seen lots of dying and dead men in the war but had never seen anyone as near dead as I was and then to come round. I was taken to the little bungalow which belongs to Mrs. Micklejohn. I was laid in front of a large roaring fire and a nurse was trying to get some brandy into my mouth with a feeding cup but my mouth was shut tight and I can remember thinking what a waste of good brandy. It was running down my chin and clothes, but I soon came round after two nurses massaged me for a considerable time and to everyone's delight I seemed to be alright. Later they brought in a very elderly lady from the village, affectionately known as Gentle Annie. She had been rescued by the services which including several of the Holt Ambulance Crew and Fire Brigade from her bedroom
in Cley Street and they said the water was just into her bedroom. They had got her out, floated her across onto high ground and up to the Fairstead and brought her to the bungalow. By then I was fit
enough to start to massage her body and she came round eventually and back to life. I can remember the time by now would be about 2.00 a m in the morning and we sat in these lovely big armchairs in front of the fire until daylight.
By then, unbeknown to me several of the major newspapers correspondents had arrived in the village, also the radio. To my annoyance someone came in and told me Charles Gardener from the BBC London was outside and wanted to interview me, but they had sent him away saying I was not well enough. The only reporter I met was the one from the North Norfolk News later that week, and a Reuters' Correspondent who took lots of photos of me and also of the dead pigs laying in my Granny's front garden. It seems one of the sows that we had rescued had gone in through the
open doorway which the floods had swept in and called all the little pigs downstairs out of the bedroom and they all drowned and lay in the garden.
“As our cottage had about 4’6” of water in and us having two airing cupboards one each side of the cooking range, where all our underclothes were kept, we had no clothes or shoes to wear so people
rallied round and found clothes for us to wear. I remember Mrs. Micklejohn gave me a pair of her late husband’s long johns. We went to live with Ray and Ada Allen up at Newgate Farm, we stayed with
them for about a week before we could return to our home.
“There are a lot of remarkable stories told about that night. I can remember one or two to tell you. About two or three days later I was walking with some friends along the tide mark which was along Mr. Harry Ramm's field just past the Newgate council houses and the big white house going towards Glandford when we came across a chicken coop with a large white cockerel sitting on a perch straight upright dead as could be. He died of fright or the water came up and over him
so quick he was frozen to the perch. Later we found one of the doors from the big garage and it was in a lot of rubbish and the key was still in the lock.
That’s about all I can think of to say about it except to thank Mr. Bishop, Mr. Stevenson and Mr.
Causell who saved my life.”
Applause broke out when Buttercup Joe finished his talk and there was a break for tea before
the other speakers.
Martin and Mary wandered around greeting people they knew. Martin suddenly noticed the people from Heron House. He rushed up to them, “I can’t thank you enough, or your cousin actually, for rescuing my wife the night of the storm. I so much wanted her to tell everyone about it, but she thinks your cousin wouldn’t want the limelight.”
This was met with a blank stare. “Young man, I do not know who you are, or what you are talking
about. I have no cousin in this area, shy or otherwise, and I do not wish to continue this conversation.”
Martin was astonished at the rudeness of the man, but Mary was bright red with embarrassment.
“Please don’t make a fuss,” she whispered to Martin, and with a great deal of effort, he pulled himself together and they sat down again for the second half of the evening.