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Floods of ‘83 airbrushed out of history

PUBLISHED: 10:32 29 April 2016 | UPDATED: 10:32 29 April 2016

FLOODING IN 1983: work starts to right an overturned on Hemsby beach after the tidal surge.
Picture: MERCURY LIBRARY

FLOODING IN 1983: work starts to right an overturned on Hemsby beach after the tidal surge. Picture: MERCURY LIBRARY

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Cinema and television films partly shot in the Great Yarmouth and East Norfolk area have continued to produce feed-back from readers, and today sees the grand finale, the Peggotty equivalent of the handsome hero and fiesty heroine walking hand-in-hand into a Technicolor sunset to enjoy a fulfilling life of bliss.

FLOODING IN 1953: Gorleston riverside the next morning.
Picture: JACK HARRISONFLOODING IN 1953: Gorleston riverside the next morning. Picture: JACK HARRISON

But first, Jane Williamson and Roy Dickinson point out that I was wrong to caption a photograph illustrating a previous column as a Yarmouth South Denes old brick toilet block once disguised to look like a nightclub for a 1989 BBC-TV movie, Defrosting the Fridge. The building purporting to be a nightclub was in a different South Denes block, they maintain.

As for my reference to a car chase through central Yarmouth and Cobholm for the Anglia Television police drama series, The Chief, Jane reports that the car belonging to her and her late husband was nearly involved in that high-speed pursuit.

“During the mid-1990s I was contacted by a man from Anglia TV on behalf of the crew of The Chief series who were looking to use a distinguishable car,” she recalls. “At the time, our car was a Ford Granada Scorpio with the full skirts kit and all the ‘gubbins’ of its time in Scilicat Gold, and they wanted it.

“They took loads of pictures of it and offered to pay us admirably to ‘borrow’ it for the filming of a street chase in Cobholm, ending with the car being rolled in a car park.

WELCOME VISITOR: MTB102 on Yarmouth’s South Quay for the 2004 maritime festival.
Picture: MERCURY LIBRARYWELCOME VISITOR: MTB102 on Yarmouth’s South Quay for the 2004 maritime festival. Picture: MERCURY LIBRARY

“Luckily they hastened to say our car would be swapped for a mock-up one before the rolling took place. However, they were unable to make a satisfactory mock-up in time for the episode, so the deal was off!”

Jane continues: “We lived in the south end of Yarmouth and the car (and the scenario) are still well remembered by colleagues at the garage I recently retired from, and others. The car was parked on the garage forecourt when Anglia TV went to a neighbouring garage to ask about it and were sent round to see me.

“I first moved to Yarmouth in 1965, having spent many happy holidays here with my family, and throughout my varied working life spent time (1965-67) working in the chemical laboratory at Erie Resistor. Several of the staff spent our lunch breaks sitting on the wall overlooking the South Denes buildings in question.

“I have, in my mind’s eye, a picture of the buildings in your photograph with another, seemingly much older, sitting between those and the sea. It was a much taller and bigger building which I was given to understand was part of a wartime effort.

“The newer buildings were used as toilet blocks for the many caravans sited on the South Denes but whether they were purpose-built or not I am not sure. I have so many memories of Yarmouth, but I moved to Gorleston to retire.”

Of all the occurrences in Jane’s life, she reckons one that has remained most vividly in her memory was of the floods – not the January 31 1953 surge but that on January 31 1983. “It really happened 30 years to the day after the 1953 floods”, she emphasises.

“Although I have recently tried to research this, it seems to have been airbrushed out of history. If this has whetted your appetite, I will happily give you the full story.”

Thanks for the offer, Jane, but I experienced both surges. The 1953 one coincided with my first pass home from National Service square-bashing in Staffordshire, and the second – less destructive than the first, if I recall correctly - occurred while I was a working journalist here in Yarmouth.

Now, back to films, and one of my favourites, made for cinema in 1978 and screened regularly on TV: The Eagle Has Landed, starring Michael Caine and Donald Sutherland about a German wartime mission to assassinate Prime Minister Winston Churchill at a Norfolk stately home.

It featured the ex-Royal Navy motor torpedo boat MTB102 that actually had ferried Churchill and US General Eisenhower to inspect the assembled D-Day armada in the Solent in 1944. In the film she purported to be a German vessel, benefiting from her screen role because the producers refurbished her to a fully operational sea-going vessel.

She once belonged to the Norwich Area Scout Council but has been owned by a special trust for 20 years. I have not glimpsed her for ages but she is still very active and, after a full winter refit, faces a punishing summer schedule launched with a voyage across to Dunkirk and including visits to the River Thames and Beccles.

Twice we will be able to see her here in the River Yare where she participated in last year’s maritime festival and returns for this September’s event. Before that, she is here accompanying two current Royal Navy high-speed craft, and later sails back for the 2016 maritime festival.

MTB102 is based in a boatyard in Oulton Broad.

Another recent subject was the once-busy railway line from Yarmouth South Town Station to Beccles and beyond, its route passing through woodland at Fritton. The line existed for exactly a century, from 1859 to 1959. Few reminders of its existence remain today.

His curiosity aroused by that column, former Mercury colleague Tony Mallion and his wife Jenny decided recently to take an afternoon stroll “through the Fritton (Waveney to be accurate) Woods.

“It must be some time since we last did so as great swathes of the woods are no more but have been culled and replaced by tiny saplings which will one day grow into mighty firs. 
But, of course, the concrete railway bridge is still there providing a good footpath.

“As your correspondent Trevor Nicholls reminded us, what a sad loss of a line which once gave such a fast, direct and picturesque line to London. Shame I never had the chance to go that way.”

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