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During WWII all ham radio equipment was confiscated, in order to lessen the threat of espionage. The wartime government were however very generous to many hams, providing them with brand new stare-of-the-art equipment. The downside of this was that said equipment would be attached to the inside of a Blenheim bomber, Sherman tank or destroyer!
This resulted, however on demobilisation, of amateurs, who, as well as their previously gained technical skills, were also trained to a military standard of message handling, and were, indeed very slick operators.
The amateur movement saw for themselves a role in emergency communications within a civil emergency.
In those days the Post Office held a monopolyon any form of civil communications. It seems strange in this day and age when parcels are delivered by TNT, DHL and the like,your landline may be provided by your ISP or cable network, whilst mobile comms are provided by a plethora of companies.
This was not always the case. Letters were delivered by the post office. Telephone links were again provided by the Post Office. For those many citizens who did not posess a telephone and needed to be contacted in a hurry the telegram service was available, also run by the Post Office. As regards marine communications, whereas today, every Coastguard ststion, port operations service, harbour, and yacht club have their own VHF equipment operating in the 156MHz marine band, and in the case of coastguard MF also,back in the post war period the only way of communicating with vessels at sea was by using the Post Office network of coast radio stations, operating on MF.
Amateur Radio came under the juristiction of the Home Office, who were advised by the Post Office who could not envisage any need for amateur emergency communications. The licence conditions also expressly forbade the passing of third party traffic. The P.O. of course, got much of their revenue from passing such traffic.
However on the 31st January 1953 events ocurred which focussed minds somewhat!
Tides follow the lunar cycle. Spring tides occurr on two periods each month co-inciding with the full moon and new moon, whilst neap tides correspond with tperiods of half moon. On neaps, there is only moderate variation between high tide and low tide, whilst spring tides exhibit very low water at low tide, and very high water at high tide.
Winds blowing with the tide can make the tides higher and earlier, producing tidal surges.
Inland fresh water from rainfall can also contribute to high river levels.
In the January of 53 all of these factors combined to catastrophic effect.
In England there was a total of 1,600 kilometres of coastline involved, with 1,00 square kilometres of land flooded.
30,000 people needed evacuation, and 24,000 properties were damaged. There were 307 lives lost on land and 224 at sea.
Over the North Sea, things were even worse in Holland and Belgium; with 1,858 Dutch lives being lost, 2,000,000 Hectares of flooding, with 300,000 homeless and 47,00 cattle lost.
I fthis scale of disaster occurred today, there would be local radio and TV reporters on site within minutes, and warnings would be broadcast to the public, thus limiting the scale of damage. Hovever this was before the age of immediate communications, with the result that people on the Essex coast were preparing for bed, as Lincolnshire folk were drowning, not realising that hours later the same fate would befall them.
On 31st Jan at 6.40pm.the Post Office Coast radio station at Mablethorpe, Humber Radio, Callsi GKZ was in contasct with the SS Levenwood, a small coaster, which was battling enormous seas and being swept towards the lea shore. She requested a tug. The first officer was also ill and medical advice was required.
This traffic was being monitored by Reg Collins, G3AXS, who was a radio amateur who haad served as a Cheif Petty Officer Telegraphist in the Royal Navy, and had been mentionned in Despatches. He Lived in Grimsby where he worked on ship radio installations. He heard Humber Radio acknowledge the vessels distress call. However the phone lines were down, and he was unable to contact Mablethorpe Exchange.
to. be continued.
POST OFFICE COAST RADIO STATION OP.
REG COLLINS G3 AXS
THE COASTER SS.LEVENWOOD (COURTESY SHETLAND MUSEUM)
EAST COAST FLOODING
1953 DUTCH FLOODS