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10-May-2013 07:22 PM
As I write this on the last day of March 2013, when we have had the coldest March for 50 years, I remember 1963 and then back to March 1947 because whilst I have been imprisoned in doors by the weather I started another project, scanning all the photographic negatives that my husband took in 1946 and 1947 with his newly acquired Leica camera. These I had never seen before as there were no prints and he had taken them before we met. Amongst them were about 21 pictures he took of the Thames Floods in 1947. So this is his memory, a story which he told to me about 6 years ago when we discussing the Great Flood of February 1953 (North Sea Surge) after we had been reading a comprehensive book on that subject and I happened to ask him about the floods of 1947.
There had been a lot of heavy snow that winter especially in the watershed area of the Thames Valley and a thaw combined with heavy rain caused the Thames to rise and flood over the meadows adjoining the river, which couldn’t cope and it wasn’t long before the towns and villages along side the river were being inundated with the swirling waters. Of course in those years there wasn’t the rapid communication and instant TV as we get today so probably most of the country was unaware of the devastating problem for several days. Unfortunately it never occurred to me to question Frank as closely as I would have done, if I had known that I was going to write about his experiences. Now it is too late.
At 25 years old, Frank was returning from his home in Hornchurch, Essex to his digs in Datchet Road, Datchet, Bucks, a small town just downstream from Windsor and Eton on the River Thames. I presume he would normally have caught a train at Waterloo to Datchet Station but of course that service must have been cancelled due to flooding along the line. He would have left home, in Hornchurch in the evening, and arriving at Waterloo, would have found the trains cancelled and had to make his way to Paddington Station, all taking time, so that by the time he had arrived in Slough (although he may have walked from Langley Station) the last bus for Datchet was long gone. A long walk of about 2- 3 miles ensued, with a suitcase to carry. It was pitch black with little or no street lighting. In fact on leaving the environs of Slough it was only a country lane with no habitation until you were nearer Datchet. I don’t know whether it was a clear night or whether there was a moon.
Suddenly he realised he was walking through water which was gradually getting deeper and deeper, like knee deep. Now this was the point when I think I would have stopped and considered the matter. It was gone midnight, pitch black, not a sole about, water getting deeper and colder as one progressed. Surely time to turn about and return to Slough? Carrying on would be the height of folly but Frank decided to soldier on and it wasn’t long before he hitched the suitcase onto his shoulder out of the wet and by the time he reached his digs in Datchet Road he told me he was almost up to his waist in water. I asked him if there was any current, bearing in mind there was some distance between the road and the actual river and he said you could feel it a bit. He agreed with me that he was quite mad to have continued.
He let himself into his digs which was completely flooded in doors as well and took himself up to bed. The next day he took four photographs from the house; the fields opposite; the road to left and right and the back garden. Later in the morning a DUKW, an army amphibious vehicle came down Datchet Road rescuing those who wanted to go. Frank, with his camera, went with them, taking photos as he stood on the DUKW, of the scene around him. I have no idea which way they went, whether it was to Slough or to Windsor as Datchet was completely flooded, I never thought to ask.
Neither did I enquire about where he stayed in the period before returning to his digs. It was probably in the Maidenhead area which was much nearer to where he worked at White Waltham Aerodrome. He certainly went into Maidenhead because the last few photos he took of the Floods were taken at Maidenhead mainly where the bottom of the High Street joins Bridge Street.
Since then, thankfully there has been no major flooding on that scale. They have recently built a new river, the Jubilee River which leaves the Thames just above Boulters Lock, upstream of Maidenhead and flows parallel to the main river rejoining just below Windsor and Eton to, hopefully, alleviate such flooding problems. The trouble is that there has been so much building on the flood plains (and those of most British rivers as well) that I, personally, wouldn’t feel too sanguine. I remember areas being flooded each winter there, in the nine years that I lived in the Bray area before my marriage to Frank.
Ten years later in 1957, Frank and I, during our wedding reception stood by a gently flowing Thames on Monkey Island, Bray-on-Thames having our photos taken.
In 2011 just a few hundred yards from the Thames, where it joins the sea, Frank departed this life.
‘Sweet Thames flow softly till I end my Song’
5-Aug-2013 02:01 PM
5-Aug-2013 03:37 PM
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6-Aug-2013 06:56 AM
6-Aug-2013 07:51 AM
6-Aug-2013 10:19 AM
2-Jul-2014 05:00 PM
22-Aug-2014 09:48 PM
24-Aug-2014 05:06 PM
24-Aug-2014 08:01 PM
27-Aug-2014 10:36 PM
I wrote:A rare Cochrane view of a flooded Brocas in May 1908[From his 27 Queen's Road address, photo paper batch 58]This is an exceptionally rare card for a number of reasons, not least that we probably are not aware of serious flooding in 1908. It certainly seems to be extensive and, although it is not clear in this picture, right of centre, in front of the hedge, there is a half submerged park bench, so the water was a good foot deep.Some of us will recall that Thomas Cochrane junior died in June 1908, a couple of weeks before the Olympics and the Windsor to White City Marathon.Finally, this card is exceptional in that the condition is absolutely superb. Quite apart from the rare view of a Windsor event, the paper is barely discoloured, the corners are crisp and sharp, it is unwritten, and the image has hardly faded at all. All in all, a stonking good Cochrane card
5-Oct-2014 09:32 PM
6-Oct-2014 08:03 PM
6-Oct-2014 10:19 PM
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24-Nov-2014 03:33 PM
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