We are now into March 1947 – and not a lot has changed. On the night of the 4th there was some heavy snow which left drifts across much of the country, with some lying over 20 ft deep in the Scottish Highlands. On the 5th one of the worst British blizzards of the 20th century occurred. Food supplies were again affected by the snow-bound roads, and in some places the police requested permission to break into delivery lorries stranded by the snow.
By 10th March, however, milder air of 45/50° F began to move north from the south-west, rapidly thawing the snow on the low ground. However, after such a long frost the ground itself stayed frozen. That caused surface run-offs which, in its turn, resulted in widespread flooding! The ‘heat’ didn’t last though and, as the milder air pushed northwards, further heavy snow fell and, on March 14th, the deepest ever recorded depth of snow lying in an inhabited location was measured at Forest-in-Teesdale in County Durham. It was at 83 inches – just short of 7ft.
Next day a deepening depression moved in from the Atlantic, bringing heavy rain and gales – it was the start of the wettest March for 300 years – and by 16th March there were winds reaching 90 km/h with some 170 km/h. These gusts caused breaches in dykes in the East Anglian Fens – and these resulted in the flooding of some 100 square miles of land. A significant number of trees were also blown down.
On the night of 17th /18th March the River Trent overflowed its banks in Nottingham, and large parts of the city and surrounding areas were flooded. Some 9,000 properties and nearly a hundred industrial premises were affected – some to first-floor height. Two days later, in the lower tidal reaches of the river, the peak of the flood combined with a high spring tide and flooded villages and some 2,000 properties in Gainsborough. Then river levels dropped when a flood bank was breached, and the result was the flooding of around 80 square miles of Trent Valley farmland.
By 20th March the flooding had subsided in the west of the country – but the rivers in the east were still rising. In the West Riding of Yorkshire the rivers Wharfe, Derwent, Aire and Ouse all burst their banks and Selby was also badly affected with 70 per cent of houses being flooded. Here more than 100,000 properties were affected and the Army worked to prevent the spread of the floodwater, particularly at pumping plants and power stations.
National service Royal Engineers handed out milk to families with babies; the Australian Red Cross assisted in Gloucester; people of Canada sent food parcels to villages in Suffolk and the Premier of Ontario, George A Drew, offered to help distribute them personally. The flooding lasted for about a week, with some waters taking an additional ten days to subside.
To be honest all this is nothing serious for me. I’m a five year old in a Cambridgeshire village. There’s not too much traffic coming through the village at the best of time – so now there’s virtually nothing. I can walk to school – and to my Nan – and throw snowballs to my heart’s content. Well that was until I got hit by one – then Nan came to the rescue!