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Edenbridge Flood Rescue 1968
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YOU ARE HERE > COMMUNITY > EDENBRIDGE FLOOD RESCUE
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Kent
Edenbridge Floods 1968
Kent
Edenbridge floods 15/16 September 1968

 

 

I was serving in the RAF with “D” Flight 22 Squadron with Whirlwind helicopters at Manston in 1968.. On 15 September the Flight took a request for assistance in the Edenbridge area as the River Medway way in flood after prolonged heavy rain. My role was winchman, who was the crew member that was winched down on the end of a 60 foot steel cable to effect the rescue or give any assistance.

We were scrambled by Southern Rescue Co-ordinating Centre(RCC) in the early evening in heavy rain and low cloud, making our way to Ashford at low level to keep below cloud base. At Ashford the intention was to pick up the railway line through Tonbridge to the Edenbridge area. This railway line is one of the straightest in the country and provided an ideal navigation aid to the Edenbridge area. It was an interesting run very low up the rail line hopping over power cables and telephone lines.

Having arrived in the area we started our search of the Medway west of Edenbridge following the line of the river. On reaching the outskirts of the town we checked various properties for stranded people but found nobody. On reaching the centre of town we could see the main street flooded to a depth of 3 or 4 feet. The sight that struck us as incredible was that some shops still had the shop window lights on shining below the water level. Why had the lights not fused? One shop near the bridge still had the lights on and we could see that the first floor accommodation was still occupied by a gentleman with the television still on. The helicopter was hovered over the shop roof and I was lowered down to the window. I banged on the window to attract the person’s attention and he came and opened the window. He refused to evacuate the property with me as he was watching the Forsythe Saga. We later learned from the report in a national newspaper that it was Mr. Frank Eley.

As our services were not required there, we continued to search properties down river from the bridge for stranded people. On a number of occasions I was lowered to check windows with lights still shining. We noticed that various Army vehicles involved in flood rescue were parked near what I think was a local church or community hall, or maybe a school. As we had been airborne for approximately 2 hours, our fuel was getting low and it was also getting quite dark, it was decided to land in the adjacent field to obtain further instructions. We were out of radio range with RCC so I tried to telephone them, but the phone lines were down. Eventually, I made contact with the RAF Uxbridge Ops Centre, and were advised to continue the search next morning. We slept in the hall that night.

Early the following morning, we started up the helicopter and contacted Gatwick to request refuelling. Gatwick informed us that they were closed as the runway was flooded. Choice words were exchanged as we were a helicopter on a flood rescue mission and did not need a runway. Gatwick finally allowed us to land and refuel.

After refuelling we continued down the Medway, but saw nobody in need of our help. On reaching Tonbridge we were still out of radio contact with RCC as rain water had seeped into our VHF set. However, parked on the High Street bridge at Tonbridge was a police Landrover with water flooding all around. I was winched down to the Landrover and was able to use their radio to Police HQ and eventually contacted RCC by telephone relay. Our new instructions were to continue down the Medway and assist as necessary. A little further down from Tonbridge there were a number of cabin cruisers swept away from their moorings and caught in trees and bushes. I was able to winch 3 people off the boats and we landed them in a field near the Bell Inn at Golden Green.
A further search down river was uneventful and we returned to Manston.



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