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'Noah's Ark' hit by a tidal wave

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Sally Gurr today with her cat Kee-Wee
Sally Gurr today with her cat Kee-Wee
And Sally in 1953 with cat Biffer
And Sally in 1953 with cat Biffer

THE incredible sight of a 20ft tidal wave crashing through the High Street in Herne Bay is a memory which will never leave Sally Gurr.

She was woken in the early hours of Sunday, February 1, 1953, by a policeman hammering on their front door. Miss Gurr, of Fitzgerald Avenue, said: "It was just after midnight when I woke up and heard banging and screaming.

"My mother was already on her way down the stairs and I heard the policeman say 'Quick, you'll be flooded out'. "Then he was off again because there were terrace houses over the road and he had to warn everyone there, too." The 13-year-old went to her bedroom window, and through the darkness witnessed something she will never forget. "I saw a 20ft tidal wave and I thought I was going to die," she said. "It came rushing up Richmond Street, up the High Street and went down towards the park.

"I've never seen anything like it before or since. The walls just collapsed like a deck of cards.

"All my mother had time to do was grab the kitten from its basket in the kitchen and drag the dog upstairs."

Salt water washed through Miss Gurr's home, Richmond Villa, which was built as a pier master's house. She said: "The ground floor was under six feet of water. A dinghy came round in the morning but my mother wouldn't leave the house.

"It came round again in the afternoon and the men said they were expecting more flooding and that it would be dangerous for them to come back for us a third time, so we had to go."

Miss Gurr, her brother, sister and parents stayed with a family friend for 10 days until their house was safe to return to. They found out the house was known as Noah's Ark because it had badly flooded 100 years before.

"When we went back there was sludge from the sewers and dead fish everywhere," Miss Gurr said. "The fire brigade had to pump the water out of our cellar and the whole downstairs needed replastering that summer.

"Our house was repaired, but I will never forget that night. It was terrifying."

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