Four-day gale with 100mph winds was the town’s worst in 20 years

Station Road early 19th Century. Credit 1066online
Station Road early 19th Century. Credit 1066online

Until the construction of a new drainage system, Hastings town centre was frequently subject to flooding.

On Tuesday, October 23, 1945, a Channel gale hit Hastings and raged for four days. On the third day the heaviest seas of the week battered the seafront.

The storm was the worst in 20 years and at one point winds estimated to be of about 100 miles an hour swept across the town. Roofing was ripped off, windows caved in and chimney stacks rendered unsafe.

There was an exceptionally high tide the same day and at about noon the sea overwhelmed the promenade at several places, including at Carlisle Parade, Caroline Parade and Breed’s Place.

The water poured into Harold Place and the nearby streets, and by 12.30pm the road round the Memorial was submerged in two feet of water and shops and offices were flooded.

Girls took off their shoes and stockings to wade to dry spots, and one woman perched on a traffic bollard.

Shoppers were trapped and a boat was used to take them across the deepest water. A soldier acted as a one-man ferry, taking off his socks and boots he carried girls to safety.

A woman had to be rescued from the Harold Place underground toilets, which had filled with water. The rising tide lapped at the steps of the Westminster Bank and poured into Middle Street, turning the cricket ground into a lake.

The weather did have its brighter side. After an inshore storm of this magnitude the fishermen could expect a big harvest, if they were able to get their boats out quickly enough after the storm abated.

Such storms always drive large shoals of fish to the shore, especially mackerel. A story circulated that a woman who had gone out to buy fish for her husband’s dinner was prevented from reaching the shop by the floods.

She was returning home when a rush of water reached her feet, leaving a sea bass struggling on the pavement, so she put it in her shopping bag and took it home for dinner.

On the Friday afternoon at high tide heavy seas once again washed over the promenade between the Queens Hotel and the Cinema de Luxe. Workmen tried to prevent the water inundating the streets once again.

A house in Pelham Street, which had been damaged by enemy action, was so weakened by the gale that parts of it had to be removed for public safety.

At West St Leonards a mine washed ashore, a not uncommon event in the immediate post-war period. The police evacuated the area and sent for mine experts, who found that the detonator section of the mine was buried in the sand. Securing the mine to prevent it from washing away, they waited till the tide receded.

They then dug a hole in the sand alongside the mine, enabling them to turn it over and remove the detonators.

Further reading: Victory’s Children by Victoria Seymour. Available from Waterstones, the Tourist information Centre and from Victoria on 01424 424981.