17.40hrs, PS ordered the back of the Landi re-organised so that essential equipment was to hand.
The two boat crew took a Police Officer with them in the boat to do the checks (PC 1045) while MP and CP remained behind to do Shore Party work and liaison duties.
During this racing water task where the river was moving at a very rapid but indeterminable speed,
13.50hrs, back at base, Senior BCD officers went for a debriefing session while CP and MP serviced the boat and equipment. MP also managed to acquire some traffic cones, which were used to warn traffic coming into the area behind the police station that the team's vehicle and boat was parked there. They also protected the team's parking area while out on a job. Almost without exception all comers to the very full car park honoured this ad hoc space.
By 17.20hrs the task was completed and team then returned to base. CP went into OPs to apologise for the inconvenience he caused by leaving the tailboard behind and to thank them retrieving it. It had been placed with the logistics section next door (Silver Ops now had its own separate logistics section manned by the police)
CP went next door to collect it, everyone there thought it was very amusing, He ruefully thought to himself that he wished his own team had reacted in the same way. Needless to say he got some stick over the incident for the rest of the job. The tailboard never got left behind again!
Once the tailboard was back with the trailer it was checked to make sure that everything was working properly,
which it was. By 17.40hrs, all checks were completed and the team went for another Sit-Rep. Between then and 22.00hrs there was much discussion over a possible call out to Malton, which in the end turned out to be a
no-go. It was made clear that the team could only accept tasks handed to them by the police. By this time a growing confidence and a good working relationship had developed between the police and BCD.
No problems were encountered and the task was completed shortly after midnight.
BCD arrived on site at 14.25hrs. At the flood line there were lots of cars and people around, and right at the waters edge there was a large red/orange soft bottom dinghy with three IRC people in dry suits milling around. One of them recognised the two senior officers, and boisterous greetings were sounded. At the same time the other two IRC members quickly pushed their boat into the water and started to chug away. By this time PS and RJ were on them and the boat was held for a quick inspection, before chugging off the short distance in the direction of the village. BCD officers were surprised because they had been told that the boat had been badly holed, and was out of action. However, the hole was only slightly larger than a 1p piece and would only take a couple of hours to fix. It only took several minutes to ascertain that there was no life threatening situation, there was no need for rescue and no property damage (apart from the very tiny hole), but IRC said they might need the team there the following day to help? Strange business!
It also seemed strange that the IRC team was even engaged in this work given that villagers could walk out by way of the cycle path to the railway bridge and down onto the road where their cars were parked. Good for media pictures and public relations though!
Task completed, the team reported the facts to Silver OPs and made their way back to the
By 15.30hrs the team was ready to respond again. Between 15.30 and 18.30hrs they checked kit, checked with OPs and than settled into Wait-Com in the Night Canteen.
19.00hrs, the situation in York was one of very slowly receding water levels, while in the Selby/Barlby area, soldiers and other people working on the flood defences had been withdrawn for fear of their safety due to the increasing likelihood of the defences giving way. What a situation! In thirty-three years of service PS had never seen a flood that behaved in this way. Floods come and go but this one was having a second go at wrecking the area. Its affects were stretched out for miles in every direction.
21.20hrs, the Police Superintendent decided to move the whole team to the Day Canteen where it was quiet
once the kitchen was closed. It was a good choice of area and most suitable for the teams' simple needs.
PS then returned to Silver Ops to try and get more information, but it seemed that no further information was available. The team was then told that they would not be deployed until after breakfast. At 05.30hrs they
decided to try to get a couple more hours sleep. CP brought the logbook up to date. By 07.00 personal hygiene had been taken care of. A real fried breakfast was given to everyone at a 08.15hrs in the day canteen.
Cawood and Villages
At Ryther, the 1.6 metres flood water stretched for just under a kilometre, ending within the village just past the Public House. Local people gave the two officers several useful items of information: a) the road
beyond the village to Ulleskelf was flooded. b) There was a road open to the countryside beyond the flood line.
After wading back to the Landi and having coffee and biscuits with two elderly people, the whole team continued probing routes that eventually led them to the far side of Ulleskelf. They were now working back in the direction of Ryther via the B1223 flooded areas of Ozendyke house farm, Ozendyke grange and Manor Farm. Water depths was tested at numerous places and then forded by the Landi. Apart from the farms mentioned there were a small number of houses by this stretch of road. Several people told of how they had been cut off for a week and had seen nobody from outside the area. All properties were checked to make sure that residents were in good health and to let them know that if they needed any help, a call to Selby Police would bring a swift response. People were very pleased to see the team once they realised that the men who came out of the deep water in black dry suits and helmets were not aliens. The "immediately" offered cups of tea were most welcome to the cold rescuers.
On return to Selby, PS and CP went for a debriefing in 'Silver OPs. PS helped the police bring their operations board up to date with the aid of the information collected. Shortly
afterwards they returned to the Landi with information on another task.
The team returned to Selby Ops. Shortly afterwards they were on their way back to York.
PS and RJ arrived back in the canteen to say that the team was moving into the Day Canteen again.
Mr and Mrs. Lamb needed to be evacuated from their home in Derwent House, which was rapidly filling with water and were to be taken to another address higher up in the
village. As the ground was too undulating to launch the boat, PS decided that he and RJ would pull the boat along the flooded main road on the trailer.
PS called Thames Valley Medical Rescue Unit (T.V.M.R.U.) because he understood that a team of five people from that unit would be joining BCD at 07.00hrs. There appeared to be some confusion as to detail from them but they said they would inform him when they were on their way.
09.00hrs, the team moved back into the Night Canteen. PS informed 'Silver Ops' where the team could be found. There were rumours of possible tasks in Malton but nothing was confirmed, so it was back to Wait-Com.
The team received a call from T.V.M.R.U. from
Oxfordshire to inform them that they would be joining BCD in OPs at about 11.00hrs. In York the flood levels were dropping but there was still a massive amount of water flowing through the city.
Malton/Norton on Derwent.
Malton/Norton on Derwent, Silver Operations
At the bottom of the hill they left the track and stopped on about 7 metres of open road.
The job the officers were now tasked to do was to go to the Sheepfoot Hill, Kingsmill Flats and bring out three people, their animals and personal luggage. They had been marooned there for a week and had run out of food for themselves and animals. Several other teams including the Fire Service had looked at the job but their boats were not capable of carrying out the rescue. The residents were demanding Evac.
The BCD team deployed the Land Rover and boat down the muddy track at 19.00hrs. The first water R/A to the flats was carried out by wading to check water depth and for snares. PS and RJ cleared the road as far as the gateway. Beyond this the current hit them hard. Whatever snares lay beyond the racing, dancing waters they had no way of knowing. Once back at the Landi, PS asked the Constable from which doorway was the Evac to take place. He was told, "The one with the outside steps directly in line with the gate".
This presented few problems to the boat team: The route was straight through the gate, across the current and into the dead water of the L shape inner corner of the
building, collect the passengers, turn the boat around and come back out. It was the type of job the team had undertaken many times over the years.
19.16 hrs, Pathfinder was launched and the engine warmed up ready for work. Navigation lights and torches were turned on. The trip along the dead water road was simple. The space between gateposts (concrete with 90-degree sharp corners) was a hand-span distance on either side of the boat. "Pathfinder" passed these and nosed into and across the tearing current and then in onto the dead water doorway steps. RJ found large concrete blocks at the foot of the steps but they posed no threat due to the depth of water. RJ then knocked at the door causing a window above the crews heads to open. A young woman leaned out " Not that door, the one around the front," she shouted before closing the window again.
The amazed team pushed the boat way from the steps and headed along the wall to the corner of the front of the building. The inset porch was directly in the main currents' path. PS took the boat out into the
racing dancing water and gunned the bow into the white painted porch. The TVMRU medic (Now No3 crewman) left the boat and organised the first group of passengers - two people, one cat in a basket and a massive amount of
luggage. The young people (Mr and Mrs Stearsby) were put into buoyancy jackets and placed in the boat.
When everything was stowed, the medic who was staying behind to assist
the next passenger pushed the boat away from the building and into the dancing waters. The current quickly pulled the boat around so that it now faced the garages. "Pathfinder" would have to come around in a tight circle to
go out through the gateway. Suddenly there was a loud bang and the engine stopped. The engine propeller had hit a snare. (Every flood rescue boat crews' worst nightmare) The boat was now at the mercy of the water and was
sideways on at high speed around past the garages towards the small trees and waterfall bank. PS immediately hauled on the con-wheel and brought the boat into bow forward position. Beyond them the river was racing by.
Twice the engine refused to start. PS was also wondering if he had any prop left. The young woman passenger could see the fast approaching hangs and river and called out in alarm. PS tried one last time to start the engine before initiating emergency procedures. The well-maintained Yamaha engine fired into life and he dropped it into reverse thrust just seconds way from what he called the plug-hole. The boat came around very quickly in the tight space and within several more seconds was out through the narrow gateway and along the dead water to the Shore Party. RJ said afterwards that when the young woman cried out, PS looked around and said, "don't worry, no problem!" All PS said about the job afterwards and with some emphasis was, "Outrageous!"
19.20hrs, The two officers then faced the water again. The second rescue was carried out without
any problems: 1 young male (Mr Holiday), 1 dog, several bags of clothing and the Medic were brought out very smoothly.
21.15hrs. Everyone met back at Rydale House. All equipment was checked and locked down.
08.30hrs, PS asked permission to stand the two teams down.
The cost will at the end of the day run into tens of millions of pounds. But that apart, the personal loss caused by flood damage to private homes, especially where irreplaceable items such as treasured family photographs and other heirlooms were destroyed and family pets died, is a price which cannot be measured just in terms of money but in personal suffering, worry and despair.
Another matter that should not be forgotten is the many cases of kindness as folk set about helping themselves and their neighbours. Or, the young soldiers working for hours sandbagging where the rivers threatened to breach defences. The little and not so little things like a cup of coffee on a cold dark night, and Police Officers who on countless occasions went to the aid of the old, the lonely and the frightened; they all deserve a place in this account.
We also hope that this debriefing report gives the reader an insight into how a very small British Civil Defence, Flood Rescue Boat and its team played its part in the massive defensive operation by the Emergency Services, Local and County Authorities and volunteers when things were at their worst.
Thank you to all the Police Officers of the North Yorkshire Police Service who we had the great privilege of working with. Everyone we met showed us so much kindness and professionalism. We also thank them for their bulldog tenacity in defence of the Public. In 1982 we said that this Police Service was the best we had ever worked with. With the passing of so many years that standard has remained the same. They are still the best!
Our thanks also go to the Army, The Fire and Rescue Service, Local Authorities staff and personnel,
Thanks too, to all the Selby Residents and many others who answered the call for volunteers to carry out the very manual job of filling sandbags and a multitude of other equally important tasks.
Finally, our thanks go to all those members of BCD and the National Animal Rescue Service who through financial donations before and after the event enabled the Yorkshire Response to take place.
This debriefing report was produced by volunteers, as is all the work undertaken by
© British Civil Defence
Top of Page