Memories of the Great Storm ‘87

Bexhill Observer letters
Bexhill Observer letters

From: Cynthia Reavell, Friars Bank, Guestling

In response to your recent invitation for readers to share their memories of the Great Storm of 1987, to mark its 30th anniversary, the thing that stays in my mind (we lived in Guestling and worked in Rye) is the constant roar I awoke to in the early hours of Friday, October 16, 1987.

It was unlike anything I have ever heard before or since, like a solid wall of sound rather than wind.

Our long double-glazed upstairs window, extending the width of the room, actually bowed inwards, such was the force of the wind; and we were terrified that next-door’s massive old oak would fall, which would certainly have hit our house.

Along with these feelings of terror there was also excitement and incredulity at being in the midst of such a drama.

And of course that wasn’t the end of it: the havoc of the aftermath continued to disrupt life for weeks afterwards.

Fallen trees left roads impassable; there was no electricity for about two weeks, so one could get neither radio nor TV reports, nor information on the situation; all fridge and freezer food had to be thrown away after a couple of days; and phones only worked intermittently. So one was completely cut off.

Added to this, the annual Rye Get-Together of the Tilling Society (an appreciation society for novelist E.F. Benson), organised by my husband Tony and myself, was to take place just one day later, on the Saturday.

But there were no trains to Rye running, and many of the approach roads were still blocked by trees or flood-water.

Nevertheless, of the 108 who had booked, 74 (over three quarters) did somehow get there, despite the fact that those who had arrived before the hurricane had no idea how or when they could get back; and there were others who had turned up after 
long, gruelling journeys who found that their b-and-b landladies had locked up and departed.

Our planned organ recital at St Mary’s had to be abandoned because the organ was electrically powered.

The George and Hope Anchor Hotels came up trumps and produced both lunch and tea for us, to our enormous relief – doubly noble when one realised they had no electricity for such essentials as washing-up even.

All in all there was a marvellous Blitz spirit.

Some of us climbed the church tower in the afternoon, and a cheer went up when we saw from that vantage-point the first train coming into Rye.

One amusing incident told us be a member was that, as she made her way along Mermaid Street in total darkness that evening, she ran her hand along the walls and doors to keep her bearing; at one point she touched the face of someone emerging from a doorway, causing them both to scream!

Poignant Postscript: On a local drive shortly afterwards, we saw the house-name ‘High Beeches’ still fixed to what was now just a tree-stump.