On This Day: Great Ouse burst its banks in the 1947 floods

Rebecca Lewis
On This Day: Great Ouse burst its banks in the 1947 floods

March 16, 1947: Almost 600,000 acres of farming land on the Fens were submerged by floodwater as the River Great Ouse burst its banks during one of the worst floods the country has seen.

Still reeling from the Second World War, Britain was gripped by an ice-cold temperatures and huge amounts of snowfall that winter.

In early March the snow that had accumulated over the winter began to thaw but heavy rainstorms added to the volume of water now flooding swathes of the country.

The melting snow fed into the rivers and water levels rapidly rose. In the East of England the already poor flood defences of the Great Ouse were critically weakened.

After weeks of relentless rain and rising water levels the Great Ouse burst its banks, causing floodwater to sweep over the Fens.

Millions of pounds of damage was caused as crops were ruined and a million sheep died. The clean-up operation was difficult as continuous rain held up relief efforts.

Many other parts of the country were also hit. The Pathé clip above shows a 300ft gap in the flood bank of the River Trent.

The narrator says: "The fruits of two weeks labour and toil which partly cleared some of the land was swept away."

Workers from Holland smile to the camera as they join in to help seal the breach with chalk, slag, rushes and sticks.

He continues: "The barrier wall must be strengthened and a start made to reclaim the land."