THE Princess Royal was in Chelmsford yesterday to attend a special memorial service to mark the 60th anniversary of the great flood which devastated the region and claimed hundreds of lives.

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During the private service, which was held at the city’s cathedral, her Royal Highness gave a reading to the congregation which inlcuded flood survivors from Essex and local dignatories.

The service also included a drama performance by the Cast and Crew Flood! Workshop, and a prayer reading by leader of Essex County Council Peter Martin.

Speaking after the event, he said: “It is an honour to know that a member of the Royal Family was able to join us for this very special service.

“The flood disaster of 1953 was a tragic and terrible point in Essex’s history, but it nonetheless is a tremendously important event that we should remember.

“Hundreds of lives were lost, families were torn apart and thousands of homes were destroyed. I hope everyone in Essex takes time to remember this day in our history.”

On the evening of January 31 1953 the east coast of England was struck by some of the worst flooding from the North Sea in recent history.

Among the worst hit areas in Essex were Jaywick and Harwich. In total 307 British people died and 24,000 homes were damaged or destroyed.

The Very Revernd Peter Judd, Dean of Chelmsford, said: “The Cathedral has been honoured to welcome The Princess Royal to the service to mark the 60th anniversary of The Great Flood.

“We at the Cathedral were pleased to host this service, and to welcome leaders of the community, and those affected by these tragic events. Memory matters to us, and we hope that this service has both remembered the struggles and tragedies of those events, and helped in the healing process.”

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