Raging waters: The dramatic Kempsey flood of 1949 rushes past a house.
On Wednesday 31 August 1949, the Mayor of Armidale, L
E Dawson,. launched a special
appeal for the victims of the disastrous Kempsey floods.
“The citizens of Kempsey have indeed suffered a major catastrophe, and our hearts go out to them in their distress”, the Mayor said. “ Armidale citizens will, I know, do all that is expected of them.”
The previous Friday, 26 August, Arthur Lindeman had come on duty at Kempsey Aeradio at midnight.
Located at Kempsey airport, Kempsey Aeradio was one of twelve original stations built by AWA in 1938 to try to make the skies safer following several crashes.
Manned by five staff, the station provided 24 hour communication with aircraft overflying Kempsey on the Brisbane and Sydney route using a point-to-point Morse channel. The station also had one of the prime navigational aids used by aircraft at the time, a 33Mc
along with an NDB (non directional beacon) and a rotating light. Radio Range
The equipment was not always reliable, with equipment failures contributing to the fatal crash of the ANA passenger plane Lutana on the
the year before. Crawney Range
It had begun raining very heavily. By 2 am the rain was torrential. Lindeman explained the situation to the Flight Checking Officer at
and requested permission to close the station. A regular freighter was due out
about this time and permission was refused. Brisbane
Torrential rain continued.
“At about 3.30 am the wife of a local farmer and her young son arrived and asked if I had been outside lately”, Lindeman later recalled. “The water was lapping the top steps, a depth of about four feet. Equipment which could be moved was placed as high as possible after advising Sydney and Brisbane that the station was closing.”
With dawn breaking, the party headed across the airport for higher ground. .As they passed through the airport gate, they eyed the snakes that coiled themselves round the fencing wires and gate posts. There were snakes everywhere
Kempsey Aeradio station under water 1949 flood.
Rain continued, with another eight inches (203mm) falling on the Saturday. The effects were devastating. It was pitiful”, Lindeman said, “to witness houses, outhouses and belongings being washed down the river.”
Railway Bridge, Kempsey 1949 flood suggests the power of the water.
Six people died in the flood, including a 13-year-old boy at
Smithtown who drowned after
he went out by horseback to get some cattle in for his dad. Rescue efforts were
hampered by the collapse of the telephone system and the flooding of the local
Armidale citizens responded generously to the Mayor’s Appeal, including a £25 donation from Armidale Rotary to the Kempsey Club.
Note to readers: This post appeared as a column in the Armidale Express Extra on 26 September 2018. I am repeating the columns here with a lag because they are not all on line outside subscription. You can see all the Belshaw World and History Revisited/History Matters columns by clicking here for 2009, here for 2010, here for 2011, here for 2012, here for 2013, here for 2014, here for 2015, here for 2016, here 2017, here 2018.