Reis Leming

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Reis Lee Leming
Born(1930-11-06)6 November 1930
East St. Louis, Illinois
Died4 November 2012(2012-11-04) (aged 81)
Allegiance United States
Service/branchSeal of the United States Department of the Air Force.svg United States Air Force
RankAirman 2nd class
Unit67th Air Rescue Squadron
AwardsGeorge Medal
Soldier's Medal

Reis Lee Leming GM (6 November 1930 – 5 November 2012) was an American airman who was awarded the British George Medal for his efforts in rescuing people during the North Sea flood of 1953.

The rescue[edit]

On the night of 31 January 1953 the sea defences of Hunstanton, Norfolk, were overwhelmed by a storm surge, with up to 10 feet (3.0 m) of seawater flooding the low-lying South Beach area.[1] Many U.S. service families were quartered there,[2] and Leming's unit, the 67th Air Rescue Squadron, based at nearby RAF Sculthorpe, were mobilised to assist. Leming, a 22-year-old Airman 2nd Class serving as an Aerial Gunner, could not swim, but dressed in a survival suit and dragging an inflatable raft, waded through the flood waters in the darkness and rescued 27 people before collapsing from exhaustion and hypothermia.[2]

Leming returned to the USA the year after the flood but the people of Hunstanton never forgot him and when he announced his engagement (to Mary Ramsay) the town insisted on hosting the wedding. The ceremony was held on June 1953 and was attended by the mayor and other leading figures of the town whilst a large crowd gathered outside. At a time food was still rationed in England local ladies pooled their rations to bake Leming a huge wedding cake and the town presented him with a set of Doulton china.[3] Since that time Leming returned to the town on several occasions, in 1993 attended the memorial service for the disaster and was presented to the Queen and Queen Mother at Sandringham.[4]


External video
"1953 Norfolk flood hero dies" (6 November 2012). ITV News report covering Leming's actions in 1953 and his death. Includes archive footage from 1953 and interviews with Leming. ITV News Official channel. (Flash Video.)

In March 1953 Leming was awarded the Soldier's Medal by the United States, and on 15 April 1953 was presented with the George Medal.[5][6][7] He and Staff Sergeant Freeman A. Kilpatrick, who rescued 18 people that night, were the first Americans to receive the medal in peacetime.[8] Presenting the medal, Sir David Maxwell Fyfe, the Home Secretary, said: "I ask you always to think of this signal honour, which the Queen has conferred upon you, as the outward and visible sign of the gratitude of English men and women for all that you and your colleagues serving under the United States flag did for us when help was desperately needed to save lives from the dreadful forces of wind and water."[9] The Queen, who did not present the medal personally as she was in mourning for Queen Mary at the time, thanked Leming at Sandringham House in 1993.[10]

On 22 September 1956 Leming was invited to christen the ship Mayflower II, a replica of the Pilgrim ship, that was built at Brixham, Devon.[11]

On 13 July 2012 Hunstanton Town Council approved a motion to name the footway through the Esplanade Gardens "Reis Leming Way".[12]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Hunstanton Memorials". 2010. Archived from the original on 31 May 2012. Retrieved 6 October 2012. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  2. ^ a b Meadows, Dick (23 January 2003). "1953 floods hero returns to remember". BBC News. London. Retrieved 6 October 2012.
  3. ^ "Hero of British Flood Wed". The Register-Guard. Eugene, OR. 1 July 1953. p. 5. Retrieved 22 February 2014.
  4. ^ "Reis leming". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 16 April 2013.
  5. ^ "American decoration for flood hero". The Times. London. 12 March 1953. p. 6.
  6. ^ "Reis Leming & The 67th Air Rescue Squadron". Norfolk's American Connections. 2012. Retrieved 6 October 2012.
  7. ^ Little, Donald D. (1983). "Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Service: A Chronology 1946–1981" (PDF). Office of Military Airlift Command History, USAF. Archived from the original (PDF) on 22 March 2011. Retrieved 6 October 2012. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  8. ^ "West Norfolk: Tide of terror". Lynn News. 13 September 2012. Retrieved 6 October 2012.
  9. ^ "George Medal Presented To U.S. Airman". The Times. London. 16 April 1953. p. 4.
  10. ^ "Belated thanks". The Times. London. 1 February 1993. p. 5.
  11. ^ Charlton, Warwick (2012). "The Second Mayflower Adventure". Plimoth Plantation. Retrieved 6 October 2012.
  12. ^ "Hunstanton Town Council" (PDF). 2012. Retrieved 6 October 2012.[permanent dead link]

External links[edit]