Flood heroes' George Medals to be reunited at RAF heritage centre

Reis Leming was awarded the George Medal for their heroic actions during the Hunstanton flood in 1953.

Reis Leming was awarded the George Medal for their heroic actions during the Hunstanton flood in 1953. - Credit: RSHC.

A second historic medal given to a heroic American airman who saved lives during the worst natural disaster in modern British history is set to return to the county.

Reis Leming, along with Freeman Kilpatrick, was awarded the George Medal for their heroic actions during the Hunstanton flood in 1953. Now, their medals will be united for the first time after Mr Leming’s family donated his medal, along with his jacket, to RAF Sculthorpe heritage centre.

Mr Leming was just 22-years-old serving as an Aerial Gunner when he was given the award, after he saved the lives of 27 people during the Hunstanton flood on January 31, despite not knowing how to swim.

Medals on display at RAF Sculthorpe

Reis Lemings Soldiers medal, Freeman Kilpatricks George Medal, Reis Lemings George Medal, and the Original inscription plate from the Silver Pheasant. - Credit: RSHC.

Dressed in a survival suit and dragging an inflatable raft, he waded through the floodwaters in the darkness and rescued almost 30 people before collapsing from exhaustion and hypothermia.

He has been honoured in the town over the years since his deeds, after the town paid for his wedding, and the footpath which goes through the war memorial in the town, the Esplanade Gardens, was renamed Reis Leming Way.

He was meant to attend the 60th anniversary of the disaster but died a few days before.

Reis Leming receiving his GM in April 1953 from the Home Secretary, David Maxwell-Fyfe. 

Reis Leming receiving his GM in April 1953 from the Home Secretary, David Maxwell-Fyfe. - Credit: RSHC.

He was part of the 67th Air Rescue Squadron, which is now the 67th SOS based at RAF Mildenhall. They will honour him this remembrance day at Hunstanton.

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The squad made a special jacket to honour him, but sadly never got the chance to present it to him.

This will also be on display at the RAF Sculthorpe Heritage Centre.

The jacket made by 67th Air Rescue Squadron

67th Air Rescue Squadron, who is now the 67th SOS based at RAF Mildenhall made a special jacket to honour him, but sadly never got the chance to present it to him. - Credit: RSHC.

Ian Brown, curator at RAF Sculthorpe Heritage Centre, said: “It's an absolute honour that the Leming family have given this opportunity to the RAF Sculthorpe Heritage Centre to show and tell the heroic deeds of Mr Leming to a new generation.

"We are very proud to now have both George Medals given to Americans in peacetime within our 1953 Floods display.

A man holds the medal in behind a road sign

RAF Sculthorpe heritage centre's curator, Ian Brown holding the George Medal on South Beach Road in Hunstanton. - Credit: Kevin.J.Osman

"There have only been five George Medals awarded to Americans in total since the George Medal was created by King George VI in 1940."

The medals will be on display at the RAF Sculthorpe Heritage Centre from February 2022.

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