Communication Technology and the North Sea Flood


January 31st marked the 68th anniversary of the North Sea Flood. To commemorate this anniversary Signals is sharing a specially commissioned animation, podcast and interactive story exploring how communication technology of the time influenced both the devastating death toll and inspiring stories of survival.

As part of our National Lottery Heritage Funded project Talk Time, Signals is exploring emergency communication technology along the coastline in Tendring. On January 31st 1953 the North Sea Flood caused nearly 1000 miles of coastline to be damaged, 1200 sea walls to be breached and 2551 people to lose their lives. The animation, podcast and interactive story below show how the fragile technology infrastructure of the time was unable to facilitate early warnings to residents, but also that the innovative amateur radio enthusiasts were pivotal in the support they provided to the resulting rescue effort.


For episode 3 of the Talk Time podcast, we spoke to Steve James from Essex RAYNET, our local branch of RAYNET, the UK’s national voluntary communications service provided for the community by licensed radio amateurs.

It was a fascinating conversation on the many different meanings of ‘amateur radio’, some of the incredible and heroic stories of radio enthusiasts during the 1953 disaster and the important role that Essex RAYNET delivers now.

Interactive Stories

North Sea Flood Interactive Story

We commissioned digital artist Dave Norton to create an interactive experience based on the 1953 North Sea Flood, inspired by the first hand and eye witness accounts detailed in various archives, including Essex Record Office and local history groups. In the process of making this interactive story, Dave worked with the young musicians at CLIP to create all the sound design, and the Colchester Sea Cadets who put the game through its paces in the testing phase. Click below to try it for yourself.

Play our Interactive Story of the North Sea Floods.

Meet the Maker

We sat down, virtually of course, with Dave to ask him about his process in making this interactive story and what he’s got planned next.

Q: How would you describe yourself?

I’m a Creative Technologist and in 2019 I established LimboTech in order to inspire, entertain and educate through the power of digital technology. My work spans across Motion Capture, VR & AR and Interactive Experiences.

Q: What inspired you to make this interactive story?

The motivation to create an interactive story stems from a lifelong love of ‘choose your own adventure’ novels, tabletop role playing games and RPG video games. With any historical based project it’s often difficult to get past the statistical outcomes, facts and dates. With this experience I was really keen to focus on the eye witness accounts and recollections from a vast range of sources in order to give the audience an insight into the event from a human perspective, and for them to question themselves in how they would behave and react being in the shoes of one of the characters. I kept the visuals to a minimum and used immersive sound design (designed and created by CLIP) to allow the audiences imagination to paint a vivid picture of the world in front of them, and picture themselves as the protagonist in this chaotic and harrowing event.

Q: How did you research the stories? 

On top of mapping out a clear timetable of events, I spent an extensive amount of time absorbing as many eye witness accounts as I could find. A fantastic resource for this was the Essex Record Office on SoundCloud (listen here). It features a vast library of audio accounts of people who lived through the floods, talking in detail about their feelings, decisions and reflections on the Noth Sea Flood. Many of the encounters and characters the audience experience are based on these accounts and memories.