Reis Leming & The 67th Air Rescue Squadron

The 67th Air Rescue Squadron were formed at RAF Sculthorpe on 14 November 1952. Less than three months later, the 67th were making worldwide headlines for a heroic rescue they conducted during the Norfolk Floods of 1953.  One of the worst affected areas was around Hunstanton where, amongst the local populace, USAF families from nearby Sculthorpe lived in local housing.  The entire Squadron was mobilised and spent many frantic hours searching for 67th comrades, friends and local people who were missing.

The young man who will forever be remembered as the hero of the night was an Aerial Gunner from the 67th.  Twenty-two year old Airman Second Class Reis L. Leming ventured out into the storm dressed in an anti-exposure suit and towing a rubber liferaft.  After three torturous trips, in complete darkness and often neck deep in the icy water, he had single-handedly rescued 27 people. During these trips his anti-exposure suit was ripped and holed by underwater obstacles and was steadily filling with bitterly cold water.  At the end of his third trip, and within sight of dry land, he collapsed with severe hypothermia and had to be rescued himself. He was awarded the Soldier’s Medal by the United States and was subsequently awarded the George Medal by the UK. This was the first time in peacetime history that this prestigious medal had been awarded to a foreign national. Another American, Freeman A. Kilpatrick, was also awarded the George Medal.

Tragically, the floods caused the deaths of 31 people in Hunstanton, including 16 Americans, some of them entire families.

The Norfolk’s American Connections project team should like to thank the 67th Special Operations Squadron for kindly providing this text.

6 Responses to Reis Leming & The 67th Air Rescue Squadron

  1. Katrianne Abuhelewa says:

    I refer to your article on the 1953 floods and in particular the interesting news of Reis Leming, one of the American recipients of the George Medal for the 27 people he rescued that night. But why no news of Freeman A.(Alexander?) Kilpatrick, the other American, who saved 18 lives that same night, 31st january 1953. I believe he may be still alive. Please could you follow this up so we may have some news of him? I think he maybe the Alexander A. Kilpatrick senior who lives in Bossier City, the States. But in case not, here are two contacts , one of whom may be his son (who also served in the USAF):

    Freeman A Kilpatrick (born 1965, so the son possibly) Bossier City LA, address 3920 Ella, Zip 71112,Telephone (318)747-6572.

    There is another person of the same name, born at a similar time (1965)

    Freeman A. Kilpatrtick, Round Rock, Texas, Address: 8482 Fern Bluff, Zip 78681, Telephone(512)248-1695

    If the father of either of these men (I believe he is the father of the first one) is still alive, he would be 83 by now. Wouldn’t it be amazing to bring him back for the 60th anniversary of the floods? The descendants fo the 18 people he saved must be quite numerous by now?

    Best regards
    K. Abuhelewa
    Edinburgh

    • Hello,

      Many thanks for your email. Your feedback is much appreciated.

      We mentioned Freeman A. Kilpatrick in the article, but unfortunately did not know any more details about him, so were unable to include more on the site. The information you have provided is really useful, thank you. Although the Norfolk’s American Connections project has ended, we are going to continue to update the website as more information comes in; if we find anything else about Mr Kilpatrick we will certainly include it on the site.

      Thank you very much indeed again for this really useful information.

      Best wishes, Laura

  2. Jack purdy says:

    I was in the RAF at Bircham Newton at the time of the 1953 floods and was instructed to drive a Bedford QL lorry to Heacham. I then drove to the lighthouse at Hunstanton and collected a boat to assist with rescuing people at Heacham, I drove to the left crossing through very deep water where we picked up 2 people who had died and drove back and placed the bodies opposite the Fox & Hound public house. Jack Purdy

  3. Richard Farrow says:

    RIP Reis Leming, A true hero. I believe Hunstanton should rename The Promenade “Reis Leming Way ” In line with the gallant and heroic actions of this brave man who is etched into the history of Hunstanton forever

    • Thank you, Richard. Reis was a true hero, whose bravery will never be forgotten.

      On Saturday 10 November, a footpath in Hunstanton will be named ‘Reis Leming Way’ as part of a ceremony to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the 67th Air Rescue Squadron and to remember the victims of the Floods. More information about the event is on our event page.

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