Looking back: 65th anniversary of the 'Buckinghamshire Tornado'

Wed 20 May, 2015

Tomorrow (21 May) is the 65th anniversary of the day the ‘Buckinghamshire Tornado’ left a 12-mile trail of havoc in its wake.

Buckinghamshire Fire & Rescue Service has dusted off a fascinating public document from its archives which gives a detailed account of the aftermath.

The report, compiled just a few days afterwards, was overseen by Edward George Hobbs, Chief Fire Officer of what was then called Buckinghamshire County Council Fire Brigade. Click here to see the document.

Entitled “Emergency Operations of the Fire Brigade following the Tornado which severely damaged Properties in the County on Sunday, May 21st, 1950”, it charts the emergency response to the tornado’s 30-minute journey from Dunsmore, about a mile south of Wendover, to Linslade, which was part of Buckinghamshire until the Buckinghamshire/Bedfordshire boundary changed in 1965.

More than 200 properties were damaged, 71 of them severely, and the road between Aylesbury and Linslade was flooded between Bierton and Wing.

Cars, animals and trees were lifted into the air and dropped “some considerable distance” away, properties were stripped of their roofs and a spout of water 250 feet high was seen on the Grand Union Canal at Wendover.

Mr Hobbs said in the report: “It may well be gathered from the instances quoted above that the appearance of the affected areas shortly after the passing of the tornado was reminiscent of a high explosive or flying bomb incident.

“As is common with a disaster of such magnitude, many sightseers in addition to the affected inhabitants, crowded the streets to get an appreciation of what had happened.

“The ferocity of the tornado was of proportions unlikely to have been encountered previously in this country. In consequence, many almost unbelievable incidents occurred.

"Due to the widespread havoc and desolation arising from the peacetime disaster, immediate action on predetermined lines was necessary to counter the difficult and dangerous position which had arisen, and with the correct deployment of appliances and personnel the badly shaken morale of the affected public was partially restored."

Although the tornado was said to be “spent out” after leaving Buckinghamshire, other contemporary reports show that a storm crossed Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Norfolk over the next two hours.

The worst of the bad weather passed to the east of Milton Keynes, but hailstones the size of tennis balls were reported at North Crawley.

The original report acknowledges the use of pictures from the Daily Mirror, News Chronicle, The Bucks Advertiser and Planet News Limited. It was printed by Marshall & Diment, Cambridge Street, Aylesbury.