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1955: Britain's big freeze

VIDEO : The RAF assists snowed-in Scottish farmers (mute)

Deep snow and freezing temperatures continue across Britain leaving many parts of the country cut off from essential supplies.

More than 70 roads in Britain are blocked by snow, according to the Automobile Association and hundreds of vehicles have been abandoned in snowdrifts as high as 30ft (9m).

Rail travel has also been severely affected and some areas in northern Scotland have not had a train service for several days.

Biting temperatures

The RAF has been working flat out to drop food and medical supplies to affected areas.

Concerns for the welfare of the country's thousands of sheep are mounting as many are completely cut-off from food supplies.

The RAF has dropped nearly 40 tons of hay over the Scottish Highlands during the past week but reports of many sheep being buried deep in snowdrifts are continuing.

Sport has also been severely affected. Most race meetings have been cancelled and the Football Association has indicated it may consider extending the season to catch up on missed games.

Temperatures have fallen below 28 degrees Fahrenheit (minus three degrees centigrade) - four degrees below freezing and the lowest for 30 years.

The low temperatures have caused severe frosts and icy conditions across the country.

In total about 60 counties in Britain are affected by snow and ice, according to the AA.

One of the worst affected areas in the country is Caithness in the Scottish Highlands, which has been totally isolated and without power or light since 17 February.

Two days ago a light aircraft carrying two people crashed in the snow in Caithness. The pilot and his passenger were rescued by a naval helicopter.

Floods on Britain's east coast made conditions almost unbearable and the AA described driving conditions in the south as treacherous.

In the west country there are concerns for livestock on Exmoor and Dartmoor which are both cut off by snow.

Yesterday more snow and 60-mile-per hour (96 kph) blizzards in the west paralysed many parts of Devon and Cornwall. Cornish police reported that 70 vehicles had been abandoned in 10-foot (3m) snowdrifts.

Many people have also been stranded in the Pennines in northern England.

This current spell of freezing weather conditions began in the first week of January. There was a slight thaw towards the end of the month but more snow began to fall in the middle of February.

As yet there are no signs of improvement in the conditions.

In Context
The severe weather conditions continued across Britain into March.

Sheep farmers were probably the worst affected by the big snow of 1955. Despite the valiant efforts of the RAF many thousands of sheep died from exposure.

'I flew sheep mercy mission'


"I had finished my training as an air signaller and was posted to RAF Kinloss flying in the American Lockheed Neptunes.

These planes were equipped with the latest hi-tech electronic gear used for submarine hunting during the start of the cold war.

It was my first week on 217 squadron. On 18 January 1955 we took off at 1630 - not for hunting Russian submarines but to feed starving sheep cut off by deep snow.

It was almost dark, but we found the sheep OK. "



Ron Meadows


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