Filleigh Village Hall
Registered Charity No. 1081659
Filleigh Village Hall, Filleigh, Barnstaple, Devon,
EX32 0RS, UK.
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The Filleigh Memorial Stones
One Man's Lucky Escape
This is the story of one man's lucky escape from the water during the night of 15th August 1952.
He is Professor Antony Penaud from Marseilles, France. This is his story of his stay near The Hunters Inn, Parracombe, Devon.
"Fifty years ago, when I was almost 14, I noticed this inn when walking in the area and I told myself that I would stay there when I grew up. But it was with great emotion that I return here, as I am a survivor of the terrible Lynmouth Flood.
I was staying with the Thorn family at Mill Farm
during my holidays. On the night of 15th August I was asleep in the same bed
as my English friend, Roger Thorn. His mother, Alice Thorn, had left her
bedroom as she was worried and was sitting at her son's bedside in the chalet.
Roger's father, Rex Thorn, had gone to London the previous day with their
elder son, Christopher, who had to play as captain in a cricket team.
On that terrible night, I was woken with a start by an intense light which filled the room and an enormous row. I saw the ceiling falling on me but I also had the impression that my head was rising toward the ceiling in a spiral motion. I called out, shouting "mummy". Roger and his mother were silent. I think they were already dead, (perhaps hit by the lightning?). I lost consciousness and when I revived again I had crashed into some tree trunks carried by the current and stopped by enormous blocks of stone. I called in vain for help but my voice was lost in the row of the torrent and the breaking trees. It was completely dark. My sole aim was to get back to Mill Farm, the chalet had been swept away like a box of matches with Alice and Roger Thorn inside. Then I swam for a long time, carried by the current, but I needed to find the wall that bordered the road as I knew that it would lead me to the farm. If I couldn't find the wall I knew I would be washed out to sea where I would certainly die.
When I reached the wall, it had collapsed and I had to go back a lot further. Finally I was able to cross the wall and at this moment the water was over my knees and almost up to my thighs. I continued against the current and after 'walking' for a long time I collided with a wall that I couldn't recognise which blocked my way. I then thought that the fight was over and I was going to die - at that time it didn't matter to me provided that I could see my parents again for the last time. This intense desire gave me the strength and I resumed the struggle. I felt the wall, went round it and I saw a light on the first floor; it was Mill Farm.
I reached the front door and hung onto a hook. The water was continuing to rise. I called for help and Claude Rogers saved my life by lowering a sheet, twisted into a rope, through the window, as the front door couldn't be opened because of the water. Claude hauled me up after I had tied the sheet round myself with my remaining strength. I found out later that Rose, Claude's wife, had had the idea of lighting candles on the first floor. Without this light I would never have been able to find the farm. Mrs Worth, Rose's mother, bandaged my head with a towel because I had a scalp wound which happened when the chalet ceiling fell on me. I then fell asleep immediately, hoping again to be able to survive the night so that I could see my parents again."
Later Antony made a promise to his parents that as well as never allowing the memory of his friends to be forgotten, he would 'make something of his own life'.
In June this year he received a letter from the Director General of The International Biographical Centre, based in Cambridge, England, stating that he had been named as one of the 'Leading Scientist of the World, 2005', thus completing the vows and promises he made in 1952.
Professor Antony Penaud and Mrs. Rose Rogers at the memorial stones' dedication service in Filleigh on the 28th August 2006.
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