Gloucester Historical Society remembers the floods of February 13, 1929

Devastating: Royal Hotel in 1929 floodwater. Photo supplied.
Devastating: Royal Hotel in 1929 floodwater. Photo supplied.

This time 90 years ago ...

On February 13, 1929, Gloucester was drenched.

After a long period of drought, it began to rain and rain, making farmers happy.

Almost 400 millilitres of rain fell within 24 hours.

Tragically two men drowned as a result.

L.H. Lee, a railway guard, and John Coulter (a 19-year-old visiting from Greta), were staying at the Royal Hotel (situated just west of the roundabout near the Shell petrol station, opposite Bucketts Motel in Park Street, Gloucester).

They were suddenly cut off from the main street when the old wooden building began to sway.

With neighbouring buildings crashing around them, those remaining in the hotel feared for their lives.

Lee, who was the only strong swimmer, vowed to take a line back to shore to attach a raft and return to rescue everyone.

Among those in the hotel begging him not to go was his fiancee.

For a time, it seemed the raging current would take him, but he bravely made it to the other side, but every attempt to return failed.

Hope came when the water level dropped a little, but a warning came that worse was to come. Constable Lette entered the water with a line bat was forced back.

At that moment Lee became frantic to rescue his fiancee, and grabbing the line, he leapt in, only to be swept down stream and disappearing within seconds.

Young John had tried to follow on his first swim, making good progress until a log swirling down stream hit him on the head.

He disappeared immediately. The bodies were never recovered.

All others were rescued from the hotel, but no records of the fiancee have been found. Lee’s workmates took up a collection and raised money to place a memorial headstone in Gloucester Cemetery and buy an inscribed cot for Manning Base Hospital.

Constable Norman Lette, Cedric Eade, Henry Reinke and Artie Tate received awards from the Humane Society and travelled to Sydney Town Hall to receive them.

The inscriptions read: For rescues and attempted rescues at the Royal Hotel Gloucester 1929.

Brown’s second-hand shop was lifted from its pillars, the garage next door was smashed and the petrol tank went down stream.

Three new cars behind the garage remained but were upside down and covered in weed and debris.

Giddy’s Smithy shop and the billiard room next door also went down stream.

The hotel remained, just wet, (but it did burn down in 1934).

To boost spirits the Gloucester Show went ahead as planned.