Flooding heroes praised for their ‘best of British spirit’

At the reception in Downing Street with Prime Minister David Cameron are left to right: Charlie Gee, Shaun Hatton, Pupinder Singh Ghatora, Mary Timbrell and Nick Hills

The prime minister addresses the guests

First published in News Bicester Advertiser: Photograph of the Author by

THEY had battled what was “the worst of British weather” but had shown, in the words of the Prime Minister, “the best of British spirit”.

Yesterday five people from Oxfordshire were among 150 ‘flood heroes’ who attended a reception at Number 10 Downing Street as recognition of their work for their communities in January and February.

David Cameron, the Witney MP, invited Shaun Hatton, 52, Pupinder Singh Ghatora, 36, Charlie Gee, 50, and Nick Hills, 65, and Mary Timbrell, 76, following coverage of their exploits in the Oxford Mail.

After drinks and canapés, the five-strong group met Mr Cameron in a smaller room to explain what they did to help the city during the floods.

Mr Ghatora, from Harwell, and his four staff made sure the elderly and ill residents of West Oxford still had their supply of medication from Woodlands Pharmacy in Botley Road. This was despite the fact that floodwaters crept up to the shop’s top step and some deliveries had to be made by foot in Wellingtons.

He said: “I was quite nervous to meet the Prime Minister but it was a great honour.

“If the pharmacy had to close, lives would have been at risk. It could have been a life or death situation.

“People need insulin for diabetes, blood pressure medication and all sorts of things.”

Mr Ghatora said Mr Cameron backed the £123m plans to build an Oxford flood relief measure west of the city called the Western Conveyance Channel.

Mr Hatton, from Yarnton, said he thought the invitation was a late April Fool when he got the email from Downing Street on Thursday.

As highways and engineering manager at Oxford City Council, Mr Hatton ran a team of 20 working around the clock pumping water away from homes in Bullstake Close, West Oxford.

The team were on 12-hour shifts for more than a week – but he managed the flooding team throughout the six weeks of bad flooding.

He also helped in the effort to open Abingdon Road three days earlier than expected.

Mr Hatton said: “It was a great experience – definitely not the kind of thing that happens every day.

“I am quite proud, but I was part of a team effort.”

During the floods, Earl Street resident Nick Hills reassured neighbours who were flooded in 2000, 2003, and 2007 but who escaped unscathed this year.

Mr Hills, who is also a member of the Oxford Flood Alliance said: “Walking up the stairs next to all the paintings and photos of past prime ministers was amazing, it had quite an atmosphere.”

Mr Gee, from Binsey, used his tractor to rescue three cars from flood water in Binsey Lane, and Ms Timbrell volunteered as Duke Street’s flood warden.

In a short speech, Mr Cameron said: “There were moments when it felt like the whole country was under attack in terms of the weather and it was never going to relent.

“But while we saw the worst of British weather, we saw the best of British spirit.”

Mr Cameron used the occasion to launch a new awards scheme called Points of Light awards which the 150 volunteers were recognised with.

It is based on an American scheme set up by former president George Bush Snr – to honour people who did “extraordinary things during the storms and floods in terms of community service’’.

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