BY RICHARD CORNWELL
Friday, February 1, 2013
PEOPLE gathered for a poignant ceremony to remember the 41 who lost their lives in the devastating floods of 60 years ago.
To mark the anniversary, a large crowd gathered on a bright and blustery afternoon for two minutes’ silence – one for those who died in the disaster and one for those who have died since – and the rededication of Felixstowe’s flood memorial.
Rev Robert Hinsley, vicar of St John’s Church, said the anniversary was a time when memories people had thought long gone would surface again, memories of a night when many thought their world was ending.
Town, county and district councillors, police, firefighters, servicemen, survivors and relatives of those who died came together for the rededication of the memorial, which has a blue line at its top showing the floodwater’s height, way above the heads of those gathered.
Organiser Ian Heeley said while the tragedy of that harrowing night of January 31, 1953, was always uppermost in people’s minds, there were humorous moments, too, as he recounted tales of a woman who went back to collect her fur coat before being rescued, and a man who called in a diver to search his flooded home for his false teeth.
“For me, seeing so many people here this afternoon to remember those who died makes everything worthwhile. I think it is so important that we remember,” he said.
“The floods were a huge and tragic event in Felixstowe’s history and one we never want to see again.”
Survivor Jean Hallinan, now living in Richmond, New Zealand, told of how her father Ronald Studd died trying to save her and her mother after the water smashed into their prefab home in Langer Road, Felixstowe.
“We were hanging on to the eaves of our prefab but couldn’t get on to the roof,” she said.
“We were getting to the end of our strength and dad said, ‘You can’t go on like this, I will try to catch something to put under your feet so that I can hoist you on to the roof’.
“He swam away and almost immediately cried out and I guessed he had been hit by something.
“In the end when we were really desperate and my mother told me to try to put my feet on her body and to get up that way. I managed to do that and then to lay on the roof and hauled her up.
“We sat holding on to the chimney so that we did not blow off the roof. I remember that after a while I felt so sleepy I just put my head on her shoulder and knew nothing more until I woke up in hospital with a young nurse sitting by my bed.”
Tell us your memories of the 1953 floods – write to Your Letters, Ipswich Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich IP4 1AN, or email firstname.lastname@example.org