Silence as names of 41 who died in devastating floods are read at memorial ceremony
PUBLISHED: 18:30 31 January 2018 | UPDATED: 19:09 31 January 2018
People of all ages stood solemn and silent as the names of 41 adults and children who lost their lives when floodwaters swept through a Suffolk seaside resort were read out.
Youngsters – no older than some of those who drowned in 1953 – stepped forward to place a light in memory as each name was called during the poignant time of reflection in Felixstowe’s low-lying West End area.
More than 70 people, along with dozens of pupils from Langer Primary Academy and their teachers, gathered at the Flood Memorial for a short ceremony to mark the 65th anniversary of the tragedy, Britain’s worst peacetime disaster.
All along the east coast communities were affected – with more than 300 drowning on a night of sheer terror as a North Sea tidal surge overtopped defences.
In Felixstowe, the 41 dead included whole families, 13 of them children.
Mayor Nick Barber said it was the town’s duty to ensure that those who died were never forgotten.
He said: “Many people still remember that night very clearly and this is our time to reflect on the tragedy.
“On the memorial we have a blue mark along the top and that represents how high the water rose, taking the lives of 41 people.”
The blue line – which was the idea of Felixstowe councillor and flood defences expert Andy Smith, who researched the height of the flood that hit the area – shows the waters were more than six feet deep near the Langer Road-Beach Station Road traffic lights.
The water poured into homes, leaving those in prefabs and bungalows little route for escape and those in houses desperately dashing upstairs to seek safety.
About 800 acres – one fifth of the town – was flooded, including not just homes but part of the air base where the port now stands.
Rev Andrew Dotchin, vicar of St John’s Church and who led the short ceremony, described the area as the resort’s “deep end” and said it had been overwhelmed by the floodwaters on the night of January 31, 1953.
Before placing the memorial lights – which afterwards were taken to St John’s Church, Orwell Road, to be set alongside an exhibition about the floods which can be visited today and tomorrow – the primary school children read aloud the Bible story of Jesus calming the storm.