50 years ago in Felixstowe

TRAGEDY came to Felixstowe 50 years ago this week, with a massive explosion at the Felixstowe gas station in Walton Avenue. The report in the Evening Star on Friday, January 6, 1956, said two men were killed and five injured in an explosion which wrecked the governor house at Felixstowe gas station this morning.

TRAGEDY came to Felixstowe 50 years ago this week, with a massive explosion at the Felixstowe gas station in Walton Avenue.

The report in the Evening Star on Friday, January 6, 1956, said two men were killed and five injured in an explosion which wrecked the governor house at Felixstowe gas station this morning. The dead men are Victor Rogers of Felixstowe, a married man with two children and Mr Herbert, also married of Speedwell Road, Chantry Estate, Ipswich.

The injured were Mr F Durrant of The Avenue, Trimley St Mary and Dr A Sherlock of Orwell Road, Felixstowe, who are detained in the Heath Road Wing of the Ipswich and East Suffolk Hospital.

Mr Sparrow of Stour Avenue, Felixstowe, who is in the Anglesea Road Wing of the hospital with head a shoulder injuries and Mr J Mullett of Oak Close Felixstowe and Mr Walter Shaw of Church Lane Felixstowe who are in Felixstowe hospital suffering from lacerations and shock.

Mr Durrant died early the next day.

Dr Alexander Sherlock had answered a call to treat Mr Eric Sparrow who had been overcome by fumes while engaged in maintenance work. Mr Victor Rogers, who lived at Avenue Villas and Mr Durrant, worked at the nearby joinery firm of Rogers Brothers Ltd in Walton Avenue. They had gone to help Mr Sparrow.

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The explosion happened at about 9.40am and windows over a quarter of a mile away were shattered.

The governor house was the nerve centre of the Felixstowe gas system. It stood about 50 yards from Beach Station. It was used to control the mains gas pressure in the town. Gas was supplied by pipe line from the Ipswich gas works. Gas was stored in a large holder about 75 yards from the wrecked governor house.

Seventeen-year-old apprentice gas fitter Michael Gant of Manor Road, Felixstowe, was in a workshop about 20 yards away when the explosion occurred. As he dashed outside he was hit by falling slates.

I asked readers for memories of that awful day. Carol Sharp of Heathercroft Road was only seven when her father lost his life that day.

Carol said: “My father, Ernest Hubert, was the gas fitter that was killed. I remember coming home from school that dreadful lunchtime to find the house filled with neighbours and grandparents”.

“My grandmother told me that the father I adored would not be coming home anymore.

Being that age and my brother was only seven months, I didn't realise what was going on. It was only later that I was told that my father, aged 34, and been called to fix the gas leak and had felt unwell. A doctor was called, and as the doctor got out of his car the whole thing went up.”

Frank Symonds of Derwent Road, Ipswich, added: “I was working at the Ipswich Gasworks then. A gas fitter and his apprentice had been sent to Felixstowe Gas Works to carry out some repair work. The attendant who operated the booster room where the gas was pumped through the system had gone outside the building, as this was a no smoking area, to smoke a cigarette, which I believe caused the explosion. Unfortunately the fitter who was close by, with a local man, Mr Rogers, both lost their lives. The apprentice received relatively minor injuries.”

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