Gallery: Victims of 1953 floods remembered on anniversary with flowers at Felixstowe
PUBLISHED: 18:30 31 January 2017 | UPDATED: 09:26 01 February 2017
Memorial flowers have been placed in the heart of an area that was devastated by flooding in Britain's worst peace-time tragedy - where the waters rose more than six feet to claim 41 lives.
Rescue workers by damaged prefabricated homes at Felixstowe in 1953. The flood water level had dropped considerably by the time this photograph was taken.
The greatest peacetime disaster was the description given to the East Coast flood of January 31/February 1953. A storm surge driven by a North Westerly gale brought havoc and death. Over 1400 sites from Lincolnshire to Kent were hit. When the water subsided days later thousands of homes and businesses were dreadfully damaged. In total 307 people lost their lives. The flood was so sudden there was little time to escape, people found their homes six feet deep in ice cold sea water in minutes. That dreadful cold windy night saw whole families perish, clinging together on rooftops or trapped on the top floors in their homes. Many drowned in their beds. The occupants of these prefabricated homes at Felixstowe were badly hit by the flood. Picture: Dave Kindred.
A car attempts to pass the high flood waters in OULTON BROARD. Felixstowe 1953. By Dave Kindred.
One of the dramatic pictures of the Felixstow flood on the cover of Dick Moffat's book. Felixstowe 1953.
The 1953 Felixstowe Floods on Langer Road.
The 1953 Felixstowe Floods on Beach Station road the day after the flood.
Caravans moved by the flood water. Felixstowe 1953
Aerial view of the area of Felixstowe affected by the 1953 floods.
Even though it is now 64 years ago, memories of the 1953 floods have still not faded in Felixstowe’s low-lying West End area.
Many of those whose homes were flooded and were rescued, and a few of those touched by the loss of loved ones, friends and neighbours, still live in the Langer Road area.
To mark the anniversary of the disaster, Ian Heeley, the resort’s floods historian, placed flowers at the Flood Memorial on behalf of the resort in memory of the people – 13 of them children – who died.
Mayor Jan Garfield also sent flowers on behalf of the town council.
Mr Heeley said: “It is so important that we continue to do this – so that those who died and those who were caught up in this event that had such a huge impact on our town are not forgotten.
“I have been laying the flowers now for 14 years and will continue to do so to keep their memory alive.
“Next year, to mark the 65th anniversary, I am hoping we can have a service of remembrance and refreshments afterwards, allowing people to get together again. People who were there that night have a great bond and there is always such great camaraderie.”
Mr Heeley said he was still in contact with people involved, including oldest survivor Doris Watkins, 96.
Most who died lived in prefab houses at the corner of Langer Road and Orford Road, where the torrent – a sea surge which burst through the banks of the River Orwell, tearing across Trimley Marshes – ripped the properties from their foundations, sweeping them down the road and leaving them 6ft 6ins deep in water.
A total of 307 people on the east coast died on January 31, 1953, as the surge, fuelled by a deep depression off the top of Scotland, funnelled down the North Sea, with 30,000-plus evacuated from their homes, sea defences smashed, river walls breached, and 160,000 acres of farmland under water.
At Felixstowe, about 800 acres – one fifth of the town – was flooded, including homes and part of the air base where the port now stands. Higher ground on the seafront was unaffected and the Cavendish Hotel was used as a rescue centre.
The cost of the floods nationally was estimated as up to £50million – about £1.1billion at today’s prices.