Remembering at midnight

AT the very moment the flood waters had swept through Felixstowe's low-lying West End area 53 year ago, survivors of the tragedy stood in silence remembering loved ones they had lost.

AT the very moment the flood waters had swept through Felixstowe's low-lying West End area 53 year ago, survivors of the tragedy stood in silence remembering loved ones they had lost.

The poignant midnight moment was marked by prayers, hymns and a minute's silence in the stillness of a cold winter's night as a memorial to those who died was dedicated.

For those who were there in 1953 the memories were as raw as ever.

Few who survived that night will ever forget it - the screams of people stranded pleading for rescue, the sight of prefabs ripped from their foundations, floating down Langer Road, a street become a river, 800 acres and 700 homes damaged by sea water.

Felixstowe lost 40 people - 13 of them children - as the flood came with no warning. Many drowned, some died from the cold.

Ivy Upson, who lost both parents on the night of the floods, said: “The water was seven feet deep here and it came like an express train.

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“My father saw it coming down the road and he never spoke again. I think it was the shock of it all which killed him.”

Mrs Upson, 85, lost her parents George Taylor, 84, and Mary Taylor, 72, in the flood. She still lives in the bungalow in which they died but has now converted the loft into a bedroom for fear a flood should strike again.

She can see the memorial from her home - and is delighted it is there.

“I think it is really important that we remember this event - it is such a big part of Felixstowe's history and affected so many people, many of them still living in the town,” she said.

“I like the memorial and it will mean those who died will never be forgotten.”

Felixstowe mayor Cyril Webb was living in the flood area, a pupil at Langer Road Primary School, when the floods struck.

“I have very mixed emotions about being here. I lived 100 yards away from where the memorial now stands with my parents and grandmother,” he said.

“I knew many of the families who perished and those who suffered. It makes me feel very humble indeed to think that it is my duty to unveil this memorial to those people.”

Amusements owner Stan Harris, who was a four-month-old baby at the time, said: “We lived just by the funfair and the water was five feet deep in our house. I got dropped into the water as we were getting rescued but thankfully a relative just scooped me up like a rag doll.

“The old Cavendish Hotel was used as a rescue centre because it was on slightly higher ground and the side roads here were just dirt tracks.”

Dolores Clover, who was 14 at the time of the flood and wrote a poem read out at the service, remembered seeing people clinging to roofs, cold and wet and clad only in their night clothes.

Frederick Chapman, who swam to safety from their prefab home carrying his with two-year-old daughter Moorea, followed by his wife Lucy and their stepson Peter, 15, said they could not believe it when the water started coming up the stairs of the property where they sought refuge.

“The water in the house was coming up to the landing. We stood at the top of the stairs, all praying it would not come any higher,” he said.

Rev Canon David Lowe, who led the Service of Dedication, said: “It was a terrible disaster and although it was a long time off now, it must never be forgot.”

Do you have memories of the 1953 floods? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail EveningStarLetters@eveningstar.co.uk

Factfile: The Memorial

The flood memorial garden stands in Langer Road at the end of Langer Primary School's playing fields.

Co-ordinated by Felixstowe Town Council and supported by many people and organisations, the aim of the garden is to provide an oasis of calm and peace where people can sit remember and reflect, tranquil but not morbid.

Artists Clare Curtis and Rosemary Humphries designed the garden, while sculptor Boris Cooper carved the obelisk showing an adult carrying a child on their shoulders. Children from Langer Primary added a splash of colour with mosaics depicting scenes from the tragic night.

The theme is waves and water and the wall around it shows the height of the flood.

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