When the great flood struck

TRAGIC events decades ago are recalled this week by readers of Kindred Spirits.

David Kindred

TRAGIC events decades ago are recalled this week by readers of Kindred Spirits. When reference was made recently to the awful night in 1953 - when the area was hit by a massive tidal surge killing 39 people in Felixstowe and flooding much of coastal Suffolk - I mentioned that events in Ipswich that night were overshadowed by the scale of the tragedy on the coast.

Photographic records of flooding in Ipswich in 1953 are very rare and I wondered if readers had any pictures or memories from the town that cold, stormy night.

Dave Lewis said: “At the time I was living with my parents at The Manse, Stoke Green Baptist Church, which was next door to Ransomes yard.

“An eight-foot high wall topped with broken glass separated our back garden from the yard used to store finished cranes awaiting delivery and others which were stored ready for repair.

“On the morning of February 1, 1953, after a very stormy night, we awoke early to reports of local flooding.

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“Looking out from our bedroom windows overlooking Ransomes yard, the water level in the yard had reached a depth of around six feet, thankfully for us the high wall prevented the flood waters reaching us.

“My father, Reverend Arthur Lewis, immediately went to the streets around Bath Street to see if there was anything that could be done to help any of the residents of the low-lying streets leading down to the river.

“Many hundreds of houses in these streets lost everything. Bearing in mind this was at a time when the whole of the country was still in recovery following the Second World War just eight years earlier, it was particularly heartbreaking for all concerned.

“My days living in Wherstead Road at the Manse were on the whole filled with snowy winters and sun-drenched summers, if my memory is correct, but the morning of Monday, February 1, 1953, is one that I shall never forget.”

Ted Girling, of Maidenhall Approach, Ipswich, also has sad memories of the 1953 flood.

Ted said: “The flooding at Felixstowe in 1953 is a very sad recollection for me because my dear sister Gloria lost her husband John, an American serviceman.

“I was playing football at Bourne Park, Ipswich, the afternoon before. Our goalkeeper took a goal kick into the very strong wind only for the ball to return over his head into his own net with no other player touching the ball!

“Gloria and John lived in a ground floor flat in Langer Road. John was in bed and had no chance. By a quirk of fate my sister was at our parents' house in Ipswich that evening.

“Gloria was expecting a baby and therefore the event was very traumatic for our family. John was from Virginia and I understood that his parents had lost two other sons, one in Korea and another in Vietnam. They would have been forgiven for thinking John at least was safe in England”.

Carol Dance has sent a couple of photographs taken after the 1953 flood.

Carol said: “The photographs were taken by my father, Mr Tony Parker, of Westerfield. The Portman Road photo was taken from near Princes Street and the photo of lower yard was taken from the Princes Street bridge.

“At the time my father was working at R Cadisch and Sons, motor factors, near Portman Road.”

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