Town to gather to remember flood victims 69 years on

Aerial view of the area of Felixstowe affected by the 1953 floods.

Aerial view of the area of Felixstowe affected by the 1953 floods. - Credit: Archant

Youngsters will light 41 candles - one for each of the adults and children who died - to mark the anniversary of a night of terror when floodwaters wreaked havoc in a seaside town.

People in Felixstowe will again gather together to remember Britain’s biggest peacetime disaster, the 1953 east coast floods.

An open-air short service of commemoration for the 69th anniversary of the floods will be held at the Flood Memorial, Langer Road, this month – and the town council has issued an open invitation for people to attend.

The event will take place at the memorial at 10am on Monday, January 31, with the ceremony led by Rev Andrew Dotchin, vicar of St John’s Church and St Edmund’s.

Ian Heeley at the memorial in Felixstowe to the victims of the 1953 floods.

Floods historian and campaigner Ian Heeley at the memorial in Felixstowe to the victims of the 1953 floods. - Credit: Archant

Students from Langer Primary Academy, next door to the memorial, where floodwaters reached their highest point, will attend and light 41 candles to remember the 41 people who lost their lives locally.

Felixstowe’s low-lying West End area saw floodwaters more than six feet deep as a tidal surge which swept south down the North Sea, fuelled by a deep depression over Scotland, broke through the banks of the River Orwell where today stands the Port of Felixstowe.

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.

Caravans wrecked at a holiday park in Walton Avenue, Felixstowe, in the 1953 floods.

Caravans wrecked at a holiday park in Walton Avenue, Felixstowe, in the 1953 floods. - Credit: Archant

Most Read

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.

More than 300 people died in coastal towns and villages on a night of sheer terror in which 30,000 people were evacuated from their homes, sea defences were smashed, river walls breached, and thousands of acres of farmland left under water.

In Felixstowe, the 41 dead included whole families, 13 of them children. Many of them lived in prefabs in Orford Road, where the torrent of water ripped the buildings from their foundations and sent them sailing into Langer Road.

Rowing boats were commandeered from the Butlin’s fun park in Sea Road as the rescue operation began. The Cavendish Hotel – which stood where the Lions car boot site is today – was opened as an emergency reception and rest centre to help those who had lost everything.