Felixstowe: Nurse relives terrifying night shift

FOR retired nurse Elizabeth Ablett it was the worst night shift she ever worked - but back home her family slept right through the great storm.

Mrs Ablett was on duty at a care home in Felixstowe with an auxillary called Maggie on the night of October 15, 1987.

She said: “The home was called Alice Kirkland then but changed shortly afterwards to St Mary’s, it was situated on the sea front a bit further down from the Bartlet Hospital.

“The night started as usual, we got the patients settled and did the jobs we had to do, I noticed the wind getting up but didn’t think anything of it, when we went to sit down with a cup of coffee I noticed the curtains were blowing and realised that the wind was bad, I looked out the window and to my horror the light at the docks were out.

“There were no lights at all, ours went off as well. The sea was lashing up against the rocks, I started to get worried - there were no mobile phones in those days not that they would have worked.

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“We then realised that if the lights were out the patients couldn’t use their buzzers, so we had to get a torch and go round to see each patient in the dark, it was very creepy and with the noise of the wind making things worse.”

Mrs Ablett remembers changing beds in the dark, and being grateful that some of the patients were deaf and relatively oblivious to what was going on outside.

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She continued: “We just had to sit it out and do what we could, by morning all the staff were in late.

“The first person was the cook Theresa and then others arrived, they had walked.”

Clocking off, she went to locate her car and found it had moved right across the car park.”

“When I eventually got home my husband and the kids were up and had no idea what had happened, my husband said he had heard the letter box rattle and the kids slept through it all!”

In true British style, Mrs Ablett reached for a cup of tea - only to find the drama was not quite over.

“I realised that there was no electricity but my neighbour kept giving me flasks of hot water as she had gas.”

She concluded: “I have done 28 years of nights and that had to be the worst one ever. We were lucky and didn’t have any damage at home but I couldn’t believe the destruction on the way home.”

Email natalie.hoodless@archant.co.uk with your memories and photos or visit our Great Storm of 1987 topic page at iwitness24.co.uk.

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