Floods of 1953: Service honours those who died in floods tragedy

An aerial view of the flood-hit area of felxistowe in 1953 - the estate of prefabs can clearly been

An aerial view of the flood-hit area of felxistowe in 1953 - the estate of prefabs can clearly been seen, all of them ripped from their foundations. - Credit: Archant

SOLEMNLY the names of the 41 who died in the 1953 floods at Felixstowe were read aloud – each person who lost their life remembered on the 60th anniversary of the tragedy.

More than 200 people gathered for a memorial service to honour those who perished, people who died in the cold sat on roofs of their homes, drowned in their beds or were swept away by the force of the floodwater.

Mayor Mike Deacon, speaking at the service on Saturday night at Felixstowe Salvation Army, said it was thought such a flood could never happen again because of the improvements in sea defences and construction of the Port of Felixstowe, the high quays of which stand across the path the water took.

But he warned we should “never under estimate the power of the sea” – nature could always produce similar circumstances or worse.

He said when he arrived in the town as a child in 1958, the floods were still talked about by everyone and 60 years later the memories were raw for those involved.


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Leading the service Captain Richard Waters, of Felixstowe Salvation Army, said the anniversary was an opportunity to pause, a time to remember and reflect.

He said people involved in tragedies often wanted something good to come from the bad – a hope that something could be learned or improved to prevent a similar disaster in the future.

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One consequence of the floods had been improved communications and weather forecasting which today would at least ensure people were warned in advanced and evacuated.

Mr Deacon, deputy mayor Jan Garfield, Rev Robert Hinsley, vicar of St John’s Church, and Col Scott Benza, of USAF Lakenheath, attending in memory of USAF airman Staff Sgt Jack Shortt who died in the floods, read out the roll of honour of those who died, including whole families and 13 children,.

Ian Heeley, organiser of the evening in conjunction with the Salvation Army, said Mr Shortt’s daughter had been present and had spoken to Col Benza afterwards.

“It was a lovely evening and I want to thank everyone who attended and was involved, especially the survivors and their families and the loved ones of those who died. I think it was a fitting community commemoration to an event which had a huge impact on our town,” he said.

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