Southwold: 1953 flood letter mystery solved as sisters come forward

Sisters Olivia Hallam and Angie Sellon with the letter written by their father following the 1953 st

Sisters Olivia Hallam and Angie Sellon with the letter written by their father following the 1953 storm surge - Credit: Sarah Groves

VIVID memories of a dramatic rescue have been exchanged between two sisters who stumbled on an account of their survival tale 60 years on.

Olivia Hallam and Angie Sellon were surprised to read a handwritten account of their escape from the 1953 floods in the EADT last month.

The letter was a bit of a mystery for staff at Adnams brewery, in Southwold, where it had been handed in some years ago but published to mark the anniversary of the devastating storm surge.

The sisters saw the letter in the paper and realised it had been penned by their father from The Swan Hotel, where the family had been offered a week’s free accommodation while awaiting relocation to temporary housing.

Adnams found out about the sisters and invited them back to The Swan for afternoon tea and to share their memories of January 31 and February 1, 1953.

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It turned out that their parents lived for many years in the Netherlands, where their mother was born, but moved to Southwold before the war, moving into a seafront cafe in Ferry Road they named the Dutch Barn.

Olivia and Angie recognised their father’s writing, on Swan Hotel stationery, describing the aftermath of the storm. The letter, to “dear Aunt Elsie”, even mentions Olivia being “wonderful and as cool as a cucumber in extremely frightening circumstances”.

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The letter goes on to describe the storm in detail, saying a 24-hour gale led to a very high spring tide that poured over the dune into the road and right up to the windows of the first floor. “Escape was impossible and we could only pray that the house would not collapse”, wrote their father.

Eventually, when the tide receded, rescuers turned up to help the family through a window.

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