Towns pay respects to flood victims

By Sharon AsplinHUNDREDS of people have paid their respects at services to remember the victims of the floods which swept through East Anglia 50 years ago.

By Sharon Asplin

HUNDREDS of people have paid their respects at services to remember the victims of the floods which swept through East Anglia 50 years ago.

A civic service was held in St Nicholas Church, Harwich, yesterday to remember the victims of the 1953 floods which killed eight people in the town.

The service was the idea of Harwich town and Tendring district councillor Lawrie Payne and was organised by the town council in association with the church.

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Mr Payne said: "Being a firefighter, I have dealt with floods myself and seen the distress they cause people.

"I was not born in 1953, but many lives were lost in Harwich and I have some understanding of what it must have been like. It just made sense there should be some sort of commemoration."

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In the afternoon, civic dignitaries donned their robes at the Guildhall and formed a procession for the short march to the church.

The service was taken by the Rev Eoin Buchanan and was attended by flood victims, Harwich mayor Dave McLeod, representatives of the emergency services, John White, chairman of Tendring District Council, and the crew of HMS Raider.

A civic reception to commemorate the 50th anniversary was also held in the Guildhall on Saturday evening and an exhibition to remember the victims of the floods was so popular, visitors had to be turned away.

About 300 people viewed the display at the Guildhall on Saturday afternoon, many of them queuing for 40 minutes to reach the exhibits. It will now be restaged at the Harwich Festival later this year.

Residents were also able to view HMS Raider as it berthed at Ha'penny Pier to pay special tribute to the town.

Saturday's visit marked the formal affiliation of the naval patrol craft to Harwich and coincided with a special ceremony commemorating the town's 50th anniversary of the east coast floods.

HMS Raider's commanding officer, Lieutenant Ben Dickins, said: "This is a real privilege for us to be affiliated to this special town, especially in light of its naval heritage."

Town clerk Carol Topple added: "Harwich has always had an affinity with the Royal Navy and has enjoyed long standing relationships, such as our former association with HMS Orwell. We look forward to a long and happy future with the vessel."

More than 200 people also braved a cold winter's night in Felixstowe to hold a midnight vigil and pay respect to those who died in the floods with a one-minute silence.

Feet crunched on snow as people made their way to the spot at Langer Primary School, Langer Road, where 6ft of water claimed 40 lives.

The Rev Rod Corke, who initiated the idea for a memorial to be built in memory of the victims in the grounds of the primary school, said: "We stand together in unity as the people of Felixstowe and remember those who lost their lives all those years ago.

"Pray that such a devastating event will never be visited upon Felixstowe again, we continue to learn the lesson of that tragic night."

The congregation remembered the dead and those who suffered the loss of loved ones with hymns, accompanied by the Felixstowe Salvation Army band.

The vigil also saw Felixstowe mayor Malcolm Minns remove the first mound of earth with a spade to begin the building of a memorial.

One of those at the evetn, Alan Curtis, 66, from Felixstowe, remembered the night of January 31 clearly. He helped to build up the River Orwell's sea defences again with sandbags for three days after the flood.

"It just brings back memories and thoughts of the poor people who perished that night and the people who did the rescuing and my own personal thoughts of the time," he said.

A service of remembrance was also held yesterday at St John's Church, Orwell Road, Felixstowe, and in Jaywick, where 37 people were killed in the 1953 floods.

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