The Felixstowe Floods of 1953 – Never to be Forgotten

31 January 2023 marked the 70th anniversary of the 1953 North Sea floods. In eastern England 307 lives were lost, thousands of people were evacuated from their homes, properties were damaged and thousands of acres of farmland were left under water when hurricane-force winds over the North Sea generated a storm surge that devastated coastal communities.

In Felixstowe, a tidal surge believed to reach 7ft 2in broke through the river wall, causing mass flooding. 41 people, mostly from prefabricated homes in Langer Road and Orford Road, lost their lives in the floods.

To coincide with the 70th anniversary of the floods, Jean Macpherson, a retired teacher from Felixstowe, launched her new book, The Felixstowe Floods of 1953 – Never to be Forgotten, at Felixstowe Library on 28 January as part of commemoration events in the town.

Jean, who was born in the year of the floods, taught children about the disaster during her 37-year teaching career at Deben High School. After months of research and interviews with more than 50 people, she has now created a publication that gives a comprehensive account of one of the worst natural disasters in peacetime Britain.

The book contains more than 90 pages of photographs, maps and memories, including a timeline of the incident from the tidal surge to how the community dealt with the aftermath. Within the book, Jean also tells moving stories of the 41 people who sadly lost their lives in Felixstowe.

Jean also gives details of the Flood Memorial, a wall and garden at the far end of the playing field attached to Langer Primary School on Langer Road, which was unveiled on 31 January 2006 – 53 years after the devastating floods hit Felixstowe.  

On 31 January, a memorial service was held at 10am at the Flood Memorial, followed by a Procession of Light in the evening which began at the memorial and travelled past the previous homes of the 41 victims of the disaster.

A service was also held on 29 January at St John’s Church to remember those who lost their lives in the tragic event. There was also an exhibition at Felixstowe Library which travels to Landguard Fort and Felixstowe Museum thereafter.

In addition, interactive memorial signs, sponsored by AGL Astral Global Logistics Ltd, were erected in the town by Felixstowe Remembers.

Jean is joint archivist of the Felixstowe Society, which is where her research for The Felixstowe Floods of 1953 – Never to be Forgotten began.

Commenting on her new book and the anniversary commemorations in Felixstowe, Jean says: “I’m very pleased to be part of remembering the 41 people who lost their lives in the Felixstowe floods. I’d like to thank Felixstowe Town Council for supporting the book and organising such poignant memorial events for the town, and heartfelt thanks to all survivors and relatives of those who died in the floods for contributing to the book.”

The Felixstowe Floods of 1953 – Never to be Forgotten is available from Nick Barber Auctions (154 Hamilton Road, Felixstowe), Stillwater Books (36 Hamilton Road, Felixstowe) and Felixstowe Library in Crescent Road at the price of £18.

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