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When you Pass Through the Waters

When you Pass Through the Waters

A Concert of Memories to mark the 65th Anniversary of  The Felixstowe Floods of 1953

Saturday 27 January 2018 – St John’s Church – Felixstowe

(What follows is a transcript of the concert held to commemorate the 65th Anniversary of the Felixstowe. Please click on the links to listen to the music and hymns)


The incidental music in this concert was popular at the time of the Floods.


Where is Your Heart from Moulin Rouge, 1952


Welcome:                                 Revd. Andrew Dotchin

 Leader:      In the name of God, Creator, Christ and Comforter.

All:         Amen.

Leader:      Grace and peace to you from God,

All:         Who has reconciled us to himself through Christ.


God is our Strength and Refuge

God is our strength and refuge,

Our present help in trouble;

And we therefore will not fear,

Though the earth should change!

Though mountains shake and tremble,

Though swirling floods are raging,

God the Lord of Hosts is with us evermore!

There is a flowing river,

Within God’s holy city;

God is in the midst of her,

She shall not be moved!

God’s help is swiftly given,

Thrones vanish at His presence,

God the Lord of Hosts is with us evermore!

Come, see the works of our Maker,

Learn of His deeds all powerful;

Wars will cease across the world,

When He shatters the spear!

Be still and know your Creator,

Uplift Him in the nations,

God the Lord of Hosts is with us evermore!


The Bidding Prayer

Almighty God,

Your Spirit hovered over the face of the waters at creation’s dawn; Your servant Moses led your people through the Red Sea;

Your Son Jesus Christ walked on the Lake of Galilee.

Be with us as we bring to memory those of our community who died in floodwaters, those who survived the storms, and those who yet mourn the loss of loved ones.

We pray for those who live and work along our coast with those throughout the world whose lives and livelihood remain threatened by extremes of wind and wave.

We give thanks for all those who, in times past and to this very night, put their own lives in harms way to protect and rescue others.

We ask your protection upon us in all the changes and chances of life and ask that we will, with you, continue to care for all your children.

We bring our prayers together in the words your Son taught us:

The Lord’s Prayer

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name;

thy kingdom come; thy will be done;

on earth as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread.

And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.

And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil.

For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory,

for ever and ever.  Amen.


Isaiah 43v1-7

Read by Dr Thérèse Coffey – Member of Parliament for Suffolk Coastal

But now thus says the Lord,
he who created you, O Jacob,
he who formed you, O Israel:
Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you.
For I am the Lord your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Saviour.
I give Egypt as your ransom,
Ethiopia and Seba in exchange for you.
Because you are precious in my sight,
and honoured, and I love you,
I give people in return for you,
nations in exchange for your life.
Do not fear, for I am with you;
I will bring your offspring from the east,
and from the west I will gather you;
I will say to the north, ‘Give them up’,
and to the south, ‘Do not withhold;
bring my sons from far away
and my daughters from the end of the earth –
everyone who is called by my name,
whom I created for my glory,
whom I formed and made.


Outside of Heaven – Eddie Fisher

Top of the Pops on 31 January 1953


First Reading:

The Weather Worsens

Read by Councillor Nick Barber – Mayor of Felixstowe

Two days before the floods struck, meteorological experts had noticed signs that severe weather was on the way.

They named the deep depression forming to the south-west of Iceland as Low Z and began to plot their weather maps. But as so often with the forces of nature, they could not forecast the death and destruction that lay ahead.

The depression spotted off Iceland had started deepening at an alarming rate on 30 January. It was still hundreds of miles north-west of the Hebrides but Scotland was already feeling its gale force winds.

As the hours wore on, the met men watched the depression move east and then swing south into the North Sea.

With winds gusting up to 140mph, 15 billion cubic feet of water was sucked from the Atlantic into the North Sea to be driven south as a “sea surge”, a ten feet wall of water ahead of the incoming tide – and set for a head-on collision with the tide from the other direction.

With nowhere else to go in the narrow funnel of the North Sea, the enormous wall of water came thundering ashore.

It was unseen, unheard and unexpected – millions of gallons of water pouring inland in just a few hours.

The surge began to hit Suffolk at around 9.30pm on January 31. At Lowestoft, 400 homes were flooded and 40 children had to be rescued from a flooded church.

At Southwold, five died as the water swept away a row of houses in Ferry Road.

We Remember…

■ Aircraftsman David Sibbett, 18

■ Sgt Cyril Tidswell

■ Vera Broom

■ Norman Bushnall, 30, and his wife Jean, 26, their son Keith, two, and daughter Brenda, six months

■ Jack Salmon, 37, and his wife Stella, 37, and their son Robin, eight

caravans in flood


I Believe – Frankie Lane, 1952Written as a response to the horror of the Korean War

Second Reading:

The Flood Strikes

Read by a member of Felixstowe Coast Watch 

The first signs of flooding at Felixstowe came at 11.30pm as police received calls from Felixstowe Ferry, Landguard Point and Landguard Fort. A woman was swept away at Landguard and immediately officers were sent to start evacuation procedures.

But the full force of the flood came suddenly and from an unexpected direction. The obvious route for flooding at the resort would be waves coming over the Prom, but instead the sea had surged into the Orwell estuary, smashing the river wall in seven places. An unstoppable mass of water tore across Trimley Marshes to the Langer Road area.

It is almost impossible to imagine the terror as a wall of water swept across marshland and smashed into the low-lying southern area of Felixstowe.

Caravans in the holiday park in Walton Avenue were jumbled together as the water rushed across the open landscape and over the level crossing into the streets – flooding around 800 acres of the town.

The darkness was pierced by screams as sleeping residents awoke to find water upstairs in their homes and no escape.

An estate of prefabs at the junction of Langer Road and Orford Road was filled with floodwater – and such was the power of the water, that the homes were torn from their foundations and swept to the junction where the Beach Station Road-Langer Road traffic lights are today.

Many died in their drifting, sea-filled homes.

Those who were luckier clambered on to roofs or waited in their water-filled homes, in bedrooms and attics, as high up as they could get, worrying how much more there was to come, for rescuers to arrive and take them to safety.

Rowing boats were commandeered from the Butlin’s fun park in Sea Road as the rescue operation began. The Cavendish Hotel – which stood where the Sunday market site is today – was opened as an emergency reception and rest centre to help those who had lost everything.

We Remember…

■ Frederick Flather, 33, his wife Annie, 34, and their daughters Janet, seven, and Suzanne, four

■ Warrant Officer Raymond Pettitt, 28, wife Sheila, 25, and their son Brian, six, and daughter Gillian, two

■ Muriel Allery, 29, and her daughter Sally, four

■ Arthur Cobb, 58

■ Thomas Collins, 79


Oh My Papa – Eddie Calvert, 1953The first instrumental song to win a Golden Disc

Third Reading:  

A Child Remembers

Read by Peter Blundell

65 years ago I was 7 years old living with my parents, Geoffrey and Joan Blundell at 28 Cavendish Road.

My parents were awakened that night around midnight by the sound of running water, and, thinking it was likely to be a tap left running, my mother got out of bed to investigate. Having tried the lights, which had failed, she felt her way along the landing, went down the stairs, and at the bottom stepped into water. Water was everywhere and deeper in the kitchen, she remembers it being bitterly cold. In the darkness she noticed Tim, our cat, on the draining board, in a very wet and bedraggled state.

As the water was getting higher, and believing by now the problem to be a burst water pipe, she tried to open the back door to let the water out. As she released the catch, the door flew open, and a torrent of icy water, together with all the debris from outside, including our chickens, now dead, came rushing in. Mum tried to get back into the living room from the kitchen, but the furniture and lino floor covering had jammed against the door, blocking her escape. Thankfully the water didn’t climb any higher than her chest and she eventually managed to release the door with the help of my father pushing from the other side, then having taken hold of the cat, they clambered back upstairs to safety. I remember mum waking me and being given the cat to look after, which I though was great, I was never allowed to have Tim in the bedroom at night.

Mum and Dad then watched helplessly from the bedroom window as the water gradually crept higher.   Dad had the idea of removing the doors and tying them together with sheets to construct a raft, and then floating us out of a bedroom window, but fortunately once the level of the water had reached the top of the garden gate it started to subside.

The next morning we surveyed the wreckage. Most of our possessions were either lost or too badly damaged to salvage, but we were lucky. It wasn’t until later that we learned of how many people had died. A few years previously, as fate would have it, my parents had turned down the offer of a prefab in Langer Road, where whole families had perished, including some of my school chums. The Flather family, mum, dad and two little girls, who had previously lived next door to us in Cavendish Road, had also been offered a prefab, and they accepted the offer. Sadly, they all died that night.

While my parents stayed to help clear up the devastation, I was sent off to stay with my Nan who lived in Church Road Old Felixstowe.   I remember my uncle, Buff Ranner taking me there on his bike, with me wearing bright blue bedroom slippers, these were intended to be a present for my eighth birthday two weeks later. I was given them early because all my other shoes were ruined. But, I was very lucky, many of my friends never reached their eighth birthday.


We Remember…

■ Iris Sadd, 32, and her daughter Patricia, four

■ Lucy Bridge, 85

■ Julia Burkitt, 76.

■ William Damant, 45, his wife Stella, 43 and their son Keith, eight

■ Annie Haselden, 84

■ Alfred Howell, 77

■ Margaret Johnson, aged five



Secret Love – Doris Day from ‘Calamity Jane’, 1953

Fourth Reading:                                

A Town Mourns

Read by A Sea Cadet Officer

Doris Watkins and her husband William had had no qualms when they moved into the prefabs seven years earlier. These are her words;

“They were lovely, really nice and warm – though we didn’t have central heating, only one fire – and made good homes. I loved it there,” she said.

“We had heard there had been flooding in that part of town in the old days, but nothing for years. I had never known any. That night in 1953 was a freak, a one-off.”

The first the family knew anything was when they heard noises and saw their neighbour George Wallis standing outside and wondered why.

“Then a young policeman came cycling down Langer Road. Who said we would be best to get out of the prefab and get to shelter.

“So at once we went back in and started to get the kids dressed and got some clothes on ourselves. My husband said we had to get out but we couldn’t open the door because of the pressure of the water so William climbed out of a window and managed to get on to the porch roof.

It was not easy for Doris and her family. The waters were rising fast, and Doris was heavily pregnant with her third child at the time.

“I had to pass the children through the window to my husband and this meant putting them under the water. My little boy, who was just two years old, went through but Alison was too frightened and put up a struggle before my husband was able to grasp her hand.

“I couldn’t get through the window because I was 8 months pregnant so I had to smash it before I could get out and my husband hauled me up.

I cannot tell you how long we sat there waiting on the roof. It was so cold – we were wet and frozen. My husband was so cold he got frostbite in one of his toes. We were rescued by two policemen in a boat from one of the attractions at the Butlin’s park, where Manning’s is today.

“We lost our Alison. She was only four but the cold was too much for her’.

Alison was one of 41 who died that night – 13 of them children – some from the cold, others drowned, unable to get out of their homes.


We Remember…

■ Ronald Studd, 38

■ George Taylor, 84, and his wife Mary, 72

■ Reginald Terry, 42, and his wife Gladys, 40

■ Joan Tong, 34, and her daughter Angela, six

■ Staff Sgt Jack Short

■ Alison Watkins, aged four



Eternal Father Strong to Save

Eternal Father, strong to save,
whose arm hath bound the restless wave,
who bidd’st the mighty ocean deep
its own appointed limits keep:
O hear us when we cry to thee
for those in peril on the sea.

O Christ, whose voice the waters heard
and hushed their raging at thy word,
who walkedst on the foaming deep,
and calm amid the storm didst sleep;
O hear us when we cry to thee
for those in peril on the sea.

O Holy Spirit, who didst brood
upon the waters dark and rude,
and bid their angry tumult cease,
and give, for wild confusion, peace:
O hear us when we cry to thee
for those in peril on the sea.

O Trinity of love and power,
our brethren shield in danger’s hour;
from rock and tempest, fire and foe,
protect them wheresoe’er they go;
thus evermore shall rise to thee
glad hymns of praise from land and sea.



Let us commit ourselves to the service of God and all humanity.

Silence is kept

Before God

we pledge ourselves

to establish justice and peace,

to feed the hungry and heal the broken

to welcome the refugee and the stranger

to console the bereaved,

to bring hope to those in want

so that all may rejoice

in the glorious liberty of the children of God



Leader:      The love of Christ urges us on,

All:         We are convinced that one has died for all;

Leader:      Christ died for all,

All:         That we might no longer live for ourselves,

Leader:      Everything old has passed away;

All:         Everything has become new!

Leader:      May the blessing of Almighty God,

Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer

be upon you and remain with you always.

All:         Amen

The Felixstowe Flood MemorialFelixstowe Flood Memorial

The Memorial Wall and garden is at the far end of the playing field attached to Langer Primary Academy on Langer Road near the junction with Beach Road West and Walton Avenue in Felixstowe.

It is the location of some of the deepest floodwater in the town at the time of the East Coast floods on the night of 31 January1953.

41 people lost their lives.  The memorial was unveiled at midnight on 31 January 2006 – exactly 53 years after the devastating floods hit.

The blue line at the top of the wall depicts the depth of the floodwater that night and the plaque records the names of the victims.

The memorial was constructed by local builders, Drake and Plant and designed by local artists Rosemary Humphries and Claire Curtis, with the mosaic works being made by local school children. It was paid for by a combination of private donations and funds committed by Felixstowe Town Council and involved many contributions in kind to convert the concept of the actual memorial and the artists’ cardboard model of the design into the physical structure.

A hand engraved Book of Remembrance was opened and now resides in Felixstowe Library. The anniversary is kept at the wall annually by the laying of a floral wreath that is now paid for by the Town Council.

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