By mark boggis
Sunday, January 20, 2013
It was one of the worst disasters to hit coastal communities across East Anglia.
January 31, 1953, is forever etched in the memory as the day the North Sea rose up with all its mighty power to cause death and destruction around the east coast.
At the end of this month the 60th anniversary of the worst flood of the 20th century will be marked in the Lowestoft and Southwold area.
The floods claimed the lives of 307 people across the region – including five people at Southwold – and while Lowestoft miraculously escaped any deaths on land, the 11-man crew of the trawler Guava were lost at sea.
A commemoration service will be held in St. Edmunds Church, Southwold, on Wednesday, January 30, at 6pm. The Mayor of Southwold, Michael Ladd, will be present along with members of the town council.
A town council spokesman said: “Both the church and the town council would like to display memories of the night and of the following weeks.”
Anyone with any photographs, pictures or memories to share can contact the Town Hall on 01502 722576 or send an email to townclerk@southwoldtowncouncil.
On Thursday, January 31, at the Marina Theatre in Lowestoft, historian John Holmes will present an Old Lowestoft Slideshow at 2.30pm, featuring events of the 20th century – including the floods of 1905 and 1953.
And on Sunday, February 3, a 60th anniversary of the floods service is being held at Christ Church at 3pm, during which there will be slides from Mr Holmes.
But ahead of these events, the Jack Rose Old Lowestoft Society (JROLS) commemorated the occasion last week at a special event, as four 1953 Flood Level signs were unveiled.
The special 2ft by 1ft signs have been commissioned for premises in Whapload Road.
Chris Brooks, chairman of the Jack Rose Old Lowestoft Society, said: “The signs will be installed for the public to view ready for the anniversary at four premises in Whapload Road – at Christ Church, the Lighthouse Diner, Maritime Museum and a commercial building opposite the Denes net drying posts.
“As Chairman of JROLS I have been invited to show slides in the church hall during refreshments after the service on February 3, and I appeal to anyone who may have an original picture or personal recollection of the 1953 floods to consider getting in touch with me to share these with a wider audience – I have had several handed to me already.
“My thanks go to Michael Manning, proprietor of the Lighthouse Diner, for arranging for the signs to be produced.”
Memories of the floods were recalled with reports that someone rushed into the former Palace Cinema in Lowestoft to warn the audience that the sea was coming in.
In total, about 400 homes in Waveney were flooded – but Lowestoft’s post-war sea defences held firm and saved the town from a far worse disaster.
At Southwold, there was no such warning for the five people – including a young boy – who died in their homes in Ferry Road, near the harbour.
The raging waves, driven by a north east wind and surge tide, saw the gale claim the lives of more than 300 people – nine of them in Great Yarmouth and seven at Sea Palling. In the Hunstanton and Heacham area 66 people lost their lives, while 15 people died in King’s Lynn.
● The EDP will be marking the 60th anniversary of the floods with a week of special features starting on Monday, January 28.