Remembering the Floods of 1953

Throughout this week events are being held up and down the Suffolk Coast to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the great flood of January 31, 1953 which claimed over 50 lives in Suffolk.

In Felixstowe alone, 41 people died when the river walls were breached, with 13 of those being children between six months and eight years old, while off the coast the Lowestoft trawler Guava and its 11 strong crew sank without trace.

“The catastrophic East Coast Floods of 1953 will live forever in the memories of those involved, and its impact was felt from South Yorkshire down to the north coast of Kent, with 307 lives lost,” said Cllr Andy Smith, Cabinet Member for Planning and Coastal Management.

“The tragic events were a catalyst for all those responsible for coast and flood protection, and also emergency planning, to invest in new defences and proper early warning systems.

“This anniversary is an opportunity to remember those who died, and also the courage, selflessness and generosity of rescuers and local communities at the time, but also to focus on our responsibility to be always vigilant and prepared and to never be complacent,” added Cllr Smith.

The coastal management team of Suffolk Coastal and Waveney District Councils, the Environment Agency and the Red Cross have produced a special booklet ‘The Great Flood of 1953’ that can be seen online at

The booklet looks at the events of that night along the Suffolk coast, the reasons why it occurred, what happened in 2007 when similar conditions were repeated but fortunately without the disastrous consequences, and most importantly what individuals can do to be prepared for the future. In addition, an activity sheet is available to support local schools in their commemoration activities.

“Our district has been leading the way in recent years with innovative partnerships involving our local communities and genuine partnership working between this Council and the Environment Agency to improve our defences. Felixstowe alone has secured two major projects costing £20m, completing the provision of modern defences along the whole frontage of the town between the Deben and Orwell estuaries.

“We have been working closely with our partners from many different organisations, including the Environment Agency and the Joint Emergency Planning Unit, to prepare for possible future events. However the better prepared individuals, businesses and the community are, the more resilient we all will be.

“There have been major improvements in defences and in forecasting and warning systems but we can never hope to defend everywhere against everything that nature can throw at us. The anniversary this week is a stark reminder why we all need to be as ready as we possibly can and that we should never forget the massive power of nature and the sea,” added Cllr Smith.

A useful guide to improving resilience and list of contacts is provided in the back of the booklet or people can visit

• What can you remember of the floods? Add a comment below with your memories or thoughts.