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You are in: Suffolk » Don't Miss » 1953 East Coast Floods

31st January 2003
Dorothy Ablitt, Ipswich
Dorothy Ablitt
Dorothy Ablitt
Dorothy was 36 and living in Rectory Road, Ipswich.

Her mother lived in Bath Street , Ipswich.
FACTS

1953 EAST COAST FLOODS:

307 people drowned

24,000 homes flooded

1,200 breaches along 1,000 miles of coastline

160,000 acres of farmland flooded

46,000 livestock lost

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"My Bill and I had just come back from a wedding and we’d seen the tide was so high, because the water was just at the bottom of Bath Street, you see. They used to go over that on the ferry.

"So we’d called in to make sure Mum was all right. We let ourselves in and she was sitting there and she said: 'Yes I’m alright.'

"About 2.15 in the morning we were awoken by somebody banging on the door and it was the chap who lived next door to Mum. He said: 'Can you come down? We’re flooded and your Mum is all alone.'

"So I just grabbed some trousers to put over my pyjamas and my Bill did the same and off we went down there.

"When we came to look down Bath Street I couldn’t believe my eyes. I’d never seen anything like it. Well, we waded down and we had water above our knees. We got to the front door and my Bill had to put his weight against it and smash it open. The flood had brought up the rug and there were all things against the front door.

"I shall never forget seeing my mother...her legs were crippled, she couldn’t hardly get up a step. From her living room to her kitchen was a step and one of my brothers had made a ramp so she could get up it.

"Mum was sleeping downstairs and when we opened the door and went in the living room, my mother was in the corner of the room. She had got a wireless standing on some furniture, the big table was at the side of it. How on earth my mother got up there…God must have been about that night, honestly.

"She got up, I don’t know how she did it. She was standing on this thing that the wireless stood on. She had leaned forward, pulled the window down and she was hanging onto the window. So we got hold of her and got her onto the table and I went into the kitchen to see if I could make her a drink, but the oven was under water...

"Then after all this my husband suddenly thought: 'Oh darling I wonder how my bees are?' Do you know my sweetheart had got 12 stocks of bees and they were down at Bourne Bridge. Where the park is at Bourne Bridge there was a huge garden and a nice bungalow in there and the people that lived there had told my husband he could keep his bees at the end of their garden.

"He went down later on and he had lost every one of his 12 stocks of bees. But there, when you think that people lost their lives it was nothing, but it meant a lot to him.

"But to go back to the flood...you’ve never seen such filth in your life. We finally got it tidy, but they got Mum a flat round here in Austin Street. I shall never forget it. But when I think of people who lost their lives – they were caught like rats in a trap down Felixstowe. They had no chance, those places, they’d only got the one door and it was so sudden, the flood. They had no means of getting out. They were just caught, as I say, like rats in a trap...

"The thing was, it had been so windy, when the tide was ebbing it couldn’t get right out because the wind was coming in so fierce it held the tide back. So when the tide reversed that was more than half way here because it couldn’t ebb out in the first place. So that was why it was so horrific.

"Do you know what my mother said to me, this is the God’s truth, she said: 'Dorothy, my Bible is in the front room, will you go and see if you can find it?'

"I thought what a thing to think about, forgive me saying that! But she was so concerned about her Bible.

"It’s such a long time ago now, I wouldn’t want to live it again."

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