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

31st January 2003
Violet Sparrow, Felixstowe
Violet Sparrow was 36. She was living, with her three children, in Gasworks Cottages on Outfall Road, just near the Beach Station. Violet's husband worked for the Gas Board.
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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Violet Sparrow"My husband, although working at the Gas Board, was an auxiliary coastguard watch. Bad weather they used to call them in. And he was going on watch. I didn’t like being alone, but I had three children and I bathed and put them to bed and I went to bed and I went to sleep as well.

"All of a sudden I was awakened by all this lump, bang, wallop and I was scared stiff. I thought somebody had broken in...So I got out of bed quickly and listened, put my dressing gown and slippers on, went down the stairs, which opened into a sitting room because it was an old cottage and couldn’t open the door because it seemed to be pushed back on me.

"Then I put my foot on the wall, on the bend, and pushed the door and I went down into the water, feet first with water nearly up to my neck! Oh…I tried to call the children and I couldn’t utter a word.

"I went upstairs and got them up in slippers and dressing gowns. Got them downstairs to the bottom of the stairs where I stood and the light went out. What was I going to do? The doors were off, the furniture was floating and the food and everything. The lights went out and I hadn’t got any light at all.

"But I got them back up the stairs and there were two people, a young couple, next door, I thought I’d better knock them, they might not be awake...So we knocked them and called to them and I said we’re flooded – 'So are we!' he said.

"We had a dining room chair up there and we got that and Maureen and I and Margaret pushed that wood in (through the plasterboard between the two rooms) and made a space so we could all be together. Mr Haigh had got the glimmer of a torch, that’s all. So then we were all in my side.

"After some little while we were paddling about in water and while all this was going on, all the noise, we’re in the pitch dark. So then we had about eight inches of water, we didn’t know how high it was going to come.

"In a cupboard I had a big old fashioned chest of drawers. Maureen stood on the top of that, while we held her, all in the dark and pushed a hole through the ceiling because we didn’t have a loft.

"Well they made a hole about as big as a big biscuit tin that’s all. And up there there was only spines of wood, so we put the children up first, I’d got a son of ten and another daughter (Margaret) and Maureen and they went up.

"And Mrs Haigh went up and I’ll tell you something I’d only got a blanket pinned round me and then I’d got to go up last but one. I said: 'Johnny, I can’t get through the hole...my blanket won't let me.' He said: 'This is no time for modesty Vi, drop the blanket!' Then he pushed me through, by my bottom, up through that hole. I got scratched and worn and that at the side but anyway, we lived…
And we were up there huddled round the chimney…

"Once in the roof, we knocked the slates off to know, to hear, or to find out something you see. But nothing happened. Johnny Haigh said: 'Vi, somebody has got to keep watch here through the hole to see how high the water was going to come.'

"So we took it in turn, him and I and then all of a sudden he said: 'Vi it’s come the time to say a little prayer.' Yes that did and so it went. And I said: 'Oh dear Johnny.' Well anyway, we did. But it didn’t come much higher.

"My husband, who was on coastguard duty, he didn’t know anything. We came down out of the hole onto the bedroom floor at about half past seven. And then you could see everything, all your food, the prefabs. Bitter, horrible, sad sight. We didn’t know what was going to happen. We hadn’t heard anything or seen anybody.

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