Blue Plaque To Be Unveiled for 1928 Fulham Flood Hero

Madge Franckeiss rescued three people from drowning

Madge pictured outside Fulham Hospital in 1928. Picture: H&F Council/British Pathe Archive

May 13, 2024

This Tuesday (14 May) will see the unveiling of a plaque in honour of the woman who became the hero of the Fulham flood of 1928.

Before the building of the Thames Barrier, the river periodically broke its banks and one of the worst occasions was on 7 January 1928 when thousands were made homeless and 14 people drowned.

A 20-year-old clerk called Madge Franckeiss and her younger brother Peter had been sleeping overnight with friends in a basement flat at Hurlingham Court Mansions.

Madge woke at 2am, realised that her room was filling with water and that she couldn’t open the door because of the pressure from the flood, and smashed a window to swim out to safety.

Then she repeatedly swam back inside, lacerating her legs on the broken glass, to save first her 15-year-old brother, then his friend Billy Watson, 10, and finally Billy’s mother.

At an inquest, Fulham coroner Mr HR Oswald told Madge, “The courage you showed was worthy of any man, let alone a young girl not yet 21. If we have girls like this, I think we may fear nothing for the future generation of English people.”

A witness told the inquest, “I cried like a child as I saw a slip of a girl bleeding from I don’t know how many wounds, fighting in the water to save her friends. Thanks to her efforts, three people were saved, and not until she was told that others were safe would she consent to be saved herself.”

The 1928 disaster left parts of Hammersmith and Fulham underwater. Chelsea Embankment collapsed near the Tate Gallery, damaging many priceless paintings. Houses along Hammersmith Mall barricaded their front gardens with sandbags to try to stop the water. It took weeks to repair the damage and pump brackish water from low-lying homes, tube stations and buildings.

Archive image of the 1928 floods near the Hurlingham ClubArchive image of the 1928 floods near the Hurlingham Club. Picture: H&F Council local studies and archives

Madge, who later married, became Madge Vaidya and moved to Delhi, was presented with a certificate to commemorate her bravery by the Lord Mayor of London. The Mayor asked her if she had any wish. She said she’d always wanted to hear Josephine Baker sing, and funds were duly raised to send Madge on a trip to Paris to hear, and meet, the singing legend.

Now, a blue plaque is to be unveiled with Madge’s descendants flying in from India to attend the ceremony. Madge’s granddaughter Anasuya Vaidya, and great granddaughter Yashna Shetty, will take part in the plaque unveiling ceremony, and the Mayor of Hammersmith & Fulham, Cllr Patricia Quigley, will welcome residents. Yashna Shetty will read a poem written by her own daughter, Jalabala, while great granddaughter Sareega Shetty will sing one of Madge’s favourite songs. Great grandson Dhruv Shetty will recite a Sanskrit verse on remembrance.

The blue plaque will read:

Madge Vaidya, 1907-1996, for her exceptional bravery and life-saving actions during the devastating flood of London in 1928.

A dozen Year 5 pupils – from St John’s Walham Green primary school in Fulham – have been studying Madge’s life and achievements will put on a short performance.

British Pathe film showing Madge posing outside Fulham Hospital after the 1928 flooding (YouTube).


Tragically, the two Watson daughters, Irene and Dorothy, both 23, could not be saved, and their bodies were later recovered.

Flooding near the Hurlingham Club in 1928. Picture: &F Council local studies and archives

A documentary entitled 1928: The year the Thames Flooded is available on Channel 5 and tells the story of Madge’s heroism. Watch it online here on the Channel 5 website.

Like Reading Articles Like This? Help Us Produce More

This site remains committed to providing local community news and public interest journalism.

Articles such as the one above are integral to what we do. We aim to feature as much as possible on local societies, charities based in the area, fundraising efforts by residents, community-based initiatives and even helping people find missing pets.

We’ve always done that and won’t be changing, in fact we’d like to do more.

However, the readership that these stories generates is often below that needed to cover the cost of producing them. Our financial resources are limited and the local media environment is intensely competitive so there is a constraint on what we can do.

We are therefore asking our readers to consider offering financial support to these efforts. Any money given will help support community and public interest news and the expansion of our coverage in this area.

A suggested monthly payment is £8 but we would be grateful for any amount for instance if you think this site offers the equivalent value of a subscription to a daily printed newspaper you may wish to consider £20 per month. If neither of these amounts is suitable for you then contact and we can set up an alternative. All payments are made through a secure web site.

One-off donations are also appreciated. Choose The Amount You Wish To Contribute.

If you do support us in this way we’d be interested to hear what kind of articles you would like to see more of on the site – send your suggestions to the editor.

For businesses we offer the chance to be a corporate sponsor of community content on the site. For £30 plus VAT per month you will be the designated sponsor of at least one article a month with your logo appearing if supplied. If there is a specific community group or initiative you’d like to support we can make sure your sponsorship is featured on related content for a one off payment of £50 plus VAT. All payments are made through a secure web site.