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Celebrating the Empire Windrush Passengers: Windrush 75

The 22nd of June 2023 marks the 75th anniversary of Empire Windrush landing at Tilbury Docks. The ship’s landing became a symbol of the arrival of people from across the Commonwealth: the Windrush Generation. This June, we celebrate the people who made a fundamental mark on British history – the Windrush Passenger History Heroes! 

The Journey Begins: The Empire Windrush

The British Nationality Act was passed in 1948, permitting Commonwealth nationals to settle in the UK. Later that year, on June 22, 1948, the Empire Windrush docked at Tilbury, just outside of London, carrying hundreds of passengers from the Caribbean. These passengers became pioneering members of what would later be known as the Windrush generation. 

As the Empire Windrush Passengers History Hero card says, the passengers answered an ad in a Jamaican newspaper, inviting them to come and work in Britain. Upon arrival, 230 of the passengers were housed in an air-raid shelter under Clapham Common, and since so many were sent to work for the Brixton labour exchange, a square in Brixton is named after the ship! You can read about Windrush Square here.

Overcoming Challenges

The voyage to Tilbury docks was just the beginning of the Windrush generation’s journey in the UK. As the passengers arrived in London, they were immediately faced with a number of difficult challenges… 

In fact, just two days after the Windrush docked, a group of 11 Labour MPs wrote to the Prime Minister Clement Attlee complaining of too many immigrants as a result of the ship arriving in the UK. This wouldn’t be the only push back against the immigration from the Commonwealth. 

Alongside setting up new lives in a country unfamiliar to them, Empire Windrush passengers faced prejudice and hostility from their British born neighbours. 

Legacy and Impact 

Following WORLD WAR II, the Windrush generation arrived in the UK to undertake a wide range of jobs to help rebuild the country. These occupations ranged from coal, iron and steel production, public transport workers and NHS staff. The Windrush passengers, and the whole Windrush generation, made a significant contribution to British society.  

From Mona Baptiste, the singer who released her version of “Calypso Blues” in 1951, to the ‘Grandmaster of Calypso’ Aldwyn Roberts (better known by stage name, Lord Kitchener!) – and from health workers to public transport drivers, the Windrush passengers enriched the fabric of LONDON and the UK.

One Windrush passenger was Jamaican born Sam King (MBE), who travelled to the UK on Empire Windrush after serving in the Royal Airforce. King later became the first black Mayor of the London Borough of Southwark, and co-founded the Windrush Foundation in 1995. 

In his book, Sam King says: “I wasn’t going to be chased out by anything. This was my country. This was our country. You needed your hospitals cleaned, your buses driven, your rubbish collected, your gasworks manned, and we did it. We’ve contributed so much. And we’re British now.”

Visit our LONDON pack featuring the Empire Windrush Passengers card. 

And explore the 75th anniversary of Windrush 75 at Windrush Foundation and Windrush 75 Network.


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