Windrush

Who are the Windrush generation? 

The ‘Windrush’ generation are those who arrived in the UK from Caribbean countries between 1948 and 1973. Many took up jobs in the nascent NHS and other sectors affected by Britain’s post-war labour shortage. The name ‘Windrush’ derives from the ‘HMT Empire Windrush’ ship which brought one of the first large groups of Caribbean people to the UK in 1948. As the Caribbean was, at the time, a part of the British commonwealth, those who arrived were automatically British subjects and free to permanently live and work in the UK. 

Windrush March

HMT Empire Windrush

HMT Empire Windrush, originally MV Monte Rosa, was a passenger liner and cruise ship launched in Germany in 1930. She was owned and operated by the German shipping line Hamburg Süd in the 1930s under the name Monte Rosa. During World War II she was operated by the German navy as a troopship.

Windrush Steel Band Hire Music BLM

Windrush scandell in a nutshell

Commonwealth citizens were affected by the government’s ‘Hostile Environment’ legislation – a policy announced in 2012 which tasked the NHS, landlords, banks, employers and many others with enforcing immigration controls. It aimed to make the UK unlivable for undocumented migrants and ultimately push them to leave.  

Because many of the Windrush generation arrived as children on their parents’ passports, and the Home Office destroyed thousands of landing cards and other records, many lacked the documentation to prove their right to remain in the UK. The Home Office also placed the burden of proof on individuals to prove their residency predated 1973. The Home Office demanded at least one official document from every year they had lived here. Attempting to find documents from decades ago created a huge, and in many cases, impossible burden on people who had done nothing wrong. 

Falsely deemed as ‘illegal immigrants’ / ‘undocumented migrants’ they began to lose their access to housing, healthcare, bank accounts and driving licenses. Many were placed in immigration detention, prevented from travelling abroad and threatened with forcible removal, while others were deported to countries they hadn’t seen since they were children.  

Their harmful and unjust treatment provoked widespread condemnation of government’s failings on the matter, with calls being made for radical reform of the Home Office and the UK’s immigration policy. In response to these demands, then Home Secretary, Sajid Javid announced in May 2018 that the Home Office would commission a ‘Windrush Lessons Learned Review’.  

Windrush

HMT Empire Windrush

HMT Empire Windrush began sailing in 1930. It was originally used as a cruise ship and passenger liner. However, during the Second World War, she was used as a troopship. At first, she was used to transport German troops from country to country but was then taken over by the British Army to carry British soldiers. On one disastrous journey back to the UK in 1954, a fire broke out killing four engine crew members. Fortunately, all 1276 passengers were saved before she sank in the Mediterranean Sea. The wreck still lies 2600 metres below the sea.

One of Empire Windrush’s most famous journeys was in 1948. After many young men and women lost their lives during the Second World War, Britain had a shortage of workers and needed more labourers. The British government invited people from Jamaica and other British colonies to come and work in the UK. Therefore, the Empire Windrush was sent to collect 492 people from Jamaica and bring them back to London. These Caribbean visitors worked in industries such as transport, rail and the National Health Service. Although many of them only planned to stay for a few years, the majority stayed in the UK permanently and have been a huge influence in changing British culture.

HMT Empire Windrush (whose first name was MV Monte Rosa) was originally used as a cruise ship and passenger liner and began sailing in 1930. During the Second World War, she was used as a German troopship but was then acquired by the United Kingdom and used to transport British troops instead. She was then renamed Empire Windrush. In March 1954, on her way back to the UK, a fire broke out killing four engine crew members. Fortunately, all 1276 passengers survived but she sadly sank in the Mediterranean Sea. The wreck still lies 2600 metres below the sea.

In 1948, after losing so many soldiers and young men in the war, Britain had a serious shortage of workers. The British Government tried to encourage members of the British Empire to come and work in the UK. As a result, Empire Windrush made one of its most famous voyages and brought 492 passengers from Jamaica to London. These Caribbean people later became known as the Windrush generation. Although many only planned to stay for a few years, the majority of people remained in the UK permanently. Many of them worked in industries such as transport, rail and the National Health Service.

Sadly, it was not always an easy life for many of the Windrush generation. A lot of white people did not welcome them to Britain and treated them unfairly. They sometimes struggled to find housing simply because of the colour of their skin. Clashes between white people and black people were so serious at times that riots broke out in some major cities. Despite these difficulties, the Windrush generation have played a vital role in changing British culture and by the start of the 1970s, West Indians were a familiar and established part of the British population. In 1959, the Notting Hill Carnival was created as a celebration of diversity. It is now an annual event in London, helping to bring together people from different communities. It is famous for its colour, exotic dances and vibrant atmosphere.