Empire Windrush 1948
The old troop-carrying steamship Empire Windrush arrived at Tilbury on 22 June 1948. She carried 490 Caribbean men (and two women), mostly from Jamaica and Trinidad. Windrush was not the only ship to arrive in Britain with Caribbean immigrants after the Second World War, but the ship's arrival was given a lot of publicity at the time. 'Windrush' has since become a symbolic event marking the start of the Caribbean migration that was to be so influential on post-war London .
The Windrush passengers were skilled workers who came to find work to help post-war Britain recover after the war. Nurses and engineers, as well as other industrial workers, were in demand. Some of the passengers were Caribbean war veterans who chose to return. They were all English-speakers familiar with British working practices.
The passengers included the calypso singer Lord Kitchener, who sang a song of praise for London for the television cameras:
'London is the place for me
London that lovely city
You can go to France or America
India, Asia or Africa
But you must come back to London City ...'
The 1948 Nationality Act had encouraged the venture, with its 'open door' policy for commonwealth migrants. British passport-holders were citizens of 'the United Kingdom and Colonies'. Every commonwealth citizen was also a British subject with right of entry to the United Kingdom.
Although the publicity given to the Windrush's arrival prompted some concern from M.P.s, the general response from the public was welcoming. In London, the process of recovery was under way although accommodation was a problem. London had a housing shortage as a result of wartime bombing, and there was little local authority housing available for the newcomers.
The new arrivals were given temporary accommodation in the deep tube shelter on Clapham Common, which had previously been used as a bomb shelter and to house prisoners of war. Brixton was the nearest place for work and socialising, and the Mayor of Brixton extended a particularly warm welcome to the new arrivals.
Many of the Windrush's passengers found work around the country but many remained in London, particulary the Brixton area, establishing the roots of a new community there.
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