Windrush Facts for KS2 Children
Windrush Day is on the 22nd June this year. What is it, and why do we celebrate it? Learn all about Windrush Day, with this Windrush KS2 fact blog...
In 1948, Britain was just beginning to recover from the devastating effects of WW2. Cities across the country had been badly bombed, and there were many public buildings and homes that needed to be rebuilt. However, there was a huge shortage of labour to help rebuild the country. During the war, almost 265,000 military men and women, and 67,000 civilians had been killed, with a further 284,000 wounded. The working-age population had been greatly depleted.
To deal with the shortage of working-age men and women, the British government decided to encourage people from other British colonies to migrate to the UK. The British Nationality Act was passed in 1948, which gave everyone who lived in the UK, or any of the British colonies around the world, the same rights to live and work in the UK. At that time, the British colonies included many of the Caribbean islands, including The Bahamas, Barbados, Trinidad and Jamaica.
On 15th April 1948, a small advertisement was placed in a newspaper announcing a ‘passenger opportunity’ to sail from Jamaica to the UK on the HMT Empire Windrush. The price of a ‘troop deck’ ticket was £28 (equivalent to around £1000 now).
Around 500 Jamaicans bought tickets for the HMT Empire Windrush. At the time, Jamaica's economy was struggling, and the island was still feeling the effects of a devastating hurricane a few years before. This encouraged many people to accept the British government's invitation to come and live and work in Britain, with the hope of a better, more prosperous life. Some people who bought tickets did so because they had been recruited to serve Britain during the war, and they now aimed to rejoin the armed forces. Others were simply curious to see the ‘Motherland’.
The HMT Empire Windrush was en route from Australia to England when it crossed the Atlantic Ocean into the Caribbean, picking up passengers for Britain from Jamaica, but also Trinidad, Mexico, Cuba and Bermuda. Many of the passengers were men, but there were also women and children who were making the crossing. The occupations of those travelling to Britain were wide-ranging, from mechanics, carpenters and engineers to boxers, actresses and a piano repairer.
The 8,000 mile journey from the Caribbean to Tilbury Docks in Essex, UK took 30 days. The HMT Empire Windrush dropped anchor on the 21st June, 1948. The passengers disembarked a day later, on the 22nd June. Many of the new arrivals stayed in London, finding employment with the NHS and London Transport, and settling into homes in the Brixton and Clapham areas of the capital. Over the next few years, many Jamaicans arriving in England would also decide to stay in these areas, and as a result, large Caribbean communities developed here.
The arrival of the HMT Empire Windrush and its passengers was a landmark event that was the start of many more people from British colonies, including India, migrating to the UK between 1948 and 1971. Today, people who arrived in Britain during this period are often called the Windrush generation, named after the ship that brought the first migrants to the country.
Many people who had migrated only planned to stay in Britain for a few years before moving on, but lots ended up settling permanently, having families, and considering Britain their home. This has resulted in the vibrant, diverse and multicultural modern-day society we now have, which we celebrate on the 22nd June each year.
Take a look below at these fantastic images of some of the new arrivals during their first minutes and hours in Britain, and then listen to Sam King (who went on to become the first black mayor of Southwark in London) talking about his experiences of the crossing.