On Monday 22nd June Britain will celebrate Windrush day. It was on this day, 72 years ago that hundreds of people arrived from the Caribbean to start a new life in Britain.
Why did they come here?
In 1948, Britain was trying to recover from World War II. Thousands of buildings had been bombed, many of houses were destroyed and the country needed to be rebuilt. There was also many jobs in the National Rail, the NHS and public transport that needed to be filled. Britain needed help. In the Caribbean, lots of young men and women had served in the British armed forces to help Britain win the war. This was because they were part of Britain’s empire- they were under British rule. After the war, some of these young people decided that they would come to Britain and help to rebuild the country. They were making a tremendous sacrifice. They were leaving their homes, family and safety to help Britain recover from the devastation of war.
How did they get to Britain?
They got on a ship – the Empire Windrush – which left the Caribbean to travel thousands of miles across the Atlantic ocean. This was the first time so many Caribbean people had come to live in Britain although people from the Caribbean had been coming to Britain long before that. Many more people from the Caribbean arrived in the following years. It was 22 June 1948 when the Empire Windrush arrived at Tilbury Docks in Essex. The Windrush Generation includes anyone who migrated to Britain from the Caribbean between 1948-1973.
What was life like when they got here?
Passengers on the windrush were told that they would be welcome when they came to Britian but many people discovered that life in Britain wasn’t easy. When the passengers landed they didn’t always get the friendly welcome they had hoped for. Many of them experienced racism and discrimination and often found it hard to get a proper home to live in and to make friends with British people. It also wasn’t always easy for the new arrivals to get jobs. Some companies said they didn’t want black people to work for them. Later many of their children were bullied at school because of the colour of their skin. Some of them suffered racial attacks and in later years there were riots in cities across Britain.
What problems have they faced recently?
Recently, the government was forced to apologise for what has been called the ‘Windrush Scandal’, in which people who had lived in Britain ever since migrating all those years ago have been wrongly arrested, denied legal rights, sometimes even deported from the UK. They were told that they were living in Britain illegally. Many people were angry about their treatment and demanded that the government take action and investigate. The government finally realised that they had made a terrible mistake. They admitted that many people had been treated unfairly and some received apology letters. Today the government are still trying to resolve and repair the damage that was done.
Why do we remember them?
The Windrush generation are an important part of British history. They helped to transform Britian in to the multiracial and multicultural country it is today and helped rebuild it after the devastation of World War II. Their role in creating a more diverse and tolerant society has shaped Britain in to the country it is today. Windrush day is day that we celebrate the contributions of the Windrush generation and their descendants.
Where can I find out more?