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Beyond Windrush: vessels which brought Caribbeans to the UK


SO IF the Windrush brought over 492 people from the Caribbean in 1948, how did the rest from the region that descended upon these shores get here?

There were other ships that helped to shape the landscape of Britain, but few of them are known. The increase of immigration at that time came about due to the British Nationality Act being passed in 1948. The Act conferred the status of British citizens on all Commonwealth subjects, recognising their right to work and settle in the UK.

The Ormonde: Liverpool, April, 1947

Suggestions that those who harboured ambitions of getting to the UK before the Windrush touched these shores had little or no money to do so are debunked by this advertisement from The Sunday Gleaner, March 2, 1947, which read: “Passengers Who May Want to Travel on HMT Ormonde.”

“The following press release has been made by the secretariat: ‘Persons awaiting direct sea transport to the United Kingdom who would wish to avail themselves of passages on the HMT Ormonde ... are asked to register their names with the Office Superintendent at the Secretariat, Kingston before the 5th of March, 1947 ... the amount normally charged for passages in Troopships is in the vicinity of £48 ... the probabilities are that it will be necessary for such persons to remain in the United Kingdom for an indefinite period while awaiting return passages.’”

Not a lot is known about where each of the 108 recorded passengers ended up living once they got to the UK, but quotes in the media from immigrants at the time claiming to be seeking better opportunity in the ‘Mother Country’ are a recurring theme.

The Almanzora: Southampton, December 1947
By the time the Almanzora docked at Southampton, stowaways had become an issue. Bringing 200 West Indian passengers, including 31 stowaways, into the region sparked a local furore.

Unlike previous dockings in the north of the country, the Almanzora didn’t attract any national media coverage, but the notion of West Indians who hadn’t secured the proper permission to make the trip, let alone stay here, wandering up and down the country had begun to startle.

The Almanzora was an ex-troopship and, like the Ormonde, it carried a number of ex-troops from the West Indies who had fought for Britain in the Second World War. One of those, Allan Wilmot, wrote in his memoirs, Now You Know, about the difficulties soldiers like himself faced during the time. Even worse, Wilmot described the circumstances that led to him regularly sleeping on an overnight train in order to get a good night’s kip.

The Georgic: Liverpool, June, 1949

When this ship berthed at the docks in Liverpool, an article numbering the amount of ‘coloured’ folk on board had already been run in the Times newspaper the day before. The story, which went into specific detail about where the 224 Jamaicans and 30 Trinidadians would go on to stay while they were in the UK, gave an insight into the attitudes the new arrivals would face.

Over 150 of the Caribbean people who had made the journey from Kingston, Jamaica, already had somewhere to stay with the biggest contingent making their way to London.

What was interesting for the time was the ‘hope’ that none of those who disembarked the Georgic would stay in Liverpool as the level of unemployment in the area at the time would have been made worse.

The Reina del Pacifico: Liverpool, 1954

By the time the Reina del Pacifico docked in Liverpool in the 1950s, the dynamic of those who were emanating from the Caribbean had changed. Men were no longer in the majority of those on board. By 1958, women and children accounted for well over half of the 16,511 arrivals, leading to a Times newspaper article headlined: ‘West Indians Send for Their Families’.

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