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Reflections: The Windrush arrival

NEW BEGINNINGS: A few of the young hopefuls who arrived in Britain in 1948 on the Windrush

THE DAY that SS Empire Windrush discharged its passengers at Tilbury has become an important landmark in the history of modern Britain.

However, those aboard the ship, which arrived on June 22 in 1948, were not the first people from the Caribbean to settle here. Britain’s links to the Caribbean go back to the 17th century.

The arrival of Caribbean people during the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s was the first visible mass migration to Britain. The SS Orbita, the SS Reina del Pacifico and the SS Georgic followed the Windrush.

On Tuesday August 2, 1955, the SS Auriga left Kingston, Jamaica, with 1,100 people on board, an unprecedented number of passengers. Within a day or two, the SS Castle Verde followed.

The Civil Service sent a black officer, Ivor Cummings, to meet the new arrivals. They were temporarily housed in the Clapham South deep shelter in south-west London, near Coldharbour Lane Employment Exchange in Brixton. Caribbean people experienced conflicts with the natives over the issue of accommodation, as there was a shortage of housing due to the bombings.

There was plenty of work, mostly labouring jobs in the big cities. The arrivals were generally shut out of higher-paid jobs. Some were educated, many had skills from the war – engineers, mechanics, fitters – but they had to do jobs lower than they were trained for.

Throughout June 2013, the Windrush 65th Anniversary will celebrate the pioneering, Windrush generation who came to Britain, and enriched British social, cultural and political life. They are worthy of our salute.

It is a time to reflect and salute those who came here and to create a legacy of the Windrush for future generations.

May this rich and fascinating legacy be handed on to ensuing generations.

The Kingsway Project is a community organisation based in Birmingham promoting activities and supporting heritage associated with African Caribbean culture. For further information on activities run by the Kingsway Project please contact Annette Robinson.

More Information on the national celebration which takes place between June 5 - June 23 is available on 07766 725 173. For tickets contact Ticket Line on 08448884420
The Windrush legacy: Make History Be Inspired

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