Metro: First steps of Windrush Generation on British soil celebrated in 75th anniversary year

Metro: First steps of Windrush Generation on British soil celebrated in 75th anniversary year

As they step onto British soil, the early Windrush Generation arrivals begin a legacy that would help revitalise a nation depleted by years of war.

Wearing their Sunday best as they answered the UK government’s call to rebuild the country, men, women and children arrive on a ‘journey of hope’.

Some had already been to the UK to serve during the Second World War, while others were setting foot in the ‘mother country’ for the first time. But they all carried high hopes after what has been described as the ‘hardest journey in their lives’; a break not just with their homelands, but with their previous identities.

The arrival of the HMT Empire Windrush from the Caribbean is being celebrated nationally in the 75th year since the former German troopship pulled into Tilbury dock in Essex.

The arrival provided the defining images of post-war migration from the islands which filled labour shortages and helped shape multi-cultural Britain.

Disembarking 802 people who had bought cheap tickets for passage from the West Indies, the ship’s arrival followed a call from the British government for Commonwealth citizens to plug the workforce gaps, and their achievements would include a vital role in establishing the then fledgling NHS. 

Those shown wearing their best going-away gear in the black-and-white images include passengers on the Windrush as well as the liner SS Begona, which operated across the Atlantic.

Finely turned-out young men, wearing their best suits, ties and shoes, crowd round for a picture taken during the Windrush’s disembarkation on June 22, 1948, the ship having arrived the previous day.

In another picture, a small boy dressed in a collared shirt carefully holds a guardrail and a girl’s hand as they walk down a gang plank in Southampton.

 (Picture: TopFoto and Autograph, London)
A young boy carefully holds a guard rail as he disembarks from the liner SS Begona at Southampton docks (Picture: TopFoto and Autograph, London)

Behind him, a girl dressed in a smocked sailor dress beams as she takes in the new surroundings.

There are also signs of apprehension and dislocation among the newcomers. A young girl looks pensive as she is shown wearing a duffle coat and gloves to guard against the cold while waiting patiently to disembark the Begona with a party of more than 400 people on March 6, 1962.

She is pictured five months before the Commonwealth Immigrants Act, which placed restrictions on Commonwealth passport holders hoping to live in the UK, came into force.

Sisters Veronica and Velveta McGregor, wearing matching fascinator hats, appear more comfortable as they take tea on a train on their way to meet their dad in London.


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