2022's Reflections on Windrush: 'A fine summer's day'



Follow along as guest writer, Monica Cru-Hall, openly muses on the Windrush scheme almost 75 years later and pays homage to its daring travellers...

On June 22nd 1948, according to Weather in History 1900 to 1949 AD, this summer was regarded by the post-war generation as a 'bench-mark' of fine summers, this was also the day that the Windrush discharged its passengers at Tilbury. I wonder how the passengers felt, did they think it was a fine summer's day after travelling from the hot lands of Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, India, Pakistan, Kenya and South Africa? I wonder if they knew what an important landmark in British history they were making and that the image of the passengers filing off Empire Windrush would come to symbolise many of the changes that have taken place in Britain for people of colour.

Many came thinking that they were coming for a few years to stay just to help the ‘motherland’. It was war torn after the Second World war and called for help. Many that made up the passengers of Windrush were the thousands of Caribbean men and women that had been recruited to serve in the armed forces. Many boarded the ship in order to re-join the RAF, others heard about the trip and wanted in – which doubled the numbers. The injection of Windrush passengers over the years that followed, have become a vital part of British society and, have intrinsically transformed important aspects of British life, there is now calypso, curries and carnivals, which have grown in British history so seamless that many will now no longer remember a time when a curry on a night out wasn’t possible or a summer without calypso wasn’t imagined.

Back in 1948, Britain was aiming to build back better after war. Housing was a massive problem and stayed that way for the next two decades. The Windrush passengers faced signs from Britain stating No dogs, No Irish and No Black allowed when requesting accommodation. There was work and plenty of it however the lack of housing caused friction, conflicts and discrimination…. Rumblings were taking place and collectively Windrush passengers began to make the best of the foreign land they had found themselves. Excluded from the natives and their need to keep things British, they recreated the institutions they were familiar with such as churches and developed their co-operative saving schemes known as ‘pardner’. They also made full use of the spaces they could be apart of by joining staff associations and trade unions which allowed them to become a strong voice and advocate to ensure fair and equitable treatment for all.

It is amazing how in 2022 so much of the same is still apparent - Britain war torn after its fight against coronavirus, its NHS crawling, the housing problems returned …. Britain finds itself once again calling out to other lands for help to build back. Although this time the subtlety of the discrimination in the offering could be missed. There is on offer FREE skilled workers visas if a person is from the EU, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein. All other countries must pay.

As the Windrush compensation scheme is still wrapped in mystery the absence of African, Indian and Caribbean countries on the list is interesting. Yet unions voices remain strong on this and current living wage costs.

My thanks will forever be with my forefathers that made the journey to Britain that fine summer's day. Their strength and determination has helped to put black Britain into British history. May this also be taught as part of our future.


By Monica Cru-Hall

Feature Photo: Colin Jones / Courtesy of Michael Hoppen Gallery (via BBC)