The severity of World War II led Britain to call on all of it’s subjects and resources to support the war effort. More than 10,000 Caribbean men and women crossed the Atlantic, leaving their homes and families to join the British Armed Forces. British citizens from around the world worked together and helped turned the tide and defeat the Nazis.
In the aftermath of the war, Britain was left depleted. It no longer had the money needed to maintain its empire and had accumulated a huge debt by borrowing money from the USA to fund the war. There were also not enough workers to run the country’s essential services, leading to Britain once again calling for help and encouraging migration from its Commonwealth countries to help rebuild the economy.
The British Nationality Act of 1948 allowed all British subjects the right to travel and settle in the UK. This, together with British government campaigns in the Caribbean, led to a wave of immigration.
492 documented passengers boarded the Empire Windrush which set sail from Kingston, Jamaica on 24th May 1948 and came to England, as British citizens, in response to an advert in local Caribbean newspapers promoting job opportunities in Britain. Many had already served in the war, and some wished to re-join the forces. Each paid £28 (about £1000 today) for passage.
Born in 1959 in Kingston, Jamaica, Winsome Johnson moved to the countryside to live with her aunt when her parents left for England. There was no electricity or running water in the houseand they relied on rainwater for drinking, cooking, cleaning and bathing. However, they lived off the land and had access to fresh produce and livestock. Her aunt grew her own coffee whichshe sold to other locals and tradesmen.
Winsome Johnson came to England alone as a child and had not met her parents beforehand.
Beverley Goddard-Brown was born in 1959 in Font Hill, Saint Thomas, Jamaica. Her parentswent to England when she was 9 months old, leaving her in the care of other family members. She lived predominantly with women on a large plot of land that had several houses they all shared.
Beverley hadn’t thought much about her parents until she came to the UK in 1965. She lookedto her Godmother as a mother figure while living in Jamaica and then to her grandmotherwhen living in England. She didn’t develop a maternal bond with her mother until later in life.
Marcia Burke was born in 1959 in Saint Thomas, Jamaica and grew up in Port Antonio where cruise ships docked, and water sports were available. She lived in a house on stilts with a veranda and outdoor kitchen with her grandparents and had no memory of her parents growing up.
Marcia came to England, like many children of the Windrush generation, on a young passenger travelling alone ticket. She found it difficult to adjust to life in a new country with parents she didn’t really know.
Marie Anderson was born in 1951 in Kingston, the capital of Jamaica. She grew up in alarge tenement yard with multiple families. There were lots of children to play with andlots of leisure facilities available.
Marie’s mother left for England when Marie was 11 or 12 years old. She planned to work in theUK for 5 years, save money and return to Jamaica to build a better life for Marie and her brother. Marie missed her mother very much but received letters and gifts from her regularly.
Pauline was born in 1960 in Kingston, Jamaica.
Her parents travelled to England when she was 4/5 years old, leaving her in the care of her grandparents until she came to England aged 8.
Pauline’s parents initially had a 5-year employment plan that enabled them to move back to Jamaica but there was not much opportunity for them to progress due to systemic racism. Pauline remembers pondering with her mother on what life might have been like if they stayed in Jamaica.
Godfrey was born in 1958 and lived in a small rural village in Saint Thomas where most of hisextended family also lived. He grew up with his siblings under the care of his aunt and uncle.
Though he has no recollection of his parents before he came to England around the age of 7, he describes his life in Jamaica as ‘idyllic’. His uncle gifted him with calves, foals and fillies and he enjoyed spending time outside playing with them.
He describes his childhood and teenage years as a time when he was bored and had no guidance. He and his friends were racially profiled, frequently harassed by police and criminalised.
Despite this, Godfrey became a successful businessman and has worked with people from all over the world.
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