On 22 June 1948, the former German cruise liner HMT Empire Windrush arrived in the United Kingdom at Tilbury Docks, Essex, carrying passengers from the West Indies. The following day, in what has become a landmark in the history of modern Britain, Caribbean migrants from countries including Jamaica, Bermuda, Trinidad, and British Guiana exited the Windrush. They were among the first to be recruited to rebuild post-war Britain (World War II). Mainly former service personnel, this was the first wave of post-war immigration.
Before arriving in Kingston, Jamaica, the ship had visited Trinidad. Following the departure from Jamaica, it also docked at Tampico in Mexico, Havana in Cuba, and Bermuda where others joined the vessel. However, most of the Windrush’s passengers boarded in Jamaica.
UK National Archives show that Windrush was carrying 1,027 passengers (including two stowaways). Amongst those traveling from the Caribbean for work, there were also Polish nationals displaced by World War II, members of the RAF, and people from Britain, Mexico, Gibraltar, and Burma. According to the ship’s passenger lists, 802 of the officially listed passengers onboard gave their last country of residence as somewhere in the Caribbean – over half of these (539) were Jamaican residents.
As most eyewitness accounts testify, the majority of people on board the ship were men. There were 684 males over the age of 12, compared to 257 females over the age of 12. 86 of the passengers were children aged 12 and under.
- Rodergers, Lucy., Ahmed, Maryam. 2018. “Windrush: Who exactly was on board?” BBC News.
- Matthew, Mead. 2017. Empire Windrush: Cultural Memory and Archival Disturbance. UCL Discovery.
- Nils Schwerdtner. 2013. German Luxury Ocean Liners: From Kaiser Willhelm to Aidastella. Amberley Publishing Limited. pp. 286–287. ISBN 978-1-4456-1471-7.
- The History Press. n.d. “Windrush: A landmark in the history of modern Britain.”
- Windrush Foundation. n.d. “Windrush 70 Pioneers and Champions.”
- “22nd June 1948: MV Empire Windrush arrives at Tilbury Docks in the Port of London,” HistoryPod, YouTube video, 2:44, June 22, 2017.