75TH ANNIVERSARY OF ARRIVAL A battle for survival but we made this country what it is today Honoured to be British
IT’S 75 years ago since the HMT Empire Windrush docked in Tilbury on June 22 with more than 800 Caribbean passengers.
They came in answer to a Government call to the Commonwealth to help rebuild a Britain suffering labour shortages after the Second World War. From 1948 to 1971 nearly half a million came to begin new lives in jobs ranging from transport to public services and the NHS.
Yet despite being invited to settle here, many faced racism. And in 2018 it emerged hundreds had been wrongly detained, deported and denied legal rights after being falsely accused of living here illegally.
Here the Windrush generation looks back with pride at what they did for this country.
STILL partying at 97, Gwendolyn Mcdonald – who has 17 grandchildren – will enjoy cake and dancing with her 75-year-old daughter Myrtle Noble to celebrate the anniversary.
Both came from former colony Guyana in the Sixties. Proud Gwen says: “I am honoured to be British. We made the country what it is today.” Gwen and late husband Edwin settled in a cramped room of a shared rented house in East London with other Windrush migrants while working long hours in a textile factory.
“We had to fight for our survival,” she says. “When we bought our own home four years later, a white neighbour would post obscene photos of men through the letterbox and tell me to ‘go back from where you came’.”
Gwen’s daughter Myrtle, from Romford, joined her parents in 1965 and started out as a factory girl. In her first day at one job she recalls being asked to leave by a supervisor because a “mistake” had been made.
Resilient Myrtle became the first Black school governor at a secondary in Newham in the 1980s. She says: “My generation was determined to not be part of the problem but part of the solution. We have achieved that.”