Windrush 75 – Pioneers & Champions

The HMT Empire Windrush is best remembered for bringing one of the first large groups of post-war Commonwealth citizens from the Caribbean to the UK in June 1948. The ship’s name is used to denote what in the UK is known as the Windrush Generation. These are the estimated 500,000 Commonwealth citizens who immigrated from the Caribbean to the UK between the passing of the 1948 – British Nationality Act granting the status of British Subject to citizens of the UK and Colonies, stating that “the expression ‘British Subject’ and the expression ‘Commonwealth Citizen’ shall have the same meaning” and the passing of the 1971 – UK Immigration Act.

Between 1948 and 1971 successive UK Governments encouraged people from the Caribbean to move to the UK to help rebuild the motherland after World War II and to fill shortages in the labour market. Key employers were the The National Health Service (NHS), British Rail and London Transport.

BajanThings contributing author Bill Hern has co-authored with Arthur Torrington: WINDRUSH 75 – Pioneers & Champions. This e-book on Windrush Pioneers can be downloaded for free from the Windrush Foundation. WINDRUSH 75 – Pioneers & Champions celebrates the lives of people who arrived from the West Indies on HMT Empire Windrush on 22nd June 1948, at Tilbury Docks, Essex. Bill has written 75 of the profiles of the ‘Pioneers’.

This e-book: WINDRUSH 75 – Pioneers & Champions has been published to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the HMT Empire Windrush’s arrival at Tilbury in June 1948.

Empire Windrush docking at Tilbury Docks, Essex, on 21 June 1948
The British troopship HMT Empire Windrush docking at Tilbury Docks, Essex, on 21st June 1948. An interesting observation: notice how many of those waving are in British Services World War II battle dress. Source: The Guardian Newspaper.
WINDRUSH 75 - Pioneers & Champions - Windrush Foundation
WINDRUSH 75 – Pioneers & Champions, co-authored by Bill Hern & Arthur Torrington, published by the Windrush Foundation. Download here.

WINDRUSH 75 – Pioneers & Champions brings to the fore, dozens of Windrush Pioneers and Champions who may not be familiar names. It shows the diversity of the passengers who travelled on the ship.

The first part of this book features more than eighty Windrush Pioneers who travelled on the HMT Empire Windrush.

The second part of the book presents eight Windrush Champions, they are West Indians who arrived in the UK after 22nd June 1948 who made outstanding contributions to the West Indian community in the UK.

The HMT Windrush didn’t call at Barbados but the Weatherhead family from Barbados and Freya Stark (who started her journey in Barbados) do feature in the Windrush 75 book.

In the UK, Windrush is an important piece of Caribbean history and a huge on-going scandal, comparable to the UK Post Office Scandal. For the last 20 years, the Windrush Scandal like the Post Office Scandal has been continually swept under the carpet by successive Governments. In January 2024, the Post Office Scandal was catapulted to front page national news following the four part ITV serial: Mr Bates vs. The Post Office – the power of classic story-telling that brought this injustice to the masses.

To whet your appetite and to encourage you to download WINDRUSH 75 – Pioneers & Champions, and keep alive the plight of the Windrush Scandal, below is the:

  • Profile of Bajan Surgeon Dr. Henry Weatherhead who travelled with his family on HMT Empire Windrush.
  • Some background on the context of what in the UK has become known as the Windrush scandal.

WINDRUSH 75 – Pioneers & Champions is a great read, and it is free download from the Windrush Foundation.

Bajan Surgeon Dr. Henry Weatherhead

Surgeon Henry Weatherhead had booked a cabin on the Empire Windrush with his wife Annie and daughter Annie Pamela. They lived in Barbados, where the Weatherhead family could trace its roots back to the 18th century. Like other passengers from the island, the family had to first of all make the 211-mile-journey to Port of Spain in Trinidad to board the ship.

The Weatherheads were the only Barbados based family to sail on the Windrush and did not stay in England for long. In August 1948, they left Southampton for Malaya where Henry had a job waiting for him. Over the next few years, they moved around Asia with Henry’s work, travelling between England, Singapore and British North Borneo.

Dr. Henry Weatherhead – HMT Empire Windrush landing card, Tilbury 22nd June 1948.

Henry Douglas Weatherhead was born in St Michael, Barbados, on 9th January 1899. His wife was born in Montserrat on 22nd September 1896, and Annie Pamela, in Antigua on 23rd January 1930.

During the First World War, Henry had served as a second lieutenant with the British West Indies Regiment. He travelled to England in September 1919 to study medicine at St Thomas’ Hospital in London, sailing from New York to Southampton. In August 1922, while still studying at St Thomas’, he visited Barbados, returning to London via Plymouth in December of that year.

After qualifying as a doctor in January 1926, he left England for a break in Barbados, still giving his address as St Thomas’ Hospital. By 1930, he was living at 34 Princes Square in Bayswater, London, and working as a surgeon. In 1934, the London Gazette reported that King George V had appointed Henry as a nominated official member of the Legislative Council of St Lucia. Then in 1936, Henry was appointed an official member of the Executive of the Island of St Lucia.

In 1941, Henry and Annie sailed from Trinidad to New York for a six-month stay. It was Annie’s first time in the USA. Henry was later appointed chief medical officer for Barbados. On January 13, 1945, following an outbreak of meningitis on the island, he broadcast an appeal that all Barbadians should avoid crowds and kissing their children. Shortly afterwards, all schools and places of public entertainment were closed to prevent the spread of the disease.

Following the release of the 1945 Moyne Commission report looking into labour unrest in the West Indies during the 1930s, Henry lobbied for the urgent need for new legislation governing health care in Barbados and recommended the entire re-organisation of the island’s health care sector.

Henry’s career had taken him from Barbados to England, New York, St Lucia and Asia, and he also spent time working in Cuba. He died in 1953 aged 54. Annie died in Manchester, Jamaica, on August 9, 1965. Annie Pamela, also died in the same parish on May 23, 1983.

Bill Hern – HMT Windrush on 22nd June 1948 – page 175

Windrush Scandal Context

Below is a summary of what in the UK is known as the Windrush Scandal and how it came about.

For all West Indians in the UK – the legacy of the Windrush Scandal lingers on. The scandal erupted in 2018 when people mainly of Caribbean descent were wrongly classified as illegal immigrants in the UK, were detained, denied legal rights, threatened with deportation and in at least 83 cases wrongly deported from the UK by the Home Office after not being able to prove their right to remain in the UK. This all resulted from changes initiated while Theresa May (Conservative), was the UK Government Home Secretary between 2010 and 2016. She introduced what’s known as the “Hostile Environment [Immigration] Policy”.

The legacy of the “Hostile Environment Policy” lives on today. In simple terms this policy places the burden of proof on the individual to provide a paper trail that they are legally allowed to live in the UK. The unintended consequence of this “Hostile Environment Policy” was that the majority of West Indians that came to the UK after World War II on ships like the Windrush, were British citizens so needed no documentation to prove they were British!

The 1948 British Nationality Act gave: “citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies status and the right of settlement in the UK to everyone who was at that time a British subject by virtue of having been born in a British colony”. The Act and together with encouragement from British Government campaigns in the Caribbean post World War II led to a wave of immigration. Between 1948 and 1971, nearly half a million people moved from the Caribbean to the UK where the UK faced severe labour shortages in the wake of the World War II.

As these immigrants from the Caribbean possessed a lawful entitlement to enter the UK, they were not required to obtain or provided with any special documents upon their arrival. Even after alterations to the immigration laws in the early 1970s no retrospective paperwork was issued by the Home Office for those granted leave to remain in the UK, making it difficult for Windrush arrivals to prove they were in the UK legally!

Matters were made worse in October 2010 when the Home Office destroyed thousands of landing card slips recording Windrush immigrants’ arrival dates in the UK dating back to the 1950s and 1960s – these papers were often the last remaining record of a person’s arrival date, in the event of uncertainty or lost documents.

My Bajan parents emigrated to the UK in November 1970 from Trinidad. They fall outside of what is generally termed the Windrush Generation. They came to the UK as immigrants. Barbados gained independence in 1966, so was no longer classed as a British colony under the 1948 British Nationality Act, so Bajans coming to the UK post Independence lost their right of settlement in the UK.

My father went to work for the oil company Shell International in Nigeria. On 6th January 1976 my father was granted citizenship of the UK. Each family member was issued with a photocopied certificate. It is called a “Certificate Of Registration As A Citizen of the United Kingdom And Colonies”. It’s a tatty piece of low quality foolscap paper. In the top right it has a six digit printed number. At the bottom is a black ballpoint pen signature of the issuing officer, a date stamp and a hand written reference number. Each certificate has a Home Office embossed stamp. Having received these, the family then applied for and were granted British passports. This was my second British passport. I was born in 1959 and my first passport was a British one as Trinidad and Tobago was still a colony of the United Kingdom. After Trinidad became independent in 1962 my next passport was a Trinidad and Tobago passport. In 1976 I was issued with a new British passport as a citizen of the UK rather than as citizen of the British colony of Trinidad and Tobago.

I, like many others, appear to fall into a group that is harassed by the Home Office when re-applying for a UK passport. I am very lucky. I have the paperwork to hand that the Home Office require to tick the boxes.

In the UK renewing ones passport is generally very simple. If you have a UK passport and it has not been stolen or there are other complications, you fill in the UK passport application form, submit your old UK passport and then receive back in the post a number of weeks later a new UK passport and your old UK passport with the top right corner snipped off.

Following the initiation of the “Hostile Environment Policy” by Theresa May I’ve had new UK passports issued in: 2012 and 2022. On both occasions the HM Passport Office have asked me to provide additional information: a copy of my father’s “Certificate Of Registration As A Citizen of the United Kingdom And Colonies” and the actual copy of my “Certificate Of Registration As A Citizen of the United Kingdom And Colonies” with the Home Office embossed stamp. I gained UK citizenship in 1976 on the back of my father’s application. You would think the Home Office have all this already on my file?

Based on my experience of renewing my UK passport in 2012 and 2022, it appears that if you were not born in the UK, and are a child of an immigrant, then as part of the UK Government’s continuing “Hostile Environment Policy” the Home Office appear to have included additional paperwork checks in the passport renewal process. The applicant has to re-prove their right to British Citizenship with a paper trail. Completely and utterly bizarre!

Added by: Peter Burton

Other champions of the Windrush scandal

These include:

  • UK Guardian Newspaper journalist: Amelia Gentleman who broke the story and continues to cover the Windrush scandal and has written a book:  “The Windrush Betrayal.  Exposing the Hostile Environment” available from the Guardian Newspaper bookshop. An excellent read. Thank you Amelia Gentleman.
  • Former Barbados High Commissioner to London: Rev. Guy Hewitt. You can read here about Guy Hewitt’s reflection on the Windrush Scandal and his role in extracting an apology from UK Prime Minister Theresa May at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting held in London from 16th – 20th April 2018. Thank you Rev. Guy Hewitt.
  • Baroness Floella Benjamin has again highlighted the plight of the Windrush Scandal in a further debate in the UK House of Lords on 29th February 2024: “The Windrush Scandal and the Windrush Compensation Scheme“. The debate calls out the way the UK Home Office continues to brush the Windrush Scandal under the carpet. The Windrush Scandal or as Baroness Benjamin calls it “The Home Office Scandal” is similar in weight to the current UK Post Office Scandal which is getting considerable press attention. For anyone living in the UK, the Windrush Scandal and the Post Office Scandal are both matters of National Shame that successive British Governments have systematically tried to sweep under the carpet. Thank you Baroness Floella Benjamin.
  • The Windrush Foundation provide a number of online resources that can be downloaded from their website that provides information on the Windrush Generation. Thank you Windrush Foundation.

BajanThings would also thank Bill Hern for his continuing work to keep the Windrush Scandal in the news. Click here to read: Do You Want The Truth Or Something Beautiful? The Empire Windrush story.

[Editors note: This post was written by Peter Burton. The authorship has been assigned to Bill Hern. This is so “WINDRUSH 75 – Pioneers & Champions” appears under Bill Hern’s list of authored posts.]

Responses to “Windrush 75 – Pioneers & Champions”

  1. So very interesting to learn of ‘The Windrush’ generation and scandal.

    Wanted to let you know that I have some photos that I shot in Brixton in 1972 of Caribbean descendants – will work on digging them out.

  2. Gerald Cozier

    Will definitely download the Windrush 75 book. My thanks to the Foundation.

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