Britain's first Caribbean immigrants

Fresh off the boat: Jamaican immigrants are welcomed off the Windrush at Tilbury.

We were a week from Tilbury when we heard there was a front page story in the Daily Graphic newspaper, saying blacks from the colonies should not land in England,' recalls Sam King.

'There were debates in parliament; the Secretary of State for the colonies said we wouldn't last here longer than one British winter.' In 1948, the British Nationality Act conferred the status of British citizen on all Commonwealth subjects.


King was one of 492 passengers who boarded the MV Empire Windrush in Jamaica in June that year, heading for a new life in England. The Windrush arrivals were greeted with media interest, curiosity and, in many quarters, downright hostility.


They were described as unskilled adventurers; in fact, many of the young men on board were actually returning to Britain after serving here during World War II.

They had been made to go back to the West Indies when the war ended.

Subscribe to Britain