Windrush Day 22nd June 2024: Celebrating Windrush: reflecting on history, hardship and the future

Written by Shropshire Council

Within this week, we celebrate the anniversary of national Windrush Day, commemorating the arrival of HMT Empire Windrush at Tilbury Docks in London.

The Windrush generation, named after the ship, refers to the thousands of Caribbean people who travelled to the United Kingdom between 1948 and 1971, seeking better opportunities and answering the call to help rebuild post-war Britain.

As we mark this significant milestone, it is important to reflect on the tangible achievements, ongoing struggles, and the future for the Windrush generation and their descendants.

Professor Patrick Vernon OBE, with whom we have been privileged to share time and learn from here in Shropshire, was the first to call for the commemoration of Windrush Day to recognise the contribution of the Windrush Generation to UK society on the day when the first big group of post-war migrants arrived – 22 June.

He launched a petition for this in 2013, which was followed by a campaign in 2018 at the height of the Windrush Scandal.

Official backing was given when the Government of the day announced that ‘Windrush Day’ would be celebrated on 22 June each year, supported by a grant to recognise and honour the contribution of the Windrush Generation and their descendants and to keep their legacy alive and celebrate the diversity of Britain's history.

Who was on that first ship?


According to records, the ship was carrying 1,027 passengers, 802 of whom gave their last country of residence as somewhere in the Caribbean; additional documented countries of residence are India, Pakistan, Kenya and South Africa.


Many had served in the British armed forces in World War Two.


How did this first ship lead on to the cultural and economic enrichment of Britain?

The arrival of Windrush marked the beginning of a new era, shaping the multicultural landscape of modern Britain. The generation coming from the Caribbean islands made vital contributions to the country's economy, labour force, cultural fabric, music and entertainment. The Windrush generation enriched British society in countless ways and continues to do so.

The Windrush generation demonstrated remarkable resilience and determination, overcoming significant challenges. They excelled in various sectors, including arts, business, education, health and social care, politics, and sporting achievements. Many became trailblazers, breaking barriers and achieving remarkable milestones.

Sadly, the Windrush generation faced hardships and injustices along their journey, and they and their descendants continue to do so.

What was the Windrush Scandal?


The Windrush immigrants to the UK were faced with intolerance from some of the British population. Although encouraged to settle and take up employment in the UK, many were denied access to this due to the colour of their skin. Black people were also banned from many pubs, clubs, and even churches.


In April 2018, the Windrush Scandal broke when it was discovered that, despite living and working in the UK for decades, many of the Windrush Generation had been told by the Government that they were in the country illegally due to a lack of official paperwork.


The Windrush Generation found themselves on the wrong side of immigration legislation because they couldn’t provide the paperwork to prove they had the right to stay in the UK, either because they’d never been given this or because the Government had destroyed their own copies of paperwork. Suddenly the onus was on individuals to ‘prove’ their right to stay.


Many people were wrongly detained, deported and denied legal rights while they struggled to provide the information required by the Government. Some are still fighting for justice.


The Windrush scandal resulted in the Government apologising for the deportation threats.

Whilst efforts are being made to rectify the injustices of the Windrush scandal, including the establishment of the Windrush Compensation Scheme to provide financial redress to those affected, those efforts continue. The scheme has paid more than £80m in compensation to the people affected, as of February 2024, according to Home Office data. And 2,233 claims have been processed, an average of £35,000 per claim.

The anniversary of Windrush is an opportunity to reflect on the past and these ongoing challenges as well as looking towards a brighter future.

Page last updated 18 June 2024