Windrush Generation Facts & Worksheets

Windrush Generation facts and information plus worksheet packs and fact file. Includes 5 activities aimed at students 11-14 years old (KS3) & 5 activities aimed at students 14-16 years old (GCSE). Great for home study or to use within the classroom environment.

Windrush Generation Worksheets

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    • Britain after the Second World War
    • Postwar immigration to Britain
    • Life of Windrush migrants in Britain
    • Racial tension and later development

    Key Facts And Information

    Let’s find out more about the Windrush Generation!

    The HMT Empire Windrush brought one of the first huge groups of postwar African-Caribbean immigrants to Britain. It marked the symbolic start of mass immigration from members of the Commonwealth which was further fuelled by the passage of the British Nationality Act 1948. People who arrived in Britain between 1948 and 1973 from Caribbean countries have been referred to as the Windrush Generation. Windrush migrants faced difficulties settling in Britain due to several factors. Nevertheless, they contributed to postwar economic growth and prosperity, as well as the enrichment of culture in Britain.

    African-Caribbean passengers disembarking the HMT Empire Windrush at the Port of Tilbury, June 1948

    Britain after the Second World War

    • After six years of conflict, the Second World War ended in September 1945. The wartime allies – Britain, the United States of America and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics – emerged victorious. Britain celebrated with joy and relief, but victory came at a heavy price. The war took a heavy toll on Britain and its empire in a number of ways. Britain’s economic prominence weakened, and its imperial power started to fade.
    • The Second World War had corrosive effects on empires when the French and British empires declared war on Germany in 1939.
    • Neither France nor Britain wanted a war as they were recovering from the Great Depression of the 1930s, and with more territory after the First World War, their resources were stretched.
    • Germany had exacted a heavy toll on France in its offensive in May 1940, which meant Britain was fighting Germany, Italy and Japan. 
    • During the war, Britain became more reliant on the US for war material. Supplying Britain suited the US because they had an interest in defeating Nazi Germany, but they also wanted British colonies to gain independence so they could trade more with the US.
    • Britain and the US signed the Atlantic Charter in 1941. It stated that all nations had the right to be independent states able to determine their own future.
    • In public, this applied to states controlled by the Nazis, but US President Franklin Roosevelt made it clear to UK Prime Minister Winston Churchill that it also applied to the British Empire.
    • The newly elected prime minister of the Labour government in 1945, Clement Attlee, believed that the colonies were Britain’s liabilities.

    Postwar immigration to Britain

    • The Second World War left Britain bankrupt. This was only averted in 1946 after the American loan of $4.33 billion. Furthermore, a massive rebuild programme was required in Britain. 
    • Men and women were needed to restore an economy damaged by the war years, particularly in those sectors crucial to the reconstruction programme such as the production of raw materials.
    • A huge backlog of essential maintenance and repair work and severe shortages in the construction sector also existed.
    • Similarly, both men and women workers were also needed in the service sector.
    • This prospect of employment attracted many people from the Commonwealth to come to Britain.
    • Other reasons why people from the Commonwealth came to Britain after the Second World War were as follows:
      • The British government actively invited people from the Commonwealth with the necessary skills to come and work.
      • The partition of India and Pakistan and the civil war in Cyprus led many to escape and seek a better life in Britain.
      • The economy of the Caribbean countries was in crisis with high levels of unemployment.
      • Many who had been stationed in Britain during the war had positive experiences in the country.
    • From 1947, many people left their homes in the Caribbean and boarded ships to live in Britain.

      SS Almanzora
    • In March 1947, the SS Ormonde set sail from Jamaica to Liverpool with 241 passengers.
    • In December that year, the SS Almanzora set sail for Southampton with 200 West Indian passengers. This caused a local stir.
    • On 21 June 1948, the HMT Empire Windrush docked on the River Thames in Tilbury with 1,027 passengers on board to meet Britain’s desperate labour shortage after the war.
    • This marked the symbolic start of mass immigration not from Europe but from members of the Commonwealth.
    • The Windrush passengers disembarked a day later. Many of them hoped for better opportunities for themselves and their children.
    • Some came to work, planning to save money and return to the Caribbean.
    • Others were returning servicemen from the Second World War recruited from Britain’s colonies in the Caribbean.
    • There were also those who left their countries to escape societal oppression, to evade familial restrictions or escape poverty.

    Who were on board the Empire Windrush?

    • 1,027 passengers
    • 802 came from the Caribbean, of whom 693 intended to settle in Britain; 119 were originally from England
      • 539 came from Jamaica
      • 139 came from Bermuda
      • 73 came from Trinidad
      • 44 came from British Guiana and other countries
      • 66 boarded in Mexico, most of whom were displaced Polish refugees who had been granted British citizenship
    • A few weeks after the arrival of Windrush, the government ratified the British Nationality Act 1948, which created the status of “Citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies” (CUKC) as a national citizenship of the UK and its colonies.

      Advert for passage on Empire Windrush from Kingston, Jamaica, to the UK
    • This act only took effect on 1 January 1949. Its passage saw a large-scale migration of members of the Commonwealth to Britain. 
    • The Conservatives opposed the act, stating that people from the Commonwealth were not entitled to be British citizens but rather subjects. The Labour government wanted this as a solution, however, in order to prevent more members of the Commonwealth from seeking independence, such as India in 1947.

    The migration of colonial citizens began slowly:

    • 1948-1952 - Between 1,000 and 2,000 people entered Britain each year.
    • 1953-1957 - A steady and rapid rise in migration followed. About 42,000 migrants from the New Commonwealth, mainly from the Caribbean, entered.
    • 1958-1959 - The numbers of migrants declined by almost a half.
    • 1960 - About 58,000 migrants entered Britain.
    • 1961 - Over 161,000 people born in the Caribbean were living in England.
    • People who arrived in Britain between 1948 and 1973 from Caribbean countries have been referred to as the Windrush Generation. The precise number of people belonging to the Windrush Generation is unclear, but it is believed to be in the thousands. 

    Life of Windrush migrants in Britain

    • The voyage of the Empire Windrush in June 1948 was a notable news event unlike the two earlier voyages. Newspaper reporters and newsreel cameras covered the event causing a national uproar. Moreover, the British government did not expect and approve the arrival of the other civilian Caribbean immigrants that boarded the Empire Windrush, hence they intended to discourage others to follow their example. 
    • Many of Empire Windrush’s passengers were temporarily housed in the Clapham South Deep Shelter in Southwest London, about a mile from the centre of Brixton. This decision was significant in the making of Lambeth as a multi-racial community.
    • All of them found employment within a month. Some of them worked and found lodgings in the Borough, while several others settled in the South London boroughs of Lewisham, Southwark, Wandsworth and Greenwich, and in West London.
    • Men found jobs in manufacturing, construction, and public transport, while many women were employed in the National Health Service (NHS) as nurses and nursing aides. They also took up employment in public transport and in manufacturing, especially in the growing white goods industries in cities.
    • Whilst the promise of better opportunities and better life was what attracted many migrants, the reality was that at the time, Britain was marked by structural inequalities and discriminatory attitudes and behaviour despite changes and improving living conditions.

    How were the experiences of the Windrush Generation upon arriving in Britain? 

    1. Many of the migrants did not feel welcome as they found that the colour of their skins stirred unfriendly reactions. 
    2. Whilst there was a labour shortage in the country, some found it difficult to get good jobs due to the colour bar. Consequently, they were often forced to accept jobs that they were overqualified for or had lower wages than other Caucasian workers.
    3. The migrants also had challenges in finding suitable accommodation either because of the colour bar or because of high rental costs. As a result, many were forced to rent homes in the most rundown areas. 
    • Owing to these limitations that confronted those who came from the Caribbean, many men were employed as street cleaners and labourers - jobs that were considered undesirable by the local population.
    • Meanwhile, the demand for both skilled and unskilled labour continued to boom throughout the 1950s, hence active recruitment by employers and managers in key sectors began in the Caribbean:
      • London Transport recruited thousands of Barbadians from 1956, paying workers’ fares to Britain and then recovering them through a deduction from their wages.
      • The British Hotels and Restaurants Association also recruited in Barbados.
      • The NHS sent managers to different parts of the Caribbean to recruit already trained nurses and young women to come to Britain to train as nurses. By 1955, 16 British colonies had established selection and recruitment agencies to secure a good supply of candidates to train as nurses in Britain.
    • Mass immigration affected the nation politically and economically. The early postwar workers clearly made a huge contribution to the British economy and economic growth.

    Racial tension and later development

    • The Conservatives argued that the influx of migrants from the Caribbean would become problematic and cause growing resentment from the British. An increasing number of lawmakers and citizens sought restrictions on immigration. 
    • Upon the arrival of black Britons (since they were officially British citizens due to the British Nationality Act 1948), they faced discrimination in housing. Many were not open to advertising rooms for them to rent. 
    • Affordable housing was already scarce for the local population, and with the influx of immigrants who were seen as competitors, it became a source of tension.
    • As a result, a large concentration of their population settled in places such as Notting Hill, Brixton, St. Paul’s and Toxteth. 
    • With the continued influx of migrants from the Caribbean, racial tension increased.
    • Race riots erupted across the country, encouraged by right-wing, pro-’white’ groups, building on feelings of discontent caused by competition for housing and jobs.
    • Riots started in Liverpool in August 1948 and spread in the 1950s to Birmingham, Nottingham and west London.
    • In Notting Hill, tensions came to a head in 1958, during which attacks by Caucasian youths marred relations with the African-Caribbean residents.
    • In 1959, the Caribbean community led by a journalist and an immigrant from Trinidad Claudia Jones positively responded to the racially-motivated riots by launching the precursor to what became the annual Notting Hill Carnival with the intention to introduce British people to Caribbean culture and celebrate it.
    • Opposition to the influx of Commonwealth immigrants remained widespread. The government then passed a series of laws to limit the number of migrants coming to Britain impacting the Windrush generation.

    Commonwealth Immigrants Act of 1962

    • Effectively ended the automatic right of Commonwealth passport holders to live and work in Britain. For a migrant to be granted an employment voucher, they had to have one of the following: specialised skills, a job offer, appropriate educational background, or living relatives in Britain.

    Commonwealth Immigrants Act of 1968

    • Further reduced the rights of citizens of the Commonwealth of Nations countries to migrate to the UK, barring the future right of entry previously enjoyed by CUKC, to those born in the UK or who had at least one parent or grandparent born there.

    Immigration Act 1971

    • Restricted immigration, especially primary immigration into the UK and introduced the concept of patriality or right of abode.
    • The Windrush Generation which includes parents and children who arrived in the 1950s through the early 1970s contributed to Britain’s modernity and prosperity.
    • In 1988, the Windrush migrants led by the RAF Second World War serviceman, Sam King, commemorated the 40th anniversary of the arrival of the Empire Windrush.
    • King was first to have coined the term Windrush Generation but he usually preferred the term Windrush Pioneers owing to their role in helping lay the foundation in the UK for the Caribbean settlers who arrived after June 1948. 
    • In 1996, he worked with Arthur Torrington to establish the Windrush Foundation, the first to preserve Empire Windrush history and heritage.

    The Windrush scandal began to surface in the 2010s:

    • 2010 - During an office move, the government destroyed thousands of important immigration records called landing cards belonging to Windrush migrants. The landing cards were often the only record of when a person legally arrived in Britain. This meant that many people lost the proof that they were in the country legally.
    • 2012 - Then-Home Secretary Theresa May, introduced the Hostile Environment Policy, which sought to reduce immigration to the UK. This policy required all immigrants which included the Windrush Generation to show their paperwork in many situations. Since a significant number of landing cards were destroyed, Windrush migrants had trouble proving they were in the UK legally. As a result, many lost their employment, homes, right to medical care, and other benefits, and in worst cases, Windrush migrants were deported.

      National Windrush Monument
    • 2017 - The Windrush scandal began to emerge and soon became a national news story. In fact, a review of historical cases found that at least 83 people who had arrived before 1973 had been wrongly deported.
    • 2018 - In April, then-Prime Minister May apologised for their treatment of the Windrush migrants. The government set up an official inquiry into the situation and announced a compensation scheme.
    • 2019 - The Windrush Compensation Scheme was established. However, by November 2021, it was reported that only 5.8 % of victims had received any compensation and 23 of those eligible had died before receiving payments.
    • 2020 - The inquiry reported that the scandal was “foreseeable and avoidable”.
    • 2023 - The current Home Secretary Suella Braverman plans to abandon key Windrush pledges.
    • The Windrush scandal brought much attention to the Windrush Generation. The Windrush Day, first celebrated on 22 June 2018, the 70th anniversary of the day the Empire Windrush passengers arrived in England, acknowledges the sacrifices and highlights the contributions the Windrush Generation and their descendants have made to British life. In 2022, the National Windrush Monument was unveiled on Windrush Day in London’s Waterloo Station in commemoration of Windrush migrants who came to the UK in 1948.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    • Who are the Windrush Generation?

      The Windrush Generation refers to individuals who immigrated to the UK from Caribbean countries between the late 1940s and early 1970s. They were named after the ship HMT Empire Windrush.

    • Why did the Windrush Generation come to the UK?

      The UK government encouraged Caribbean immigration after World War II to address labour shortages and help rebuild the country. Many Windrush immigrants came to fill jobs in various sectors, including healthcare, transportation, and public services.

    • How did the Windrush generation change England?

      The Windrush Generation transformed England by filling post-war labour shortages, enriching the culture with Caribbean traditions, sparking discussions on identity and diversity, advocating for civil rights, bolstering healthcare and public services, contributing to the economy, engaging in politics, and leaving a lasting legacy in education that continues to shape the nation's multicultural landscape.