Why is it called Windrush? One of the first ships to arrive in Britain, in June 1948, was called the Empire Windrush. The shipping company found it was going to have a thousand empty spaces on this voyage, so it advertised in the local Caribbean papers, offering passage to the UK at £28 per person. Over half of the passengers were from Jamaica.
The 1948 British Nationality Act gave all citizens in British Colonies the right to be a British citizen. Many people from British colonies had fought alongside the Allied forces during World War II. Those that came to Britain came to rebuild a broken post-war country which they saw as their ‘Mother Country’. Britain encouraged immigration.
Need for workers. The demand for both skilled and unskilled labour continued to grow in the 1950s as the British economy started to recover. Employers and managers began to recruit systematically in the Caribbean:
London Transport – recruited more than 3,500 Barbadians in the ten years from 1956, paying their fares to the UK, but then recovering them through a deduction from wages. It also recruited in Jamaica. British Rail also advertised in Barbados.
British Hotels and Restaurants Association – recruited in Barbados.
National Health Service – By 1955, 16 British colonies had set up selection and recruitment agencies to ensure a good supply of candidates to train as nurses in Britain. The NHS could not meet the health needs of the population without recruiting outside the UK. Even today, Britain continues to recruit overseas for NHS workers.