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Letter writing

In 1948, an advert appeared in a Jamaican newspaper, saying that tickets to England on the ship 'Empire Windrush' would cost £28 - which was a great deal of money in those days. For people living in Jamaica who could save up enough money, this was the chance of a lifetime to come to England and make a new life for themselves.


On the 24th of May 1948 the ship left Kingston, Jamaica, with 492 passengers. About half of them had jobs already fixed, but the rest were trusting to luck.


People living in Britain's colonies had been brought up to think of Britain as their 'mother country' and felt she would always treat them as part of her family.


Those who had fought for Britain in the Second World War knew how important their help had been. They thought that they would always be welcome to come to Britain. When they arrived, they were surprised to find that this was not always true.

Listen to this poem by Denniston Stewart. He describes how it felt to be on the Windrush and what it was like when the ship arrived in Britain.


Imagine you are one of the people who travelled to Britain on the Windrush.

Write a letter to your family back home in the West Indies.

Describe what Britain is like compared to the West Indies (houses, climate, transport, etc) and how the people of Britain are treating you.

How do you feel about it – was it what you expected?

Use websites for further information if required.



It was 1948 on the Windrush ship

500 men from the Caribbean was on it

from warm Caribbean sand, to this cold English land.

We spent twenty eight day on the ship and everyone felt

real sick, couldn't take the tossing of the Windrush

ship. When we heard land ahoy, everyone packed up

their one little grip [suitcase].

The ship docked at Tilbury, everyone began to feel

merry setting foot in the mother country. Looking

round it wasn't jolly, not what we imagined.

The scene was drab and gloomy with plenty of chimneys

that looked like factories.

And so we stepped on the hallowed British soil, and

looked forward to a future we dreamt would be better

on this our English adventure.

For many the years were rough in fact it was rough and

tough. Everywhere we went what a spectacle, how we

survived God knows it was a miracle, couldn't find any

place to rest our head a little. For all of us the

future looked uncertain  No dogs, No Irish No Blacks,

here in the mother country Britain.

Some started working all the hours God given just to

make a shilling

Many threw pardner*

but life got harder and harder

started suffering racism in ever corner

some got charged for murder defending themselves

against the attacker whose weapons were bicycle chains,

winkle picker, knuckle dusters. We still held on and

from the pardner we started to get our life in some

order. We paid a deposit to the banker for our own

little spot and that was that. Things took a while to

get better, through many heart aches we had to suffer

while they kept their stiff upper.

This was just a chapter because after fifty years we

remember the good and the bad, the happy and the sad

of life in the mother country. Equality we never

had, the opportunities we didn't get,

so now in our children we have our hopes and our


We the pioneers have laid a solid foundation in

Britain through blood, sweat and tears, in the heat and

the cold. There's NO Street Filled with Gold, that was

just a story we were told

the gold is the jewel inside developed through the

suffering fires of time.

So fifty years ago or fifty more to come we remember

the Empire Windrush when she first came.


* Pardner – a West Indian saving scheme