Ex-servicemen and women who were passengers on the Empire Windrush in 1948 met the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson today to mark the 60th anniversary of the famous ship’s arrival. The Mayor was joined by veteran guests at the official launch of the Mayor’s Black History Season, which pays homage to the Windrush with a series of events, exhibitions, and lectures at City Hall.
The Mayor said: “The arrival of the Empire Windrush was a significant moment in history and 60 years later, it is important to acknowledge the great achievements of these pioneering passengers, many of whom were ex-service men and women. These courageous veterans are the perfect role models for younger generations, and earlier this year I established an annual Veterans Day event in London to recognise the contributions made by veterans of all ages and backgrounds, and to honour the sacrifices they have made in defence of our country.
“From November, to recognise the unflinching contribution made by the men and women of the forces, I will be offering free travel throughout the capital for injured veterans.”
“History is a fascinating subject that we should all truly relish and Black History Season is the perfect occasion to learn more about the Windrush and its inspirational veterans. I hope the lectures and exhibitions I am supporting are of interest to all Londoners.”
Sergeant Major Francis Eastman of the 3rd Battalion Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment joined the Mayor.
He said “It is important to remember all the soldiers who have fought and continue to fight to preserve our freedom. The Windrush included many brave veterans, some of whom were returning to jobs in the RAF, and others who were hoping to find work after serving in World War Two.”
“I would encourage everyone, especially young people, to visit the City Hall ‘We Were There’ exhibition by the Ministry of Defence, which chronicles the contribution made by Black and Asian people to Britain’s Defence over the past 250 years. All our service personnel, past and present, deserve the public’s support – so any occasion or event that pays tribute to their efforts has my backing.”
The Mayor met Windrush veteran Sam King, MBE, who originally travelled to Britain in 1944 to serve with the RAF and later returned on the Windrush to serve a further four years.
Sam said: “I’m committed to keeping alive the memories of the young men and women who settled here after the War. I’ve always been proud that I fought for this country and I want to use my experiences to teach younger generations. I still remember clearly seeing the RAF advertisement in my newspaper in Jamaica and the rest as they say is history.”
The Mayor is supporting events throughout October, which will look at the influence of the arrival of the Windrush on London life, music and culture and at the lives and contributions of Black Londoners to the city through photo exhibitions, debate and film.