The Empire Windrush and the ‘Windrush Generation’ are bywords for the post-war era of mass migration from the former colonies of the British Empire to the UK. An era defined by the single iconic image of the ship arriving at Tilbury Dock on 22nd June 1948, its stern anchor framed by the expectant faces of the country’s newest immigrants.
The Empire Windrush has entered the national consciousness as one of the most famous vessels in British history by dint of her story. She signifies the beginnings of multicultural Britain. The arrival of Caribbean people from Jamaica stepping off the gangplank at Tilbury Dock in London was a landmark moment in history which was to transform British society, at that time just recovering from the ravages of WWII.
Windrush has lent her name to public spaces, charities and even starred in the opening ceremony of the 2012 London Olympics. As a name “Windrush” is the single word used to identify an entire generation of people. Yet no tangible monument to this event and what ensued exists.
We aim to find the wreck of the Empire Windrush where she sank in the Western Mediterranean and recover her stern anchor for it to become the centrepiece of a national monument to the Windrush Generation. This will be a people’s memorial, symbolic of the vital role the Windrush Generation, their children and grandchildren have played in creating a prosperous, multicultural British society. It will be placed in a prominent location chosen by the public after extensive consultation.
Windrush’s actual anchor – the one seen thousands of times in that iconic and powerfully poignant image – will be recovered from the shipwreck lying on the seabed 2,800 metres below the surface. The anchor, carefully conserved to remove all traces of salt residue, will be a ‘touchstone’ and will stand as a direct physical connection to the ship, her passengers and that first historic voyage, which changed the course of British society.