Thursday 15 June 2023

Windrush: 75 years - 22 June 2023

After WWII, Britain encouraged immigration from Commonwealth countries. To a large extent this was to help rebuild the country as there was a shortage of labour at the time. *

HMT Empire Windrush is best remembered today for bringing one of the first large groups of post-war West Indian immigrants to the United Kingdom. **   The ship which was en route from Australia to Britain via the Atlantic, docked in Kingston, Jamaica, to pick up servicemen who were on leave.§

The British Nationality Act 1948, giving the status of citizenship of the United Kingdom and Colonies (CUKC status) to all British subjects connected with the United Kingdom or a British colony, was going through parliament, and some Caribbean migrants decided to embark "ahead of the game". Prior to 1962, the UK had no immigration control for CUKCs, who could settle indefinitely in the UK without restrictions. §

The ship was far from full, and so an opportunistic advertisement was placed in a Jamaican newspaper, The Daily Gleaner, offering cheap transport on the ship for anybody who wanted to travel to the UK. Many former servicemen took this opportunity to return to Britain with the hopes of finding better employment, including, in some cases, rejoining the RAF; others decided to make the journey just to see what the "mother country" was like. One passenger later recalled that demand for tickets far exceeded the supply, and that there was a long queue to obtain one. §

A commonly given figure for the number of West Indian immigrants on board the Empire Windrush is 492, based understandably on news reports in the media at the time, which variously announced that "more than 400", "430" or "500" Jamaican men had arrived in Britain. However, the ship carried 1027 passengers and two stowaways**, and the ship's records, kept in the United Kingdom National Archives, indicate conclusively that 802 passengers gave their last place of residence as a country in the Caribbean.§

When the Empire Windrush docked at Tilbury from Jamaica on 22 June 1948, it marked the start of the postwar immigration boom which was to change British society. Images of the African-Caribbean passengers filing off the gangplank have become part of the country's social history. *

Arrivals were temporarily housed near Brixton; the area's Windrush Square commemorates the ship's arrival. The majority remained to settle permanently, and now form a central part of British society. The ship itself made its final voyage in 1954. *

Royal Mail are marking the 75th Anniversary of the arrival of MV Empire Windrush.  It has come to symbolise the mass migration of people from the Caribbean to the UK in the post-war era. Eight new stamps featuring vibrant illustrations have been created exclusively for Royal Mail to celebrate this occasion.

A set of eight Special Stamps celebrating the 75th anniversary of the arrival of MV Empire Windrush to the UK. Featuring original illustrations, created exclusively for Royal Mail by 5 Artists celebrating the contribution of the Windrush generation to the UK over the past 75 years.

The Stamps

Windrush: 75 years, pair of 1st class stamps

1st Class
From Small Island Life to Big Island Dreams by Kareen Cox (at Tilbury)
Ode to Saturday Schools by Tomekah George (schoolroom)

Windrush: 75 years, pair of £1 stamps

Carnival Come Thru by Bokiba (steel band)
Basking in the Sun After a Hard Work Day by Emma Prempeh

Windrush: 75 years, pair of £2 stamps

The March by Emma Prempeh
Here We Come by Bokiba (cricketers)

Windrush: 75 years, pair of £2.20 stamps
Taste the Caribbean by Kareen Cox (street food)
Dancehall Rhythms by Alvin Kofi (dance)

Technical Details
The stamps were deigned by The Chase and Supple Studio and printed by Cartor Security Printers in litho on paper with ordinary gum.  The se-tenant pairs are printed in sheets of 60, perforated 14½ x 14.


Stamp set, FDC, Presentation Pack, Stamp Cards, Coin Covers, Framed set.

First Day Covers

For collectors wishing to produce their own FDCs with a slogan postmark, these Windrush slogans are currently running and I would expect them to run all week.


Sources: § Wikipedia, * British Library, ** Royal Museums Greenwich.


  1. I love the designs but wonder at the £1 and £2 values. Is this a move from Royal Mail to introduce make-up values in each new set? It always seemed madness to me to issue the likes of the £1.85 Flying Scotsman stamps only to make them difficult to use only weeks later.

    1. I can understand the £2 value as that is the first rate of international economy / surface mail...

    2. This was discussed on this post at the beginning of last month.

  2. Good grief-an issue thatb actually commmemmorates something important but it does not need 8 values or to be printed abroad

  3. The stamps look great, but I wonder if others have received them from Tallents House yet? I haven't had anything so far (though of course my account has been charged). I think this is at least a worthwhile issue and I prefer that it is £1 rather than higher values - although the whole business of having so many stamps per set is something I would challenge.


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