This year residents in Lambeth have been marking the seventieth anniversary of the arrival SS Empire Windrush. Many of the 500 Jamaican passengers on board the ship that arrived at Tilbury Docks on June 22, 1948, had travelled to Britain to help ease workforce shortages caused by World War II.
The journey made by those passengers would go on to have a profound effect on Britain. It would later lead to a wave of migration from the Caribbean and the Commonwealth, in the fifties, sixties, and seventies, that would transform British society.
One Jamaican-born South Londoner who considers himself part of the Windrush generation is Tony Smith, 71, from Croydon. Mr. Smith, an avid dominoes player who moved to England from Jamaica at the age of 17, served in the British army in the 1960s.
Mr. Smith is also part of a Croydon dominoes team who were victorious in a cross-borough competition hosted by Brixton Dominoes Club last month to mark the seventieth anniversary of Windrush.
Brixton Bugle caught up with Mr. Smith at Windrush Square. Here he reflects on his love of dominoes, his early years in Britain and the plight of his friends whose lives have been affected by the Government’s hostile environment policy.
“Dominoes games are social events. We West Indians play a lot of dominoes. It keeps us together. We travel all over the world and play. I have been playing for sixty-odd years.
“I’m a product of Windrush. I have been in Britain since the early sixties (1964). I have been in this country for a long time and I have always lived in Croydon.
“When I first came here it was very hard for me personally. I joined the British army in 1966 and there were not many black people in the army back then.
“I went to Aden (a port city in Yemen) and I was fighting against black people. I was with the Fusiliers and I remember walking the down street one day and someone shouting, “you black b***ard” at me. It affected me personally.
“All the Windrush people who came here are English. I have been here since I was a young man. I don’t remember much about my life in Jamaica.
“At the moment I’m personally going through the same process as other Windrush migrants trying to get a passport and citizenship.
“The treatment of the Windrush generation with this hostile environment policy has been horrible. I have friends who have for the past five years struggled to get a place to live and they can’t get benefits.
“They have been to school here, they have worked here and now they have nothing. I just can’t understand that and I know many people facing this problem.
“I’m glad there has been a celebration of Windrush and it’s good there will be one every year. It’s good to see people being celebrated.”