Yesterday June 22nd marked National Windrush Day, a celebration created during 2018 to mark the anniversary of the arrival of an Afro-Caribbean Community. Afro-Caribbean people were invited to Britain to help rebuild the country after the devistation of two world wars. The boat named ‘Empire Windrush’ docked at Tilbury docks on the 22nd June 1948.
“Empire Windrush” was to become the most famous migrant ship to bring invited British people from Afro-Caribbean communities to Britian. Other ships that brought Afro-Caribbean and West Indian communities to Britian weren’t remembered as well as ‘Empire Windrush’.
Both Southampton and Dover docks don’t have any passenger trains since British Railways phased them out. A ship I would like to mention was one that docked in Southampton on the 15th October 1961. The British Railways chartered special trains to transport the people from Southampton to London became known as a boat train.
Boat trains were once a common sight on the railway network of Britian. It is was a passenger train operating from London to designated ports to make connections with ships bound for far flung places.
One very famous boat train was the ‘Night Ferry’ which would have begun its journey at London Victoria and ended up in Paris 12 hours later. The service ran from 1936 until 1980 but during World War II it didn’t operate. On arrival at Dover the train would have been loaded on to a ship and taken off at Dunkirk in France where there was a special enclosure dock built so that the operation of moving the train from land to sea could be done with great ease. The demise came in 1980 when the ‘Night Ferry’ stopped running. Eurostars arrival in 1994 only 14 years after the last service left London for Paris has brought back the romance of travel to the continent.
The arrival of ‘Empire Windrush’ was transformative for Britain and the lives of many people of the Windrush generation who helped change the very landscape of the UK. The arrival of Eurostar was also a big change that helped connect us with people from all over the world and both should be celebrated as they have places in my heart and in the history of the world.