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King attends service marking 75th anniversary of Windrush arrival

The King meets with members of the choir from the St Martin-in-the-Fields High School for Girls (Andrew Matthews/PA)
Helen William, PA

The King was joined by children and the descendants of “Windrush pioneers” at a service which celebrated the difference that generation has made to Britain.

St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle, the place of worship for the King and the royal family, echoed to the sounds of songs, challenge, hope and remembrance and strength along with prayers calling for peace and justice in a service for young people to mark the 75th anniversary of the arrival of the HMT Empire Windrush.

Charles sat among a congregation of 300 specially invited guests including young people from schools across England, dignitaries and representatives from a number of charities and community projects.

The HMT Empire Windrush first docked in England on June 22 1948 at Tilbury Docks in Essex, bringing people from the Caribbean who answered Britain’s call to help fill post-war labour shortages.

Jermain Jackman sings during the service (Andrew Matthews/PA)
Jermain Jackman sings during the service (Andrew Matthews/PA)

Reverend Rose Hudson-Wilkin, the Bishop of Dover, told the congregation at the service that they had gathered at a time of particular “poignancy” because it was a day of celebration and thanksgiving for the hardworking good citizens she refers to as the “Windrush pioneers”.

She told the congregation: “They are pioneers who paved the way for generations who came after them, not merely to survive but to thrive.

“The significant contributions made by the Windrush pioneers in the United Kingdom to the National Health Service, the transport network, to the arts, sports, religion and life is second to none.”

She urged the children who attended to find time to talk to their elders and learn “about their deep desires to improve their lives and that of their families and the countries they were leaving behind, learn about the challenges they face and the obstacles they had to navigate to just remain standing”.

The Windrush scandal began to surface in 2017 after it emerged that hundreds of Commonwealth citizens, many of whom were from the Windrush generation, had been wrongly detained, deported and denied legal rights.

Jermain Jackman sings during the service (Andrew Matthews/PA)
The King speaks with Baroness Dame Floella Benjamin (Andrew Matthews/PA)

It saw many British citizens, mostly from the Caribbean, denied access to healthcare and benefits and threatened with deportation despite having the right to live in the UK.

Special moments within the service included the words of one of the famous works by poet and playwright John Agar, called Remember The Ship, being recited by pupils from The Archbishop’s School in Canterbury.

The poem includes the famous line which implores people “to remember the ship in citizenship”.

A choir from St Martin-in-the-Fields High School for Girls sang the powerful ballad Something Inside (So Strong) which is believed to have been penned by singer-songwriter Labi Siffre as a protest song against apartheid.

The gospel hymn His Eye Is On The Sparrow was sung by Jermain Jackman, winner of the BBC’s The Voice UK competition in 2014.

Paulette Simpson, the deputy chairwoman of the The Windrush Day Advisory Panel, later described the event as “a very historical occasion.”

She said: “Here we are celebrating a set of Windrush pioneers who have been invisible for far too long.

“They have been part of the fabric of modern Britain and it is heartwarming to see that not only the pioneers but their descendants in various walks of life are being recognised and written in to British history.

“Here in St George’s Chapel we have children who have travelled from across the country, who are third and fourth generation of Windrush, and others who are here to celebrate the Windrush generation.”

Windrush anniversary
Jamaican immigrants welcomed by RAF officials from the Colonial Office after the ex-troopship HMT Empire Windrush landed them at Tilbury (PA)

Charles has said it is “crucially important” to recognise the “immeasurable” difference the Windrush generation has made to Britain.

His comments were made in the foreword of a book which accompanies a display of portraits that celebrate the Windrush generation in the week marking the anniversary of the crossing.

He added: “Those pioneers, who arrived in a land they had learned about from afar, left behind all that was familiar to them.

“Many served with distinction in the British Armed Forces during the Second World War, just as their fathers and grandfathers had in the First World War.

“Once in Britain, they worked hard, offering their skills to rebuild a country during peacetime and seeking opportunities to forge a better future for themselves and their families.

“When they arrived on our shores with little more than what they were able to carry with them, few could hardly have imagined then how they, and those that followed them, would make such a profound and permanent contribution to British life.”

Baroness Amos (second left) sits next to the King during a service at St George’s Chapel, Windsor (Andrew Matthews/PA)
Baroness Amos (second left) sits next to the King during a service at St George’s Chapel, Windsor (Andrew Matthews/PA)

Last week, Charles hosted a Buckingham Palace reception where he met the 10 individuals whose faces have been immortalised in paint, and was given a special preview of the artworks marking the 75th anniversary.

Representatives from the Prince’s Trust, the Prince’s Foundation, Project Zero and the Amos bursary were among those who attended the service.

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