OPINION: Celebrating contributions of all our immigrants on Windrush Day

Descendants of Sir Thomas Fowell Buxton, with Buxton relations on the Norwich: A Black History tour

Descendants of Sir Thomas Fowell Buxton, with Buxton relations on the Norwich: A Black History tour. From left, left to right: Tom Dannatt, Lady Agnew, Robin Buxton, Sarah Blount, Caroline Fleming and The Lord-Lieutenant for Norfolk, Lady Dannatt with Danny Keen, Chair of Norfolk Black History Month - Credit: Paul Dickson

What thoughts, I wonder, were going through the minds of the 492 men on the SS Windrush who looked out over the grey horizon, somewhere along the mud flats separating out Kent and Essex, on the morning of June 22,1948?

Britain was still reeling from the effects of the Second World War, a country nursing deep physical and mental wounds of her own, where food shortages, rationing and homelessness were rife.

The National Health Service was still unborn. And yet, casting his eyes over the bleak uncompromising landscape, "If this is England, I like it..." one new arrival was heard to say.

The Windrush Generation, as they became widely known, were not, of course, the first men and women from Jamaica to find their way to Britain.

Not for no reason are the 10,000 men and women who left their homes and families to join British forces in defeating Hitler, known as the ‘Forgotten Heroes.’

They, like their forbears, some 16,000 of whom voluntarily enlisted to serve in the First World War - oft giving their very lives out of loyalty for the mother country - have seemingly been airbrushed from history. Yet it was their courage in great part, and in both world wars, that allows us to enjoy the freedom we so take for granted in the western world today.

Fast forward to 2021, where British society would be unrecognisable without the vast contributions that immigration and integration have made.

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The hands that helped rebuild our shattered post-war country, have dramatically and indelibly shaped her future.

Consider our enterprises, our art, our culture, sport, political life, food and so much more, even our humour. Consider our NHS. And consider our music too, from ragtime, and the Jazz Age right the way through to the hip hop that is already passionately ingrained in our heritage today.

Norwich has a long and proud history of welcoming ‘strangers’. And today’s modern, thriving city is largely built on their legacy.

Escaping the wave of religious persecution sweeping Europe, a small group of weavers from Flanders settled in Norwich with their families in 1565. It was mainly due to the innovations and skills these Flemish weavers bought with them our Fine City became a world leading textile giant of the 16th and 17th centuries.

Today that same spirit of innovation, ingenuity and creativity that arrived with those ‘strangers’ over 500 years ago, continues to flourish and excite.

We now have high achieving and visionary members of the Windrush second generation calling Norwich their home. How fortunate are we.

Once again in her history, Norfolk is benefiting from a rich and multi faceted kaleidoscope of skills and talents.

More essentially still, these women and men are creating an enduring multi-cultural legacy, upon which future generations of young people can only be proud to build.

Lady Dannatt is the Lord-Lieutenant for Norfolk