MV Empire Windrush

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HMT Empire Windrush FL9448.jpg
Empire Windrush
History
Germany
Name: MV Monte Rosa (1930-1947)
Owner:
Operator:
  • 'Hamburg Süd (1930–40)
  • Kriegsmarine (1940–45)
Port of registry: Hamburg (1930–40)
Builder: Blohm & Voss, Hamburg
Yard number: 492
Launched: 4 December 1930
In service: 1931
Out of service: 1945
Identification:
  • German Official Number 1640 (1930–45)
  • Code Letters RHWF (1930–33)
  • ICS Romeo.svgICS Whiskey.svgICS Hotel.svgICS Foxtrot.svg
  • Code Letters DIDU (1933–45)
  • ICS Delta.svgICS India.svgICS Delta.svgICS Uniform.svg
Fate: Surrendered as a war prize
United Kingdom
Name: HMT Empire Windrush
Namesake: River Windrush
Owner:
  • Ministry of War Transport (1945)
  • Ministry of Transport (1945–54)
Operator: New Zealand Shipping Company
Port of registry: London
Acquired: 1945
In service: 1946
Out of service: 30 March 1954
Fate: Sank after catching fire
General characteristics
Tonnage:
Length: 500 ft 3 in (152.48 m)
Beam: 65 ft 7 in (19.99 m)
Depth: 37 ft 8 in (11.48 m)
Propulsion: 4 SCSA diesel engines (Blohm & Voss, Hamburg), double reduction geared driving two propellers.
Speed: 14.5 knots (26.9 km/h)
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HMT Empire Windrush, originally MV Monte Rosa, was a passenger liner and cruise ship launched in Germany in 1930. During the 1930s, she operated as a German cruise ship under the name Monte Rosa. During World War II, she was operated by the German navy as a troopship. She was acquired by the United Kingdom as a prize of war at the end of the war and renamed Empire Windrush. In British service, she continued to be used mainly as a troopship until March 1954, when the vessel caught fire and sank in the Mediterranean Sea with the loss of four crew.

Empire Windrush is best remembered today for bringing one of the first large groups of post-war West Indian immigrants to the United Kingdom, carrying 492 passengers and one stowaway on a voyage from Jamaica to London in 1948.[1] British Caribbean people who came to the United Kingdom in the period after World War II are sometimes referred to as the Windrush generation.

Description[edit]

Empire Windrush, under the name MV Monte Rosa, was the last of five almost-identical Monte-class passenger ships that were built by Blohm & Voss in Hamburg between 1924 and 1931 for Hamburg Süd (Hamburg South American Steam Shipping Company).

During the 1920s, Hamburg Süd believed there would be a lucrative business in carrying German immigrants to South America and the first two ships were built for that purpose, passenger accommodation was single-class, with space for 1150 in cabins and 1350 in dormitories. In the event, the immigrant trade never materialized and the two ships were re-purposed as cruise ships, operating in Northern European waters, the Mediterranean and around South America.[2]

This proved to be a great success. Until then, cruise holidays had been the preserve of the rich. But by providing modestly-priced cruises, Hamburg Süd were able to profitably cater to a large new clientel. Another ship was commissioned to cater for the demand - the MV Monte Cervantes. However she struck an uncharted rock and sank after only two years in service. Despite this, Hamburg Süd remained confident in the design and quickly ordered two more ships, the MV Monte Pascoal and the MV Monte Rosa;[2] Monte Rosa was launched on 4 December 1930.

Monte Rosa was 500 ft 3 in (152.48 m) long, with a beam of 65 ft 7 in (19.99 m). She had a depth of 37 ft 8 in (11.48 m). The ship was assessed at 13,882 GRT, 7,788 NRT The five Monte-class vessels were diesel-powered motor ships, with four 1,436 nhp four-stroke diesel engines driving two propellers. At the time, the use of diesel engines was highly unusual in ships of this size, which would have been typically steam-powered, and their use reflected the experience Blohm & Voss had gained by building Diesel-powered U-boats during World War 1.[2] Their top speed was 14 knots (26 km/h) (around half the speed of the large trans-Atlantic ocean liners of the era) but this was considered adequate for both the immigrant and cruise business.[2]

Early history[edit]

The Monte Rosa, was delivered to Hamburg Süd in 1931, who operated her as a cruise ship, traveling to Norway, the United Kingdom and the Mediterranean.[2] After the Nazi regime came to power in Germany, she was operated as part of the Strength Through Joy programme, which provided leisure activities and cheap holidays as a means of promoting the party's ideology.

At the start of World War II, Monte Rosa was allocated for military use. She was used as a barracks ship at Stettin, then as a troopship for the invasion of Norway in April 1940. She was later used as an accommodation and recreational ship attached to the battleship Tirpitz, stationed in the north of Norway, from where Tirpitz and her flotilla attacked the Allied convoys en route to Russia. In November 1942, she assisted in the deportation of Norwegian Jewish people, carrying a total of 46 people from Norway to Denmark, of whom all but two later died in Auschwitz concentration camp.[3][4]

At the end of March 1944, Monte Rosa was attacked by Royal Air Force Bristol Beaufighters, of 144 Squadron and 404 Squadron. The attack was mounted for the explicit purpose of sinking her, after British Intelligence had obtained details of the ship's movements.[5] The RAF crews claimed two torpedo hits and eight hits with RP-3 rockets.[6] In June 1944, members of the Norwegian resistance movement attempted, but failed to sink her by attaching Limpet mines to her hull.[7]

Later in 1944, Monte Rosa served in the Baltic Sea, rescuing Germans trapped in Latvia, East Prussia and Danzig by the advance of the Red Army. In May 1945, she was captured by advancing British forces at Kiel and taken as a prize of war.

British service[edit]

In 1946, Monte Rosa was assigned to the British Ministry of Transport and converted into a troopship. By this time, she was the only survivor of the five Monte-Class ships. The Monte Cervantes sank near Tierra del Fuego in 1930, one ship was sunk by an air-raid in 1942; one was badly damaged by bombs and scrapped after the war. The Monte Pascoal was scuttled by the British in 1946.[8]

Monte Rosa was renamed HMT Empire Windrush on 21 January 1947, for use on the Southampton-Gibraltar-Suez-Aden-Colombo-Singapore-Hong Kong route, with voyages extended to Kure in Japan after the start of the Korean War. The vessel was operated for the British Government by the New Zealand Shipping Company, and made one voyage only to the Caribbean before resuming normal trooping voyages.

The new name was one of a series of ship names used by the British government for the vessels that were acquired or chartered for the carriage of troops. Many of these ships were second-hand (like Empire Windrush), and were renamed when bought. The names were "Empire" followed by the name of a British river; in this case the River Windrush, a minor tributary of the Thames, flowing from the Cotswold hills towards Oxford.

West Indian immigrants[edit]

In 1948, Empire Windrush was en route from Australia to England via the Atlantic, docking in Kingston, Jamaica. At that time, there were no immigration restrictions for British subjects of one part of the British Empire moving to another part. The arrival of the boat immediately prompted complaints from some members of parliament, but legislation controlling immigration was not passed until 1962. Among the passengers was Sam Beaver King who went on to become the first black Mayor of Southwark.[9] There were also the calypso musicians Lord Kitchener, Lord Beginner, Lord Woodbine and Mona Baptiste, alongside 60 Polish women displaced during the Second World War.[10] There were several stowaways. One, Averill Wauchope, was a "25-year-old seamstress" who was discovered seven days out of Kingston. A whipround was organised on board ship, raising £50 – enough for the fare and £4 pocket money for her. Nancy Cunard, heiress to the Cunard shipping fortune, who was on her way back from Trinidad, "took a fancy to her" and "intended looking after her".[11]

The arrivals were temporarily housed in the Clapham South deep shelter in south-west London, less than a mile away from the Coldharbour Lane Employment Exchange in Brixton, where some of the arrivals sought work. Many only intended to stay for a few years, and although a number returned the majority remained to settle permanently.

Sinking[edit]

An aerial photograph of the burning Empire Windrush, March 1954

Windrush set off from Yokohama, Japan in February 1954 on what proved to be her final voyage. She called at Kure and was to sail to the United Kingdom. Her passengers including recovering wounded United Nations veterans of the Korean War, some soldiers from the Duke of Wellington's Regiment wounded at the Third Battle of the Hook in May 1953, and also military families. However, the voyage was plagued with engine breakdowns and other defects and it took ten weeks to reach Port Said, from where the ship sailed for the last time.[12]

An inquiry later found that an engine room fire began after a fall of soot from the funnel fractured oil-fuel supply pipes. The subsequent explosion and fierce oil-fed fire killed four members of the engine room crew. The fire could not be fought because of a lack of electrical power for the water pumps because the back-up generators were also not in working order and the ship did not have a sprinkler system. The lack of electrical power also prevented many lifeboats from being launched and the remainder were unable to accommodate all the survivors, who were mostly clad in their nightclothes.

Despite these difficulties, all 1,276 passengers were saved.[12] The rescue vessels took them to Algiers, where they were cared for by the French Red Cross and the French Army. Assistance was given by MV Mentor, MV Socotra, SS Hemsefjell and SS Taigete.[13] A Shackleton from 224 Squadron, Royal Air Force assisted in the rescue.[14]

The burned-out hulk of Empire Windrush was taken in tow by the Bay-class anti-aircraft frigate HMS Enard Bay of the Royal Navy's Mediterranean Fleet, 32 miles northwest of Cape Caxine. HMS Enard Bay attempted to tow the ship to Gibraltar in worsening weather, but Empire Windrush sank in the early hours of the following morning, Monday, 30 March 1954. The wreck lies at a depth of around 2,600 metres (8,500 ft).[15]

Legacy[edit]

Windrush Square, London (2006)

In 1998, an area of public open space in Brixton, London, was renamed Windrush Square to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the arrival of Windrush's West Indian passengers. To commemorate the "Windrush Generation", in 2008, a Thurrock Heritage plaque was unveiled at the London Cruise Terminal at Tilbury.[16] This chapter in the boat's history was also commemorated, although fleetingly only, in the Pandemonium sequence of the Opening Ceremony of the Games of the XXX Olympiad in London, 27 July 2012. A small replica of the ship plastered with newsprint was the facsimile representation in the ceremony.

Hamburg Süd commemorates the Windrush by operating a modern container ship with her original name, Monte Rosa.[17]

Propulsion[edit]

  • Motor vessel: twin screws; oilfuel; 2 × 2 MAN diesels, single reduction geared: 4-stroke single-acting. 6,880 hp each (27,520 hp in total).
  • Maximum speed: 14.5 knots.

Official number and code letters[edit]

Official Numbers were a forerunner to IMO Numbers. Monte Rosa had the German Official Number 1640. She used the Code Letters RHWF until 1933[18] and then DIDU until 1945.[19]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ David Kynaston, Austerity Britain 1945–1951, London: Bloomsbury, 2007, p. 275; ISBN 978-0-7475-9923-4.
  2. ^ a b c d e Nils Schwerdtner (30 October 2013). German Luxury Ocean Liners: From Kaiser Willhelm to Aidastella. Amberley Publishing Limited. pp. 286–287. ISBN 978-1-4456-1471-7. 
  3. ^ Ottosen, Kristian (1994). "Vedlegg 1". I slik en natt; historien om deportasjonen av jøder fra Norge (in Norwegian). Oslo: Aschehoug. pp. 334–360. ISBN 82-03-26049-7. 
  4. ^ Inndragning av jødisk eiendom i Norge under den 2. verdenskrig. Norges offentlige utredninger (in Norwegian). Oslo: Statens forvaltningstjeneste. June 1997. ISBN 82-583-0437-2. NOU 1997:22 ("Skarpnesutvalget"). Retrieved 2008-01-16. 
  5. ^ Brereton Greenhous (1994). The Crucible of War, 1939-1945. University of Toronto Press. p. 458-459. ISBN 978-0-8020-0574-8. 
  6. ^ Eric Grove (2002). German Capital Ships and Raiders in World War II: From Scharnhorst to Tirpitz, 1942-1944. Psychology Press. p. 27. ISBN 978-0-7146-5283-2. 
  7. ^ Michael Tillotson (5 January 2012). SOE and The Resistance: As Told in The Times Obituaries. Bloomsbury. pp. 62–. ISBN 978-1-4411-1971-1. 
  8. ^ Nils Schwerdtner (30 October 2013). German Luxury Ocean Liners: From Kaiser Willhelm to Aidastella. Amberley Publishing Limited. p. 288. ISBN 978-1-4456-1471-7. 
  9. ^ "Sam King: Notting Hill Carnival founder and first black Southwark mayor dies". BBC News. 18 June 2016. Retrieved 28 June 2016. 
  10. ^ "Polish Community Focus". Web.archive.org. 2010-01-08. Archived from the original on 2010-01-08. Retrieved 2015-05-17. 
  11. ^ Kynaston (2007), p. 276.
  12. ^ a b Dockerill, Geoffrey, "On Fire at Sea" essay in compilation The Unquiet Peace: Stories from the Post War Army, London, 1957.
  13. ^ Mitchell, W. H., and Sawyer, L. A. (1995). The Empire Ships. London, New York, Hamburg, Hong Kong: Lloyd's of London Press Ltd. p. 477. ISBN 1-85044-275-4. 
  14. ^ "Constant Endeavour". Aeroplane. No. February 2010. p. 60. 
  15. ^ "MV Empire Windrush [+1954]". wrecksite.eu. Retrieved 7 October 2014. 
  16. ^ "The Empire Windrush". Thurrock-history.org.uk. Retrieved 2015-05-17. 
  17. ^ "Monte Rosa" (PDF). Cargo Vessels International. Retrieved 7 May 2016. 
  18. ^ "LLOYD'S REGISTER, NAVIRES A VAPEUR ET A MOTEURS (RHWF)" (PDF). Plimsoll Ship Data. Retrieved 2 May 2009. 
  19. ^ "LLOYD'S REGISTER, NAVIRES A VAPEUR ET A MOTEURS (DIDU)" (PDF). Plimsoll Ship Data. Retrieved 2 May 2009. 

Bibliography[edit]

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 37°00′N 2°11′E / 37.000°N 2.183°E / 37.000; 2.183