101 Empire Windrush Facts: Voyage, Wreck, And Other Historical Trivia | Kidadl


101 Empire Windrush Facts: Voyage, Wreck, And Other Historical Trivia

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HMT Empire Windrush is one of the few ships in history to start as a cruise liner, function as a military ship, and work as a passenger transport vessel.

Until its end in 1954 due to an accidental fire, Empire Windrush served its purpose and has earned both fame and recognition. It is also famous for bringing the first batch of immigrants from the Caribbean, who later settled in Britain and were referred to as the Windrush generation.

Originally built as a passenger liner, this diesel-powered ship survived many attacks, accidents, and defects in its lifetime and has provided transportation services to both common passengers and military personnel. Scroll down to learn more interesting facts about HMT Empire Windrush.

If you find this article interesting, you may also like our other articles, such as facts about World War Two and facts about World War One.

Facts About Empire Windrush

Were you aware that Empire Windrush was both a passenger and military vessel and had both private and government ownership during different times? HMT Empire Windrush was earlier known as MV Monte Rosa, named after Mount Rosa, the second-highest mountain located on the Swiss-Italian border. She was built by German shipbuilders Blohm & Voss, who had experience building diesel-powered German U-boats.

For ships of that size and scale, Empire Windrush is one of the first diesel-powered ships in an era of steam-powered ships. It had a length of 500 ft (152.48 m), a beam of 787 in (19.99 m), and a depth of 452 in (11.48 m). The Gross Register Tonnage (GRT) was 13,882, the Net Register Tonnage was 7,788, and the Dead Weight Tonnage was 8,530.

The ship generated 6,880 horsepower, and the top speed was 16 mph (25.75 kph) which was considered a good speed for cruise and passenger liners. The propulsion was from 4 SCSA Blohm and Voss diesel engines and two double reduction geared driving propellers. Empire Windrush had 1,150 cabins and could accommodate 1,350 people in its dormitories with a total passenger capacity of 1,540, including crew.

By the start of the Second World War, she was used by the German Navy as a barracks ship, a troopship, and for accommodation and recreation. Empire Windrush suffered many attacks from British Air Force during the war and still survived.

At the end of the war, she was taken over by the British government as a prize of war and renamed HMT Empire Windrush on January 21, 1947. HMT stands for His Majesty's Troopship, and Empire was added to every ship Great Britain had taken possession of during the war. These ships were named after British rivers, and HMT Empire Windrush got its name from the River Windrush, a tributary of the River Thames.

HMT Empire Windrush got a new life post-war as a voyager under the British Ministry of Transport and was operated by New Zealand Shipping Company until its unfortunate end by a fire.

Facts About Empire Windrush's Wreck

Did you know that Empire Windrush has performed multiple roles like a passenger line, an ocean liner, a German military barracks ship, a prisoner transportation ship, a British troopship, and a British voyager in its lifetime until its tragic end in 1954? Below are a few facts about its final voyage.

HMT Empire Windrush sailed from Yokohama, Japan, carrying soldiers wounded in the Korean war and dependent military personnel in February 1954. It stopped at Hong Kong, Singapore, Colombo, and Aden and finally reached Port Said (a city in Egypt), where few more military personnel boarded.

On the morning of March 28, 1954, at 6:15 a.m., a big explosion in the engine instantly killed four members of the engine room crew. The blast resulted in the loss of electric power, causing the water pumps supplying water to the fire crew to fail. By 6:23 a.m., the captain issued an SOS call and asked the crew to prepare the lifeboats for evacuation.

With thick smoke and fire, it became difficult to launch all lifeboats, so only 12 out of 22 boats were launched. Women and children were evacuated first, followed by remaining soldiers and passengers. Many soldiers climbed down using ropes and spent time in the sea due to the shortage of lifeboats.

Empire Windrush's distress call was answered by many ships: MV Socotra, MV Mentor, SS Hemsefjell, SS Helschell, and SS Taigete, who rescued all the people on board. All the passengers were taken to Algiers, where further transport arrangements were made for their departure to the United Kingdom.

The British Royal Navy's HMS Saintes reached the abandoned Empire Windrush the next day only to find it still burning. They tried to tow it slowly to Algiers, the nearest port, but the ship sank on March 30, 1954, after covering a very short distance.

HMT Empire Windrush's wreck lies at a depth of 8,530 ft (2,600 m) in the Mediterranean Sea near the Algerian coast.

The Reason For Transporting Jamaicans To England

HMT Empire Windrush is popular in history for bringing the first group of West Indian immigrants to the United Kingdom. Below is a snippet of what happened and how immigrants from the West Indies, Jamaica, and other Caribbean Islands reached London.

In 1948, The British Nationality Act was introduced in parliament, which gave citizenship to skilled people of all British colonies to cover the shortage of skilled labor for NHS and London transport. At the same time, Empire Windrush was stationed in Kingston, Jamaica, to take servicemen who were on vacation. Since it was not fully occupied, they advertised in local newspapers offering transport to London. Many West Indians took this opportunity and came on board, and the ship sailed on May 24, 1948, with 1,027 passengers.

Empire Windrush arrived in Tilbury Docks on June 21, 1948, after a journey of 28 days, and the passengers started disembarking the next day onwards. Immigrants were sent by train to addresses prearranged by the colonial office. Since the bill was still under discussion in parliament and not passed, their arrival was not accepted by both British society and government alike.

Many immigrants made names for themselves after settling down in London and other places. Prominent among them is Sam Beaver King, who became the future mayor of Southwark. Though many of them came with the intention of returning after earning, only a few returned. The next generation born to these immigrants was called the Windrush generation.

Empire Windrush Voyage's Timeline

Empire Windrush has a very interesting logbook from its commissioning to its tragic end.

MV Monte Rosa was first commissioned by Hamburg Sud, a German shipping line, to carry Germans interested in migrating to South American countries. She was built by Blohm & Voss under the Monte-class diesel-powered passenger ships series and was launched on December 13, 1930, and delivered to Hamburg Sud in 1931.

After the Great Depression, she operated both as a cruise ship and passenger liner during 1930-1933. When Nazis were elected to power in 1933, they used the ship as a state-owned vessel to spread its propaganda.

After the Second World War started in 1939, the ship was put to military use as a ship for barracks and troops, and for prisoners' transportation by German forces. She suffered and survived many attacks by Allied forces until 1945 and was badly damaged and so the ship docked for repairs in Kiel.

When the war ended, the ship was seized by the British Royal Navy and assigned to the Ministry of Transport. It was registered as HMT Empire Windrush in 1947 and operated by New Zealand Shipping Company. It made one tour through Southampton to British colonies like Gibraltar, Suez Canal, Aden, Colombo, Singapore, and Hong Kong in 1947 and in 1948 was used for transporting British troops.

After passing The British Nationality Act in 1948, Empire Windrush carried the first batch of Caribbean migrants. The next generation born to these West Indian and Jamaican immigrants was later referred to as the Windrush generation.

From 1949 to 1954, Empire Windrush suffered many minor accidents and defects but was repaired and used again. In March 1954, she set off from Yokohama, Japan, to Britain, carrying British soldiers from many regiments where it suffered a catastrophic fire explosion causing it to sink. Except for four crew members who died in the explosion, all remaining passengers and crew members were rescued and survived the incident.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our suggestions for 101 Empire Windrush facts: voyage, wreck and other historical trivia then why not take a look at facts about sailboats or the first steamboat.

Written By
Sridevi Tolety

<p>With a Master's degree in clinical research from Manipal University and a PG Diploma in journalism from Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Sridevi has cultivated her passion for writing across various domains. She has authored a wide range of articles, blogs, travelogues, creative content, and short stories that have been published in leading magazines, newspapers, and websites. Sridevi is fluent in four languages and enjoys spending her spare time with loved ones. Her hobbies include reading, traveling, cooking, painting, and listening to music.</p>

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