The arrival of the MV Windrush from Jamaica and Trinidad in 1948 was a landmark moment in British history. On board were 492 men invited to help Britain rebuild after the war. In the years to come, thousands of others from across the world would follow in their wake.
The Windrush generation have been back in the news recently as many have been left unable to prove their UK citizenship in the aftermath of new legislation.
As a campaign has arisen to remedy this injustice, a lesser known battle has been taking place in the background – for the Royal Mail to issue a new stamp to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the arrival of the ship at the docks in Tilbury.
Blocks of 50 years
An online petition is currently seeking that the Royal Mail remedy this situation as soon as possible. It notes, however, that there will have to be a sea change in Royal Mail policy if this is to happen.
“Their current policy,” it states of the Royal Mail, “only recognises anniversaries of 50, 100 or 150 years. There was no commemorative stamp in 1998 for the 50th anniversary and this would mean no stamp until 2048 – denying many living people recognition.”
The Windrush stamp campaigners may be buoyed to know that this statement is in fact wrong. The Royal Mail is far from averse to commemorating anniversaries of many different timescales. It does not, like cricket, only recognise blocks of 50 as a cause for celebration.
In 2015, for instance, six special stamps were issued to mark the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain, fought in the skies over southern England during the Second World War. Indeed, the anniversary was marked with a special postmark on all stamped UK mail between 16 and 18 July that year specifically reading ‘75th anniversary Battle of Britain’. It was on July 16, 1940, that Hitler issued the directive for the invasion of the country.
Of rather less gravitas, a year earlier, the Royal Mail celebrated 60 years of classic children’s TV with a set of stamps featuring the likes of Andy Pandy, Mr Benn, Peppa Pig, Postman Pat, Shaun the Sheep, Bagpuss and The Magic Roundabout’s Dougal. Many of these are modern additions to the children’s TV pantheon so again reinforcing the lack of strict commemorative rules.
“For over 60 years, Britain’s children’s TV characters have brought cheer to generations of viewers,” crooned the Royal Mail by way of justification.
Just last year, meanwhile, new Royal Mail stamps were issued to commemorate the 70th wedding anniversary of the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh. One showed the royal couple walking down the aisle of Westminster Abbey after their wedding service on November 20, 1947.
In essence, there is no hard and fast rule about anniversaries. A Windrush stamp may set sail yet.