'They paved the way for others' - Ipswich man on Windrush Day celebrations

Charles Challenger of Lombard Shipping PLC hopes to support the people of St Vincent

Charles Challenger, who moved to Suffolk from Antigua as a youngster - Credit: Charlotte Bond

An Ipswich man who moved to Suffolk from Antigua says more needs to be done to highlight the contribution of the Windrush generation.

Charles Challenger arrived in Suffolk from the Caribbean island nation with his parents in August 1968 at the age of 12 and started at school only a month later.

Now 65, he has become a successful businessman and manages the freight transport firm Challenger Shipping and Export Agency.

But he has never forgotten his roots and is a well-known and popular member of the Ipswich community for his part in helping to celebrate the achievements of people who originated from the Caribbean in the UK.

The pallets of supplies ready to be shipped to St. Vincent and the Grenadines

The pallets of supplies ready to be shipped to St Vincent and the Grenadines - Credit: Charles Challenger

Mr Challenger has recalled the "culture shock" of moving to Ipswich as a boy - but also said it was an exciting time for him.

He said: "My first impression was that I was shocked to see the how close the houses were. We arrived on the Whitton estate.

"I was also surprised in the sense that we had to buy paraffin for heaters. As the winter approached, we realised England was not that warm.

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"School wasn't a real challenge for me - at 13, you're looking forward to going to school and starting a new challenge.

"There were some challenges when we moved, but that was the way it was back then. But it was a culture shock."

Last summer, Mr Challenger was chairman of Ipswich’s Windrush Select Committee that hosted an all-day special on Ipswich Community Radio to mark Windrush Day, which is held annually on June 22.

Small figurines adorn a replica of the deck of the Empire Windrush Picture: JONATHAN BRADY/PA

People arrived from the Caribbean to fill a post-war labour shortage - Credit: Jonathan Brady/PA

It was first introduced in 2018 on the 70th anniversary of the arrival of Empire Windrush ship in Tilbury in Essex, which carried hundreds of people from Caribbean nations as they started a new life in the UK.

Thousands arrived in the UK from the Caribbean over several decades to fill a post-Second World War labour shortage and those who moved between 1948 and 1971 are considered to be of the 'Windrush generation'.

Last year's Windrush celebrations in Suffolk were held virtually due to the Covid pandemic, but Mr Challenger and his colleagues are planning more in-person events as restrictions are eased.

They will still host a radio show on June 20 - where shadow justice secretary David Lammy, who has Guyanese parents, will speak - but have also arranged for Caribbean band Phaze 2 Steel to perform on the Cornhill on June 22.

Mr Challenger - who last month helped send an aid package to St Vincent and the Grenadines with his friend Trevor Browne after a volcano eruption - said the first Windrush immigrants "paved the way" for more people to make the move to the British Isles.

He also highlighted how people from the Americas helped build up the NHS, which was formally created less than a month after the Empire Windrush ship arrived in 1948.

Many people from the Caribbean took up jobs in the health service shortly after its creation.

Mr Challenger said: "The first generation enhanced their lives in Ipswich. What is important to understand is that, coming out of the Second World War, the country needed support.

"After the war, the economics of the country were pretty bleak. Britain needed the labour to rebuild the economy.

"For me, my journey has not been like my mother's and my father's. I would say their contributions were huge.

"When my parents first arrived here, it was a challenge for them. They came and they paved the way.

"A lot of people came here and didn't go into council accommodation - they had to find it themselves. It would have been a journey for them, dealing with their emotions.

"My concern is to salute them and give them the honour as they paved the way for others.

"Windrush Day is the day that country and the government feel is right that the contributions of the people who came here are recognised."

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