Kenya had been under British rule since the 19th Century, and since becoming a colony in 1920 African demands for a greater role in politics had grown. In the early 1950s a group of Kikuyus, the largest ethnic group in the country, formed the Kenya Land and Freedom Army. Better known as the Mao Mao, they began a violent organised campaign against colonial leaders and white settlers that culminated in the Mau Mau Uprising. By 1956 over 12,000 Mao Mao militants had been killed by the British in an attempt to suppress the uprising, although it’s important to note that both sides committed ruthless acts of violence.
The Uprising did, however, persuade the British of the need for concessions. From 1957 natives were allowed to be elected to the Legislative Council and, by 1960, they held a majority of the seats. Britain subsequently worked with the African politicians to prepare the transition to independence and, in May 1963, the Kenya African National Union secured the majority in both houses of the new bicameral legislature.
Independence was formally declared on 12 December 1963 with Queen Elizabeth II as Head of State. Jomo Kenyatta, the leader of the Kenya African National Union, became the country’s first Prime Minister despite having been imprisoned between 1953 and 1961 after being found guilty of being a Mau Mau leader. Historians have since cast doubt on his conviction.
Kenya’s independence is now marked in part by Jamhuri Day, a national holiday that celebrates Kenya’s admittance to the Commonwealth as a republic the following year.
MV Empire Windrush arrived at Tilbury Docks in London carrying 492 West Indian immigrants.
The ship, originally known as MV Monte Rosa, was a German cruise ship that had been used as a troop transporter during the Second World War. She was seized by Britain at the end of the war, when she was renamed.
In 1948 the British government passed the Nationality Act, which gave British citizenship to people who lived in Commonwealth countries and allowed them the right to settle in Britain. Britain desperately needed workers in the aftermath of the Second World War, so Commonwealth citizens were encouraged to immigrate and help to rebuild the ‘Mother Country’. A series of advertisements in and around Jamaica advertised tickets for the journey on board Empire Windrush for £28, which equates to around £600 today.
Many of the passengers who bought this first wave of tickets had been members of the Royal Air Force during the war. A number of them sought to rejoin the armed forces, while others undertook the voyage to see what opportunities Britain would present.
Although the press generally greeted them warmly as ‘sons of Empire’, some members of parliament opposed the arrival of the immigrants. Their presence was needed to staff a number of industries, however, but although Britain was short of workers, there was also a shortage of housing. This led to the new arrivals being temporarily housed in the deep level air-raid shelter in South Clapham, approximately two miles away from Brixton town centre, while they searched for accommodation. The majority permanently settled in Britain, but the Afro-Caribbean community experienced significant prejudice, intolerance and racism in subsequent years.
On the 24th July 1927, the Menin Gate Memorial to the Missing was unveiled in the Belgian city of Ypres. The memorial is one of four memorials to missing British and Commonwealth soldiers from the First World War in the area around the Ypres Salient, and features more than 54,000 names. Every evening at 8pm the Menin Gate is the location for a ceremony in which buglers from the city’s fire brigade sound the Last Post.
Ypres occupied a strategic position throughout the First World War that came about as a result of its location on the route of Germany’s Schlieffen Plan. Although the Allies successfully defended the city during the First Battle of Ypres in autumn 1914, they were surrounded on three sides and suffered artillery bombardments throughout the rest of the war that virtually flattened the city. Meanwhile the surrounding area was the location for four more major battles including the Second Battle of Ypres where Germany successfully used poison gas for the first time, and the Battle of Passchendaele.
After the war Ypres was rebuilt using reparations money from Germany, while the Commonwealth War Graves Commission constructed the memorial. The Menin Gate lies on the east side of the city, close to the route that allied soldiers would have taken in order to reach the front.
The fact that the memorial was too small to contain the names of all the missing demonstrates the scale of the destruction. The 34,000 missing soldiers killed after the arbitrary cut-off of 17th August 1917 are inscribed on the Tyne Cot Memorial 10km away.