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Families such as Royal Marine Lance Corporal Jordan Dawes and his dad Kirk, a former police officer, today living in Solihull in the West Midlands but who trace their heritage back to Jamaica.
Seventy-five years ago Kirk’s father Andrew Dawes took the decision – with the first generation of settlers from the Commonwealth, to answer the call to rebuild a war-battered Britain.
He was followed by his wife Hylma and later by their eldest children who joined their parents in their new home in the West Midlands
Andrew and Hylma have sadly passed on, but as the Dawes looked back through the family album, Jordan’s uncle and Kirk’s older brother Donovan, who came to Britain at the age of 11, recalled the hardships they faced.
Life in 1950s Britain was, says a now 70-year-old Donovan, “kind of hard at first. Dad worked hard – very hard, from morning to late at night to look after all of us”. The youngster struggled to settle in Britain, endured widespread racism – inhabitants in Wolverhampton signed a petition opposing more black families moving into the neighbourhood – often cried, and longed to return to Jamaica.
“But I overcame that and I came to like this country. So I decided to stay here, move on. I got a partner, had children…”
His younger brother Kirk, now 65 and born in the UK, faced many of the same challenges – perhaps more – as he chose to join West Midlands Police as a teenager in 1976.
The only black officer of 108 recruits, he faced down many of the prevailing attitudes of the day. “I asked myself: ‘Do you want to be a copper or not.’ And I did,” he says. “So I took it. Because when I put on the uniform, I could not have been more proud – and it was the first time that my dad seemed genuinely proud.”