Passenger cruiser ’Monte Rosa’ was built in Hamburg 1930 working the Baltic, Mediterranean and South Atlantic between 1931-39.
Her original trans-atlantic route provided passage for European migrants to South America, an inconspicuous and somewhat ironic precursor to the future attention grabbing headlines that a single journey of primarily Caribbean settlers to the UK would bring just three years after World War II.
Appropriation of the vessel for politically repurposed agenda by a dangerous German administration between 1933-45 must certainly have outraged her Jewish shipyard established by Hermann Blohm and Ernst Voss.
Captured at Kiel in 1945, the Monte Rosa could easily have been despatched to the breakers yard. However, the ship was retained and renamed Empire Windrush.
Who could possibly have foreseen that Nazi exploitation of the vessel was to be so spectacularly eclipsed by a heartening, positive, unique and defining event in British social history.
High profile media coverage of arrival at Tilbury Docks in June 1948, propelled ’Windrush’ to international prominence and secured a deeply profound legacy. It's likely that Hermann and Ernst would have approved of such serendipity.
The year before her demise, Empire Windrush took part in the Fleet Review at Spithead, June 1953 marking the Coronation of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.
For an excellent and detailed account of the ship's history, we highly recommend Paul Arnott’s 2019 book ‘Windrush: A Ship Through Time’.
Paul's excellent book traces the vessel's remarkable journey from 1930 to the moment she slipped beneath Mediterranean waves in 1954.
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