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'Proud to serve mother country'
SIXTY years ago, a then 21-year-old George Mason stood on the deck of the MV Empire Windrush and dreamed of a new life in Britain.
One of 492 passengers who had paid ten shillings to travel from the West Indies to Britain, he was picked from the crowd by a Pathe news reporter, and asked what he hoped to find in England.
George replied: "A warm welcome".
Six decades on, as he watched himself on that same black-and-white newsreel, the respected councillor and former deputy mayor of Carterton smiled as he remembered how people reacted to seeing black people for the first time.
He said: "I always felt well received, but there were some strange reactions to us.
"We were quite a novelty.
"We had grown up in Jamaica, being taught all about England in school, but when we came here, people would ask us what part of Africa Jamaica was in.
"People didn't mean to be ignorant, and it wasn't meant as nastiness - they just didn't seem to know anything about us." The Windrush docked at Tilbury docks on June 22, 1948, after a month-long voyage.
Most off its human cargo were, like George Mason, ex-servicemen who had served with the RAF during the Second World War, and were returning to Britain to re-enlist.
Mr Mason said: "After the war, I'd gone back to Port Maria, in Jamaica, and my old job as a civil servant. But I was bored. I'd seen other parts of the world, and I just couldn't settle.
"I knew I wanted to go back.
"All my school friends were travelling abroad, and we looked on Britain as the mother country.
"When we came over, we were all young, with skills. We were not long out of school, and most people didn't have families to support."
"My parents understood, and they even helped me with the fare. Although my mother was worried I would become a miner - she thought that was far too dangerous a job."
About 16,000 men from the West Indies volunteered to fight for Britain in the First World War, and more than 10,000 servicemen and women during the Second World War.
But despite that, many had been refused the right to settle here after leaving the forces.
The Nationality Act of 1948 changed all that, giving all subjects of the British Empire the right to British citizenship.
Mass immigration from the West Indies continued into the early 1950s, and ten years after the arrival of the Windrush, 125,000 West Indians were living in Britain.
Today, one per cent of the British population is of Caribbean background.
Mr Mason re-enlisted into his beloved RAF aboard the Windrush.
He said: "We arrived at Tilbury to a great reception.
"I was picked out by the Pathe news reporter, and was a bit surprised really.
"I didn't get a glimpse of that interview until 50 years later on the 50th anniversary of the Windrush, when it was played on ITV.
"Even then my daughters recognised me before I did. It seems really strange to see myself standing on that deck as such a young man."
Mr Mason went on to reach the rank of flight sergeant, serving around the world, before finishing up at Brize Norton.
He bought himself a house, and is a Conservative district councillor and former deputy mayor of Carterton.
Now a widowed father-of-two, he said: "I have absolutely no regrets about making that journey on the Windrush.
"The people of Britain and Oxfordshire gave me the warm welcome I was looking for - and I have felt proud to serve my mother country."