1940-1965 Mixed Britannia


1940-1965

A history of Britain's mixed-race community. George Alagiah tells the story of GI babies and the boom in mixed-race couples following mass migration.


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Transcript


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Cambridgeshire, and a quintessentially English village.

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I'm here to tell the story of a boy born back in 1946.

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He was a little different to the others, a mass of curly black hair.

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That baby was the result of a love affair

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between a white mother and a black American GI,

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one of almost a thousand or so born during the War and just after.

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In Britain, they were called "war casualties",

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in America "the offspring of the scum of the British Isles".

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Well, I'm on my way to meet that baby now.

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Of course, he's in his sixties and his name is Tony Martin.

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To me, he's never been a statistic, he's never been a victim.

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He's simply the man who married my sister.

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He's my brother-in-law.

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Hi, George!

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Seeing him now, you'd never have guessed it,

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but like so many other mixed-race war babies,

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Tony was put into care by his unmarried mother.

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I met my real mother when I was nine, I think. She came to see me.

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And I think she asked me if I wanted to go back and live with her,

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and, well, I said no, I was happy where I was.

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I felt a little sad, I think, you know...

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sorry for her that she'd come back for me,

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but I felt...where I was was fine.

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The Second World War turned lives upside down.

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People from different races worked together and played together.

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Building this history of mixed-race Britain, the young found forbidden love

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and the old...well, they just couldn't understand it.

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I do remember my father saying,

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"Now you've taken up with this black man,

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"you will never get a decent boyfriend. Never".

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The decades after the War saw society go from official contempt...

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The black man has a different set of standards,

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values, morals and principles.

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In many cases, their grandfathers were eating each other.

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..to grudging acceptance.

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I'm not racial, I'm not prejudiced of any kind.

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But I wouldn't let my children inter-marry.

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Through it all, love across the racial divide would prevail.

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To me, it was just wonderful meeting all these different people.

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I thought they were beautiful looking, cos I always loved

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people with dark skin. They're so attractive and they look so healthy.

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I thought I had won the jackpot, I really did.

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It was like a new day in my life,

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something that I've been looking for and I think I've clinched it.

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In the decades after the War, mass immigration meant

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Britain would never look the same again.

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Mixed-race families were appearing all over the country,

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no longer just confined to their little enclaves in port cities.

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Behind them, of course,

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lay the discredited pseudo-science of racial difference

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but ahead of them an almighty battle to be treated like anyone else,

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with the freedom to meet, to fall in love and live life to the full.

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From the workplace to the big screen,

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the '50s and '60s would see the colouring of a nation.

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-NEWSREEL:

-From the four corners of the earth they come,

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men from the British Empire, upon which the sun never sets.

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African troops of the desert lands

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are in the front line in the defence of democracy.

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Black men fighting and dying for the cause -

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what better way to show how different we were to the Nazis?

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They are not conscripts but volunteers

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who have found the Union Jack worth living under and fighting for.

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What about back home?

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Britain's small mixed-race population

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was keen to do its bit for Britain.

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But what many mixed-race people discovered

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was that being born in Britain or even having a British mother

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didn't necessarily qualify them to serve their country.

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In 1939, a 22-year-old mixed-race man

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made his way to an office in Whitehall.

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He'd come to be interviewed

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by a recruiting officer from the British Army.

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Charles Arundel Moody, loyal to king and country,

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thought of himself as perfect officer material.

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He wasn't prepared for what happened next.

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The recruiting officer told him, "You may have been born in Britain,

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"but we can't make you a British officer,

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"because you're not of pure European descent."

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It was like waving a red rag at a bull.

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Charles Moody wasn't a man to take no for an answer,

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and neither was his father, Dr Harold Moody,

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a Jamaican-born GP who'd married a white English nurse, Olive, in 1913.

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In 1931, he'd set up the League of Coloured Peoples,

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Britain's first black pressure group.

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So when he heard about his son's rejection,

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a furious Moody immediately contacted

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the Secretary of State for the Colonies, Malcolm MacDonald.

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"If the colour bar is not broken down now,

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"it will break down the Empire,"

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he explained in no uncertain terms.

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"We're proud of our heritage

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"and do not want to be subjected to any experience

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"which will rob us of that pride or which will cast a slur thereupon."

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After weeks of lobbying and letter writing, Moody got what he wanted.

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At least for the duration of the War,

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the Government scrapped the clause in the 1914 Manual of Military Law

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which barred people of colour from becoming commissioned officers.

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So in 1940, Charles Moody was finally accepted as an officer

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in the Royal West Kent Regiment,

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the first mixed-race Briton

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to achieve this rank during World War Two.

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Recruits from the Empire didn't just fight overseas.

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Many were stationed here in Britain.

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While serving in the RAF, Jake Jacobs from Trinidad

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met and fell in love with Mary, a young Jewish girl from Liverpool.

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Jake was one of more than 6,000 black servicemen from the Colonies

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who came here.

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They were here to help in the war effort, but they did much more.

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Their presence transformed Britain forever.

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These young, uniformed men set hearts a-flutter.

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Mary remembers what it was like.

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Well, it was exciting, because we hadn't seen anybody like that before.

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I'd never had close contact with anybody of a different colour.

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They were very different from the local boys that we'd seen,

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and we were interested to get to know them better.

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They were young. They were quite dashing, really.

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-Royal Air Force - of course we were dashing!

-The RAF?

-The RAF!

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So, Jake, just describe for me, what were your first impressions

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of this woman you would end up living with?

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Jet-black hair...

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tanned face...

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and beautiful eyes.

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What else more could you wish for?

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He sort of was more friendly with me than the others were.

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-I used to quote Shakespeare.

-You used to quote Shakespeare? Wow!

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That really got me, because I love Shakespeare.

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Just think of it - here's a man,

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he's dashing, he's in a uniform and he quotes Shakespeare,

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-It's enough to turn any girl's head!

-Yes!

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Love affairs like theirs were still relatively rare,

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but that changed when our American allies arrived in 1942.

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Many more of these mixed-race romances blossomed.

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These images of black GIs dancing with English girls

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so alarmed the American government

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it deemed them "material calculated to unduly inflame racial prejudice".

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The publication of any photographs

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conveying what was described as "boyfriend-girlfriend implications"

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were subsequently banned.

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And no wonder - back in the US,

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mixed-race marriages were illegal in two thirds of the states.

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No such laws existed in Britain,

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but here, too, the arrival of black Americans en masse

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began to cause concern in some quarters.

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Over 100,000 African-American servicemen

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were stationed all over the country.

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-NEWSREEL:

-Anything new in the way of drill is news nowadays,

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and a company of coloured troops in Kettering give the town quite a show

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every time they march through on their way to chow.

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For many Britons living in villages and market towns,

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it was the first time they'd ever seen a black face.

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And for some, it caused panic.

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Take Mrs May, for example, a vicar's wife from Weston-super-Mare.

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According to an article in the Sunday Pictorial,

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the minute she heard that black American troops had reached her husband's parish,

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she called an emergency meeting of the WI to advise local women

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about how they should behave towards the black Americans.

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Just listen to what she had to say.

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"Move if seated next to them in the cinema,

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"cross the road to avoid them,

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"have no social relationship,

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"and under no account must coloured troops be invited

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"into the homes of white women."

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Unfortunately for the Mrs Mays of this world,

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more and more young women were choosing to ignore her advice.

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They not only invited black GIs into their homes

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but also into their beds.

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And now it wasn't only

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the self-appointed guardians of British morality that were alarmed.

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In Parliament, the Conservative MP Maurice Petherick

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warned the Secretary of State for War, Anthony Eden,

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that "The blackamoors consorting with white girls

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"will result in a number of half-caste babies when they're gone,

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"a bad thing for any country."

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But in dance halls up and down the country,

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British women made their own choices.

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My mother always had a real liking for dancing,

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and she would go to the Grafton dance hall,

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and that's where my mother and father met each other.

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She obviously took a liking to my father.

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I mean, he was a very handsome fellow.

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I honestly think, looking back,

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that she was in love with my father.

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# Oh, give me land, lots of land

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# Under starry skies Don't fence me in... #

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The black GIs had been in Britain for three years when the War ended.

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When it was time for them to leave,

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many of their girlfriends were distraught.

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# Don't fence me in... #

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Early in the morning on August 26th 1945,

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a bunch of screaming girls descended on a barracks in Bristol

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where black American GIs were preparing to go home.

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Singing the Bing Crosby hit Don't Fence Me In,

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they clamoured at the gates.

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Eventually, a fence was broken in

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and they ran into the arms of their departing sweethearts.

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"To hell with your US Army colour bar,"

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a plucky 18-year-old was quoted as saying.

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"We're going to give our sweeties a good send-off she said,

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"and what's more, we're going to go with them to America."

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BING CROSBY: # I want to ride to the ridge

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# Where the West commences... #

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Sadly, this was rarely the case.

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GIs had to get the approval of the US Army to marry,

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and permission was usually denied

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because of America's attitude to mixed-race marriages.

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# Don't fence me in

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# Papa, don't you fence me in. #

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And it wasn't just heartbroken girlfriends they left behind.

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About 1,000 mixed-race babies were now fatherless.

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Those earlier warnings about black GIs leaving babies behind

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had become a reality.

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A concerned Harold Moody sponsored a survey

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through his League of Coloured Peoples

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to assess the scale

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of the "brown baby problem", as it came to be known.

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Of the 184 women interviewed,

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nearly half had been unfaithful to their British husbands.

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The stigma of having brown babies,

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plus the fact that they were illegitimate,

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turned many of these women into social pariahs.

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"I'm shunned by the whole village," wrote one desperate mother.

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"The inspector for the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children

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"has told my friend to keep her children away from my house,

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"as didn't she know I had two illegitimate coloured children?"

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So for many of these women, and it didn't matter whether they were married or single,

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hanging on to their brown babies in the face of widespread disapproval

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was just too difficult.

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A shocking number ended up in care.

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My mother Sheila had me when she was only 16 years of age,

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and the fact that she was from a strict Catholic family

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and then of course the fact that she had a baby out of wedlock,

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it didn't go down very well.

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Shortly after he was born in Liverpool in 1944,

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Brian was put into care by his mother.

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I think she had this deep-rooted...

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conscience about it and never been able to forgive herself.

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But I've never been able to blame her, because she was so young.

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The thing would have been taken out of her hand by her parents, really.

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Brian's mother took him

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to one of the few places open to babies like him at the time.

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Sheila was just one of hundreds of desperate mothers

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who came knocking on the door of the African Churches Mission

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here in Liverpool.

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It was actually opened back in 1931

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to help African seamen who'd fallen on hard times,

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but within a few years it was turned into an unofficial care home

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for abandoned mixed-race children.

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Now, the building itself is long gone,

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but memories of the place and the extraordinary man who ran it

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are still vivid for many of those who passed through it.

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The minister of the mission, Daniels Ekarte,

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to me, he was my idol.

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He had this African smile.

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Once he smiled at you,

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you could do anything for him.

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It really...motivated you to behave.

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Ebony was a very famous magazine for black people in America,

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and they did a feature on the home, didn't they?

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Yes, they came to the home.

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This is Mrs Roberts here.

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-She was the housekeeper.

-Yes.

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-And this is me in the other bed.

-Oh, in bed!

-Yeah.

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-This is quite a normal scene, like a mum putting a kid to bed.

-Yes.

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So, where are you in this?

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Well, this is obviously teatime, and I'm just here.

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The cup is nearly as big as my face!

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-GEORGE CHUCKLES

-You were tiny!

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I was very tiny, yes.

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When you have a look at that picture,

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what goes through your mind now?

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When I first saw these pictures,

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I cried,

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for the simple reason that I saw

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how vulnerable I was as a child.

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And I never really perceived

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how small and little I was.

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Pastor Daniels undoubtedly did an enormous amount of good.

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But, as the Ebony article made clear,

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he simply did not have the money or resources

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to take in all those on his waiting list.

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The Ebony article really got to the heart of the problem.

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What was to be done with the large number

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of what it called "brown babies in care"?

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Who'd be responsible for them? Who'd pay for them?

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It would be, as the writer said,

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"a crucial test of Britain's racial liberalism".

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Harold Moody argued that they should be treated as "war casualties"

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whose care should be jointly funded

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by the British and American governments.

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Send them to the States

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to live with their black fathers or other black families, said others.

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But America didn't want its mixed-race war babies.

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A Republican Congressman at the time, one John E Rankin,

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described them as "the offspring of the scum of the British Isles".

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You've got to remember, America had race laws at the time.

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So any thought of shipping these children across the Atlantic

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had to be shelved because of what the Home Office itself described as

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America's "appalling discrimination".

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No, this was a problem that Britain would have to deal with by itself.

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In the early hours of June 3rd 1949,

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local authority health officials, accompanied by the police,

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descended on the African Churches Mission.

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KNOCKING ON DOOR

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They came without any notice.

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They locked Pastor Ekarte up in his office

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and they forcibly removed us - after a fight, of course.

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We were only little children, but we knew these houses back to front.

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And when these officials came, well, we gave them the run-around,

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hiding in the cellars and the attics and screaming.

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I can remember biting a few of the officials

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in my struggles for them not to take me, you know?

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It's something you never forget.

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I mean, I know I was approaching five,

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but you never forget those occasions.

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-It's on your mind all the time.

-Even now?

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-Even now, as though it happened yesterday.

-Really?

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And I'm 66 years of age.

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So, you know, you always remember that kind of trauma.

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The Home Office had decided it was time to shut down Ekarte's makeshift orphanage.

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Brian and all the other brown babies in Liverpool

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would be cared for in state-run care-homes from now on.

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My brother-in-law, Tony, started his life at Barnardo's - a private charity.

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After five years he was placed with a foster family, the Tabors,

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who lived in the village of Balsham, near Cambridge.

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It was the beginning of a life-long closeness to his adopted sister, Joyce.

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-Do you remember Tony arriving at Balsham?

-Yes, I do.

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It was like going home from school and finding you've got another brother or sister, it was fantastic.

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And Joyce, did you notice that he was different from you?

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-No.

-Really? No.

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I mean here was a little brown baby with frizzy hair.

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Yes, but no I didn't and it wasn't until we went swimming one day

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and I said, "Well why does my hair go like rats' tails? "

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And he shook his head and it was dry and I thought wow!

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But no.

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-Was Tony in any way, was he a troubled child?

-He was agitated.

0:21:270:21:31

When you say agitated, what do you mean?

0:21:310:21:32

But Dad would just cuddle him and that's when he used to say,

0:21:320:21:36

"All he needs is loving."

0:21:360:21:37

He needed to feel he belonged. And he did belong.

0:21:380:21:42

Describe the Tabors, who brought you up here in Balsham.

0:21:430:21:48

My father was very quiet, he loved his dog, a lovely dog,

0:21:480:21:50

and my mother was always there for me, she was there for everybody.

0:21:500:21:54

We were treated all the same, my brothers and sisters.

0:21:540:21:57

It was a happy place, it was a very happy place.

0:21:570:22:00

But while Tony settled happily into his new family,

0:22:030:22:06

his birth mother clearly had regrets.

0:22:060:22:09

I met my real mother when I was nine, she came to see me.

0:22:100:22:15

And she asked me did I want to go and live with her

0:22:150:22:18

and I said no, I was quite happy where I was.

0:22:180:22:21

I felt a little sad I think.

0:22:210:22:23

Sorry for her that she'd come back for me.

0:22:260:22:28

But I felt...

0:22:280:22:29

Where I was was fine.

0:22:290:22:31

I was happy living with my family.

0:22:310:22:34

Do you think about her now at all?

0:22:340:22:36

No, I don't, really.

0:22:390:22:40

It's such an awful thing to say.

0:22:400:22:43

But I was so ensconced at home

0:22:430:22:45

that that was the place I wanted to be.

0:22:450:22:48

And what about your father, your natural father.

0:22:480:22:52

There were some periods in my life when I would have liked to find out,

0:22:530:22:58

when I went to America on business and went to New York and thought, you know...

0:22:580:23:02

But as a whole, no, I didn't really, I was happy, my home was in Balsham.

0:23:020:23:07

Tony was one of the lucky ones. He'd found his place in a loving, happy family and never looked back.

0:23:090:23:16

But for others, not knowing who their real parents were proved to be a more haunting experience.

0:23:160:23:22

This little girl's father was one of the thousands of seaman from across the world

0:23:220:23:27

who flocked to Britain during the war, but he was never to be a part of her life.

0:23:270:23:32

I grew up thinking I'd been deserted.

0:23:330:23:37

Our mothers died thinking they'd been deserted,

0:23:370:23:40

because they didn't know this story.

0:23:400:23:43

What happened here on the streets of Liverpool in the summer of 1946

0:23:500:23:55

was one of the most shameful episodes in Britain's postwar history.

0:23:550:24:01

In a number of dawn raids, the police descended on the area.

0:24:010:24:04

Their mission - to round up any Chinese seamen they could find.

0:24:040:24:08

They went from house to house, loaded the men onto trucks which took them down to the docks,

0:24:080:24:13

where a boat was ready and waiting for their journey to China.

0:24:130:24:17

As a port city, Liverpool had long been a magnet for seamen from all over the world.

0:24:200:24:25

But during WW2, there was a huge influx of foreign sailors.

0:24:270:24:31

Around 2,000 Chinese sailors settled in Liverpool after serving in the merchant navy.

0:24:330:24:38

Many had married local women and had started families,

0:24:410:24:45

boosting the city's already established mixed-race community.

0:24:450:24:49

They thought they were here to stay.

0:24:500:24:52

But the government had other ideas.

0:24:560:24:58

Despite their undoubted contribution to Britain's war effort,

0:24:580:25:02

ministers decided the Chinese seamen had to go.

0:25:020:25:06

It made no difference whether that broke up families or not.

0:25:060:25:09

Home Office minutes made their reasons clear.

0:25:130:25:16

"The Chinese seamen have caused a good deal of trouble to the police,

0:25:160:25:20

"but it has hitherto not been possible to get rid of them.

0:25:200:25:24

"Now, however, the China coast is open again and it is proposed to set in motion the usual steps

0:25:240:25:30

"for getting rid of foreign seamen whose presence here is unwelcome."

0:25:300:25:33

In total, 1,362 Chinese men were forced to leave.

0:25:400:25:45

Of those, some 300 were married.

0:25:450:25:48

Somewhere between 500 and 1,000 children were left fatherless.

0:25:510:25:55

One of these was Yvonne Foley, who grew up unaware of her Chinese heritage.

0:25:580:26:04

When I was about seven I made friends with somebody who I thought was a full Chinese boy

0:26:050:26:10

who'd just come to live in the neighbourhood.

0:26:100:26:13

And I ran home to Mum and said, "Oh, we've got a new lad in the street, he's Chinese."

0:26:130:26:18

My mother said, "No, no, no, he's like you, half Chinese - half English, half Chinese."

0:26:180:26:24

And I thought, "Huh, what's that about?"

0:26:240:26:26

-It really came as a complete surprise?

-Yes.

0:26:260:26:29

And I thought, OK, and my mum said, "Well your dad is not your real dad. Your dad is a Chinese dad."

0:26:290:26:37

And didn't think anything of it.

0:26:370:26:40

And then snippets of information came as I got older.

0:26:400:26:43

What Yvonne discovered was that her real father had been a ship's engineer from Shanghai,

0:26:460:26:50

who'd met her mother in Liverpool during the war.

0:26:500:26:53

But by the time Yvonne had been born he'd disappeared.

0:26:530:26:57

I have a photograph of myself as a baby

0:27:000:27:03

and I discovered on the back of it is a date.

0:27:030:27:07

I was born in February '46 and on the back of the photograph it says,

0:27:070:27:12

"March 23rd 1946. To Daddy."

0:27:120:27:15

Who'd obviously never got it.

0:27:170:27:19

Why do you think so many women, including your mother,

0:27:190:27:24

thought they'd been deserted by their menfolk?

0:27:240:27:27

Well, I think when they went away to sea,

0:27:270:27:30

they would go on long-term contracts, say two years.

0:27:300:27:35

They didn't hear from their husbands one way or the other.

0:27:350:27:37

And in my mother's case, she had felt she'd been deserted, because she'd heard nothing.

0:27:370:27:42

What do you think actually happened to your father?

0:27:470:27:50

I'm convinced he's one of the men that were forced back.

0:27:500:27:53

I've got nothing to prove this at all, as most of us don't.

0:27:550:27:59

We can't find any names on a list.

0:27:590:28:01

But I believe he was one of those forced to leave.

0:28:030:28:07

The whole murky episode has scarred the families those Chinese men left behind.

0:28:090:28:15

Yvonne has talked to others who found themselves in the same position as her.

0:28:150:28:19

I actually did an interview with one lady who said to me... It was quite emotional.

0:28:190:28:26

Sorry.

0:28:280:28:29

It's OK.

0:28:350:28:36

What she actually said was...

0:28:410:28:43

"It's nice to think at my age of 86 that I might not have been deserted."

0:28:430:28:48

And a lot of our mothers went to their graves thinking that they had been.

0:28:510:28:55

Ironically, just as Britain was sending some people packing,

0:29:050:29:09

others were being welcomed into Britain.

0:29:090:29:12

"The arrival of more than 400 happy Jamaicans.

0:29:160:29:19

"They've come to seek work in Britain and are ready and willing to do any kind of job

0:29:190:29:23

"that will help the motherland along the road to prosperity.

0:29:230:29:26

"They're all full of hope for the future,

0:29:260:29:28

"so let's make them very welcome as they begin their new life over here."

0:29:280:29:31

Now came the years of mass immigration, following a change in the law in 1948

0:29:330:29:38

giving British citizenship to anyone from the Commonwealth and the Colonies

0:29:380:29:42

and the right to settle here.

0:29:420:29:44

Thousands of single men arrived looking for work.

0:29:450:29:48

They'd left their families and sweethearts behind.

0:29:480:29:51

Inevitably, they found solace in the arms of local white girls

0:29:510:29:55

- Britain's racial landscape changed forever.

0:29:550:29:58

Amongst those new arrivals was Jake Jacobs, recently demobbed from the RAF.

0:30:010:30:06

He left Trinidad for good in 1948.

0:30:060:30:08

He headed straight for Birmingham, where there were plenty of jobs.

0:30:100:30:13

"He is here because he has heard there are jobs for coloured men in Birmingham,

0:30:150:30:18

"a city with a reputation for kindness to its immigrants."

0:30:180:30:22

In those days, you had to go to the labour exchange

0:30:230:30:26

and fill a form in and they used to pick a job out for you.

0:30:260:30:32

And the labour exchange offered me the Post Office or the railway.

0:30:320:30:37

What was it like in the early days?

0:30:410:30:43

Well, it wasn't easy in the sense... There was a lot of prejudice, with a doubt.

0:30:430:30:49

And you you got the dirty jobs, you got the worst shifts as well.

0:30:490:30:53

But like everything else, once you make your name you're treated well.

0:30:530:30:59

And I went with them and I worked for 38 years, fantastic job.

0:31:000:31:05

It wasn't only the prospect of a good job that had lured Jake back to Britain.

0:31:050:31:12

All the time he'd been away in Trinidad,

0:31:120:31:15

Jake had been writing love letters to Mary in Liverpool.

0:31:150:31:18

And now he was determined to pick up where he'd left off.

0:31:180:31:22

Was she as pretty as you remembered?

0:31:240:31:25

Oh yeah, oh, yes, as beautiful as ever.

0:31:250:31:29

What was the day like, from your point of view?

0:31:290:31:33

Oh, it was like a new year for me, that's the way I can put it.

0:31:330:31:37

It was like a new day in my life.

0:31:370:31:39

And that was it.

0:31:400:31:43

Something I'd been looking for through my life sort of thing.

0:31:430:31:48

And I think I've clinched it.

0:31:480:31:50

So how did you go about wooing this woman again?

0:31:500:31:54

He said things, what did you say to me, come on?

0:31:540:31:57

"To be or not to be, would you please marry me".

0:31:570:32:00

That was your proposal?

0:32:000:32:02

My proposal!

0:32:020:32:04

-Shakespeare came to the rescue.

-Of course.

0:32:040:32:06

But though Jake and Mary were sure they wanted to spend the rest of their lives together,

0:32:080:32:13

Mary's father was against their love affair.

0:32:130:32:16

My father wouldn't acknowledge it.

0:32:170:32:20

What do you mean, he wouldn't acknowledge it?

0:32:200:32:22

He just didn't look at me, didn't say anything.

0:32:220:32:25

And I just didn't know what to do.

0:32:260:32:29

What was going through your mind?

0:32:300:32:33

I mean, this is your dad, but this is also the man you love.

0:32:330:32:35

You're caught in the middle.

0:32:350:32:36

Oh I do remember him saying, whether it was at that point or earlier,

0:32:370:32:44

I remember him saying, "Now you've taken up with this young man from Trinidad,

0:32:440:32:53

"this black man,

0:32:540:32:56

"you will never get a decent boyfriend. Never."

0:32:560:33:01

Did your father actually say that to you?

0:33:030:33:06

Yes, he said, "Don't come back here, I don't want to ever see you again."

0:33:060:33:10

And my mother and I were both crying.

0:33:100:33:12

And I came away thinking that that was the end,

0:33:150:33:18

that I would never see my family again.

0:33:180:33:21

Despite that, in 1948 Mary and Jake got married.

0:33:230:33:26

No family whatsoever were there.

0:33:280:33:30

We had no-one.

0:33:310:33:33

It is only friends that were there.

0:33:330:33:35

-It's quite a rough way to start a marriage, isn't it?

-It is.

0:33:350:33:39

Without the support of a family.

0:33:390:33:41

That's correct.

0:33:410:33:42

And it hurts, you look around and think to yourself, well, is this what life is all about?

0:33:420:33:49

Mary and Jake were brave enough to follow their hearts.

0:33:560:33:59

Others were more timid.

0:33:590:34:01

A letter from a "Liz of Cardiff" to a woman's magazine in 1951, sums up the situation pretty neatly.

0:34:010:34:08

"I'm very much in love with a coloured man, he's the nicest,

0:34:080:34:12

"kindest boy I've ever met and I know he'll make a splendid husband.

0:34:120:34:17

"But my parents are against our marriage.

0:34:170:34:19

"Can they stop me marrying?"

0:34:190:34:22

And the agony aunt's reply?

0:34:220:34:24

"Not unless you're under 21, but I hope for your own sake that you think things over very carefully.

0:34:240:34:31

"Many coloured men are fine people, but scientists don't yet know if it is wise

0:34:310:34:35

"for two such very different races as white and black to marry.

0:34:350:34:40

"For sometimes children of mixed marriages seem to inherit the worst characteristics of each race."

0:34:400:34:47

In fact such thinking - put forward by the eugenics movement before the war - was outdated.

0:34:520:34:57

Now take me, I'm just a plain and simple citizen of Europe,

0:35:020:35:06

I can see that this race theory has caused misery and suffering,

0:35:060:35:11

but do you really mean that there's nothing in it, it's all a lot of bunk?

0:35:110:35:15

In 1950, the UN's education and science agency had ruled that there was

0:35:160:35:22

"no biological justification for prohibiting intermarriage

0:35:220:35:25

"between persons of different ethnic groups."

0:35:250:35:28

This official stamp of approval for mixed-race marriages was soon

0:35:290:35:32

to be tested by a very high-profile wedding.

0:35:320:35:36

In 1953, the ever so respectable, 32-year-old Peggy Cripps,

0:35:380:35:43

daughter of Labour MP Sir Stafford Cripps, got married.

0:35:430:35:46

The wedding took place in London's fashionable St John's Wood

0:35:480:35:51

and was THE society wedding of the year.

0:35:510:35:53

But this was a society wedding with a difference,

0:35:550:35:57

because Peggy Cripps's groom was not some British toff,

0:35:570:36:01

he was Joe Appiah, a Ghanaian chieftain's son.

0:36:010:36:05

"An African with some kind of a snake charm said to bring luck was in the picture at the church."

0:36:070:36:11

When a journalist asked her why she was marrying a coloured man, Peggy replied,

0:36:160:36:20

"Because I love him and love is greater than colour, creed or race."

0:36:200:36:26

What she was saying so simply yet so eloquently was that love could cross all racial barriers.

0:36:260:36:32

Actually, their wedding said even more than that.

0:36:350:36:38

It showed that mixed-race relationships were happening at all levels of society.

0:36:380:36:44

For left-leaning liberals, Peggy and Joe's union symbolised the ideal of a multicultural society

0:36:440:36:50

But when their wedding photos were syndicated around the world, many were outraged.

0:36:500:36:55

Charles Swart, South Africa's Justice Minister

0:37:000:37:03

and one of the architects of the country's apartheid system,

0:37:030:37:06

brandished their wedding photograph in parliament and declared,

0:37:060:37:10

"It's a disgusting photograph of a wedding between the daughter

0:37:100:37:14

"of a former British cabinet minister and a black native.

0:37:140:37:18

"If such a thing were ever to happen in South Africa, it would be the end."

0:37:180:37:23

Of course, the reaction in Britain was nowhere near as extreme,

0:37:290:37:33

but neither were we quite ready to welcome this couple with open arms.

0:37:330:37:37

"After the ceremony the happy pair smilingly faced the cameras once more.

0:37:370:37:42

"It is understood Mr and Mrs Appiah, after spending their honeymoon in Paris

0:37:420:37:46

"intend to live on the Gold Coast."

0:37:460:37:48

When the couple announced they planned to start their new married life together in Ghana, not Britain,

0:37:490:37:55

you could virtually hear the sighs of relief.

0:37:550:37:59

The problem of this high-profile mixed marriage was about to be exported.

0:37:590:38:04

But the problem, as some saw it, wasn't really going away.

0:38:080:38:12

Far from it. Across country it was getting bigger.

0:38:120:38:16

"Lambeth and Brixton have been much in the news recently following the controversy

0:38:160:38:20

"that has raged over the immigration of West Indians to this country."

0:38:200:38:24

On average, 12,000 West Indians were entering Britain each year

0:38:250:38:29

and more and more were settling down with local women.

0:38:290:38:34

"To help solve the problems raised when white and coloured people live in the same neighbourhood,

0:38:340:38:39

"the Borough of Lambeth organised a 'no colour bar' dance."

0:38:390:38:42

By the time this film was made in 1955,

0:38:430:38:46

the total black population in Britain had risen to 125,000,

0:38:460:38:51

but the sight of mixed-race couples on the dance-floor was still something that caused a stir.

0:38:510:38:58

"East had met West on common ground, few were wallflowers for very long.

0:38:580:39:02

"The rhythm of the Mambo was doing its bit towards racial unity!"

0:39:020:39:06

Officially, scientific racism had been rejected,

0:39:090:39:11

but amongst the general public, prejudice was still widespread.

0:39:110:39:14

Mary, dancing was a big part of your courtship in the early years of marriage.

0:39:170:39:22

When you went to dance halls were you free of discrimination?

0:39:220:39:26

No, no, you weren't.

0:39:260:39:28

If you danced with a black man you were discriminated against, because people didn't like it.

0:39:310:39:36

Did you feel people were making a judgement on you because you were on the arm of a black man?

0:39:360:39:42

Oh, yes.

0:39:420:39:44

And were you aware that people might be looking at Mary and making a judgement about her?

0:39:440:39:50

Oh, yes, I mean some people used to more or less come to your face and tell you straight.

0:39:500:39:56

Without a doubt.

0:39:560:39:57

Tell you straight what?

0:39:570:39:58

What you going with that black bastard for?

0:39:580:40:02

-Really? Language like that?

-Oh, yes.

0:40:020:40:06

People would comment, "You ought to be ashamed of yourself" as you walked past.

0:40:060:40:13

People my mother's age, I suppose, would be thinking,

0:40:130:40:18

"I wouldn't like my daughter to do what she's doing."

0:40:180:40:22

Mary and Jake's experience was not unique.

0:40:270:40:29

But it didn't deter the growing numbers of mixed-race couples.

0:40:430:40:48

I am married to a coloured man and I am proud of him.

0:40:480:40:51

Cos he helps me with all my work, he helps me to do the washing.

0:40:520:40:59

He's very good to me and my baby. I wouldn't find it in an Englishman.

0:40:590:41:02

And as more and more of the new arrivals from the West Indies

0:41:050:41:09

settled down with local white women,

0:41:090:41:11

Pathe news was on hand to reflect just how fundamentally

0:41:110:41:14

British families were changing.

0:41:140:41:17

In what are clearly outtakes, there's no sound,

0:41:170:41:20

you see these young white women with their black husbands,

0:41:200:41:24

with their happy little children,

0:41:240:41:27

the fathers and mother engage with the kids.

0:41:270:41:30

They were intended to show this is ordinary.

0:41:300:41:32

It's an ordinary, everyday thing that's happening here.

0:41:320:41:36

It's like any other married couple.

0:41:360:41:38

They probably have their ups and downs,

0:41:380:41:40

but at heart, they're a loving couple.

0:41:400:41:43

In many respects, it's a kind of antidote

0:41:430:41:46

to some of the forms of stigmatising of these relationships

0:41:460:41:52

and saying, "look, it's ordinary, what are you worried about?"

0:41:520:41:56

But apparently, plenty of people were.

0:42:000:42:03

A poll taken by a Vicar in his north London parish at this time

0:42:030:42:07

had asked the question,

0:42:070:42:09

"would you approve of your sister or daughter marrying a coloured man?"

0:42:090:42:14

91% had said they wouldn't approve.

0:42:140:42:16

Shortly afterwards, the vicar, Reverend Clifford Hill,

0:42:180:42:21

who was also a part-time sociologist,

0:42:210:42:24

made his way to the British Broadcasting Corporation

0:42:240:42:27

to give a radio interview about his findings.

0:42:270:42:30

When the Reverend himself was asked by the radio interviewer

0:42:350:42:39

if he'd mind if his own daughter married a black man, he said,

0:42:390:42:42

"I wouldn't worry if my grandchildren were half-caste."

0:42:420:42:46

"I wouldn't mind at all."

0:42:460:42:47

The next day, the words, "nigger-loving priest"

0:42:470:42:50

and "race-mixing priest" were daubed on the pavement outside his house.

0:42:500:42:55

Sadly, that might have been the real Britain speaking.

0:42:550:42:59

Mixed-race relationships had become an issue of national debate.

0:43:010:43:05

ITV pitched in.

0:43:050:43:07

People say that the colour bar is beginning to fade.

0:43:110:43:15

But I wonder if it is.

0:43:150:43:17

I think if we were honest with ourselves,

0:43:170:43:19

we'd admit it would be a bit of a shock

0:43:190:43:21

if we were told that our sister or daughter

0:43:210:43:24

was going to marry a coloured man.

0:43:240:43:27

Conservative parliamentary candidate, James Wentworth Day,

0:43:270:43:31

certainly had strong feelings on this matter.

0:43:310:43:34

My view is this,

0:43:340:43:35

that no first-class nation can afford to produce a race of mongrels.

0:43:350:43:39

That is what we're doing.

0:43:390:43:41

Too much mixed blood.

0:43:410:43:43

Look at the other angle, the black man -

0:43:430:43:46

and I refuse this humbug of talking about the coloured man.

0:43:460:43:48

He's black and we're white, has a different set of standards,

0:43:480:43:52

values, morals and principles.

0:43:520:43:54

In many cases, their grandfathers were eating each other.

0:43:540:43:57

In some inner-city areas,

0:44:050:44:07

prejudice was being fuelled by tension over jobs and housing.

0:44:070:44:11

On Friday August 29th 1958,

0:44:150:44:18

there was a petty domestic dispute between Jamaican, Ray Morrison,

0:44:180:44:21

and his pregnant Swedish wife, Majbritt in London's Notting Hill.

0:44:210:44:25

The rowing couple were seen by a crowd of white Teddy boys

0:44:300:44:33

who started to heckle Ray.

0:44:330:44:34

They were about to go even further,

0:44:340:44:37

but were shocked by Majbritt's reaction.

0:44:370:44:39

She shouted at them and told them to leave her husband alone.

0:44:390:44:43

The next night, and it was after pub closing time,

0:44:430:44:46

the gang spotted Majbritt again.

0:44:460:44:48

She was out on her own.

0:44:480:44:50

"There's goes the black man's trollop," they shouted.

0:44:500:44:53

They chased her and she was hit with an iron bar.

0:44:530:44:57

Over the next few nights,

0:45:040:45:06

violent scenes erupted all over Notting Hill.

0:45:060:45:09

A fear that West Indians were not only taking their jobs and housing,

0:45:090:45:13

but their women as well,

0:45:130:45:14

led to vicious "nigger hunts" by white Teddy Boys.

0:45:140:45:18

In the early Sixties, a rash of British feature films

0:45:230:45:26

tackled the racial prejudice

0:45:260:45:27

that had been so graphically exposed by the '58 riots.

0:45:270:45:30

In Roy Ward Baker's 1961 film, Flame in the Streets,

0:45:330:45:37

the Teddy Boy thugs are lifted straight from the streets of Notting Hill.

0:45:370:45:42

Hold up, that'll send 'em crackers!

0:45:460:45:49

But the real focus of the film is the interracial relationship

0:45:490:45:53

between factory worker Gabriel Gomez and his pregnant wife, Judy.

0:45:530:45:58

You all right?

0:45:580:46:00

-How you feeling woman? You ain't sick?

-No, just tired.

0:46:000:46:03

I feel like I'm carrying an elephant.

0:46:030:46:06

I'll get your tea.

0:46:060:46:07

No, you stay there.

0:46:070:46:09

This film was truly groundbreaking.

0:46:090:46:11

It was the first time cinemagoers would've seen a black man

0:46:110:46:15

kissing a white woman.

0:46:150:46:16

All those fears about the perfect British family being invaded,

0:46:160:46:21

they were being played out on the big screen.

0:46:210:46:24

Listen, from now on, I do the shopping, see?

0:46:240:46:28

I ain't let you carry them heavy loads up the stairs.

0:46:280:46:31

Actor, Earl Cameron, was himself in a mixed-race marriage

0:46:310:46:34

when he appeared in Flame in the Streets.

0:46:340:46:36

For him, the film was just a mirror of real life.

0:46:360:46:40

That kiss that you gave your wife, Judy,

0:46:400:46:44

that was a pivotal moment, wasn't it?

0:46:440:46:47

I suppose so.

0:46:470:46:48

On the set, it didn't mean anything.

0:46:480:46:50

We didn't rehearse it, it just came natural, I just did it.

0:46:500:46:54

You're kidding?

0:46:540:46:56

That kiss that has since been looked at over and over again,

0:46:560:46:59

that's a first screen kiss?

0:46:590:47:01

That wasn't in the script?

0:47:010:47:02

No. In fact, I thought afterwards

0:47:020:47:06

I should've kissed her a little stronger.

0:47:060:47:09

It's a natural thing for me to have kissed the girl.

0:47:100:47:13

Well, it's happening every day in life, isn't it?

0:47:130:47:15

Since the late '50s, progressive young white people,

0:47:180:47:22

trend setters, if you like,

0:47:220:47:24

had immersed themselves in black music and culture.

0:47:240:47:29

And mixing was by no means limited to the dance floor.

0:47:290:47:33

London at that time was very mixed. I mean, the clubs and so on,

0:47:330:47:37

all classes.

0:47:370:47:39

A lot of society women would come to places like the Caribbean Club

0:47:390:47:43

just to mix with black men.

0:47:430:47:46

Very high-class women from time to time.

0:47:460:47:49

It was all rather decadent, to be honest.

0:47:490:47:52

But that's what the '60s was about.

0:47:520:47:54

In the early 1960s, any self-respecting bohemian

0:48:030:48:06

would've come to The Caribbean Totobag club here in Notting Hill.

0:48:060:48:12

Now it didn't look like much, but it was the cool hangout

0:48:120:48:16

for the likes of author Colin MacInnes or pop star Georgie Fame.

0:48:160:48:21

# Walkin' the dog

0:48:280:48:30

# Just a-walking the dog

0:48:300:48:34

Legend has it that other regulars would be aristocrats

0:48:360:48:39

from the very top of society.

0:48:390:48:41

They would rock up in their Rolls and leave their chauffeurs outside.

0:48:410:48:46

Inside, they would mix with men like Alfred Harvey.

0:48:460:48:50

He was a tall, handsome Jamaican,

0:48:500:48:53

who also answered to the name, King Dick.

0:48:530:48:56

Good sex was the thing that really attracted them to us.

0:48:570:49:03

Sex played a great part in it, the stamina, you know,

0:49:030:49:07

that's why they call me King Dick.

0:49:070:49:10

Well the Dick's gone now but the King still remains.

0:49:100:49:15

In the mid-sixties, the sight of a mixed-race couple kissing

0:49:240:49:28

would still have been offensive to many.

0:49:280:49:31

But what about beaming it into the nation's homes?

0:49:320:49:36

In 1964, ITV set the nation's pulse racing with a television first.

0:49:380:49:43

For weeks, the story of the relationship

0:49:460:49:48

between Dr Mahler and Dr Farmer,

0:49:480:49:51

had been building to this critical moment.

0:49:510:49:54

What are you doing?

0:49:560:49:58

I want to kiss you.

0:49:580:50:00

What for?

0:50:000:50:02

Just because.

0:50:020:50:03

Oh, that's better.

0:50:090:50:11

Emergency Ward 10 was one of Britain's most popular soap operas,

0:50:140:50:18

regularly pulling in audiences of 15 million

0:50:180:50:22

and up to 24 million at its peak.

0:50:220:50:24

The film, Flame in the Streets,

0:50:240:50:26

had already featured mixed-race relationships three years earlier.

0:50:260:50:30

But this was the first time a mixed-race couple was actually seen

0:50:300:50:34

kissing on British television.

0:50:340:50:36

This was different.

0:50:360:50:37

This brought the issue right into people's living rooms.

0:50:370:50:40

Early call for me tomorrow.

0:50:410:50:43

Yes, and me.

0:50:430:50:45

I remember it at the time and I remember the huge furore.

0:50:450:50:49

There were headlines in the newspapers the next day

0:50:490:50:52

about this kiss.

0:50:520:50:53

I think it was partly because this was coming into people's homes,

0:50:530:50:57

the TV is always much more intimate, isn't it?

0:50:570:50:59

All of a sudden, you've got this intrusion

0:50:590:51:02

that you hadn't expected or anticipated.

0:51:020:51:04

Emergency Ward 10 proved to be right on the button.

0:51:080:51:11

By the mid '60s, the NHS was playing match maker.

0:51:130:51:16

Mixed-race romance was blossoming in hospitals

0:51:160:51:19

up and down the country.

0:51:190:51:21

Maureen Walsh, from County Clare in Ireland, was just 18 years old

0:51:270:51:31

and working as a trainee nurse at Burnley General Hospital

0:51:310:51:34

when she met her future husband.

0:51:340:51:36

We had a wonderful social life, as we thought then in the '60s.

0:51:390:51:43

We may have had a party once a year.

0:51:430:51:46

That's when I first met him.

0:51:460:51:49

I think he asked me to dance.

0:51:490:51:52

Was it love at first sight?

0:51:520:51:54

Well, I did think he looked very nice.

0:51:540:51:57

My heart used to miss a beat.

0:51:570:51:59

-When you saw him?

-Yes, it did, yes, it did.

0:51:590:52:04

What did you think, Bez?

0:52:040:52:06

To me, when I met Maureen, I thought she's beautiful girl,

0:52:060:52:11

beautiful mind, I fell in love.

0:52:110:52:15

-At that first meeting?

-Yes.

0:52:150:52:16

I've only just found that out now, I didn't know!

0:52:160:52:20

By the mid-'60s, Britain's immigrant population had expanded.

0:52:250:52:30

As well as West Indians and Africans,

0:52:300:52:32

over 100,000 Indian and Pakistanis had entered the country,

0:52:320:52:37

despite the 1962 Commonwealth Immigrants Act

0:52:370:52:40

which sought to stem the flow.

0:52:400:52:42

Some were young Asian doctors who, like Dr Bezboruah,

0:52:440:52:47

had come to Britain to find work in the expanding NHS.

0:52:470:52:52

Can you remember your first day,

0:52:540:52:56

what it was like being amongst other members of staff?

0:52:560:52:59

Yes, I enjoyed it straight away

0:52:590:53:02

because doctors, nurses, consultants, they're all friendly,

0:53:020:53:09

they all knew each other.

0:53:090:53:11

We all lived in, so the hospital was like its own community

0:53:120:53:18

and we felt like brothers and sisters.

0:53:180:53:21

The NHS was a magnet for people of all nationalities,

0:53:230:53:27

many of whom were still a novelty

0:53:270:53:29

for the young English and Irish nurses like Maureen.

0:53:290:53:32

So what attracted you to these Indian doctors, people like Bez?

0:53:320:53:38

I thought they were beautiful looking.

0:53:380:53:40

I always loved people with dark skin,

0:53:400:53:42

I think they're so attractive and look so healthy.

0:53:420:53:45

-Was there a sense of excitement meeting people like that?

-Oh, yes.

0:53:450:53:48

They looked different, they acted different, they cooked different.

0:53:480:53:53

It was wonderful.

0:53:540:53:57

We were trying things we'd never tried before or heard of before.

0:53:570:54:02

You make it sound like a really exciting period.

0:54:020:54:05

It really was, it was so simple but it was so exciting.

0:54:050:54:10

After a two-year courtship, Maureen and Bez got married.

0:54:140:54:18

He was very well received by my family,

0:54:200:54:23

but my father, he was concerned

0:54:230:54:28

in case there would be any repercussions from people

0:54:280:54:35

because of a mixed marriage, he was obviously protecting me.

0:54:350:54:37

What about your mum?

0:54:370:54:39

My mother said to me,

0:54:390:54:41

"Maureen, I married the man I loved and you must do the same".

0:54:410:54:46

She said she didn't want me to go through life

0:54:470:54:51

and not have married the man I loved and perhaps be unhappy for ever more.

0:54:510:54:57

She said she couldn't live with that.

0:54:570:54:59

What a mum to have.

0:54:590:55:01

Yes, she's still alive at 89.

0:55:010:55:03

Once you married and had kids, was that a challenge at all?

0:55:070:55:12

I didn't think so.

0:55:120:55:14

No, it never worried me, never.

0:55:140:55:17

We had wonderful neighbours, nobody looked at my children.

0:55:170:55:21

Maybe I wasn't looking, because I was so happily married

0:55:210:55:25

with my baby.

0:55:250:55:27

She looked beautiful, her colouring was gorgeous

0:55:280:55:31

and I was so proud of her.

0:55:310:55:34

By 1968, there were two Race Relations Acts

0:55:370:55:40

which outlawed discrimination in jobs and housing,

0:55:400:55:44

protecting the rights of immigrants

0:55:440:55:46

wanting to make a life for themselves in this country.

0:55:460:55:49

Prejudice amongst the public had certainly not been eradicated,

0:55:540:55:58

but a new liberalism was in the air.

0:55:580:56:01

The late '60s saw the Summer of Love,

0:56:110:56:14

the questioning of old ideas and changing attitudes towards sex,

0:56:140:56:18

gender and race.

0:56:180:56:20

In 1968, the BBC screened this pioneering documentary.

0:56:230:56:28

Donald Raymond, wilt thou have this woman to thy wedded wife,

0:56:290:56:34

to live together after God's ordinance

0:56:340:56:36

in the holy estate of Matrimony?

0:56:360:56:38

Another screen kiss,

0:56:450:56:47

but unlike all those fictional clinches

0:56:470:56:50

in the films and soaps that went before it,

0:56:500:56:52

this was the first time a genuine kiss had been seen on British TV.

0:56:520:56:56

These weren't actors going through the motions,

0:56:560:56:58

this was a real couple in love.

0:56:580:57:01

The editor of the Radio Times magazine

0:57:040:57:06

refused to use a photo of the couple kissing to publicise the programme.

0:57:060:57:10

He said it was too provocative.

0:57:100:57:13

Instead, he opted for this.

0:57:130:57:14

But despite the flurry of headlines this caused in the popular press,

0:57:190:57:22

the programme itself was well received.

0:57:220:57:26

It attracted huge viewing figures

0:57:260:57:28

and the broadsheets called it moving and compassionate.

0:57:280:57:31

By the late 1960s, Britain had undoubtedly changed.

0:57:340:57:37

We'd gone from calling children like my brother in law, Tony,

0:57:370:57:41

war casualties,

0:57:410:57:42

to having mixed race relationships on primetime television.

0:57:420:57:46

Postwar Britain was finally coming to terms

0:57:460:57:49

with just how diverse it had become.

0:57:490:57:52

The new race relations legislation was a sign of that.

0:57:520:57:55

But, in many ways, this was still tolerance rather than celebration.

0:57:550:58:00

It would be some time before we really embraced

0:58:000:58:02

the idea of a mixed Britain.

0:58:020:58:05

That would not come till the '70s and beyond,

0:58:050:58:08

when I started to make my way in this country.

0:58:080:58:11

In the next programme, aristocratic adoptions, rock star marriages,

0:58:130:58:19

the search for identity and forbidden love.

0:58:190:58:24

Subtitles by Red Be Media Ltd

0:58:360:58:40

E-mail [email protected]

0:58:500:58:54

In the second of this three-part series, George Alagiah tells the story of the GI babies labelled war casualties, the boom in mixed-race couples following mass migration and how sixties trendsetters crossed the racial divide.


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