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The ‘Windrush fire’ which drives Royal Marine Jordan and his family

Lance Corporal Jordan Dawes with his parents Debra and Kirk Dawes
22 June 2023
A sense of duty. Family. Heritage. Pride. These are the feelings of descendants of the Windrush generation for their trailblazing ancestors whose stoicism, determination, drive and spirit continue to inspire them three quarters of a century later.

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.”

They had to show some of the same core values, the spirit and pride that comes from Jamaica. And that’s the fire which lives within me and will do until I die

L/Cpl Jordan Dawes

For the next three decades Kirk served the West Midlands force with distinction, championed the cause of black and Asian officers, tackled issues and crimes as wide ranging as drugs, burglary, guns and the rise of gang culture. When he retired in 2004, he was decorated by The Queen for his service.

“We all make our choices in life and there is something in this family – representing your country is a ‘biggie’,” Kirk said.

“When you look at the UK, it’s a diverse country – and you have to have real reflection through every organisation if we are to build relationships which work.”

Just as he strove to that goal in the police, so his son Jordan works to that end in the Forces.

A Royal Marine for the past six years, by trade the 29-year-old is a specialist in heavy weapons who has served around the world with the Corps: training alongside the US Marine Corps in the Mojave Desert and in the Gulf region with the UK’s Amphibious Task Group. He’s a three-time Inter-Service champion with the Royal Navy’s basketball team, as well as representing the Corps and UK Armed Forces in the same sport.

He’s currently assigned to the Positive Action Team which works in the Birmingham area to help those under-represented in today’s military – women and ethnic minorities – join the Services.

The commando is both in awe of his grandparents’ generation – who took the bold step to forge new lives for their families – and draws on that heritage daily in his service as a Royal Marine.

“They came over here to make better lives, not just for themselves but also to build what was considered the ‘mother nation’,” he says.

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