EDWIN HO

PIONEERS

When World War II broke out Edwin Ho longed for adventure but literally missed the boat taking RAF recruits to England.
He eventually got there via the MV Empire Windrush and entertained other passengers with his nifty boxing skills

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Edwin Ho was born in Georgetown, British Guiana, to a prosperous Chinese family in 1922. Finding work as a young man was easy, as dad ran a bakery and took on Edwin as a book—keeper but it was not exactly the sort of life he had in mind for himself.

When World War II broke out, Edwin saw it as an opportunity to see the world and asked his father’s permission to join the RAF. First, he had to take an exam, which he passed with flying colours. Unfortunately, he missed the ship taking the recruits to England and so he was forced to do his service in British Guiana.

Once the war was over, Edwin still yearned for adventure. Then one day an opportunity to go to the UK presented itself. He said: “There was a leaflet and a poster campaign which quoted the British prime minister as saying, ‘we need you to come and re-build the Mother Country’. The fare to travel on the MV Empire Windrush was £28.10 shillings, once we made our way to Trinidad, where the boat was stopping over.”

He remembers the Windrush as a “massive” ship and thoroughly enjoyed the journey, particularly the dancing and floor shows. He himself provided some of the on-board entertainment. Although only 1.65 metres (5ft 5ins) tall, he was a keen amateur boxer, and showed off his skills in a series of friendly matches.

Like most of his fellow passengers, Edwin didn’t know anyone in England so stayed in accommodation that had been arranged for the new arrivals by the colonial office at Clapham South Deep Shelter in South London. His first job was at a foundry in Shropshire and he went on to live in Telford.

He later married Austrian Hertha Eyermann in the winter of 1950. Edwin says they got on well partly because “England was a strange country to her and a strange country to me”. The father of three has no regrets about moving to the UK and is proud to be part of the generation that helped rebuild the country after the ravages of war.

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