Joyce Poultney


William Robinson Clarke

‘Army wife recalled voyage with mixed emotions’

1925 - 2023

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Joyce Poultney sadly died, aged 98, on August 18, 2023 while this book was being written. Joyce was a wonderful lady who loved talking about Jamaica and her travels. The entrance music for her funeral was ‘Jamaica Farewell’ sung by Harry Belafonte.

Joyce was on board the Empire Windrush as the 23-year-old wife of British Army corporal Jim Poultney who was being posted back to England.

Joyce remembered the Windrush arriving in Bermuda, where the ship docked for three days for repairs, and passengers were allowed to explore the surrounding area. It was the longest time she and Jim spent together during the entire journey. As a serving soldier, Jim had to travel in C class, while all female passengers were berthed in first class. The division was strictly monitored, and they were allowed to meet for only an hour each day.

Joyce and Jim had met while she was working at Up-Camp Park army headquarters in Kingston, Jamaica, where she had been a shorthand typist since she was age 18. She was born Muriel Joyce Pells in the Victoria Jubilee Hospital, Kingston, on May 3, 1925, the eldest daughter of Staff Sergeant Frederick Henry Edward Pells and his wife Lena Muriel Pells, née Nunes Cardozo.

Frederick was born in Deal, Kent, in 1901 and was a master baker with the army. He served in England, Jamaica and China with the Royal Army Service Corps for 26 years. Lena was born in Kingston in 1899 and her family, who were of Sephardic Jewish descent, had lived in Jamaica for many years.

In September 1925, Frederick was posted back from Jamaica to Aldershot Barracks. Joyce and her mother joined him the following year. Joyce’s siblings, Freddy and Brenda, were born in Deal, but sadly Brenda died as a baby.

In January 1933, Joyce’s father was transferred to Shorncliffe Barracks in Kent, where her twin siblings, Betty and Teddy, were born. In March 1935, Frederick was posted to Tientsin in China.

Joyce enjoyed her time there, where she went to a school for the children of British troops. It was in China that her sister Beryl was born. In 1939, Frederick’s army career took the family back to Kingston, where Lena was reunited with her many relatives. Lena had four brothers and three sisters, and the sisters each had eight children.

Joyce and Jim wed in February 1948. On the Windrush she shared her cabin with three older women whom she had never met. A seasoned traveller, she questioned whether the accommodation could truthfully be described as first class.

After arriving in Tilbury, she and her husband caught a train to Blackheath in the Midlands where she met her in-laws for the first time. She went on to work as a secretary in the radiography department of Corbett Hospital, Stourbridge. She and Jim had four children Jimmy, Christine, Brenda and Raymond. Jim senior died in 2015.

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