Nottingham-born WO2 Mark Marston of 77th Brigade, is proud of his Jamaican heritage. His parents came to the UK in the 1950s – members of the Windrush generation.
The ship HMT Empire Windrush brought workers from Jamaica and other islands to help rebuild the UK after the end of World War II. Mark’s parents settled in Nottingham where they brought up their four children.
This day is an opportunity for those stories to be told so that the younger generations can learn and be proud of the significant contributions that their great grandparents and grandparents made to the UK.” WO2 Mark Marston
“Windrush Day is about celebrating my parents,” says WO2 Mark, “and their journey from Jamaica in the 1950s to the UK, and what they have achieved. I’ve only got my mother now, who is in her late 80s. Sadly, my Dad passed away in 1999 but he achieved so much and was such a tremendous person and a role model to me. They set the standards and hopefully I’ve lived up to them.”
Mark, 52, went to school at the former Elliott Durham school (now Nottingham Academy) in Nottingham. He’s still in touch with his best friends from primary school and is never far away, unless it's travelling with the Army. During his 32-year military career he has travelled all over the world and seen operational deployments to Bosnia, Northern Ireland, Afghanistan and Iraq.
“My mum still speaks fondly of Jamaica, but the UK is her home now,” says Mark, whose role is to prepare the brigade’s personnel for operational deployments. “She left Jamaica when she was 23 or 24. Her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren are here.”
Mark, the youngest of four, was bitten by the military bug at a young age, when the Air Training Corps visited his school. He joined them aged 13 and decided that it put him in good stead for a service career.
He said: “I looked at the RAF, but I decided the Army was the way ahead for me. I had a great uncle who came over from Jamaica in World War II who did his time and then went back to Jamaica after the war.”
Throughout his long and successful career, Mark has enjoyed playing rugby and boxing. He spent time involved with boxing within the community, with disadvantaged youngsters. “I was based in Glasgow for two years; I joined a club there and primarily I dealt with kids with behavioural problems. I was just showing them the right way, which felt really good.”
Mark said: “What Windrush Day means to me is taking time out to value and respect our elders as this plays a big part in Jamaican culture, and in turn we have to commemorate what these individuals did in rebuilding the country, as their stories are often forgotten.
“This day is an opportunity for those stories to be told so that the younger generations can learn and be proud of the significant contributions that their great grandparents and grandparents made to the UK.”