One of the few remaining passengers of HMT Empire Windrush and the sole surviving Caribbean Second World War serviceman in the city is set to be bestowed with a prestigious civic honour, as confirmed today.

During a meeting of the full council of Leeds City Council (November 15), members granted approval for Alford Gardner to be named a recipient of The Leeds Award. This award recognizes individuals who have made a special and enduring contribution to the city.

At the age of 97, Alford, born in Jamaica in 1926, volunteered for the Royal Air Force during his teenage years. Serving as an engineer and mechanic in the UK during World War II, he was among the thousands of Caribbean RAF ground crew stationed at RAF Hunmanby Moor, near Filey.

Upon completing a pre-mob engineering course in Leeds, Alford encountered his future wife, Norma McKenna. Following his return to Jamaica in 1947 alongside his brother Gladstone, also an RAF member, Alford faced limited job opportunities in Jamaica. Consequently, he and his brother returned to the UK aboard the Empire Windrush, landing at Tilbury Docks in June 1948 and making their way back to Leeds.

Despite initial discrimination while searching for housing, Alford persisted and settled in Hyde Park, working in engineering until his retirement. Alford and Norma married, raising nine children together.

In 1948, Alford became one of the founding members of the renowned Caribbean Cricket Club in the city, solidifying his legacy. Today, the club stands as the longest-running black-led organization in Leeds and the oldest of its kind in the UK.

During the meeting, councillors voted to endorse Alford’s nomination, ensuring his name will be engraved on the wall of Leeds Civic Hall to acknowledge his contribution to the city.

The Lord Mayor of Leeds, Councillor Al Garthwaite, said: “Alford Gardner is a true inspiration and a pioneer who has made a lasting impact on his adopted home while blazing a trail for so many members of the city’s Caribbean community.

“We are proud to honour him for the contribution he has made to Leeds and to ensure that his remarkable story continues to be told for many generations to come.”

He was one of the recipients of the 2023 Pride of Britain Outstanding Contribution Award, receiving a surprise visit from HRH Prince William. To commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Empire Windrush arrival, King Charles III also commissioned ten portraits of Windrush Generation pioneers, including Alford, which were unveiled at a special reception at Buckingham Palace.

Commenting on his Leeds Award, Alford said: “I am very honoured to receive this award, it really is a big surprise.

“Leeds has been my home for the last 75 years. I came back to the city for love, and it has been a huge part of my life. So for the people of Leeds to feel that I deserve such a prestigious award makes me feel happy and also very humble.”