The Motherland Calls – Britain’s Black Servicemen & Women 1939–45

The Black Presence in Britain - Black British History Website

Stephen Bourne

Published 11th October 2012, £12.99 paperback original
ISBN: 978-0-7524-6585-2

A tribute to the forgotten black servicemen and women whose contribution to the war effort has been overlooked until now

The Motherland Calls - Black Servicemen - Stephen Bourne

The Motherland Calls – Stephen Bourne

During the Second World War, black volunteers from across the British Empire enthusiastically joined the armed forces and played their part in fighting Nazi Germany and its allies. In the air, at sea and on land, they risked their lives, yet very little attention has been given to the thousands of black British, Caribbean and West African servicemen and women who supported the British war effort from 1939–45.

 When Britain declared war on Germany on 3 September 1939 the colonies rallied to support the war effort. For some it was an opportunity to show their loyalty to the mother country. For others, especially those who volunteered for the RAF, it was a chance to leave home and have an adventure. For the more progressive-thinking colonials, the war was seen as a route to post-war decolonisation and independence.  The freedom that the British have enjoyed since 1945 was made possible by the support of the peoples of their former empire. These people made a major contribution to the winning of that freedom. They fought hard for it, and some even gave their lives. However, recognition for this support – and the sacrifices made – has been almost non-existent.


  • The first book about black servicemen and women in Britain during the Second World War that includes Britain, Africa, the Caribbean and the United States
  • Includes rare and previously unpublished photos
  • Among those remembered are Britain’s Lilian Bader, Guyana’s Cy Grant, Trinidad’s Ulric Cross, Nigeria’s Peter Thomas, Sierra Leone’s Johnny Smythe and Jamaica’s Billy Strachan, Connie Mark and Sam King


Stephen Bourne is a leading authority on black history and has published many books on the subject, including A Ship and a Prayer, Black in the British Frame, Speak of Me as I Am and Mother Country (THP, 2010). He lives in London and his website is www.stephenbourne.co.uk

An Article by Phil Gregory: Editor, Black Presence in Britain Website

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1 Response to “The Motherland Calls – Britain’s Black Servicemen & Women 1939–45”

  1. […] Seaman in the first world war.  She and her brothers were separated after they were orphaned. Stephen Bourne recounts in his book ‘The Motherland Calls’, that Lillian was popular in school but […]

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PjxzdHJvbmc+d29vX3ZpZGVvX2NhdGVnb3J5PC9zdHJvbmc+IC0gU2VsZWN0IGEgY2F0ZWdvcnk6PC9saT48L3VsPg==